First-round results for two of the biggest, high-profile screenwriting contests have been released within the past week, and the pattern for my western’s performance in both has once again repeated itself.
Total whiff for PAGE, and top 20 percent for the Nicholl. (I’m not doing Austin this year)
I didn’t get notes from the former, and based on the ones I got last year for the latter, am not that curious as to why it placed where it did.
My initial reaction was, naturally, disappointment, but this year is markedly different in what came immediately after.
There’ve been days where the agony, frustration and just plain shittiness of things not working out was so strong I’d seriously contemplate just walking away. After all, that would be one less member of the competition, right?
But that’s simply not an option – for any of us. Our desire to succeed as writers burns too bright.
I may not have done as well as I’d hoped with these contests, so instead of shrugging my shoulders and saying “Oh well. Better luck next year,” I plan on doing whatever I can to increase my chances. With a vengeance.
Gone is the wallowing in a blessedly brief mindset of “poor, poor pitiful me”.
In its place – a reinvigorated drive to buckle down, work even harder and write scripts so fucking amazing those readers won’t know what hit them.
I don’t think I can. I KNOW I CAN.
Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, chums.
-A new addition and a return appearance on the bulletin board this week:
-Filmmakers Caitlin Stedman and Kayla Ditlefsen have launched a crowdfunding project for their short film Unattainable. They’re around the 60 percent mark, so donate if you can!
-The crowdfunding for filmmaker Steve Davis’s No Glory continues, with about a month to go. Steve’s a talented guy, and this sounds like a fantastic project. Donate if you can!
Writers James Moorer and Ann Kimbrough have teamed up to promote the Be Epic Journal, a guide to helping you set up goals and figure out what steps you need to take to achieve them.
Tell us a little about your writing backgrounds. How’d you get started? Apart from the Be Epic Journal, what else are you currently working on?
James Moorer (JM): I am a multi-optioned screenwriter and published author with several properties in various stages of development. I’ve been hired for numerous writing assignments since 2009 for a number of production companies. I got started writing for the screen while producing music for fitness competitors and bodybuilders under my company Jamesong Music, back in Ohio. I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I first read a Truman Capote story in Esquire magazine. Currently, I have two other novels in development as well as my two shorts I’m producing and a feature film which will be my directorial debut.
Ann Kimbrough (AK): I’m a working screenwriter, with my first paid gig in 2012. I currently have three films in different stages of development and do rewrite assignments on the side. As anyone on the screenwriting path knows, we have little control over the production side. I wanted to take on more control in some aspect of my writing, so between writing assignments I branched into books. First, I turned one of my spec scripts into a romantic suspense novel that was published with Short On Time Books, “Scarlet Revenge” under pen name Ann McGinnis. That gave me the publishing bug and I started to publish my own books. The first journal I did — “The 100 Script Challenge” — was to create a book I wanted but could not find. (It’s about reading 100 scripts, keeping your notes in the journal and having all you learned from reading the scripts handy to review.) Then I made “The Idea Journal for Screenwriters.” It’s another journal I wanted as a screenwriter. I don’t know about you, but I write little notes everywhere with story ideas. The journal keeps me from losing them by having them all in the book. I can then look over my notes, connect them with other little ideas and build them into high concepts. (It’s also full of idea building tips.) From there, I teamed with other creative friends like James Moorer to create fun and useful journals — like “The Be Epic Journal.” Presently, I have eight journals published.
What does it mean to “Be Epic”?
JM: To Be epic, to me, is to step into your TRUE SELF, completely and confidently aware of your God-given ability to become your greatest self, realizing that this is not a happenstance, but how you and you alone were given a specific gift to help move the world toward being a more incredible place, and to inspire others to do the same.
AK: Being Epic is being the best you. It’s cutting out anything that’s holding you back from your dreams and shining! The best part of the whole Be Epic movement that James started is how focusing on our dreams and making our life better eventually leads to making someone else’s life better. But it has to start within you.
What was the inspiration for the Be Epic Journal?
JM: For me, it has always been a way of combating the negativity, fear and doubt in my own life. When I began to realize that I had fallen into a self-fulfilling spiral, I recognized it was my own words and beliefs about myself that lead me there. But it would also take changing my beliefs and speaking to what I wanted to be was how I truly came to discover who I was inside. That lead me to understand this was bigger than one person. This truth was universal.
AK: James is the spark! I have enjoyed his Facebook posts about Being Epic for a long time. They really lifted me up, but then he didn’t post as many. I asked him about it and pretty much told him to get back to posting. (I’m certain I wasn’t the only one.) I also said it would make a great journal! Luckily, James agreed.
How does the Be Epic Journal work? What should a writer who uses it expect?
JM: The Journal works like a PLAYBOOK, helping the writer recognize and engage in daily practices that they can build upon in creating a confident approach not only to their work, but to their life overall. They set a single targeted goal and the steps by which they will accomplish them. The beautiful part is that there are no right or wrongs as everyone is unique, but the daily diligence leads them to greater performance, greater awareness of their own ability and destroying the doubts and fears before they take root. The reason it works is because these are steps that THEY THEMSELVES have created, so these steps have greater meaning to each writer, deeper significance, and opens their thinking to being even more creative.
AK: The Be Epic Journal is a 3-week process, and a writer should expect to pick a goal that can be accomplished in three weeks. So, it’s not about curing cancer. It’s about engaging in a goal you’ve probably had hanging around for awhile. For a writer that could be completing a book or screenplay. The 3-week process helps anyone breakdown their goal into three steps and work on one step each week, plus taking time to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. It can be done around your normal schedule. It’s full of motivation from James and is very much a workbook to reach a specific goal. It’s set up to do one goal and then move onto another. The journal also includes a free 16-page download code for more instructions and goal setting tips. Soon — we will have a Kindle book that will be a great companion piece to the journal.
Is the Be Epic Journal specifically for writers, or can anybody use it?
JM: We created this journal for everyone. Writers are a community Ann and I are very familiar with, but the same lessons learned here can be applied to any aspect of life, any career, anyone who desires to embrace their most powerful self. The Journal is also meant to be a stepping stone; the first step in anyone’s Epic Journey.
AK: Anyone can use it. We are currently running a test group on Facebook for the journal, and while all of our participants are writers, half of them did not pick writer kind of goals. One person is cutting out sugar — yikes! But she’s doing it! Others are working on completing half-finished writing projects.
How can somebody get their hands on a Be Epic Journal?
JM: Amazon is our friend!!! They can order the journal here. We also have a 16 page pdf to give people an idea of what the program looks like for free.
AK: Thanks for asking! It’s on Amazon and if they’d like to know more about the whole process they can get the free 16-page download now. It also puts them on our email list, but we promise to only send out useful stuff — like when the Kindle is released and motivational infographics. The link to the 16-page download is
Readers of the blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
JM: Given my choice, I fancy a Peach Cobbler. But as you know, my love for pancakes has me searching for that perfect union of Cobbler and Pancakes. Just never ask me to choose between the two.
AK: My favorite pie is apple. But it has to be the one I make, which is from Trisha Yearwood’s recipe. Google it. You make it in a cast iron frying pan in your oven and it’s worth every calorie! Yum. Dang. Now, I’ve got to go make one.
The process of overhauling the low-budget comedy has proven to be quite the challenge. Notes from reliable sources had pointed out a few problems in need of fixing, and that’s what I’ve been laboring to rectify the past couple of weeks.
It hasn’t been easy.
One challenge was to let go of “what came before” in the previous draft. Sometimes it’s tough to wipe the slate clean and start anew, and this time was no exception. Once I set up how things play out, it’s not easy to push it aside and do something different.
Which isn’t to sat I haven’t been trying.
Even though you can’t force inspiration, I knew I could think my way through this. So, as has happened many times before, I stepped back and took a look at the full picture.
What was it about the previous draft that wasn’t working? Start with that and figure out ways it could be done differently. Let the imagination run wild and the creativeness flow.
First, I broke it down on a scene-by-scene basis. What’s the purpose of each one? Does it advance story, character and theme? And since it’s a comedy, is it funny? (That last one has been particularly challenging).
It’s been tough, but not insurmountable.
I’d managed to work my way into the first part of Act 2, but then hit a wall. Nothing was working.
I won’t say I was feeling desperate, but it was quite an effort to not pick up my laptop and fling it across the room.
But rather than engage in aggravated assault of electronic devices, I opted to give it one last try.
I went back to the notes. Many of the comments said more or less the same thing, especially regarding one in particular. I’d seen it before, but this time, something really resonated.
One of the most powerful tools in the writer’s bag o’ tricks is the Great What If? Use it wisely.
So I applied it to my problem. If THIS wasn’t working, WHAT IF I tried something different? And what better way to do something different than the total opposite?
And as it has many times before, there it was.
The more I applied this to the rest of the story, the more of it came together. It’ll require a little more rewriting for now, but gosh is this a lot better than it was before.
Forward momentum has resumed. Updates to be released accordingly.
-Bulletin board update! Filmmaker Diane Harder has a crowdfunding project underway for her short Penny Foster. Donate if you can!
In this week’s previous post, I wrote about the necessity of how a writer needs to enjoy the actual writing part of being a writer.
A few colleagues piped in, saying while that part of it holds true, they also find the business aspect (i.e. the marketing of YOU) to be significantly harder and much more challenging. Taking it one step further, lack of progress on that front adds to their frustration.
I can’t argue with any of that. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times.
“…this should resonate with most of us that are doing the same thing as you are. However, one of the keys in trying to be a successful writer is spending a fair amount of time crafting query letters, answering ads or attempting to make contact with industry people anyway you can. Many writers fall flat in this area. One should definitely spend as much time as they can trying to promote and sell their work, as well as taking joy in the act of writing it.”
Simply put, marketing and promoting oneself is a necessary evil that a writer has to be willing to undergo and endure as many times as it takes if they want to succeed. Sucks, but it’s the truth.
After working on a couple of scripts and building up my arsenal of materal, I’ve decided to take the plunge again.
I’ve put together what I consider to be a pretty effective new draft of the query letter. Gone through the list of managers, agents and production companies, researching who might a good match for each script.
A few queries have been sent, so the waiting and hoping for a positive response begins yet again. All the while, working on more scripts. It’s all I can do.
My efforts to improve my networking skills have also paid off. Every once in a while, a colleague will send me a listing that seems tailor-made for one of my scripts. Even though none of them have worked out, it’s made me aware of more opportunities than I would have been able to find on my own.
We all know this is not an easy path. It’s extremely tough and really puts your endurance to the test. The question you have to continually ask yourself is “Am I willing to keep working at this until I get the results I want, no matter how long it takes, how frustrated I get, or how impossible it seems?”
I can only speak for myself.
-You might find these older posts somewhat relevant and worth a read.
Thanks to a big, determined push, I managed to wrap up the initial edit of the pulp spec last night. Amazingly, it’s still 116 pages. Much as I’d love to take another pass on it, a better option is to gently nudge it aside and let it simmer for a few months.
In the meantime, my attention now turns to a few other items, including providing some script notes and a major overhaul of one of the low-budget comedies.
To some, it might seem I’m taking on too much. Others might think it’s great to be so busy. No matter which opinion you have, it all comes down to how the individual (i.e. yours truly) sees it.
Me, I enjoy the diversity and variety. I like to work on my own material AND read other people’s stuff. All that mental stimulation helps me in the long run; the equivalent of maintaining a regular workout schedule at the gym. Or in my case, a steady regiment of training runs.
Always working on something, or even adding some reading and watching into the mix, not only helps your creativeness, but your actual output. Wouldn’t you say your writing skills are significantly better today than they were, say, a year ago? How about compared to when you just started out? I know mine are. Especially in terms of the latter.
All that being said, I think there’s a big difference between being a productive writer and just being a non-stop writing machine. A productive writer definitely produces material, but they also take the time to have a life outside of writing. The machine is just full speed ahead and don’t let up. Granted, there are some who can do both, and kudos to them. I prefer to be the former.
I also don’t have any problem with transitioning to a new project once one is completed. Even though I haven’t directed all attention on the new one, it’s always been in the back of my mind. Maybe an idea about it would pop, which would then be added to an always-handy list, then brought back out later. You might have a different approach, but this is what works for me. Everybody writes in their own way.
In the meantime, my nimble little fingers will now get a bit of a rest while I dive into the aforementioned giving of notes. And once all of those are done, the dust gets blown off the keyboard and the cycle repeats.