Friday, November 7, 2014

The Fog of war when Media Titans do Battle...




When trying to figure out the future for content providers, I strongly suggest you read more than just what's reported in the daily media. 
Below is an article, reprinted in its entirety, where the writer completely missed what is ESSENTIAL INFORMATION for EVERYONE WHO CREATES CONTENT as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER for FILM or TV. 

Big Media Shot Itself In The Foot By Selling Shows To Netflix: Analyst


By David Lieberman (on Oct 31, 2014)


Major studio and network owners’ decision to sell shows to Netflix might go down as one of the biggest strategic blunders they’ve ever made, if Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger’s compelling report today is correct. Like a lot of analysts, he’s alarmed by what he calls the “unprecedented” drop in C3 ratings across ad-supported TV,  especially among 18 to 49-year-olds. He figures that the 4% decline in total day TV viewing vs the same period last year equals about 13 minutes per day. And he concludes it’s not a blip: They’ve gone to subscription video-on-demand services led by Netflix and its shrewd CEO Reed Hastings. Its viewing has increased about 12 minutes a day, to 95 minutes, as its audience has grown and each subscriber spends more time with it.
So — contrary to the party line in media — Netflix viewing is a substitute for traditional TV, not a supplement. And “we don’t think those viewers are coming back. The trend is more likely to accelerate than decline,” Juenger says. That means Big Media companies are screwed. They can “stop licensing to SVOD, or face years of declining audiences.” But if they stop licensing, then that “would cause a material drop in immediate earnings” — which investors won’t accept. That’s why Juenger believes they’ll continue to play a short term game and “increase the amount of content they license to SVOD, to make up for the lost advertising revenue. Which will only make the problem worse.”
But wait: Wasn’t the recent drop in TV ratings mostly due to Nielsen’s slowness to count people who still watch mainstream TV but on tablets and smartphones? Juenger says no. “Nobody’s going to sit on their couch and watch video on their cell phone while keeping their TV set turned off. Most of this viewing is very likely to have come from ‘found time’when the main TV screen is not accessible or is already on.”
How about the growing use of DVRs or VOD? Again, no. Although DVR penetration is growing, that’s been “offset by declining usage.” (Early adopters are usually most enthusiastic about a technology.) And VOD still accounts for less than 1% of total viewing. “So even huge increases would not have a significant impact on total viewing.”
Juenger says that Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Discovery are probably OK for now. He’s less confident about AMC Networks, Viacom, CBS, and Scripps Networks. The last three “have the most exposure to U.S. advertising revenue, and therefore are most exposed to the SVOD risk.”



Everyone reading the above article should be aware of what the writer misses. And its hard to give David Lieberman the benefit of doubt when it seems like he can’t even connect his own dots. This is the part of the article where he lays out the facts, but misses the essential underlying issue –

Juenger says that Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Discovery are probably OK for now. He’s less confident about AMC Networks, Viacom, CBS, and Scripps Networks.

Could it be the companies mentioned as "OK" are not only owners of networks, but more meaningfully -- CONTENT PROVIDERS.  
The list of corporations (who may be in trouble) are predominately made up of advertised-based-networks. 
Viacom, is the only corporation on the second list that some might see as inconsistent with my point. But Viacom belongs there because it is indeed vulnerable. Yes, Viacom owns Paramount (a film studio, not advertiser based) but the other companies underneath the corporation umbrella are pretty much in the advertiser reliant Network Business. Meaning their cash revenue relies on the content provided by third party companies that they do not have a financial stake in. 

The connection of the dots becomes complete only when you look at the rise of Netflix as nothing too different than what occurs as part of an historically proven flow of economic marketplace dynamics taught in Econ-101 at any major university. 
In the marketplace there will always be upstart companies exploiting a niche in the hope they will become a viable entity. If this upstart company also possesses other elements such as at least competent/or visionary leadership; forward thinking/original intellectual property; and marketplace good timing/luck -- the upstart might very well completely overturn the apple cart. 

In our ever changing times – driven by technological innovation and the shrinking of the world into one huge marketplace – a loaded upstart company has the capability of not only upturning the apple cart, but completely re-inventing it.

But no one should mistake these turn of events regarding Netflix to believe for a moment that the major media corporations were completely caught by surprise. 
That would be naïve. 

If you were, let’s say, running Disney, wouldn’t it be just fine to let a Netflix spend all the money doing the R & D & Marketing costs to establish themselves in the brave new world of Internet streaming? Of course you don’t remain completely on the sidelines, you try here and there to establish your own beach head in this undiscovered country, but you your main strategy is to allow for the inevitable play – there’s probably a smaller, hungrier company willing to do what it takes to blaze the new frontier. 
You know that when it all plays out, your company, Disney, will be able to make their play and seize control of the real estate after the thick foliage obscuring the path through the jungle has been cleared away by someone else.
And your strategy makes sense when you ask yourself -- what’s the worse that can happen?
Disney is still getting money on their content used by a netflix or amazon. Sure, shareholders carp about how Disney isn’t doing enough about “the future.” But when you have a ton of money, and a huge library, the carping is something that becomes more of an annoyance rather than a real existential corporation  challenge.  
Best case scenario is you watch as another company must endure all the pitfalls of streaming to a new generation of viewers. You avoid all the speed bumps of incorporating new technology in a transitional way, and just wait as the lay of the land becomes more clear because the dust has settled, the initial fighting is over, and the lay of the land can now be seen clearly. 
Let the upstart companies like Netflix go through the turbulence because that’s the only way they can prove themselves in the long run on the media spectrum. As long as we get cash for our content, how are we hurt? Content doesn’t grow over night. It takes decades to build library of content. Technology is the part of the equation that seemingly grows… overnight. 
I know I’m right about the above because people smarter than me have already made their moves. Netflix and amazon are in their second cycle of creating original programing. They know that after blazing the trail, the studios will now rush past them like prospectors looking to strike it rich after the original founders drew the map. 
This is an important story, and I wanted to offer my take on what’s happening so if the writer of the article above is clueless about what’s really going on, the rest of us know what is happening. It may come off as a game of musical chairs, where someone must leave the contest because they no longer have a chair to sit in. But trust me, the corporations with the content have seat-fillers holding their chair until they return from the restroom. 



Friday, October 24, 2014

"DRAWING BLOOD" ends up going for Readers' Jugular!



LAST UPDATE 10-26-14 
Now that the dust has cleared...
The giveaway of Drawing Blood was a huge success! 
 Best ranking in 48 hours came late last night --
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273 !
#1 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Genre Fiction - War

#6 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Horror - Occult
__

UPDATED 10-25-14 / 2:15 pm

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #415 !
#2 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Genre Fiction - War

#6 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Horror - Occult

__

UPDATED 10-25-14 / 10:30 am


Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719!

#2 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Genre Fiction - War

#6 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Horror - Occult


The first book in the Relict Book Series - 


Is striking at the jugular of a lot of Readers!

#19 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Genre Fiction - War
#64 in Kindle Store - Lit Fiction - Horror - Occult


Thank you for all of your support!


I know you'll be blown away --



With the Second Book in the Series: SHADOWS IN THE LIGHT

Coming soon!! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Say goodbye to DEMON DAYS because at the end of this month, the book is going STRAIGHT TO HELL!



This is the END DAYS for the kindle version of  Demon Days

It's your LAST CHANCE to get the kindle e-book and paperback before it goes away forever

And in the last few days of the book's existence, you can get the book for FREE! 

On October 31st, this kindle version of Demon Days will be no more.

Never to be resurrected! 

Keeping with the theme of Near Death Experiences 
(a major theme of the entire DEMON DAYS Book Series)…
Demon Days - Book One will reappear in the future...
But will be different than its former self.
Just like many people who have legitimate NDEs!

After Oct. 31st, all that will be left...
Of the original kindle Demon Days’ text...
Is the audio book of Demon Days on audible
Available now and for the foreseeable future

But what does the phrase, foreseeable future, even mean anymore?
No one... Not even Nostradamus’ great, great, great [continue to repeat “great” for several minutes] nephew ended up predicting --
Apple’s new iPhone 6 would actually be larger than the iPhone5.

And full disclosure -- 
It’s not just the Demon Days kindle e-book joining the afterlife… 
We’ll also be sending the Demon Days print book there too. 

Yes, we are aware ending the kindle e-book Demon Days...
Is not eliminating the existence of pirated versions online.
But we believe once the rumors of a curse goes viral...
Readers won't download these versions
These were rumors which we initially tried to dismiss...
But ended up admitting there was enough substance to take seriously…

Pirated e-copies of the book, DEMON DAYS, downloaded by readers appears to cause the downloading party to become part of Satan's email list. And after the reader is on Lucifer's monthly newsletter, no matter what one does, it appears to be impossible to unsubscribe...


October 31st is the deadline for your final chance to get the kindle version of the original book…


FOR FREE!


Here’s where you can get it right now – 







Then say goodbye to the original text…
As we hit the button on the elevator that is marked -- Parking Level 666

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Yorker TV Critic backtracks on her earlier assessment of "The Knick"


I was thrilled to read this week that New Yorker magazine TV critic, Emily Nussbuam, admitted to being wrong in her original assessment of The Knick, the amazing series completing its first season run this month under the Cinemax banner. Nussbuam's original review of the series is here.  I’m glad to read she wasn't too proud to backtrack on her original assessment and change her mind here
However, there really was no excuse for her flawed original review if she was looking at the show objectively. Often times TV reviewers have only a pilot and one or two more episodes to view before writing their opinion, so any initial assessment by a reviewer might be flawed as if the TV series improves throughout its run. 
But Nussbuam had seven episodes of The Knick to evaluate, more than enough hours to come up with an informed opinion.  
One of her problems appears to be in the form of mental second guessing where the series was headed before it actually got there, expecting it all to end up being just another formula drama. This is just one of the common afflictions of any TV reviewer who sees tons of TV shows in the course of performing their job. I strongly believe it’s almost impossible not to end up cynical and glib when reviewing TV after just a few years. The unavoidable hazard for a reviewer of thousands of hours of TV shows is the critic inevitably ends up somehow missing what everyone else watching can plainly see -- The Knick is wonderfully produced, daring in style/content, and far from being formula. Whatever Nussbaum was watching, she felt it was necessary to title her original review of The Knick -- “Surgical Strikeout.” Maybe what Nussbaum really doesn't understand is baseball. When a player strikes out, he doesn't get a homerun, a hit, or even a walk. He doesn't get on base at all. Is that what she really was telling readers about The Knick, that the series doesn't even manage to get out of the batter's box?





The reality is that the The Knick could be the best TV series this year.

I admit that I had a few doubts myself after initially seeing the series promoted prior to being broadcast. It appeared by the trailers as if the show had creatively invested big time on the visual shock value of revealing the horrific reality of early surgical procedures. 
But after watching the pilot episode, I felt like a fool for not trusting the talent of Stephen Soderbergh, who is an executive producer of the series, and the director of all of the episodes in the first season.
When Soderbergh retired from film directing it should have been obvious his plan B was moving to another medium that had the promise of being at least as rewarding as making independent films once was a decade ago. 
(I don’t want to bring up Soderbergh and fail to mention the creators of The Knick – Jack Ameil & Michael Begler. Both have also written many of the first season episodes).
I’m thrilled that Clive Owen has finally found the role that will end up defining him as an actor. So many actors run away from hearing that kind of compliment because their desire is to have a career playing many roles and not be locked into just what audiences find memorable -- Spock, Hannibal Lector, the father in the Brady Bunch.
But prior to The Knick, Owen had a different problem than most actors -- he actually needed to lock into a role that would allow his talent to connect with mainstream audiences. He has been acting in major studio and indie films for over ten years, and though his performances have been strong, his persona/screen presence has failed to meaningfully resonate. The Knick finally gives him that perfect role, as the chief surgeon, Dr. Thackery.
There is another actor on the show that brings up a whole new set of discussion points, but I’ll leave that for another time...
Right now I would just like to formally welcome Emily Nussbaum to The Knick fan club. So sorry you ended up taking the circuitous route before joining the rest of us.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BLACK MARIAH meets the newest candidate for his job in an EXCERPT from BMBK2!





“So this is the guy?”
The muted illumination in the containment suite was supposed to have a calming effect on the prime asset after he returned from a mission. But as Black Mariah stood inches away from the Plexiglas barrier, staring ominously at Rick McNeill, it was apparent the lighting design had failed to achieve the desired results.
“This is who you want to bring in to replace me?” 
The audio system between the containment suite and the viewing lounge had a way of turning Black Mariah’s voice into something tinny and distant. And rather than the flaw in the acoustics rendering the creature less intimidating, it made the cadence in his speech even more ominous sounding to the four people standing on the other side of the Plexiglas. 
“Are you serious? Tell me you aren’t serious…” 
Dr. Ann Wolcott, the prime asset’s psych handler, tapped a button on a control panel embedded in the wall, allowing the prime asset to hear their response from the viewing lounge. 
“I’m completely shocked to hear your words, Quen. I’ll accept the blame for getting it wrong, but we’re all here because I agreed to the meeting. And I only agreed to this meeting because you agreed. Did I get what we discussed wrong?” 
She waited, but the prime asset behaved as if he did not hear a word his handler had spoken. “What about it, Quen, did I get it wrong?”
Black Mariah still didn’t respond as he continued to glare at Rick McNeill.
Wolcott moved away from the control panel and planted herself in front of the candidate to become the next Black Mariah.



Friday, September 19, 2014






The END DAYS have ARRIVED!

No need to panic…
Just grab your headphones...

The DEMON DAYS Audio Book is HERE!
Check out the book on AUDIBLE
Even if you’re one of the thousands...
Who have already read the book...
Hearing the text read aloud…
Is CHILLING.


the story 

While on vacation...
Sandy Travis and her fiance Tom are in a helicopter accident. 
The crash causes Tom to have an Near-Death Experience.
Tom is revived by Sandy.
Afterwards, he tells her about seeing...
An Angel of Light... who sent him back...
So he could achieve more among the living.
But Tom is wrong about what he saw during his N.D.E.
Horribly wrong.

Tom's N.D.E. plunges Sandy into a dangerous race...
Against malevolent forces who want to trigger Armageddon
She must save Tom from dark forces controlling his life. 
Follow a bloody trail of coded secrets...
And targeted assassinations
Sandy's plight will pit her against an otherworldly cabal...
Using the process of N.D.E. to usher in.... 
The DEMON DAYS.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF "FILM TRUTH" OR "PELICULA VERITAS" IS ON WEBSITE "FRESH VOICES"...

Check out a piece I wrote featured on FRESH VOICES, a screenwriting website.


The subject of pelicula veritas is addressed in my latest screenwritng e-book -- "16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters" -- but the piece featured on the website is very different than what is in the book... 



In many ways the piece highlights a concept that will be a running theme as I progress in the Professional Screenwriting Book Series.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inspiration for my Short Story Dies...






Kenny Kingston -- psychic to the stars died. I was in Santa Barbara, speaking to a screenwriting group and meeting with investors on a project when I heard the news.

I met Kenny only once, but he ended up having an impact on my life that I never expected. 
And to this day, I’m still not sure whether it was a good thing I met him, or the worse.

My meeting with him inspired a short story, Life Lines (which was included in my short story collection -- The Cake is a Lie). 
                     


I have to admit that there was a time I definitely bought into the world of the paranormal.
I had graduated from college two years before and my first marriage had already ended.
I was lost.
I needed guidance.
And along came Kenny Kingston.
It was 1980 something, and I was working at a local Television station in Southern California, writing screenplays in my spare time.
One of the programs at the TV station was a daily talk show shot live.
Kenny was booked as one of the guests. His reputation as a genuine pscyhic had everyone connected with the show excited about his first appearance.
He didn’t disappoint when it came time to broadcast the program. On air, Kenny was energetic, charming and straight forward with his “readings.”
But truth be told, even the viewers at home the day of the broadcast would not have known exactly how impressive Kenny actually was.
Part of the show was to take live phone calls from viewers who would ask Kenny something, and he would give the caller a reading on the air. Because the producers could never be sure if anyone would actually call in, they often pre-arranged to have a few employees call in first as if they were real viewers. This was the operating plan on Kenny’s first visit on the show because no one knew how he would come off. As it turns out, the phone lines lit up a few minutes after the show began, which was impressive (remember this was all happening pre-Internet).
Despite the phone lines being stacked with real callers, the producer of the show inadvertently went to our employee-ringer as one of the first calls.
Kenny’s response to the employee-ringer’s query was very specific, citing details of his personal life, how he had been recently behaving and what he could expect to have happen in the future as a result of his actions.
I was astounded by Kenny’s response. There was no way he could have known the person he was talking to was an employee at the TV station. And what Kenny spoke about was so detailed and spot on about this employee’s private life that it was chilling to hear the words come from his mouth on live TV. After the phone call, I watched as the employee rushed from where he had made the call… to the station’s restrooms… where he threw up in the toilet.
Yeah, I’m not kidding you, it was that eerie how close Kenny came to nailing this guy’s life.  

After the show was broadcast, I met with Kenny.
I was working on a paranormal script and wanted to get some background info on his personality, his way of going about his business, etc.
But there was no doubt I was extremely curious about what he could “see” concerning my own life.
We talked for an hour. I learned a ton of things about his experiences, growing up, interacting with movie stars, and living the life of a psychic.
Only as I stood up to leave did the conversation eventually turn to me.
“Don’t you want to ask anything about yourself?”
I sat back down and admitted that I did want to know what he had to say about my life.
So how did he do?
Not too bad.
Two very important aspects of my past he was able to read with specific and accurate details. And when it came time to predicting my future, he ended up getting one thing right, but one thing wrong.
At the time, his reading was really impressive.
But as the years have gone by, the one thing he got wrong… ended up profoundly changing my life. 
Which is the reason I don’t believe in psychics.

Of course, if Kenny had known about how he had inspired a short story and the way it ended... he would have had something to say while he was alive. 
Now that he’s on the other side, I bet I’ll someday hear him whispering in my sleep -- “You’ll see. I’m going to end up being right.”

---




 THE CAKE IS A LIE is FREE!
 Sign up for Kindle Unlimited and get the first 30 days FREE!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Can Live Sports Coverage Change The Way You Write Your Next Screenplay?





I'm proud to have an excerpt from 16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters at FRESH VOICES SCREENWRITER'S SOURCE. 

It's definitely a different take on how creating a screenplay story can be affected by the structure of something most of us enjoy all the time -- SPORTS

Check it out!!!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My latest Professional Screenwriter e-book is available now!!!



THE LATEST PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITING BOOK IS A HIT ON AMAZON!

#99,569 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#34 in Kindle Store Screenwriting
#52 in Kindle Store Performing Arts
#94 in Kindle Store Authorship


Those who can’t do teach. And those who can’t write professionally somehow end up writing books about screenwriting.
This book is DIFFERENT. Written by a PROFESSIONAL currently working in Hollywood—
As a SCREENWRITER and FILM PRODUCER.
The author was able to use his connections to get Successful Professional Screenwriters/and Television Writers to –
REVEAL A SECRET about what led to their SUCCESS.
What he discovered will help other screenwriters!
This e-book has 34,000 words…
Internet links throughout the content
An “Appendix” section summarizing each chapter, which can be used as a checklist 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014




Several months ago, I commented on a post which received so many favorable responses that I've decided to post it on my blog for my regular readers to take in and think about. 
Here's the original blog post from Ted Farrar, Writer, Batrachologist, nature lover, granddad -- 

For the sake of writers everywhere, please STOP this!

Please, please, please - for the sake of all established and newbie authors alike - PLEASE stop giving away your e-books for free or at ridiculously low prices!
You might think you’re giving your books an advantage by promoting your name, but all you are doing is undervaluing your work and making it impossible for authors to make a decent living. At the present time there are so many free e-books available that e-book readers have no need to pay a reasonable price to read anything. I know of people who NEVER buy an e-book – they just surf the freebies. They’re not that discerning: if it’s rubbish they’ll go on to the next freebie. The thing is, they don’t have to be discerning. People get a finite amount of leisure time and as long as they’re spending that time reading free books they aren’t going to be buying yours.
To compete in this giveaway market means that to sell any books at all we have to reduce the price way below what our books are worth. Now, I don’t know about you folks, but I worked and sweated my arse off to write my novel. The idea that ‘Okay’ or ‘Now’ magazine is worth more than 18 months of hard work sticks in my craw.
Although this might sound hilariously naive, attempting to level the playing field with this being a free market and all, I’m proposing we should introduce a minimum price range. I suggest we should price novellas at no less than £0.99, short novels at £1.99 and larger novels at £2.99. This still gives us scope to value our work at more than this, but safeguards us against slitting our own throats to attract a readership, and then we can let our books speak for themselves.

THIS WAS MY RESPONSE --

Here's what I believe Ted might be overlooking... 

When a reader gets something for free (because you offered it for free or because they took it for free, pirated, it doesn't really matter so far), in that territory, the odds are, when they liked it, the chances of the author SELLING SOMETHING just increased.
The key phrase is WHEN THEY LIKED IT...
This is especially true with books... 
Meaning that people like to test something...
Whatever happens after they like it... 
Usually bodes well for the author... financially.
I have theories as to why that that is true, and so do a lot of other people, people way smarter than me, who have staked their reputation on this -- People will pay if it is worth while to them to get what they want.
TRUST YOUR WRITING. 
Trust that if you create something that is worth paying for... people will pay for it.
If Free gets you noticed... do it. 
If a discount gets you noticed... do it. 
There's only so much time... and books take time to read... 
There will never ever be "overnight" successes. 
It takes time... free... discount... whatever... 
If you are unknown... and you wrote something... didn't do something infamous... 
YOU WROTE SOMETHING... it takes time...
Whenever you hear someone talking about a plan to MAKE PEOPLE PAY FOR SOMETHING... 
I believe its those people who are not trusting the quality of their writing. 
And these same people will be asking for something else if they achieve their aims.
I hope I'm right. 
And if I'm wrong, I grant Ted his point, and that by granting his point, it might be too late to change courses.
I'm still going to take that chance because... 
I know I'm right... 
And...
I believe in my writing!!!
And all you writers who feel the same way (and if you don't feel that way, why are you still in the game?)... 
This is one of those moments... where you may not have sighted land yet...
And you're getting itchy because you fear there may never be...
A point where you reach the promised land.
I tell you it's out there... 
STAY THE COURSE. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The AUDIO BOOK of DEMON DAYS is HAPPENING!!!

Producing and narrating the audio book of DEMON DAYS is D. Michael Berkowitz!!!



Mr. Berkowitz was a company member in the Tony-nominated, Olivier Award-winning Broadway production of Stanley at Circle In The Square. He appeared in the critically acclaimed, Lucille Lortel and Obie award-winning, Drama Desk nominated Off-Broadway production of Counsellor-At-Law, starring John Rubinstein. He has appeared on the TV series “Law & Order” SVU” and “All My Children.”

I believe this is the man to make the words of DEMON DAYS come to life!!!



Sunday, April 6, 2014

THE WIND RAIDER GETS AN AMAZING REVIEW!!!


Influential R&R (Reader & Reviewer) Terry Price loves the first book in The Wind Raider book series!

Here are some quotes from her review --

Wow. I've read Post-Apocalyptic novels before, but never one like this one. Think of the best ones you've read, combine your favorite elements from them all into one, and you have "The Wind Raider - Book One".

Richard Finney is a master of his craft and a true professional. There are characters you love, ones you hate, and non-stop action. His sleight of hand is powerful, because characters and situations are not always who or what they appear to be in his novels.

Check out the entire review at her facebook page -- TerrysReviewsandAuthorInterviews


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"I’m so RIGHT, I’m afraid I’m being NAIVE about my ADVICE to screenwriters..."



The website FRESH VOICES posted today a recent  INTERVIEW  I did with one of their staff.



"An idea must go through a series of creative tests before I consider it worth writing as a screenplay or book."

I answered questions about my take on the industry... 
Where the screenwriting trade was headed...
And my approach to the craft of screenwriting...  


"We’re at the cusp of another seismic shakeup of filmmaking, possibly similar to what happened in the late sixties that led to so many great films produced in the 70s."
I was excited to talk with the site because their outreach is geared to the next generation of screenwriters trying to make an impact in movies, TV, and media.  

Check it out... and let me know what you think about what I say... Even if you disagree... I'd love to hear your FRESH VOICE!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

WHY A MEETING WITH THE DIRECTOR OF “GRAVITY” STILL HAUNTS ME



I had blown it. I had completely choked on a great opportunity to change my screenwriting career.


When Gravity was released in theaters I went to see it in IMAX 3D. 
Like most people who have seen the film, I was blown away. Gravity is wonderfully scripted, acted, and directed. The production also featured significant technological breakthroughs that compel audiences to see Gravity in a movie theater if they are to get the most from the experience.  
Watching Gravity prompted other thoughts, more personal in nature.
 I actually met with the director of Gravity over ten years ago and had the chance to change the course of my screenwriting career.
And I choked.
At the outset I should say that for legal reasons I can’t reveal the project we discussed, but trust me, the specific project and any of the related details aren’t really important to the point of the story.

The meeting came about when Sandy Weinberg, my agent at the time, called with news that the director, Alfonso Cuarón, had read a screenplay I had written and really liked it. Cuarón had a production deal at Warner Brothers’ studio where the meeting would take place. Sandy didn’t have any more details beyond Cuarón wanting to meet and discuss the script, but I was excited because I had really enjoyed his previous movies and thought he was wonderfully talented director.   


So I arrived on the Warner Brothers lot for the meeting and was shown into his office immediately. From the moment we met, Alfonso was personable and smart, and he displayed both qualities without a hint of pretention or artifice. His English at that time wasn’t the greatest (I’m sure it’s gotten much better over the years), but it was certainly good enough to convey his views about what I’d written. He told me he really liked my script and went into some detail about the parts he had responded to and why he was excited about the project. His thoughts clearly demonstrated that he understood what I was going for creatively with the script and there was no doubt he’d be the perfect director for the project.
But after delivering his final compliment, he gathered his breath and then revealed that despite responding to the script, he also had a big problem with it. And for him, the problem was a deal breaker. It turns out Alfonso had brought me into his office so that we could brainstorm a solution to this story problem. If we were successful, his new contract at Warner Brothers would allow him to put the project into development with his company’s discretionary fund. So we immediately launched into an intensive discussion that covered every aspect of the script… story… characters… themes… plot… everything. And we eventually arrived back to what was bothering him about the screenplay. 
For the record, Alfonso’s creative problem was real and profound, which is my testimonial to how smart and insightful he is as a storyteller as well as a filmmaker. He had no way of knowing that his sticking point had been a long running creative issue with the project, one that I had worked hard to smooth over with every draft of the screenplay. And I’d been at it for the last five years.
Any screenwriter with experience at the studio level usually ends up realizing that you are often times in a room with some of the smartest and most creative people in the world. And any flaw or problem in your work is not likely to escape notice, rather, it will surely be highlighted. The goal of highlighting the flaw is almost always about trying to come up with a solution. Smart and creative people revel in the opportunity to solve a creative problem, while at the same time, I believe the goal of a screenwriter should be to solve your own story problems so that you’re never stuck with a solution dictated by someone else. But in this case, I would have relished a solution to the problem coming from any source, especially if it came from a talented filmmaker.  
As time ticked away, so did my confidence in coming up with an idea that would make Alfonso feel good that the problem he had with the script could be resolved. 
I should have anticipated the situation because I had already spent a ton of time trying to work out the same problem. Yet somehow, during the entire process of developing the story, that creative Eureka moment had never materialized. And the pressure of an impromptu creative meeting on a major studio lot with a brilliant director made the challenge to produce a breakthrough even more daunting.
Despite my best efforts, every solution I devised in that meeting completely bombed with Alfonso.
I knew we had reached the end when Alfonso’s assistant interrupted for a fourth time (to his credit, Alfonso had already cancelled three previously scheduled meetings so we could continue discussing “the problem”) to remind his boss that he needed to leave for his next meeting, one that he could not cancel or reschedule. 
Our meeting ended up lasting over two hours.
I will never forget the disappointment on Alfonso’s face as his eyes looked toward the carpet in his office as he said, “My friend, I don’t think we’ve solved the problem.” 
I had blown it.
I had missed the shot at the buzzer.
Dropped the Hail Mary pass in the end zone.
Watched helplessly as the puck squirted through my legs for the winning goal.
I had completely choked on a great opportunity to change my screenwriting career.
As it turns out, when the movie was eventually produced, the exact creative story problem that Alfonso Cuarón had with the project ended up hurting the finished film, and was reflected in the reaction by both audiences and critics. 
Failure is a part of the industry.  Even success is often laced with failure. I believe one only perseveres as a screenwriter if you are disciplined in handling the fallout that comes from failure. My advice to other screenwriters has always been to thoroughly examine any failure like an autopsy -- embrace and document the details, sort through all the issues, and try to decode what led to the breakdown. 
Then let go. 
Move on.
Learn from the autopsy so you can evolve as a writer, but don’t allow your failure to hinder your progress as a working professional. I believe that those who don’t adhere to this, will eventually no longer be working professionals.
And yet… walking out of the movie theatre after being dazzled by the beauty of Gravity, I couldn’t help but think about how my career would be different… if I had just been able to solve that story problem many years ago on the Warner Brothers studio lot.
At this very moment I feel as if I’m on the top of my creative game, and given the same opportunity today, I really believe I would nail that meeting with Alfonso.
But I couldn’t do it then.

And I have never stopped wondering why.

Thursday, February 27, 2014



In medias res
It’s a Latin phrase that translates in English as - Into the middle of events.
And it’s a phrase all screenwriters should keep in mind when they write.
It means: Get into a scene as late as possible and get out as soon as possible.
Screenwriters who live and write by this rule will speed up the pace of their script, and reach a new level in their storytelling ability.
Why? Because pacing is critical in achieving maximum impact in a story you are trying to tell… and sell.
Skip writing about a character walking through a door and saying hello, and then asking another character whether they’ve had a nice day.
At the end of the scene, forget having the characters get up from their chairs, exchange handshakes, and say goodbye to each other.

Just cut to the next scene as soon as possible.


There’s no doubt there’s at least one great filmmaker who ignored this advice and did just fine with his productions. Stanley Kubrick had many non-essential verbal exchanges between his characters as they entered and exited rooms. 

2001: A Space Odyssey (screenplay by Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke, based on several stories by Clarke) and Clockwork Orange (screenplay by Kubrick, based on a novella by Anthony Burgess) are two prime examples of Kubrick’s movies where characters went through the routine of introductions and exits without any obvious narrative payoff. Kubrick ignored the rule of In medias res purposely to showcase the superficiality of humankind’s emotionless interactions, thereby giving greater force to the scenes of violence in both films. 

No doubt both movies cited above are classics, but before you get inspired to do the same, please remember -- Kubrick was the Michael Jordan of filmmaking, a master of his art so great that his achievements will probably never be replicated, not just because he was a talented filmmaker, but also because he created films at a time that now feels light years away from where we are in commercial movies.

The professional screenwriters who master In medias res with their scripts increase the probability their projects will be viewed as a “fast read.”
Make no mistake, this is not faint praise.
In an industry full of people who don’t like to read, saying a script is a fast read is an enormous compliment, and could be the difference between having your script read or not read by a VIP who could get your project produced.
For those who aspire to be professional screenwriters, I totally recommend you keep In medias res in the forefront of your mind at all times.
I could go on and on, but I’ve said what needs to be said.
And now it’s time for me to leave. No need to get up and show me the way to the door.

Just do a hard cut to the next scene.