Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Recap of Lew Hunter's talk on Monday, January 30, 2006

Hi MDS'ers,

Meeting Lew Hunter, screenwriting guru and teacher, was so fantastic. I forgot my camera, as usual, so I didn’t get to take a picture with him or of him which is a bummer because I could have posted it. Oh well.

Anyhoo, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know about Lew outside of him teaching in the MFA program at UCLA for a number of years and writing the book Screenwriting 434. I didn’t know that he worked directly with Walt Disney and was a studio executive at not only Disney but ABC and NBC from 1975-1986. Also, more than 20 of his former students have gone on to win Oscars. That’s phenomenal! He’s also a very nice and funny person. Very generous. He has a new edition for his book but I purchased the book like four years ago so I wanted to know if it was only a new cover or was there enough new information to justify paying $15. Yes, I asked this question. He has a new book coming out called Naked Screenwriting where he interviews all those Oscar winners. To my surprise, he told me that there was only about 10 pages of new material and to not buy it that he will email the updated pages if I would give him my information. Can you believe it? I’ve never had anyone offer to do that. So, of course, I gave him my business card and he gave me personal advice on breaking through. (See 1-5 below) Everyone wants to sell their book no matter what. He isn’t like that. I guess he’s made so much money he doesn’t need the book sales. He did mention that he wrote the book for people who aren’t able to take his classes or seminars, not to make a profit. He even stayed almost an hour after his talk to answer personal questions. I didn’t really learn anything new because I’ve been studying on my own, taking classes and seminars, reading every book out there for 5 years now. What I did get out of the two hour talk was the encouragement to keep on pressing on. People do make it but it’s not easy and only the persistent survive. I walked away with more determination than ever and belief that it is possible. I can make it and I can be an Oscar winner just like those 20 other people who were once unknown.

Lew’s private suggestions given to me:

Very simple and nothing I didn’t already know but coming from him was like confirmation that there is no other way. Success comes with persistence and hard work.

1. Be persistent, never give up.

2. Get the Hollywood creative directory and query agents and managers who have an asterisk by their names because those are the people open to accepting new clients.

3. Enter contests that are notable and have a good reputation to get exposure.

4. Be patient. If you stick with it, one day your time will come.

5. And always keep writing. Once you break in or get someone’s attention, they always ask, “What else do you have?”.

Oh, he was also not very fond of script consultants that charge hundreds of dollars to review your work especially if they don't have a well-established name in the industry. He also said to be careful of screenplay contests that charge an entrance fee of over $50 and only go with reputable ones since anyone can start a contest these days. That's actually a rule I incorporated for myself years ago. If a contest entry fee is over $40, I probably won't enter. Heck, the Nicholls contest is only like $20 for early bird entry and it's the most prestigious one out of them all since it's run by the Academy of Motion Pictures! Why would I want to pay $50 plus dollars on an unknown one that has no connections or prestige. However, to each his own and whatever works for you.

Write on!

While waiting for the talk to start, I met some of the other people. One guy was looking for writers in the local area to work on a TV show. He has a pilot that has gotten some interest and his partner’s daughter is getting married to a studio executive in LA. So, I guess it is sort of who you know. Anyhoo, the guy’s going to pitch it to his daughter who will pitch it to her husband who will pitch it to his colleagues who hopefully will order the pilot and a few episodes. To make a long story short, he has the pilot and 12 episodes written but they need more writers to make up the writing staff incase it’s a go. He asked if I would be interested. Since I was there early…far too early…I read the Show Bible. It’s a comedy…kind of tongue-in-cheek. Don’t know if that’s my style. It was a cute idea but I didn’t get that “I gotta be a part of this feeling…if anything happens.” He went on to say something to the fact that the writers will be paid something like $4,000 weekly for the first season..blah blah blah. Money doesn’t move me especially if it’s "potential" money and not a check with my name in the “Pay to the order of” line. I was like, here’s my card, call me if something is a go but I told him that I am not overly enthusiastic about quitting my well paying job to jump on a television series that’s just starting who may get cancelled after 2 episodes. Not that I was being pessimistic but realistic. TV shows get cancelled before anyone every sees them. I know someone that happened to and I like my job especially because Friday is pay day and I know there’s a check coming with my name on it. So, since I’m not eager to just up and quit my stable job that pays well even if it’s not $4,000 a week…I would consider writing episodes as a freelancer. He understood. So we’ll see what and if anything happens. I’ll just go with my gut.

PSS (Okay this is getting too long so I’ll wrap it up)

I spoke by phone with the Producer of Focus Entertainment last week that I had met earlier that week. He requested to see both my drama, “Sisterhood of Secrets” and the adult comedy, “Dogged” that’s just come from under option and I’m not renewing with the same producer. He was okay about it and very professional since it’s my prerogative anyway. I sent the new interested party synopses for both scripts. He called me last night and offered to meet with me on Friday when I will bring hard copies of both scripts. Thank goodness I just bought more ink on Saturday!

Also, I meet with the entertainment attorney tonight.

More later.

Write on!


Free Screenwriting interviews on IPod Prodcasts

Hey everyone,

I recently purchased the IPod Nano and noticed that there is a
Prodcast called The Treatment that can be downloaded for free.
On THE TREATMENT, film critic Elvis Mitchell turns the tables and
gives the "treatment" to some of the most influential and innovative
forces creating movies and popular art and entertainment.
Each week, Elvis speaks with an amazing array of guests, discussing
everything from their inner conflicts to their interior design. With
a straightforward style that understates his vast knowledge, Elvis
is able to extract insights, issues and inspirations from even the
most introverted guests. Conversations on THE TREATMENT are mostly
comfortable, sometimes contentious, but always fascinating.

There are eight available now. I'm listening to the following while
I'm at work:

1. In the dark comic thriller, The Matador, writer-director Richard
Shepard uses British crime films, Graham Greene, and his star,
Pierce Brosnan, as both context and subtext. He'll talk about giving
a hit man a soul.

2. The Wedding Crashers is a wild risqu-- comedy about players who
are finally played. Its authors, Steve Faber and Bob Fisher, are
also very clear about its political commentary, too. It's all about

3. Backdraft, A Beautiful Mind, Ransom, and now Cinderella Man.
Films by director Ron Howard are dramas that deal with fear -- fear
of being stripped of your tools. It's as if the artist fear being
left bereft.

Check it out if you have an IPod. I'm going to search to see if
there are more for screenwriters. So far, it has been interesting
listening to these directors, producers and screenwriters tell how
their projects came to be.

Write on!

Hey MDS'ers,

Brief update. I have three more training classes and I have been
assigned to operate Camera One February 19th and February 26th. I'm so
nervous and I'm really hoping to make the best out of the remaining
training classes but you only learn by actually doing it. We have a
meeting right afterwards to talk about what went right and what went
wrong. Aie! Wish me luck because I don't want to be the girl who
screwed up the film for those weeks especially since there's only like
4 of us and the rest are dudes. However, Camera Two is the main camera
so if I mess up, all won't be lost but I plan on doing my very best.
Girls can have a good eye for the camera as well...I'm hoping to prove
that. Girl power!

I'll keep you posted. If I don't get scheduled in March then we know
why! :)

Write on and I guess shoot on, too!

Adventures in Television Production

Hey MDS'ers,

I joined the television production department at my church. (I think I
mentioned that before) Anyhoo, I'm learning to operate a movie camera.
It's so much fun and I feel like I'm actually part of the film
industry. I can't tell you how exhilarating it was when the director
said, "Camera One," (that's the camera I was operating) crawl in to the
girl in the red jacket...half body shot!" And I did it completely in
focus and everything. I'm so excited. Who'da thunk it! Last night was
my second week and this time I was on Camera Three which it ws the same
Sony camera but the angle was totally different and I didn't like
shooting from that direction as much as from where Camera one is set
up. They also have a stock pile of tapes that need to be edited so I
will be learning how to edit film in the upcoming months once I get the
camera stuff down. The director of production wants everyone to start
on cameras...those with camera experience move to the control room
activies etc. It's fun but it's not for everyone. One girl who
started with me has already quit.

The best part is that I ended up meeting an entertainment attorney and
a guy who has his own production company. I believe he's shooting
videos and commercials and is pursuing movies. We didn't have time to
talk but exchanged cards and will meet for dinner in the next week or

The entertainment attorney mostly represents musicians and individuals
in the music industry, however, he is partnering with another attorney
who splits her time between here and France and is focused on the movie
industry. I may be going to France later in the year, so perhaps I
will meet her if she isn't coming to the states before then. Don't
know what good it will do if she's mostly repping international films
since that wasn't my intention but you never know. It all started
because I overheard the conversation between the attorney and the
producer...no, I wasn't eavesdropping! They were right behind me and
werne't exactly whispering. Later, I approached them separately, told
them I was a screenwriter blah blah blah. So, I'm setting dinner
meetings for later to find out if we can somehow help each other.

I'll keep you posted.


I'll post any other interesting things that happen in the television
production gig and where it leads, who I meet etc. They did mention
something about a big convention where industry people go to sell shows
so I'd love to go to that...just to see how it all comes together.