Sunday, June 26, 2016

Gone, but hopefully not forgotten...

This past week, I lost three screenplays, including the TV pilot that I'd just completed. How? Coffee spilled on the laptop keyboard, complicated by a lax backup system.

How did I let this happen? Still on a bit of a buzz from a weekend trip to L.A., I reached down to pull my dog, Charlie, up onto the settee. Thoughtlessly, I shoved my elbow back and wham! There went the coffee.

I immediately turned the laptop upside down to drain the liquid. I thought it was dry, so I turned it up right, just in time to do a quick backup to an external hard drive before the crackling began. Yes, it fried.

Thinking I had saved everything, I was not totally distraught. I had planned to replace the laptop within the next few months anyway.  But five days later, after exhaustive searches of the external hard drive, the three scripts were not to be found.

I plan to engage someone who knows how to search the external hard drive better than I. (The computer's internal hard drive is unreadable.)  Hopefully that person will know a trick or two about where those files might be hidden. But truthfully, I have very little hope of retrieving them.

What's next? I shall attempt to rewrite the TV script. I'll count the other two feature scripts as practice and will not recreate them.

What's the lesson? Don't place liquids by the laptop.  Do backup files regularly but also backup in multiple ways the things that I'm currently working on. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Popcorn Entertainment's Anne Jordan

Anne Jordan is a fabulous teacher! I met her four years ago when John and I spent the year in Petaluma, California.  Currently, I attend her ongoing screenwriting group (meets weekly) where we do table reads of our scripts. It's invaluable to hear my script read out loud. The problems resound in a way that's impossible to detect when heard solely inside my own mind.

I've worked with Anne privately and attended her screenwriting class at Santa Rosa Junior college. (Anne also the organizes the Storyteller's Conference and Expo in San Francisco.)

Here's a short interview with her:

Anne Jordan, Screenwriter and Teacher, telling me about the future of my TV pilot! Really, Anne is fun. She's actually a RIOT! 

Levonne: When did you write your first screenplay? What was it about?  
Anne:  In 2000 - "President of the Fan Club" - sort of a "Sex in the City" meets "I love Lucy."  (A comedy)  However, I was a novelist and magazine writer before becoming a screenwriter.

Levonne:  What made you choose screenwriting as a writing modality? 
Anne: I enjoy the fact that screenwriting is more succinct, more focused. You can't wander around when you're writing a screenplay. Every word counts. Also, I liked that I could complete a screenplay in 3 weeks, rather than 10-12 months for a novel.

Levonne: When and where did you teach your first screenwriting class? Why did you start teaching?  
Anne: I started teaching around 2007. At first, I taught individuals and then I started teaching at colleges and universities.  I love teaching! It's easily the most rewarding job I've ever had. I truly love my students and when I see the light bulb going on inside their heads . . . well, that's priceless.

There's an old story . . . A Fireman reaches the pearly gates and Saint Peter asks him why he should let him into heaven. The Fireman answers, "Because I saved other people's lives."  Then a Doctor walks up to Saint Peter, and Saint Peter asks the Doctor the same question. She answers, "Because I healed sick children and made them better."  Finally, a Teacher walks up to Saint Peter and again, Saint Peter asks the same question: "Why should I let you into Heaven?"  The Teacher points to the Fireman and the Doctor and replies, "I taught them all."   . . . Teaching is my ticket into heaven, at least I hope it is.

Levonne:  What is your experience with marketing your work? 
Anne: I'm incredibly lazy and not terribly motivated to market my work, thus, my reason for not attaining greater success. I think most writers hate the amount of self-marketing that they have to do in order to sell their writing. Unfortunately, marketing is 50% of any writer's job. As they say on Madison Avenue, "You can build the best mouse trap in the world, but if nobody knows about it, you're not going to sell it."

Levonne:  What advice would you give to an older (over 50) beginning or emerging screenwriter? 
Anne:  There is no age limit on talent. This is your second act in life. Have fun! Write the stories you enjoy or feel the need to write. Somewhere, someone is going to like your stories. The best advice I could give to anyone, regardless of age, is to never give up. Have fun and NEVER GIVE UP.

Levonne:  Want to promote your screenwriting services?

Anne: Sure, I not only teach, but I also do ghost writing and consultation on novels and screenplays. See Anne's website for more information about Popcorn Entertainment.   You can reach her at

Thank you Anne for sharing about your screenwriting life. You're one of my favorite people in the world!  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Focus on the Little Pieces

This past week, I decided to focus on the little pieces of a script. I often look at a finished, produced screenplay and think about it's greatness. Before I know it, I'm overwhelmed.

Instead of staying overwhelmed this week, I decided to study the element of "writing description." Here's what I relearned:
  • All action and description must reveal character or move the story forward.
  • The more vivid the description, the more the character and scene come to life.
  • Description should also foreshadow what's to come in the story.
  • Description focuses on three elements of 1) action, 2) setting and characters, and 3) sounds.
  • Keep paragraphs to four lines or under.
  • Be sparse with physical description of locations and characters.
  • Describe what the audience can actually see on the movie screen and hear on the soundtrack.
  • Use specific, concrete verbs and nouns to describe character vs. general ones.  Think about "how" someone is doing the action. (Entertain vs. inform.) 
  • Avoid redundancies in narrative description. 
  • FINALLY - Practice writing great description every day!
I've taken this lesson seriously! Now onward and upward!

What did I do this past week to advance my screenwriting?
  1.  Read "Breaking Bad" pilot script
  2.  Worked with Anne Jordan, scriptwriter, on my TV pilot script
  3.   Reread sections in books - Anne Jordan's The Big Secret,  Blake Snyder's Save the Cat and Dave Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible - on "narrative description" 
  4.  Attended Northern California's Screenwriters group