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I think I'm a little late to the party, but the best advice I can give about emotion is that it is completely and totally unvisual and thus has no place in screenplays...however..
Emotional Reactions are very visual. What makes us think someone is sad? Happy? Nervous? The set of their shoulders, the tilt of their head, or the cast of their mouth...study body language, and acting and when it is necessary to describe emotion, describe the emotional action, not the emotion.
Also, Keep in mind that wemon see 7 times the emotion on a person's face than a man does; this will be important when choosing who to try to send your screenplay to. Hope this helps :)
I've never pitched anything...I can't really give you any first hand advice on pitching, but I remember reading in a book once that you should always have a definite goal with whomever you are pitching to i.e. Decide before hand if you want them to simply ask you for your script or if you want them to read the script. I once read about a guy who spoke with a producer over the phone all he said was "This script doesn't lend it's self to pitching," and the producer asked the writer to send him a copy. Everything I've ever heard has me thinking that producers hate the pitch process as much as writers do, so, I guess, anything that would make things comfortable for them.
Side Note: The best pitch person I know has no substance; he can't write worth a damn, but he could sale ice to Eskimos. Remember you are selling to them alla traveling salesman style.
I repeat, I have no first hand knowledge on this, so here's you giant grain of salt, but I hope I've helped :)
I like the endings that make you think the most...Like the end to FARGO...you really had to dig for meaning to that ending...and it wasn't packed with drama, but it was packed with punch. Another good ending is on THE GRADUATE where they are sitting together on the bus, and their eyes meet, and dance away, she's in her wedding dress, he's just crashed a wedding to get to her. It's the culmination of the whole movie...and it's so mundane. I also liked As Good As It Gets...but what I liked was where Kinnear's character has switched roles with Nicholson's character, pushing him, prodding him, making fun of him even, I thought that was a nice role reversal.
I didn't like City of Angels; I knew before the first act was over that the minute he became human, she would die and the death was the result of a senseless accident on her part. It was tragic simply for the purpose of being tragic.
Most of all, the ending should make sense, either up or down, with a little bit said about the human condition that people walk away still thinking it over in their mind...oooh, I just thought of another example "Bulworth." That had a tragic ending, but it was good. If Bulworth hadn't died, he would never have become a martyr.
A lot of times in the middle of a shoot a director will have to change what they have planned, so by having camera directions at the beginning only wastes your valuable page space, because directors aren't going to pay any attention to it anyway.
I think the screenplay format is the most challenging one I know. I don't write a book because I don't know where to end it. I hate extensive description, I much prefer INT. BANK. NIGHT. I also know that when people go to the movie, they are not going to recieve a copy of my screenplay to oogle (Sp?) over as a piece art in itself. I happen to like Courier. It's my choice font, because of it's type-writer like appearance.
I think, from what I was reading, you are using your displeasure of the format to avoid writing altogether. I know I used to do the same thing when it came to writing outlines in high school. Concentrate your energy on becoming a good writer instead of complaining about the format. The format is freeing to those who have a good movie to write. Read screenplay formula/formatting books for help on this. Read screenplays for help on this.
There are enough Directors, Producers, and Actors in Hollywood that also write that Hollywood doesn't really need Scriptwriters to come up with a producable script (I admit most non professional Scripwriter written movies suck). So we could all go on strike and they would laugh and type away on their Smith Corona's or 386's, whichever.
My suggestion: If you want to produce a work that visually tells a story, become a director. Don't bash something that has worked for years simply because you feel like your too good, or the technologies are too good or the producers are backwards to meet the same writing standards everyone else does. Those are all excuses to keep from writing. Being pretty does not count over good writing. New does not nessarily mean better.
Good luck with your "Wave of the Future" scriptwriting movement. Be sure to tell me where you wait tables, I'll drop in and say hi.
Why, thank you, Tracey. I try. :)
Thank you James, but I think you should see Bulworth anyway, it's worth the money. Most guys I've spoken too haven't really gotten a whole lot out of City of Angels...Hell most people I know haven't gotten a whole lot out of City of Angels.
I know Fargo was a based on a true story, but the conversation at the end talking about her huband recieving the 3 cent stamp...that might have happened that way, or maybe at the kitchen table or out at a restaurant...or maybe only on the screen. It was an adaptation which also takes creativity, and which was meant to slap you in the face with velvet fist.
Oooops...my message did not convey my meaning...I do apologize. I meant what you said...and you said it so much better than I did, shame on you ;)
*Crystal bends to her knee in honor of Tracey, the Master*
I personally liked the way SLIDING DOORS handled the two different realities, but I couldn't tell you how to do it, and I wish I knew where a copy of the script could be found.
This may be a moot point now, but my experience with people that say they
can't get into the characters are giving you their opinion. And we all know what opinions are like...yeah and some of them stink to. Take the criticism for what it is: A man who is so narrow minded he can't see elderly people as being interesting. That's his handicap, not yours.
If you think the story will benefit from a White lead, then go ahead, but if the story is fine with a Black lead, leave it that way. Don't determine the color of the lead based on what you think will be popular, that, to me, is selling out, big time. If it doesn't matter, don't specify one way or another. Tell a good story, and stick by that story.
One night about three years ago, I had a dream in Japanimation and have wanted to turn that into an Anime Script. This ain't no Disney flick. Does anyone know if the format for an Anime is different or maybe where I could find information on scriptwriting for animation.
I feel that there are lots of great stories out there that I can't write. I can't write them because they are not unique to the experiences of a white american female in her early twenties. I hate to say it, but I don't want to see a lot of movies featuring black people because they are usually about black people living in a ghetto or the main characters are drug dealers. I saw The Game, a family drama, that I thoroughly enjoyed. I saw Dr. Doolittle, a family oriented comedy that I thoroughly enjoyed and those are the only two films I can think of in the last year that were released that appealed to me and included black leads. They are the only two movies I can remember that involved black stars. My point is, I feel like there are a lot of great stories that can occur only within the specific confines of a culture or race. Remember Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)? To not write those stories is to rob all of us, in my opinion, of the variety and uniqueness of the different cultures that make up this world. All of my stories are about white american females in their early twenties, because that is the experience that I know. Now, because, I am susceptible to the same steryo types that everyone else is, I admit I wouldn't know how to write a story involving a black lead, because the majority of the images I have been shown have been of black people living in the ghetto or being drug dealers, and I will not continue to contribute to that steryo type. I have included black people in my stories when the characters were always black in my mind. I did not change them to try to be politically correct. Like I said before, if it doesn't matter, don't specify the race. Write it the way you see it, and make the story and writing so good, they can't find a reason to turn it down.
I did mean He Got Game, not The Game, the similar titles confused me. I understand what you're getting at with the question about What is a black movie? I would have to say He Got Game is a black movie, but Dr. Doolittle is just a movie. "Just a movie" implies any race, any religion and the story is basically the same. A black movie would be a movie with a story that could only occur within the specific confines of the black culture. Let me make an example of Like Water for Chocolate. The story only exists within the confines of the spanish culture that required youngest daughters to give up marriage and a chance for their own family in order to take care of their mother until their mother died. It's a Romeo & Juliette story with a unique twist. Find that uniquness in your own cultures...actually that leads me to an interesting point. I know a man that is celtic by culture. He was born and bread in the USA, but he forges his own swords, makes bows out of branches and cat gut, shoots hand made arrows, and makes his own jewelry with the interwoven knots. He's a practising druid and a sacrificer. By culture, he's celtic. I think there are stories unique to his existence that I could never tell, no matter how much research I did. :)
I tend to write with people that I know from real life in mind, because they are usually the basis of my characters. I've heard that writing with a specific actor in mind can be potentially bad because said actor may not want to commit to the project. Also, in cases like Last Action Hero, needing a specific actor for a role can give the actor in question an awful lot of power over the story, and not all actors have a good story sense.
This book is so widely used, it's become a cliche, but I recommend "Screenplay" by Syd Field. There is a companion to "Screenplay" called "The Screenwriters Workbook" and has excersizes at the end of the chapters to help you develope the screenplay in a step by step process.
For format, I would read movie scripts with the understanding that words like Pan, Cut, and other camera directions are not your responsibility; they come later and are provided by the director and cinematographer. Check with local collages in the areas, some may have a screenwriters course you can take.
I would also recommend reading Script Magazine as often as possible and then some. Find other people who write scripts (This board, for instance) and keep talking with them...but I would never recommend ever talking about the story you are telling to anyone, not because most people are untrustworthy, but because the drive that you have to tell the story could be lost in the telling to a mutual friend or aquaintence (Sp?). This has happened to me more times than I want to admit.
I better stop now, or I'll be advising all day. Good luck and glad to have you with us.
...The rape thing sounds really drastic.
I wouldn't go there unless you want to make a statement about rape...
Heard of Meatloaf? I'm sure you have. His first record ever became an unbeliveable success, and following that success, the studios put a lot of pressure on him to perform to the same standards, and it terrified him. He developed a mental block to singing; he could physically do it, but was terrified of failure...he worked through the fear in a few years, but it was almost a decade before he could convince studios to let him produce an album. "I Would Do Anything For Love" came from that second album. This is probably more than you wanted to know, but his biography immediately sprang to mind when I read the question you posed.
You are going to benefit from the copyright I took this past semester. Okay...the title would probably have to be changed...but I think that this would be very similar to an adaptation. You take a book and adapt it to the screenplay format, and it is yours. Screenplay X adapted from a novel by J C Anybody...
Now if you want to have the song as part of the soundtrack or the basis of the score, then it gets a little more tricky. It would present two problems, only one of which you could really do anything about. The first problem is that if you haven't secured the rights to the song, then who ever would be interesting in producing the screenplay would have to purchase them, a legal and a finacial strike against your script. You would probably want to secure the rights if you want the song to be part of what people hear. The second problem, is that a lot of directors don't like having their music chosen for them...and this could potentially turn people off to the script if they feel that you are medling with affairs that are not the script writers concern and there is nothing you can do about this except hope that you can get a director that can see your vision instead of their ego. I feel for you, because I often use songs as the basis for the stories I'm telling.
I hope this has been helpful.
The screenplay would be yours. The book would still belong to the author. Now, keep in mind, I was addressing the question of a song, not a book...books might be a little trickier...I will have to ask my instructor about that, just to be on the safe side...
I remember studying a case from the Supreme Court in which the Supreme Court ruled that by changing the manner in which the material, or story in this case, is recieved, the changee (is that a word?) has actually made a creative contribution to a work and can therefore claim the change. Poems and songs are often interpreted differently by different people...and adapting them, in my opinion seems a little bit more honest than adapting a book, because more work is involved on the part of the adaptee (I'm just making words up all over the place :) and the vision is often unique.
You certainly welcome to try to get rich quick off of a great book, but my experience has it that great books make lousy movies because the action of a book is inherently internal and well, we all know movies are to be external and visual.
Um...we write scripts. We don't buy them...just, uh, thought, I'd clue you in there...
I must commend Tracy for trying to quote the Empire Strikes Back from memory (The giant snowball of a planet is HOTH, not NOTH, but close enough :)
This is a direct quote from my prized Star Wars script. It's the first line of the script directly under the title.
("A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away")
No directions, no descriptions, no pointed arrows. Only the quotation marks; I added the parenthesis. If you needed to split them up on the screen in order to tell the story, you could try something like this:
"Blah Blah Blah" "Yadda Yadda,"
Hope this helps, Crystal
I was wondering if anyone on the board has a kind of checklist or qualification for their high concept...I think of quiet a few concepts...but can't decide what makes the concept a High Concept...if you have any suggestions or recommendations for this, I'd appreciate the help.
hey I'm all for this indie film thing, and I have a idea for raising the cash if you are tallking really shoestring budget. Recent Indie film called PI (yes, the mathematical symbol) was made when the producer asked everyone he knew for $100 dollars with the promise that when the film made money, the investors would reciever $150 dollars. They made the movie for 60,000.00 and sold it for 1 million to Miramax.
In addition, I've got a little expererience in the fields of Directing, Acting, Editing and Audio. Let me know if you need help.
Writing is rewriting.
I guess I'm lucky in that I've never had a bout of self-pity that pitied me against the ones I love...but then, I haven't completed too many scripts.
I always just keep my mind on the goal. Not the character's goal and not the pay check that has so many fly by nights dipping into the screenwriting pie. The apitamy of my goal occurs in the readers' hands when they are moved to laughter, tears, love and anger...knowing I created that, it's what I strive for, revision after revision after revision. To me it's the most humbling god-like experience I have ever felt. I push toward it like a steam roller, like a junkie with his eyes glased from just the sight of his dealer. I'd emote more, but I really think I should channel this into a script...chat later.
D.G. your emoting is inspiring, but there isn't a whole lot of substance to it. Substance being a plan of action. The first action I would suggest would be to choose the selection committee for the script. Second I wouldn't have people send scripts for two reasons. If you limit it to ten scripts, you may get ten lemons, and, it is really costly for people to send scripts; if there are 10 committee members, then that's about 40 dollars postage, to say nothing about paper costs. I would suggest a round of loglines dropped into the mail from anyone who thinks they have a potential candidate script. Anyone with a logline is serious about scriptwriting and will have put some study into the craft before sitting down to pound out their....uh....masterpiece, as it were. The committee could then request the ten best candidates from the logline.
Where to shoot isn't so important as what is going to be shot, so until a script is decided on, where to shoot is a moot point.
I have no small budget films in my head as yet, and everything I've written has been big budget as well, intentionally so. For this reason, I will not be submitting a script and would like to participate in the script selection process.
Right now, we have a dream, and no fear, but the more we tinker this dream into reality, the more we have to fear because then we have something to loose.
But more to gain.
Progress, Prosperity, Substance
PS I'm in Knoxville, TN, for anyone that's interested.
I know a person who has had an offer for an option made based solely on the information he sent in an email. At the time he sent it, he did not expect a response, and had not completed the script, not even a rough draft. He then became very paranoid, they would hire a writer to develope his idea. He pissed me off, and so I don't know what happened with it. My point is be very careful about sending your ideas over the internet, producers and agents are in this biz like the rest of us, to make a buck or two, and our commodities are our concepts.
If that's what you did, then I would say that you have the format down well. If you have been reading movie scripts, and you are confused about where to put words such as "dolly, pan, tilt, swish," don't worry about putting them anywhere.
I'm from the Old School. I would recommend Syd Field's books. One is called "Screenplay" and there is a work book, but I can't remember the exact title; they would be on the shelf next to each other in any bookstore.
If you are really wanting to work with these agents now, and format is really bogging you down, you might try finding a professional typist to type it for you, but the hand written version has to be in correct format...professional typists type exactly what they see. However, if your story is so great, agents are chomping the bit for taste, you might want to find a trusted friend who is a fast typist and see if s/he will type it for you, with you watching for correct format.
It's also been my experience that typing the thing first and then correcting it, rather then writing it out long hand and then entering it into the system is the long way to go about doing it. I always type first, edit later. The best way to handle format, as far as I'm concerned, is to be simple.
INT. KITCHEN. DAY
MOLLY, professional housewife, stumbles into kitchen yawning robe ties dragging behind her. She stops, mouth drops, eyes going wide. Flour covers the counters and floor from one wall to the other. Two LITTLE GIRLS, looking like moving snowmen from the flour, beam proudly as they lift up half cooked pancakes on a plate for their mother's inspection.
LITTLE GIRLS (unison) Happy Birthday!
This format is the one I use and it's the one that my irl script consultants have had the least to complain about. Scenes and paragraphs are at the margin and dialogue is moved to the center, with the names in caps. One line is placed between the scene and the paragraph and the paragraph and the dialogue. I hope this help (and I hope the example is right when this is sent).
Good Luck :) Crystal
The dialogue is supposed to be centered in that with LITTLE GIRLS being on the first line, (unison) being on the next and Happy Birthday being on the last.
A final note, as you do this, it will become easier, even natural.
I just wanted to add my two cents, although, they may not even be worth that.
I just wrote a second mission to mars to find out what happened to the colonists story for my writing class this semester. I know the plot is not original, but the story is. To get a copy of the actual script you might try a little underhandedness, I don't know if it will work. Find out who is credited with writing the script. Then send them a deluge of email/snailmail telling them how much their work has inspired you and ask for a copy of the script in question. Find out what previous movies they've also had produced, ask for copies of those scripts to. Tell them you are studying spec scripts and view them as a master of the form.
Now, here's your grain of salt and it's a huge one. I've never actually done this. I don't know if it will work, but it's been my experience in the little tiny town of Knoxville ( with the prod. market of a chick pea) that flattery will get you everywhere.
Granted it is underhanded, but so is stealing a person's script. And if they didn't steal it, you get a look at the competition's writing. You also get a little piece of mind, or you get a lawyer.
Hope this helps,
This is how I feel.
I think it all depends on whether or not the producer used the same name. Let's face it: nerdy kids are pretty much stock characters. The only time a person is going to be recognised is if specific actions are placed with a person and that person is identified by name. That might ring a bell in a viewer's head who knew the person and which would allow them to say "oh hey, that's Jonny Everybody, yeah I used to play with him."
Also, the way two people remember a single event is going to be completely different. Individuals may cry foul when it's simply a matter of a difference of opinion as to which way events took place. Say this guy never thought of himself as a nerd. I can't sue everyone who has a negative view of me. I would feel flattered that I made enough of an impression on a person that they put me in a film.
Now really really private stuff; like a fathers raping their sons and nuns doing god only knows what to their orphans, that stuff generelly is really hard to leave behind and that kind of stuff should never be told with out that person's express permission. But a depiction, no, that's not really a matter of privacy.
Okay, this is something that I read somewhere is a really great book on screen writing and for the life of me I can't remember which one. It has always proven true by me.
People procrastinate writing when they subconciously recognise there is something wrong with their script. Let that sink in.
I get up everyday at three am. Between my job and school I work until 9 am when I go to bed. I am tired. A good story could keep me up all night long ( but i scribble in my classes, it's how I feed the need). I knew I had to shelve my projects at the beginning of the school year or I would not get anything done.
What you need to do right now, is not write. It's read. Re-read what you've written. This may actually depress you more. Because, after re-reading something you thought was really good, you may find that it's a little on the mediocre side. Better you find it first than force yourself to finnish it, show it to someone and have them find it.
This doesn't have to be an excercise in torture. If you force yourself to write, you'll eventually end up hating it. You will end up like Stu. Make a night of it: Unplug the phone, get a favorite wine, put on some music and just sit down and read. Look at the basics: Are your character's real to you? Is their struggle? Are you hitting your plot points at the right time? Are they legitimatly moving the story forward or just taking up space? Write the basics into your rough drafts, make it great in the subsequent ones.
I had an experience where I wrote the first draft in four days. That was my first script. The second script took me a month. I kept procrastinating. When i went back and started doing the corrections I found out why it was such torture. My main characters where hateful to each other. I had two characters who had connected and become friends on the internet, but hated each other in real life. They did horrible things to each other. I realized the problem was that people SAW the horrible things and heard the positive things and a person's actions always speaks louder than their words. I couldn't come up with a way to solve the problem so I shelved it. Had a wonderful funeral for the characters whose story I really still like to tell. If I start procrastinating, then I re-read.
I'm sorry this is such a long message, but this is the last thing.
You have to write. Not your story, just write. Make a list, start a journal, brainstorm, whatever, but you have to write at least one page a day. Think of this as your creative rations until you resolve the problem your subconcious is waving red flags and screaming about.
Hope this helps
I would have to say that in order to protect her privacy, her name should be changed. In the movie "Sandlot" if te embarrassing scenes were real, the guy's name should be changed to protect their privacy. No one would like to have diary issues better left forgotten up on the screen for the world to pick through like so many vultures. But people are funny. If an individual realizes he went to school with the producer/ director/ writer of a film, he may begin to look for characters similar to himself, find none, and be angry. Or, he may find a character that is somewhat similar, but not like the manner in which he's presented. In that case, it's a matter of opinion whether he's been defamed or not. The producer doesn't think so, but the individual in question does. It's about perception.
My two cents. Don't think they are really worth that much though :)
The only reason I can think of the prod.
becoming angry is if he/she knew of another writer by the same name you submitted and thought they were talking with that writer instead. There was nothing dishonest about what you did, and I think the producer did, indeed, have a problem with the fact that you were a woman. Wemon are out numbered in this business (not just screenwriting) by about 4 to 1 by the last poll, but I've heard that number is about to even out. My production instructor was the ONLY female with a major of film and television when she went to Michigan State twenty or thirty years ago.
There are a few options. Use it, and let people figure out for themselves that you are a woman. Use only your initials and last name or use it and type in parentheses below the "written by" line Nom De Plume (SP?).
Don't feel bad. It's the producer's prejudice that is the problem. And more than likely, if he liked your work, someone else will too.
Something is wrong with your link.
This is an interesting conundrum.
Would it be possible to have a kind of survey attatched to each producer?
The survey could be just one question:
If you have had contact with any of these companies, tell us was your experience positive or negative?
And the user could simply click one choice or the other.
I realize this puts more work on the board administrators, and it really doesn't allow for people to give individual examples, but it will be a quick reference that the board admin won't have to research.
Could It Work?
I had to stop reading half way through the posts because by then I was confused on what is, essentially, a simple question.
I us OS and VO interchangably. Maybe this is wrong, but I haven't recieved any flames/words of warning. Maybe it isn't the best way to do this, but, either one gets the point across.
For radio announcers. I include a radio in the scene description and say if the radio is on or off. Then, if I need the radio announcer talk I say
RADIO ANNOUNCER Well, it's gonna be a cold one tonight, with the tempreture dropping all the way down to fifty two in the city, right now on the Sunset, it's a balmy 69 degrees so lets drift all the way back to 69 with the hit from the Beetles...
Radios don't talk. People do. And I don't know anything about music history.
There is a valid point to honing your craft before you try to make a buck at it. That is the effort a script writer owes to the audience whose paying their hard earned dollars and to previous script writers who have tredged that same journey. The reward for the journey is the gift you can give to others, for every script/story/movie should take people to a place within themselves they have never been before. It takes time to learn to do that.
Luck you say? A person could blame failures on a lack of luck when it could simply be a lack of talent. While there is an amount of luck involved in whether your script gets sold, it has more to do with the actual words on paper than a mysterious force known as luck. I was once told to write "no" one hundred times on a piece of paper and to cross one out each time I recieved one. The reason: you won't get through the list before you recieve a "yes" from someone.
Stu, I've read several messages by you and I honestly belive you are taking you bitterness over your own personal failures out on the people posting on these boards. What most people call pessimissim, I call realism, but the way you write about writing, I don't think you *enjoy* doing it. You've mentioned that it's the business you don't like, but I don't think that's true. Your tone is one that has me picturing a middle-aged man chained to his computer. Writing should be your freedom and you make it your prisoner, and it seems like you take that unhappiness out on the people on this board. Do me a favor, go Stu somewhere else. I'm going to stop reading messages from you, because I rarely find anything beneficial from the posts you place. It's all crap and attitude.
Um, about your character. Um, he actually sounded like my father which is kinda frightening.
This is one way to look at it. There are literally hundreds of ways a person can get into trouble. What kind of jam that person gets into is entangled with the character. For example, an individual who participates in chemical entertainment will, most likely at some point in time, be forced to hide that fact from a police officer, a boss, a parent at teacher etc. The kind of trouble or problems they would have are going to be different from say a person who makes their living selling chemical entertainment.
About your character. Not knowing anything about your story, the only way I could see making that interesting would be to have him spy on his neighbors, and find out what their up to which could also lead to interesting situations/problems/solutions.
Um, to learn more about characters, I simply study character driven films. I think that for Character "A Few Good Men" is a very good choice, because of how each character has a valid view and opinion of the actions of the two young soldiers and none of them are entirely wrong or right. The blame for the young man's death can be charted on a bell curve and the attitudes of the lawyers can be charted on a correlated curve. Hope this makes sense, it's really late here.
Agents will work with whoever will make them money. Prove that you can make money, and I'm sure they will work with you.
Remember that in following your own rules, you must also remember your characters. Character is partly created by the environment in which it's formed. While we in the real world would find the use of magic to be extraordinary, if it's a common place thing in your world, then your characters are not going be overwhelmed by the use of it.
To reitterate a point about Star Wars, George Lucas specifically instructed John Williams to write the score based on the drama of the situation and not the science fiction environment, because he did not want the science fiction environment emphasized. If you look back at that time, there were a lot of really bad SF movies that made the environment more significant than the story.
Oh, and who told you there wasn't magic in this world ;)
This board is for writers. Not for producers. A ligitimate producer is probably not going to have the time to read any derogatory comments on this board. They are too busy reading scripts trying to find one that will make money and be creatively satisfying for the director. Contests are ONE way to get industry exposure. They aren't the only one. If you really feel that your work won't be safe entering contests, don't. Pound out your script and litter the industry with query letters, take a speech class and learn to pitch ideas.
If you do want to go the contest route, contact the better business buearu for the city that the contest is held, and see if they have any information. If there is no information, or a bad report, I'd pass. Research is a pain in the ass, but don't you think it's worth the time and money if it saves 70 bucks of your hard earned cash?
No one likes to be ripped off, and JG, your point about having scared off a ligitimate contact might have more merit except that ligitimate producers are probably going to have sympathy for a person if they've been taken for a ride.
What I'm getting at is that any contacts that might have been scared off as you put it, probably weren't legitimate in the first place. Hey, I live this industry and one of the first rules is "You have to be able to work with all kinds to ge the job done"
Just my thoughts.
Your friends alegory isn't the worst. I read an essay in which Star Wars came to symbolize white prejudiced against black people. quote "bitch slut princess Leia," I'm not kidding. People see what they want to see in Star Wars. Myself, I see a reality greater yet simpler than our own. Where the good guys are always good and easily identifyable as so, and the bad guys are bad and, well you get my point. That's part of what makes Star Wars so good, is that it can touch so many lives, even the lives of a person who looks for people/things/situations to be prejudiced. For a person like that their good guy is Darth Vader; should we pity that kind of person? There are those who would find logical evidence in the movies to support that we should. There are those who could never see that point of view. Do I worry about them one way or another? Only if they're armed.
As for George Lucas, his goal was to write a story that would bring back the simple westerns and good vs. bad guys innnocence of his childhood. It's as much a western as greek mythical epic. Basically, Lucas discovered Joseph Campbell, before everyone else did, and used that knowlegde first.
In your situation, I would find someone who knows about writing, preferably screenwriting, and then ask them to read your script. It can be immensely helpful to get a different point of view on things.
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