Heywell Film Scripts Blog

Comedy. Drama. Horror. Suspense. My life AND my scripts.

Archive for December, 2006

Greetings Double-Oh-Seven (2007)

Posted by bobheske on December 29, 2006

Happy New YearHard to believe we’re already on the cusp of 2007 – some seven years after reaching the “Mendoza Line” of my middle age (actually, I was a mere 38 in the arrival of the new millennium). Still, I raise my beer glass to 2006 which was a year of gratification and personal bests:

    I became a first-time father
    My second marriage lasted longer than my first (15 months and counting!)
    I optioned my first feature script…
    …And optioned 9 shorts
    I enjoyed a freelance job with satisfying work, good pay, and low stress
    I celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with three generations of my immediate family who are alive, kicking, and cussing

On the down (or up) side … my waistline once again reached an all-time high.
I’ll be eating salad up until the Super Bowl (when the Patriots win for the 4th time this decade).

Here are some fast and quick resolutions for 2007:

  • Write more features than shorts
  • Spend less, be smarter on marketing
  • Go to a conference (or two)
  • See my work at a film festival
  • Get IMDB credits
  • Win a major contest
  • Join WGAE (or WGA if I get really successful and move to LA)
  • Make more contacts & make even more friends
  • Stay healthy, happy, and married
  • Watch a movie I wrote with three generations of Heske’s who are still alive, still kicking, but now clapping
  • And to close, a wish for you from an Irish Wedding Toast:

    May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

    Peace and God Bless.

    Bob Heske


    Posted in Independent Films, Screenwriting | Leave a Comment »

    Bad Script Marketing

    Posted by bobheske on December 19, 2006

    From time to time I peruse the Web to market my scripts. The two biggies I use are:

  • Mandy.com
  • NEFilm.com
  • For features, I have also posted on Inktip. Although I’ve never sold a script off this, I have had several shorts optioned thanks to Inktip’s free shorts posting service.

    Want to make sure you never-ever-ever option a script?

    Write a bad posting to market it. Just as writing a script takes talent, so too does writing a good script posting. One visit to the afore-mentioned sites and you’ll see that there are as many bad postings as there are bad scripts out there.

    Here’s but a few*:

    *Names and contact info have been changed to protect the ignorant.

    A Few Bad Postings:

    AVAILABLE: Fifty completed screenplays available. Most all genres: high medium and low-budget. Contact: Kent Stop Writing at 1-800-tiredfingers.

    Critique: 50 scripts? Does this guy ever have a chance to breath air? And what is this … mass marketing? Pick one solid script, write a compelling logline, and list any recent awards/contests. That’s how to hook a producer.

    AVAILABLE: COMEDY/SLASHER/HORROR/MORONIC short film about a band who double as xfiles agents/pervs/ghost busters. Scripts written. Contact Bill/Jill/Will/Lil at one of these 50 phone numbers.

    Critique: Talk about an indentity crisis. Pick a genre for chrissakes – don’t take ALL OF THEM! Even the band has multi-personalities. Hey, there’s the hook – it’s Sybil II! Any it’s nice to note that “scripts written”. Unwritten scripts are so much harder to sell.

    And One Good Posting

    AVAILABLE: Short script available: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOULS. Logline: A bitter eccentric’s defiance of a village’s ban on Christmas leads to confrontation and redemption. Write Safe contest finalist. Contact: Good Will Writing, Phone: 123-4567, Email: talentedguy@gmail.com

    Comment: Tells what it is, tells quickly what it’s about, and then even notes a nice contest showing. Short. Succinct. Effective. Bravo!

    Some Pretty Bad Loglines

    Questions of Fact by Ida Know
    Plagued by mistaken identities and the cruel unacceptance of his denials, a young man finally succumbs to the temptation, taking on the roles that he is accused of, and soon finds himself caught in a downward spiral of hilarious and bizarre circumstances. 17 pages.

    Critique: Speaking of questions, this logline raises a bunch of them. Why is the young man plagued by mistaken identities? And why is there “cruel unacceptance” of his denials? And I assume this is a comedy? But you wouldn’t know it except for the oblique insertion of “hilarious” in the tail end of this exhausting logline. Use less words to get the high concept across quickly and efficiently. The best example I know is the 3-word logline for Aliens (“Jaws in Space”).

    The Idle Life by Seth Sloth
    A dark comedy about a young man’s quest to live his life in a nothingness nirvana. 9 pages.

    Critique: This logline also says nothing, but in fewer words. The character may be written brilliantly; however, the logline does zero to clue us in to his humorous predicament or lovable loser character. Think of the comedy Arthur (1981 with Dudley Moore) whose logline might be: A happy, unambitious drunk must choose between the woman he loves or the woman who will make him rich. Another example is the more recent comedy Failure to Launch (2006 with Matthew McConaughey) whose logline might be: A thirtysomething slacker suspects his parents of setting him up with his dream girl so he’ll finally vacate their home.

    And A Pretty Good One

    Ravenous by Shur M. Hungry
    A couple of young womanizers find out what it’s like to be treated like a piece of meat. 11 pages. Placed in the top 35 of 1176 entries in the 2006 American Gem Short Screenplay Competition.

    Comment: Good, short catchy title. Brief, intriguing logline. Also, tells me how many pages and that this story was very competitive in a topline contest. Well done (no pun intended)!

    The bottom line: When you write a script, take the time to come up with the right tools to market it. Namely, these five things:

      1) Logline (two sentences – and no more!)
      2) Short synopsis (2-3 paragraphs)
      3) Long synopsis (preferably one page, two pages at most)
      4) Treatment (you should have written this BEFORE you sat down to write the script)
      5) Query letter (once you have the logline and short synopsis, the query comes easy)

    Happy (effective) marketing!

    Posted in Screenwriting | 1 Comment »

    Screenwriter’s Starter List

    Posted by bobheske on December 18, 2006

    Late Bloomer Cartoon
    “I was a late bloomer -. I didn’t inherit my money until my 50s.”

    After a 5-year hiatus from screenwriting, I re-visited my dream in 2001 somewhere between the time I turned 40 (May) and the Twin Towers toppled in New York (I don’t need to remind you of the date).

    I consider myself a late bloomer; I tried screenwriting after failing at vending machines and tiring of financial services. I’ve spent several years, thousands of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars trying to get it right. I’ve made countless mistakes (read prior posts) and have learned a few things along the way.

    Here are seven things to consider when starting out:

  • Go to conferences and film festivals – Nothing gets the juices flowing more than mingling with other creative people. Nantucket has a good screenwriter’s festival in June (although the hotel room will cost you and arm and a leg). There are conferences galore – although ASA and Screenwriting Expo are two worth the trip in movieland (Los Angeles).

  • Get a screenwriting certificate – If you can afford it (or better yet, get work to pay for it), getting a screenwriting certificate from a decent school is a great way to jumpstart your career. I went to Emerson College and, although I had to foot the bill myself, the perspective and insights I gained were invaluable. No longer do I feel that I am writing in a vacuum. Plus, I’ve got a bonafide certificate hanging on the wall (not to mention, some Fine Arts credits).

  • Volunteer to be a script reader – To get better a screenwriting, you need to read a lot of scripts. What better way than volunteer to be a script reader at a production house or for a screenwriting contest? You’ll not only feel better about yourself as a writer (after reading all those horrible scripts), you’ll also be exposed to a few nuggets of gold and learn how to write better from the experience.

  • Enter contests – It’ll cost you some bucks, but once you complete that script (after several edits and polishes, natch) you’ll want some positive reinforcement. Rather than funnel your money into a consultant, put it into a few reputable contests. If you place high enough (winner, finalist, semi-finalist, sometimes even quarter-finalist), you’ll get some Web exposure and perhaps some other nifty prizes. Go to Moviebytes or WithoutABox for a list of contests.

  • Build a Website – Once you get some experience, complete a few scripts, and win/place in a few contests, it’s time to get a website to generate some traffic. You don’t have to have a hell of a lot – but if you want producers to come back, you should have some decent properties and interesting content. List you bio (screenwriter’s CVJ), loglines, and contest wins. Add a blog if you have the energy. And try to build a creative community by linking to like-minded/talented indie folks who you can promote and who, in turn, can generate traffic to your site.

  • Write Shorts to Get Some Options – It’s the ol’ “egg and chicken” story. How do you get an agent or manager if you haven’t sold a script? One way is to get shorts produced. You not only get an excuse to attend film festivals (see bullet #1 on this list), but you also get IMDB credits to put on your screenwriter’s CV. It’s no the quickest path to success, but for those in screenwriting for the long haul, it is a viable avenue. Some sites where you can post your shorts for free are Inktip and NEFilm.

  • Keep Writing! – Painfully obvious, isn’t it? But I’ve found that 99 out of 100 times I will be disappointed in any potential ‘leads” that want to option/purchase my work. Either someone wants you to pay them to read your work and “make it better” or they want a “free option” to take your idea to other producers. Can’t a writer get paid? Yes, if you keep honing your craft and are committed to doing the work. So, keep as many irons in the fire as possible – write as much as you can (making sure your words are quality, not just quantity). Once you get that first option, they’ll always counter with “What else ya got?”

  • “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” (Satchel Paige)

    One final chestnut: You’re never to old to start. Grandma Moses picked up a paintbrush in her seventies. Satchel Paige didn’t make it to the Majors until his forties and pitched to the ripe age of 59. And the 40-year-old Virgin didn’t get laid until … well, you get the picture.

    Posted in Screenwriting | Leave a Comment »

    Collaboration Heaven and Hell

    Posted by bobheske on December 16, 2006

    Collaboration Cartoon

    Collaboration. It sounds like a friendly, congenial word, doesn’t it? Like marriage, it can have it’s blatant downside. Like a lemming jumping over a cliff.

    I’ve collaborated three times in my not-so-brief writing career. With mixed results. Following are a few life lessons – and some tips – before you take the plunge.

    The Sheep in Wolve’s Clothing.
    The first person I collaborated with I met at a video store. He was a manager and well, since I was in there four to five times a week it was clear we both shared a passion for movies. We met at a fast food restaurant and pitched our ideas. He seemed professional enough – dedicated, well-spoken, with a theatre background. We shook hands and agreed to help each other take a beloved script idea to the finish line and share in our mutual success.

    That was the only good part of our collaboration. “The Dream.” My writing partner never got past Act 1. There was always a distraction to keep him off course. And what he had for Act 1 was full of typos and bad writing. Meanwhile, I thought I was plowing along pretty smoothly. Then he introduced a third party into the mix to share a percent of whatever success we had. It wasn’t because this person was creative, a screenwriter, or even a film buff. He needed someone to do his spellchecking and proofread his writing. I went along because … well, I was stupid.

    Then, after he had been to my meager home, out of the blue he decided we were close pals and asked to borrow money. Twice. The first time I let him borrow a small amount – about 1/3 of his original “asking price”. The second time I plumb said NO!

    The final straw was when I hired a lawyer to draft a collaboration agreement. (Yes, I know we should have had one going into the agreement – but did I already say I was stupid?) Entertainment lawyers don’t come cheap. I found a way to subsidize the cost between myself and another writer I was collaborating with (see story below) – figuring it would save this gentleman some money by splitting legal costs three ways.

    Au contrair.

    When I sent him the bill, he chastised me via email about being wasteful and reckless with his money. He told me that he’d pay me back on a payment plan (his passive agressive way to meter out punishment, no doubt) – a six-month payment plan, in fact. This after he’d just gotten a good job and bought a new car for 20 g’s.

    It was time to say “buh-bye.” We exchanged emails confirming in writing the end of our partnership. He sent me a final note (full of typos) telling me that my script was far from market-ready and that I was far from professional. (BTW – He was half right: the script needed a serious re-write, but it has since received considerable interest.)

    In the past three years, I fear my old collaborator chum has fallen off the screenwriting map. I Googled his name once and saw a posting of him kvetching at a town meeting. Perhaps he’s found his calling after all. As for me, not seeing him again has been a happy ending to an otherwise waste-of-my-time tale.

    A Buddy, A Bad Breakup, and Booze.
    My second collaboration actually happened around the same time as my first. After a particularly bad relationship, I went to my friend’s house and in a drunken slobber proclaimed: “I love stupid. In fact, I’m going to write a movie about it and call it Love Stupid!”

    My friend, also being a bit tipsy, high-fived me (actually, he missed) and said, “That’s right … and I’ll do it with you!”

    We signed a collaboration agreement. He never asked to borrow money. And he’s still my friend.

    He actually stuck by me for several rewrites and we recently optioned the script. We also collaborated on a second comedy that was based on a phrase his girlfriend (and now his wife) picked on me for including in Love Stupid – “Bingo Bango”.

    “Bingo Bango? Ha! Nobody uses that type of language?”

    “Oh yeah, you stupid #@#$% … I’ll write a script and make Bingo Bango common lingo! And you’ll never mock me again!”

    Footnote: Actually, I didn’t really have the balls to say “#@#$%” … and, sadly, my friend’s wife continues to mock me to this day.

    Now we’re hoping to option the second script. Sounds like a fairy tale marriage, right? Not really. The downside is this:

      Like Avis, I tried harder but…

    I wrote the treatment for both scripts, and pretty much had to bust my friend’s balls to get his scenes done. “OK, OK … I’ll write the scene. Put down the riding crop!” he’d tell me after I berated him over the phone, via email, and in person. He actually stopped taking my calls for awhile because I was such a pain. “Look, you’re more serious about this while I consider it a hobby,” he told me. Which was fine but our collaboration agreement had me getting 51% and my hobbyist buddy getting 49%. For the second script, our agreement was more in line with me getting 65% and my friend 35%. Still, it’s been an unspoken sore spot that I came up with the story idea and structure, and probably could have written the scripts faster by myself.

      We collaborated, now we’re considered an item

    Recently I got a manager on the West Coast who is trying to get me a bonafide top-notch LA agent. The only problem is my manager likes my comedy writing the best (even though other producers like my horror and drama scripts) … so the samples he wants to send have – you guessed it – both my friend and my name on it. Like it or not, Hollywood considers us a team. This is definitely something to consider if you write a script or two with a friend, but want to forge your own identity down the road.

    I’ll close by saying I’m grateful to my friend for sticking with me to finish the scripts. He added real value to both scripts. And his sense of humor complemented by own. Plus, he’s been very fair and open as we sit down and talk to people re: optioning our scripts. Still, I’m the one doing all the heavy lifting to get the scripts sold. So, a word to the wise: when you form a writing partnership, make sure you share a passion as well as a friendship.

    Teaming Up for Low-Pay & “The Experience”.
    My most recent collaboration was with an animator/scriptwriter friend whom I met online. He introduced me to an indie producer who needed a polish (more like a rewrite) of an animated feature film that had been through several drafts and already had 50% of the funding in place. I agreed to a low paycheck and worked every night for a month (which was tough to do with a colicky newborn in the house). In the end, the project turned out pretty well – although I’m not sure how much of our “polish” will make it to the final draft.

    All in all, it was a valuable lesson and showed me that I could do a professional polish on someone else’s labor or love. Plus, my co-writer friend and I felt we improved the overall product and respected each other’s creative input. Not too shabby. If there was a gripe, it would be that I felt I put more time into the rewrite than my collobarating partner who was busy juggling other projects (and who got more pay because his producer friend got us the gig). Still, my collaborator was a conscientious, affable, and talented writer so, in retrospect, the gripe is pretty minor (although we both agree that next time we work together – it will be for a BIGGER paycheck).

    So what do I think of collaboration? Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it ain’t. And, if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit anal/obsessive when it comes to screenwriting. So maybe the moral is:

    I’m the one who is the shitty person to collaborate with. Stay away!

    The bottom line: Collaboration has its rewards and punishments. You’ll be spending hundreds of hours on your feature – better make sure the partner you chose is up to the task. For those brave socialable souls that dare venture down the collaboration path, here are a few simple rules to consider:

      Know who you’re writing with
      Make sure you share both talent and passion
      Sign a collaboration agreement first
      Make sure you both commit as much time to marketing as writing
      Record all expenses, and reimburse each other prompty
      Always be fair and, if you must break up, do so amicably

    Posted in Screenwriting | 1 Comment »

    To Short or Not to Short?

    Posted by bobheske on December 12, 2006

    short cartoon

    What are the merits of doing a short versus doing a low-budget feature?

    That’s the question I posed to my at-that-time manager after waiting in futility for one of my five features to hit six-figure pay dirt.

    Her response: “I wouldn’t recommend it. First, shorts don’t pay. Professional screenwriters don’t need to do them. Second, Hollywood considers shorts as amateur hour. Write a comedy feature instead.”

    Most people in the biz would consider this sage advice. But I tossed her words to the wind. Not that I didn’t respect them. I was just tired of doing free re-writes and figured shorts would (at minimum) give me a fresh creative outlet without having to trudge through the dreaded “Act 2” doldrums of a feature, and (at best) introduce me to up-and-coming indie producers and kick open the doors to Hollywood with film- festival-winning work.

    I dipped my toes into the shorts side of the pool by re-working Act 1 with two of my favorite features. After one script was a contest finalist, I was hooked. One year later, I have written nearly 20 shorts (most of them contest winners or finalists) and have 8 options under my belt (hopefully 10 by year-end). Heck, I even got a work-for-hire paycheck out of the deal and expect to have a few of these shorts produced and on the festival circuit in 2007.

    So was it worth the gambit? I think so – but the jury is still out (although I have since optioned my first feature, been hired for a feature script polish, and secured a new manager). Rather than focus on the “island” of my personal experience to answer the question, instead I asked several indie professionals I’ve met through the wonders of the Web and Skype over the past year.

    Here’s what they had to say:

    Joel Eisenberg, Screenwriter/Author
    “How To Survive a Day Job While Pursuing the Creative Life”

    Aunt Bessie’s “How to Survive a Day Job”It never hurts to film your creation as a short to utilize as a calling card. However, in my experience, even at film festivals, I know of very few filmmakers who have had a feature financed based on their short. You must ask yourself what your goal is. In some instances, I’ve seen people who have received jobs as directors on low-budget projects based on a short. One can also look at what happened with television’s “South Park,” that began life as a series of shorts. But in my experience these examples are more the exception than the rule.

    The bottom line is this: you have to pay your dues somewhere. I’ve seen too many filmmakers, however, with large-enough budgets to make low-budget fest-style features, but they utilize the funds to make a short instead. To me, that’s questionable. With increasingly-effective HD cameras out there, as an example, a low-budget feature does not have to equate with low-quality. If you have money to shoot a well-scripted, low-budget feature, do it. In my opinion, that’s the far more effective option. You may attain distribution as a result, and executives will see you can present a consistent narrative in long-form. If you have made up your mind to shoot a short, then shoot the best short you can and email it to everybody on your mailing list, and every executive in the Hollywood Creative Directory.

    Alex Leung, Associate Producer (Around the World in 80 Days)

    around-the-world-in-80-days.jpgShorts can be beneficial IF the director has a clear plan for what he/she hopes to accomplish in doing it. Three common purposes of shorts are to:

      1. “workshop” an idea to secure funding to produce the feature;
      2. use the short as a “trailer” to raise funding for the feature version; and
      3. create a reel for an up-and-coming director

    Under the “workshop” premise, a director may pitch an idea to a studio that decides to “dip their toes in the water” by providing a small budget (e.g., $30,000) to make a short. The film Half Nelson is a good example of how this can succeed.

    Even more common is for young, hungry filmmakers to create a reel to show their artistic ability and creative vision. And, of course, a few “audience favorite” and “best short” awards at big film festivals can go far in creating buzz about the film and the filmmaker.

    For writers, I don’t recommend expending energy on shorts. It’s tough enough to get into Hollywood. What impresses most is a high concept script with rich characters and compelling plotlines. In other words, a kick-ass feature.

    Justin Olson, Producer/Manager
    Rebel Entertainment
    (Chicks 101, Spirit of ’54, Brothers in Flight, Bodmin Moor, Semper Fi, Sugar, The 1 Second Film)

    Chicks 101I think for aspiring screenwriters shorts are a great way to get into the process and format of screenwriting without jumping into a feature length script. Plus, many great and successful features started as short films (Napolean Dynamite, Saw, etc.). They’re also good to get you exposure in festivals. But once you’re in the game writing and/or directing studio movies, there’s no reason to do a short other than purely personal reasons. The problem with shorts is that they really don’t have a market outside of festivals. For the most part, people don’t go to the video store and rent a DVD of short films. So there’s no money in them.

    Joe Boyd, Actor/Screenwriter/Filmmaker
    (Happily Ever After, Hitting the Nuts)

    Hitting the NutsI view working on a short film as a form or exercise, training or “continuining education” in the creative field. I am primarily an actor, but writing and producing a short film (Happily Ever After) in 2005 opened doors that never would have been open otherwise. First and foremost, more people return phone calls from a producer than from an actor. Unless you are on the cover of US Weekly, introducing yourself as an actor in Los Angeles is the equivelent of relational suicide with many industry pros. Now that I am producing my first feature film the schism is even more obvious. The very agents who wouldn’t bother opening an actor submission from me are leaving messages on my voicemail with their cell phone numbers. I think this is what “making your own work” is really about…leveraging what you have to open the next door.

    Generally, shorts allow for more artistic freedom because there should be little to no hope of making money. I thought my first short would get picked up by some cable channel or foreign market…but after winning three festival awards with no bites at all I quickly saw that nobody is making a living off of short films. (Yeah things can happen, but my advise is DON’T PLAN ON MAKING ANY OF YOUR MONEY BACK!) It is an investment in your craft. You will be repaid with the relationships that you pick up along the way – from writing to production to post-production and festivals. That’s the career pay-off. The artist pay-off is that you get to do YOUR stuff the way you want – and that aint easy in this business.

    Kirk Moses, Editor/Filmmaker
    (Crew/Filmography Credits: Bloodsuckers, Blade: Trinity, Scary Movie 3, Freddy vs. Jason, The Butterfly Effect, Reindeer Games, Romeo Must Die)

    Scary Movie 3I tend to think differently about shorts: that is, a short is a vehicle to explore the way certain themes, characters, or story lines might play out without going through the whole rigamarole of writing 96 pages of material. A few months ago, I took a comic book class that presented a similar opportunity for exploration and resolution of my story theme. What is great about a comic is not only is it a visual medium, but you have to get to the main points of the story across quickly. I think short stories have the same challenge; however, with a more difficult task since they rely solely on the written word.

    I am more attracted to a pure short (10 pages or less) than longer story lines that end up being 15-30 pages. Most North American television formats for one hour or half hour sitcoms usually end up being 45 pages (one hour) or 23 pages (half hour). These limitations make writing anything longer than 10 pages a strange middle ground that needs to be part of something else (e.g., since sitcoms always build on storylines from the past).

    I also believe shorts are a wonderful way to explore a scene without context. Because the scene is the main building block of scriptwriting, it’s a challenge to the writer to connect the dots in a single setting – something akin to single location features such as 12 Angry Men or Dinner with Andre.

    Adam Bolt, Artist, Writer, Director, Filmmaker
    (Vanished Acres – Winner: Best Student Film, The Indie Gathering)

    Vanished AcresVanished Acres has been an eye-opening experience for me in the film world. Despite its growing successes, I’ve learned that my romantic notions of a short film on the festival circuit were far from true. The fact is, aside from a smattering of festivals, features are the star in the indie film world. If you are debating between shooting a short film, or a low budget feature film, all things being equal – make that feature! If you pull it off, you’ll have real distribution options, a broader audience, and many more festivals to choose from. You could even turn a profit!

    Here’s the catch. There’s always a catch, right? The advice I preach time and time again is to work within your means. I made a short film simply because the combination of my interests, style, and goals as a filmmaker are rather expensive. I prefer film to DV in most cases and I love fantastic subject matter. I’d much prefer to do a short film of my taste well, rather than struggle to create a mediocre or poor feature by stretching the same resources way too thin.

    The main purpose of a short film is that it can be a calling card for your future work. Shorts are easier to pull off with less time and money, and may achieve some minor distribution if you are fortunate, or lead directly to feature work if you are insanely fortunate. Yet even if you aren’t rewarded in these ways, a good short film under your belt is better than counting on an investor’s blind faith that you can direct your feature.

    It is very difficult to write a good short. In a feature length project, you have the substantial benefit of giving the audience time to meet your characters and develop attachments to them. In a short, you had better either hit the ground running with a very strong, identifiable character or develop a longer format short film (which will run into programming difficulties in festivals – as the run time exceeds 15 minutes, your options start dropping like flies). Most shorts fail to deliver any kind of emotional connection. I’ve seen short after short where extremely dramatic endings involving death or suicide happen to characters you don’t care about yet, with melodramatic score to hopefully (and unsuccessfully) fill in that gap. An option to avoid this pitfall all together is to create a concept-based short film. These are often in-your-face and showy pieces with a twist or punchline that propagate most festivals, and in that sense are generally quite successful. If your ultimate goal is to work on long-form narrative; however, this style of short film will neither hone your skills in the type of storytelling needed to hold a feature together, nor really prove to anyone on its own that you have what it takes to do so. Your mileage may vary, though, and there are many exceptions.

    In the end, unless your goal is to make a profit from cheap DV shorts presented on cell phones (shudder), my advice is to get as close to that ultimate dream of a “real” movie as you reasonably can. Good luck out there, peoples!

    Posted in Independent Films, Screenwriting | Leave a Comment »

    On Being a Screenwriter and Father

    Posted by bobheske on December 4, 2006

    Carly Marie Says Hello!I got married this past year for the second time. Like intercourse, marriage is usually much better the 2nd time around. Such is the case with me. And before 9 months were complete, my wife and I welcomed our boisterous, serious little girl Carly Marie into the world on Memorial Day at 6:08 in the morning.

    Rather than congratulate us, the first thing our families did was “do the math” and figure out that we were pregnant about one week before the nuptials. That’s what happens when you marry into an Italian family with inquisitive sisters (my sister was also guilty of trying to calculate when the immaculate conception occurred).

    Back to Baby: Needless to say, life changes when you have a little “you” screaming, crying, spitting formula, and otherwise creating 24/7 havoc and demanding all of your waking attention. Or should I say – your life totally disappears.

    But it’s worth every dirty diaper change. Especially when you have a good-natured wife who does the yeoman’s share of the work thanks to God’s miracle and father’s best friend: breast-feeding.

    The first few months when baby Carly cried out, I simply shouted to my wife “She’s hungry!” and happily went back to tap-tap-tapping on my keyboard. Around month three, formula was introduced and I thought the jig was up. But baby had a battle with constipation and my wife – who couldn’t stand sticking a thermometer up Carly’s butt to “unplug her” – resorted to 100% breast feeding.

    Then the growth spurts kicked in and poor, tired momma couldn’t keep up (even though, by now she was skillful at double-pumping with only one spilled bottle of milk in five months). Soon, daddy was helping more and more with bottle feeding, formula, and (gulp) spoon-fed baby food.

    Now it was my turn to get cranky. “Not now … I’m trying to write here!”

    To which the retort was always a baby dropped in my lap and the simple response, “what’s more important, your stupid script or her?” One look at the pics on this blog, and the answer is obvious.

    Carly Marie Happy in Hat

    Lately, I find my writing style changing ever so sub-consciously. Just last night, I introduced a baby scene in the rewrite of my suspsense/thriller NIGHT TERRORS (also an apt title for trying to get a newborn to sleep through the night, I might add). And I’m more tempted to work on those family-friendly stories rather than those blood-drenched horror concepts. Truth be told, I want my little girl to be able to actually watch some of my films before I end up on Medicaid. (Yes, this first-time father is in his early forties.)

    So does being a screenwriter and the father of a newborn actually mix – or is it oil and water? For me, the trick was focusing on writing shorts during the tumultuous first three months. And doing an hour of writing each day at work during my lunch.

    Now, six months into fatherhood, the late night hours call me to my computer. Why? No, not to drink by myself a la Hemmingway. Au contrair, it’s something much better than cheap Scotch I succumb to. The reason is that now, just in time for Christmas, my little baby girl SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT!

    [parenthetical pause for applause]

    But of course, having a cute baby girl begets other problems. Like … now my wife wants another. “She can’t be an only child. She’ll be lonely.” I must admit, the thought of shepherding two kids into their adolescence when I’m filing for Social Security doesn’t whet my whistle. I tell my wife not to worry – that if my baby girl is anything like her father, the demons inside her head will be company enough.

    Sadly, that doesn’t comfort my wife. Soooo … will there be a sequel down the road (Screenwriter Daddy Deuce)? The argument rages on. Stay tuned.

    Posted in Screenwriting | Leave a Comment »

    One in a Billion

    Posted by bobheske on December 2, 2006

    Talk about an omen.

    As I sit down to write my first blog, on a whim I looked up “world population”. The online calculator showed 66.6 billion people share the planet. Revelation? Geez, I’d better write fast.

    My lazy man’s math tells me that if roughly one out of 66 people want to be a screenwriter, my competition is about a billion. Hence, the clever headline that just took me three sentences to explain.

    A screenwriter’s blog? I can hear the human outcry now:

    Why don’t you write a script instead? Or get a real job?

    Ouch! Actually, I have been writing. 20-something shorts, 5 features, and 2 treatments in the last two years alone. I’ve sold a few scripts, even a feature I co-wrote with a Scotch-drinking buddy. Heck, I finally got a manager I don’t have to pay. Maybe even an LA Agent to boot.

    Success? Not yet. But progress? Definitely!

    So sharpen your pencils, fire up your laptops, and come along for the ride. But tick-tock. Time is running out. Soon there’ll be 666 billion people on the planet. Perhaps ALL of them wannabe screenwriters.

    Apocalypse Mel beckons!

    Signing off (for now).

    Bob Heske

    Posted in Screenwriting | Leave a Comment »