Announcing My Next Film: 'The End of Mara'

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The time has come to finish up my Resurrection Trilogy of short films! The final film will be The End of Mara and it's slated for release in 2015.

The End of Mara is the story of a woman who helps her husband break free of a curse that’s brought him back to life and trapped him on Manhattan Island. This film, as with the last two, will be stand-alone and character-focused.

We're just getting rolling with this project and are in the script development stage now. We have our key crew for production and post-production already lined up - the same collaborators we created the first two films with - so we will truly be keeping the films all in the same world.

In order to focus on making this last film the best it can be, I'm taking a hiatus from my Script magazine column for the next few months to put everything I have into this project.

It's going to be an amazing ride!

Follow along via Twitter at my personal account or our production company's account, or on Facebook at The End of Mara page. I will also send out periodic updates through my newsletter, which is probably the best way to stay in the loop.

Thanks for continuing with me on this journey and I hope to share lots more with you soon!

Script Research: Rock Star Biographies & Memoirs

I'm in the research stage for a script and want to read a few biographies and memoirs of rock stars. I'm looking for ideas, anecdotes and a glimpse into the rock star lifestyle. I reached out to my Facebook and Twitter friends and asked what they thought were the best books in this category and I got a number of great responses.

For anyone needing to do similar research, or if you're just interested in something new to read, here are the rock bios my friends gave two metal horns up. \m/

Lists number of votes received if more than one:

Right out of the gate, I want to read Just KidsNo One Here Gets Out Alive, and Motley Crüe: The Dirt - Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band (because who in their right mind could resist that title). I'm also pretty fascinated by Touching from a Distance because I'd never heard of Joy Division and the person who recommended that book is hella cool.

Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas to this list.  If you have other suggestions, please add them to the comments below. Thanks!

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Please note: I provided links for each title so you could get more information. I tried to link to the least expensive version of the book wherever possible, which in most cases was the Kindle version. If you buy a book through one of these links, please be sure to double-check the version you're buying (e.g. Kindle vs Paperback) to be sure you get the one you want. Happy reading!

"Vivienne Again": The End is the Beginning

"Vivienne Again," my first short film, is now officially complete! The film, that is, because the work to bring it to an audience is only beginning. I'm very pleased with how it turned out and I'm nervous and excited to see it in a theater with an audience. I'm steeling myself for them to laugh at places I didn't intend to be funny or get restless in moments where I thought I was building tension. Or maybe it'll just go over great. The only way for me to find out is to get out there and screen it. So that's what I'm gearing up to do.

Vivienne Again IMDbI learned a tremendous amount making this short, but many of the lessons are in hindsight and can only be applied to future projects. That's where the next film comes in. And the film after that. And the film after that.

Since this was my first short, there was always the chance I could get to the end and be glad I tried directing, but ultimately found it wasn't for me. I'm astounded by how completely sure I am that the opposite is true. I love adding the directing side to my writing, and how fulfilling it is to take the seed of a story and grow it all the way to a finished film.

I'm ready to turn right around and start again. I'm currently in rewrites on my next short film and hope to announce it soon (I just need to shore up a bit of casting first to be sure I can pull it off).

I'm so grateful to everyone who worked on this short with me and to all of those who gave feedback and encouragement along the way. There simply is no question that I could have done this without everyone of you. I hope the final film will make you proud to have joined in.

It's a wonderful feeling to have the end of a project be the beginning of a career and I look forward to seeing many of you at film festivals very soon!

Cheers to the Writers Who Pitched at Screenwriters World!

(excerpt from on my January 2012 email newsletter) Last month, I volunteered to help run the pitching sessions at the Screenwriters World Conference 2012 in NYC. This was my first pitching event, and if these events are new to you, too, then the following is basically how this one worked.

Over 100 screenwriters came to pitch their work to film & TV execs and talent managers hoping to get a request to send in their script to be read. Since most top production and management companies will only read your work if you are referred to them by a trusted source, a pitching event is a chance to bypass the usual rules and get your ideas directly to those who can help get them produced.

The screenwriters pitched their projects to the reps one after the other, trying to connect with as many reps as they could over a period of four hours. It was without question an endurance challenge for those pitching, for those hearing pitches and even for us volunteers trying to keep it all running smoothly. In the end, I heard stories of varying amounts of success from both sides of the table, but no one I spoke to said their day hadn't been well spent. Hail Mary passes were thrown that day and I hope some of them were caught and new careers were born.

Hats off to everyone who participated in the event, and as a volunteer, I learned a ton about pitching and it was definitely a cool way to spend a Saturday.

(addendum to the newsletter excerpt)

In a nutshell, what I learned about pitching: For those who are planning to pitch someday, the key seemed to be preparation, mostly to achieve a very concise and very clear pitch. More than any other concern, those hearing pitches struggled most with pitches where they couldn't detect the genre and were confused by story and character details. Keep the pitch short and very clear, focusing on your best hook or two, and then be prepared for follow up questions. A strong hook minus any confusing details seems to be a great way to start building your pitch.

Script Research: Films About Ghosts and the Supernatural

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I'm in the early stages of outlining a new script and I want to start watching movies in the same genre for research. I asked friends on Facebook and Twitter for recommendations of ghost or supernatural movies that are must-sees. I received so many great responses that I decided to share them here. Thanks to everyone who chimed in!

Lists number of votes received if more than one:

And if someone had asked me the same question, I would have said The Others, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, The Shining and, of course, Ghostbusters (who ya gonna call?).

If you have other suggestions, please add them to the comments. Thanks!

Gearing Up for the New Year!

I've set some lofty professional goals for myself for 2011, a few of which I've been quite public about: Taking an improv comedy class, writing and directing a short film, and writing a feature-length comedy script. I want to achieve these goals so badly that saying them out loud to friends and family, basically, putting my butt on the line, is the way I've decided to keep myself honest and push through the inevitable scary days and insecure moments to come.

I plan to share my experience as a writer taking an improv class (yikes!), a writer directing her first short film (double yikes!) and a writer tackling a comedy feature film script (I can actually envision this one but it's still terrifying). To keep friends, family and colleagues in the loop, I've just added an email signup to this site for a monthly newsletter that will get rolling in the new year. I'll include a round-up of projects I'm working on, classes I'm taking (and feedback on those classes), new blog posts I've written and events that are worth keeping on the radar.

But I don't want to get so self-focused that I lose track of how I've gathered up the courage to set these crazy goals and pronounce them to the world. I'm taking this leap because in the last year I have developed a network of the some of the most exciting up-and-coming filmmakers and artists – people who are as supportive of others as they are talented themselves. I want to spread the word about their projects and events as well. Therefore, in each monthly newsletter, and on a new page coming to this site, I will highlight the work of one of my newsletter subscribers, giving everyone a chance to discover someone new or catch up with the latest work from someone they already admire.

I don't know yet how I'll make these selections. Perhaps a dart board or being open to bribes of chocolate and liquor but I'll work to feature a variety of artists and film professionals, people I already know and love, and people I have yet to discover myself.

If this sounds like your kind of thing, please sign up for my newsletter and join me for another year in this filmmaking adventure.

Cheers to a joyous, successful and prosperous(!) 2011!!

A Shot of Courage

A couple of weeks ago, I got one of those great pings in my email inbox, that little chime that sounds a lot like opportunity knocking. It was David Branin and Karen Worden from the Film Courage LA Talk Radio show inviting me to guest blog on their site about screenwriting. By extending my reach in the film industry, into ventures beyond my Final Draft docs, I got on the radar of two of the freshest voices supporting indie film today, the ever-awesome hosts of Film Courage.

Not surprisingly, the piece I wrote for them, "Filmmaking is for Screenwriters Too," is about new opportunities screenwriters can find if they embrace the film industry at large and work collaboratively with the film community we so enthusiastically joined.

Please take a moment to read the piece and I'd love it if you'd leave a comment at their site.

Thanks so much, Dave and Karen, for this great opportunity to connect with your audience. Film courage indeed!

Scriptchat in Script Mag is Script-Frakkin-Tastic!

In this same week as the Braven Films announcement, there's now fun news about one of my side projects: The fabulous Twitter Scriptchat gets a nice mention in the September/October issue of Script magazine! Thanks to my awesome #treefort pals for taking me on this crazy ride. Today, Script mag, tomorrow the world!

Yes, that's John August mentioned on the same page. Now that's script-frakkin-tastic!

P.S. All uses of the term "frak" are credited to Jane Espenson (a former scriptchat guest) and her amazing Battlestar Gallactica-writing colleagues for reviving such a great word. Cuz really, where the fuck (oh wait, frak) would we be without BSG.

How the Game of Telephone Is Ruining Your Pitch

I recently took a new position in development at the production company I’ve been reading for and it’s giving me an insider’s view of that mythical fortress – the ProdCo – all of us spec writers are trying so hard to storm.

Before I begin my ProdCo work, I do switch hats from writing to development, but don’t think for a moment that the writer in me isn’t always listening closely and taking notes. The game of telephone, and how it applies to a screenplay pitch, has been my first lesson.

A screenwriter friend shared a script with me as a potential submission to the ProdCo. She also shared her logline and, in trying to clarify a point, mentioned another produced film as a potential comparison. The other film not only bombed at the box office but was equally terrible as a movie. The first thing I thought was I should never mention that “in the vein of” when talking about this script. But the seed was planted and hell if it didn’t grow when I wasn’t looking.

A few days later, I’m chatting with a ProdCo colleague and we’re discussing ideas that have been floating our way. We hit upon the genre of the script my friend had given me and I tried my best to remember the exact logline. I kind of remembered it, but boy did I wish in that moment the logline had been a little snappier, with more of a hook, because as hard as I was trying (and writers, know, I was trying), I was doing a terrible job of re-pitching this idea.

It wasn’t working, I saw no spark of interest in my colleague’s eyes and my brain scrambled for how to position this script. Then, there it was: The seed that had grown into a putrid flower, that regrettable “in the vein of” line, bubbled up in my head and popped right out of my mouth.

As the pitch flopped on the carpet, gasping for air, I did what any working Joe in my shoes would have done; I averted my gaze and moved on to the next project.

But the writer in me made note.

Most writers know how important their pitch is and work hard to craft a great one they can deliver. But what I certainly hadn’t thought much about is the fact that as writers we’ll probably, if we’re lucky, get to pitch one employee of a ProdCo and then they’re the ones who’ll go around the company trying to recreate our pitches.

Ever play telephone as a kid?  Now imagine your pitch told and re-told by other people.  What are those key words and ideas that will be remembered and passed on? Is there anything in your pitch that’s working against you, such as a comparison to a bad film or a character name or location or minor detail that will trump more important aspects of your story in the re-tellers mind?

If you’re practicing your pitch, you’re probably already pitching it to friends and family to help refine it. Try adding another step: Wait a few days after pitching to a friend and then ask them to try to pitch your idea back to you. Listen closely for what they remember, where they struggle and if they are able to re-pitch your idea with anything close to the enthusiasm with which you pitched it to them.

Like it or not, pitching is a big old game of telephone. You have control over what words and ideas you use to start the chain, but after that, you have no idea of the storytelling skills of the folks down the line.

We’re all working too hard on our writing careers to get stuck at the pitch. If you whisper in the first ear “an adventure comedy about two bumbling musicians on the run from the mob” and all the last person in the telephone chain can remember is “in the vein of Ishtar,” then you need to rethink that pitch.