Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writers on the Storm Returns 9-24-12

Hi everyone, just a quick note to let everyone know that Writers on the Storm Screenwriting Competition 6 is a GO. We launch September 24th and will continue until 1/1/13 (a nice, easy to remember final deadline!) We're still putting the prize packages together so we'll have plenty to say about that in the next few months. In the meantime, feel free to LIKE us at our Facebook page and visit the website at

As always, you can enter the contest directly at, in which case you'll receive feedback at the end of the contest; or you if you submit your script to for coverage during the contest period (9/24 - 1/1/13) then you are entered in Writers on the Storm automatically at no extra charge! The is mondo cool, because apart from getting a free chance at $10K grand prize, you also are getting your feedback in advance. In other words, we are telling you what we think of your script in advance of the deadline. You can then fix any issues and resubmit. In theory, this should give you a crucial leg up. In previous years, we've had some folks submit three, four, even five drafts of a script for coverage during the contest period, rewriting and resubmitting every time.

Much more to come as WOTS rolls ahead into year 6. Be there. Aloha.

Jim C.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top Ten Biggest Mistakes for Screenwriters

This was a piece I wrote last year published in Script magazine (just before they threw in the towel.) Eddie Gonzalez, from San Antonio Screenwriters Meetup group, asked if I could send them over a piece for their group to publish on their Meetup site, and I said of course. I always liked this piece, since it has a solid volume of advice and a fair helping of snarky attitude. No fancy graphics or anything, just text... but then again, we are writers, so theoretically that's okay, right?

Check it out right here...

Monday, July 02, 2012

Recharging the Batteries

Suffering the Glockenspiel in Munich.
We've all been there -- "O.O.G. Out of gas, baby, out of gas," to quote trainer Tony Horton. For writers, that means we're in a funk; we're unmotivated; we just don't frickin' feel like writing. Tarnation, there are so many other things that we can do more easily, such as waste another half hour clicking 'like' on all your friends' Farmville achievements (guilty as charged. Hey, when are they going to make Monsanto Farmville, where the farmers are wearing Hazmat garb? But I digress.)

What I'm going to recommend here is pretty stupid/obvious. Yet it's so easy for us to forget we have this option available to us, so here it is: get the hell out! And I don't mean to the local overpriced coffee shop with your latest digital toy. I mean, actually go someplace and do something. Yep, stupid/obvious! But there is a method to my madness. I like to call it "passive research."

What that means, in a proverbial nutshell, is exploring places you might not ordinarily go, for the specific purpose of stumbling upon something that might spark ideas for your writing. For example, a decade ago I flew to Seattle for five days. Why Seattle? Well, why the hell not? I'd never been; sounded like an interesting place. I was working on a script for a Canadian company and heck, Vancouver, BC, always doubles for Seattle in the movies. So let's check it out, I thought. Well, that trip yielded so much awesomeness that not only did that Canadian project wind up referencing key locations and details about Seattle, but I wrote a whole nother action script set there, designing the four major action set pieces around interesting locations I discovered while there -- Pike Place Market, the Chittenden Locks, and so forth. Sure, I could have read up on the place or watched YouTube videos about it, but it's another thing entirely to be there, to feel the pulse of it all, to check out the nooks and crannies and crooks and nannies. Because that's where the verisimilitude, or believable level of detail, comes from.

The escape cage: a fun place to spend the night.
I recently returned from Germany, where once again my "vacation" became fodder for who knows how many future screenplays. One of the highlights was the island of Neuwerk (Noi-virk) in the Wattenmeer (North Sea.) This little sanctuary is accessible only by foot and horse-drawn carriage by day -- because the entire North Sea recedes 14 miles when the tide is out. We're talking a 90-minute voyage by good ol' fashioned animal power across the soggy floor of the North Sea. Incredible. In the afternoon, the whole thing floods again, and the only way off the island is by ferry. God help you if you're hiking across the Wattenmeer when the tide comes in. Then you have to race through the mud to one of the very few 25' tall rescue cages and, if you make it, shiver through a cold and wet night while hoping for rescue. If you're thinking that if you add a killer stalking an innocent tourist through this, that this could be a really cool plot for a movie -- hey, hands off, I thought of it first.

Of course there was so much more -- the electricity in the air as tens of thousands of Berliners jammed the Brandenburger Tor for a public showing of the Euro Cup semifinal, which gave way to stoic despair as Italy gave them a massive drubbing; the subtle but gut-wrenching Dodger's Alley memorial in Munich; the white-knuckle, overloaded cable car ride to the frozen peak of Zugspitze, 10,000 feet in the Alps (note: just enough room atop the car for two people to battle it out); and the odd lack of screens on the windows, proper double beds or ice in the drinks. All these little details may well inform the next few things I write, and furthermore, they have sparked several story ideas.

So if you're feeling in a rut, heck, give yourself a little break and take your show on the road. It certainly doesn't have to be a trip overseas either. Challenge yourself with a day trip to someplace maybe a bit out of your comfort zone in your city or down the road apiece. Here in Los Angeles, there's all kinds of crazy stuff you can do for relatively cheap. Kayaking through some caves. Exploring the new transit system and historic ethnic areas of the city. Rappelling off Point Dume. My pal Saul Rubin wrote a great book full of cheap, fun and bizarre SoCal adventures which you can get for 6 bucks on Amazon -- grab a copy. The best part of allowing yourself the little recharge is, you'll be improving your writing without actually writing! And that should appeal to the professional crastinator in all of us ;)

--Jim C.