Posted on

Screaming at the Screen | Imposters S2 E2: Trouble Maybe

Mattie gets a visit from Shelly Cohen, ex-husband of Lenny Cohen, another one of The Doctor’s assassins. I have to go back and look at the last episode of season 1 because I don’t remember what happened to Lenny. She was crazy af. Shelly is there to take Mattie to meet The Doctor face to face. She makes a run for it, but he catches her and chokes her out. She picks up a book and knocks him in the head enough to get him off of her. It’s one of those books with the pages dug out and inside is a knife. She stabs him in the stomach and runs out of the house. YASS GIRL! He stumbles out of the house and gets into his car to chase her down, but he’s bleeding. The car slows down, then stops. Mattie stops running and looks back to see what he’s doing. He gets out of the car and goes after her, but because he’s wounded, he can’t run. Mattie runs into the park and finds the Cult Dude she met in the last episode. He’s a recruiter for one of those “find yourself, heal your life” kind of organizations. Mattie tells Cult Dude that she wants to go to the cult place right now because she’s falling apart . He agrees to take her. Cohen ends up passing out, but not before he gets a look at Mattie and Cult Dude getting into the car. OH, SHIT. HE READ THE LICENSE PLATE.

The 3 Musketeers, Ezra, Richard, and Jules hole up in Mexico to avoid being killed by The Doctor and the thieves who tried to con them out of the FBI’s ring. Angry Girl, Jules, pays somebody a deposit to get fake passports for them, so they can hide out anywhere in the world. They agree to step up their con game in order to come up with the rest of the money quickly.

Richard aka Mac Daddy is at a bar looking pitiful and getting wasted. Even during a loser moment, he manages to become the target of a horny cougar. He quickly tells her he doesn’t have any money. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of her cheering friends across the room for failing to score, so she tells him to wave to them and kiss her. Of course. Richard has never been one to turn down any opportunity to hook up with a woman.

Ezra goes to the marketplace, pick pockets a tourist, then pretends like he found the man’s wallet on the ground and asks him if it’s his wallet. He tries to walk away, but the tourist offers him a small amount of cash as a reward. Ezra thanks him and shakes his hand. Little does the tourist know Ezra slipped his watch off. He gives the watch to a merchant that has been watching the whole thing. He gives Ezra money for the watch. YOU SURE HAVE GOTTEN COMFORTABLE WITH A LIFE OF CRIME, EZRA. In the first season, they made a promise to only steal from bad people, but we see that quickly went out the door. That makes them no better than Mattie.

The 3 Musketeers meet up back at their place. Mac Daddy shows up drunk and gives them his earnings. It’s not even $100. They get on his case about it. He tells them he can’t bring himself to take money out of women’s purses because that’s not a con, it’s stealing. EXACTLY! Ezra reminds him they wouldn’t have to steal from good people if he didn’t leave the 1.5 million dollar ring back at his house in the states. Jules reports that they need $5,000 in order to get the passports. Ezra whips out $2,500. They’re like, where the hell did you get this? He says it was going to take too long to get the money by pulling off little cons, so he stepped it up. First, he started selling maps to historical boats. Then he sold actual boat tours. Hell, why stop there? This fool managed to sell a boat he doesn’t own to a group of white guys and nobody questioned it because it was a white man who was selling it. Jules and Mac Daddy lecture him about not being dishonest and say behaving like that makes them no better than Mattie. DIDN’T I SAY THAT EARLIER? They make a pact not to lie to each other anymore.

Mattie checks into the cult motel. Weird Lady gives her the lay of the land, teaches her about wholeness. Later, Mattie calls local hospitals to see Shelly hass been checked in. She finds the right one and tells them she’s Shelly’s sister. The receptionist connects her to a detective. Mattie quickly hangs up.

We find Ezra sitting at a table in the town square writing. A pretty girl comes out of a shop and trips over his leg. He jumps up to help her. She says she doesn’t speak English well, but asks if he’s a writer. He says no. She looks at his note pad and tries to read it. She’s standing all extra close to him and he’s loving it. WHY THE HELL IS SHE STANDING SO CLOSE? Next thing you know, we see her picking his pocket. DAMN EZRA, YOU SEE A PRETTY FACE AND YOU START SLACKIN ON YOUR PIMPIN! TYPICAL. Pretty Little Thief walks away grinning. She gets down the street and checks the wallet. There’s a decent amount of money in there. Then she searches her purse frantically. Something is missing. Ezra pops up behind her holding her phone. Ha! I jumped the gun on Ezra. I thought he got ganked. I’m sorry for thinking you were controlled by the vajayjay Ezra. Pretty Little Thief had the nerve to be mad about him stealing her phone. She demands it back. He says only if you give back my wallet. They exchange items. Ezra tells her how he knew he was on to her. He says she was too flirty immediately after tripping over his foot and that the normal reaction is to show anger. He says he let her take the wallet because she’s beautiful. OF COURSE YOU DID EZRA. She tries to take off, but not so fast girl. Ezra confronts her for taking the money out of the wallet. She pouts, gives it back. She says she has to to work. He offers to walk her there. A romance is born. They end up in a movie theatre where Pretty Little Thief records the movie on her phone. DAMN GIRL, YOU’RE A BOOTLEGGER TOO? JUST TRIFLIN! Ezra offers to bring her in on his con games to make double the money. She doesn’t really trust him, but why not, right?

Max, one of The Doctor’s con men, shows up at the doctor’s office. He no longer wants to be on the run. So, we FINALLY get to meet the doctor. He was never seen in the first season. All we saw was a shadowy figure. That’s what I love about this show. The writers are good at creating tension and suspense. So, Max and the No Good Doctor discuss what happened in season 1 when their plot to con the FBI failed and Mattie ran off and the 3 Musketeers took the ring. He tells The Doctor that he wants to work for him again, if not, he might as well kill him now because he’ll be dead anyway trying to be a regular person. The Doctor tells him to show up at some hotel later and wait to hear from him, he’ll let him know then if he will agree to let him come back to work for him.

Ezra and Pretty Little Thief meet up at a cafe and flirt. He says he wants to hear her play the violin she’s carrying. He’s making sexual innuendos. The merchant is ear hustling their conversation and tells her in Spanish that he’s not really talking about her violin. She pretends to get mad and reaches for her wallet to pay for her coffee. What do you know? She can’t find her wallet. Ezra offers to pay for it, but she says no. She tells the merchant that she lives nearby and will bring the money back to him. He suggests she let Ezra pay for it because he’s not a fool. She tells him she’ll leave her violin with him to ensure she’ll come back. He agrees to that. Ezra examines the violin and tells the merchant that it’s worth 10,000 pesos. He says he can sell it and split the money with him. The merchant says no and makes him leave. Pretty Little Thief comes back. The merchant tells her he wants to buy the violin for his granddaughter and will pay double what it’s worth. Next thing you know she comes running down the street to Ezra and tells him she got 20,000 pesos for a violin only worth 5,000 pesos. I looked it up. 20,000 pesos in US dollars equals about $1,100 and 5,000 pesos equals about $277. So, they made 3 times the amount they paid for it. They celebrate with a hot passionate kiss. She tells him her name is Rosa. GIRL, THAT AIN’T YOUR NAME. They get a room and get busy.

Mattie and Cult Dude hang out at the cult house. She finds out that he’s gay and that his boyfriend is a member of the cult too. She’s shocked. He makes fun of her for thinking her brought her to the cult house to seduce her. They laugh if off.

Back at the hotel, Ezra and Pretty Little Thief lie in post-coital glow. The next morning Ezra wakes up to find she’s gone and so is his money. See, like I said, men will always be taken down by the coochie. Bless their hearts.

Ezra combs the city for Pretty Little Thief. BOY, YOU KNOW SHE’S LONG GONE. But oh his lucky stars, he finds her at the movie theatre. He fusses at her for having sex with him then conning him. She whips out a big wad of cash, tells him she doubled their money by using a trick he taught her. GIRL BYE. I’m like she’s only saying that because he found her. I don’t trust her and I don’t trust Ezra’s peen. He buys it though and they head back to the hotel for round two. SMH…

Fast forward to Mattie at the cult lair. She has dreams of her past conning everybody. Suddenly she gets awakened by some creepy lady standing over her. It’s Anne-Marie Johnson, from In the Heat of the Night, In Living Color, Girlfriends, and a million other shows and movies. She’s creepy af in this episode. Her name is Gail. She’s the advisor. It’s time for Mattie’s one on one. Creepy af “counsels” her, but it seems more like an interrogation. Mattie is shook. She’s not used to people seeing through her. Anne-Marie is such an amazing actress. She was seriously creeping me out. I was like, run Mattie!

Mac Daddy goes to the bar, tells the bartender he’s off booze and pays his tab. Two pretty travelers come in talking about they’re looking for the most funs.

Max falls asleep waiting for the doctor to show up. Next thing you know somebody puts a gun to his head. He doesn’t even look to see who it is. He tells them to go ahead and pull the trigger. It’s Sally, his former partner in crime who ran off with money they were supposed to give to The Doctor. She says she’s not going to kill him, at least not yet.

I really likes this episode. I like the Bonnie and Clyde thing Ezra has going on with Pretty Little Thief, even though she can’t be trusted. I’m curious to know what’s going to happen to Mattie at the cult house. I feel like they’re going to keep her captive or something. Gail seems like the type who dices up bodies and serves them to the others in a stew.

One of the main things I love about this show is their amazing cliff hangers. They leave you eagerly anticipating the next episode. I just found out this show was created by Paul Adelstein who played Leo Bergen on Scandal. He was Sally Langston’s campaign manager and Abby’s boyfriend. He also played in another Shonda Rhimes show, The Practice. I never connected those two characters because they were complete opposites. Leo was a ruthless shark and in the Practice, Paul played a kind-hearted doctor. The show was also created by Adam Brooks who wrote Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Beloved staring Oprah Winfrey. I really enjoy this show. The actors are great and the writing keeps me on my toes.

Posted on

Writing Process | Story Development

Why do I always pick writing projects that are so challenging? I must like torturing myself. I’m a masochist. Yeah. That’s it. Don’t get me wrong. I love the story development process. It’s just a big beast to tackle. For me, it’s the hardest part of screenwriting and the most time consuming. I’d rather get down to crafting the script and rewriting. Those are the areas where I get to play!

My current screenplay is a one-hour pilot which I’m having a tough time getting it off the ground because the characters, world, and subject matter are complicated. My main character is an attorney who deals with racial discrimination cases. I have no clue as to how the legal system works, so I have to do a lot of research, which includes Googling law websites like FindLaw, watching mock trials on YouTube, and studying TV shows like The Good Wife. I’m trying to get my research done as fast as possible because I don’t want to get lost in research when I could be spending that precious time writing. However, I need to know the basics of the legal system to ensure that the story makes sense.

Initially, I designed my storyline to center around a different case each week, but then I decided to stretch the pilot storyline throughout the entire series, which required everything to be re-worked in a major way. Sigh… . This isn’t going to be easy. I have to figure out how to do it and keep it interesting. So, I’ve been studying two TV shows that do this successfully: House of Cards and American Crime. I’ve already watched each episode of House of Cards a million times, but now I’m re-watching and taking notes on the steps Frank Underwood takes to reach his goal of being the president of the United States, the obstacles he faces, and how he gets around them.

It’s been challenging to craft my story, but I’m up for the challenge.

Posted on

NaNoWriMo-ish

November 1st marks the start of NaNoWriMo.  For those who aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  According to the NaNoWriMo website, it’s “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.”  Participants have a 30 day deadline to write a 50,000 word novel.

I wanted to participate this year, but I don’t have the time because I’m currently working on a pilot script and, as of yesterday, a poetry book of haiku poems.  I want to have a draft of the script finished before the new year.  That’s right around the corner, so there’s no time for my damn procrastinating.

So, I figured I’ll join my fellow writers in spirit during NaNoWriMo by working on my projects everyday during the month of November.  Knowing there’s thousands of other writers writing their little hearts out will give me inspiration and energy to write everyday.

There’s a daily writing goal of 1,667 words.  However, if you don’t hit that goal, you can catch up the next day or whenever, but the point is to hit the daily mark so you don’t get behind.  I won’t be writing that many words a day.  My goal is simply to get SOMETHING written everyday.  I’ll be keeping track of my thoughts about the process daily in my journal dedicated to my writing projects and I’ll be giving weekly updates on my progress on this blog, so stay tuned!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?  What are you working on?

Posted on

Cut To The F*cking Chase | Mommy, What’s a Logline?

Dammit!  You’re a screenwriter.  A newbie screenwriter, but a screenwriter nonetheless.  You have an amazing idea that you think will make a funny movie.  Who wouldn’t want to plunk down $12.75+ to see a film about the time you and your friends woke up stranded in Mexico with no money, no ID, no cell phones, and an 80 year old stripper handcuffed to your wrist?

As soon as you make it back to the states, you rush to your computer to pound out your wild Mexican escapades.  One week later, you type “The End,” then email the script to a production company.  You rock!  They’ll love it, right?  Not so fast grasshopper.

A production company doesn’t want your script right off the bat.  Why the hell not, you say?  Well, it’s the dreaded “we don’t accept unsolicited scripts” thing, meaning you need to be represented by an agent, reputable manager (not your cousin Pookie), or entertainment attorney (definitely not your cousin Vinny) who will submit the script on your behalf.  This protects the production company from getting sued by you if your story is similar to a project they already have on their development slate that gets produced at a later time.  Trust me, this happens all the time.  You aren’t the only one who wrote about being stranded in Mexico shackled to stripper granny.

So, what’s an unrepresented neophyte screenwriter to do?  Glad you asked.  You send in a logline and synopsis.  More on synopses another time.

I receive countless calls everyday from screenwriters who want to submit their scripts.  If I had a dollar for each time I’m asked, “What’s a logline” I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this blog post.  I’d be basking in the sun in the French Riviera, snacking on caviar and sipping Dom Perignon.

As a newbie, it’s okay to be unacquainted with a logline.  But, it’s NOT okay to not know what a logline is AND submit your script to a production company.  And by all means, never tell a production company you don’t know the definition of a logline.  Fake like you know, then hit Google as soon as you hang up the phone.  Not knowing means you are not at the proper writing level where you need to be to play in the big leagues.

So, What Is This Thing Called a Logline?  

A logline is a one-sentence summary of what your story is about.

Some people say it can be written in two sentences.  I say get ‘er done in one.  It’s cleaner.  Sharper.  And it’s the standard.  A logline involves your story’s:

  • Protagonist – The lead character who the story is about.
  • Goal – The thing the lead character wants?
  • Obstacle – The person or thing that’s keeping the main character from achieving her goal.

Here’s some examples of loglines I came up with quickly.  See if you can guess the movie or TV show.

  1. An African prince heads to America to find true love before his parents force him into a miserable arranged marriage.
  1. A renowned surgeon who was framed for his wife’s murder is on a bus headed for prison, but when it crashes he escapes to search for the real killer while the marshal is hot on his trail.
  1. Five aspiring rappers caught up in a world of violence, drugs, and police brutality must use their talents to escape before they succumb to the inevitable:  jail or death.
  1. A crisis management expert rescues high-powered movers and shakers from ruin as she bends the law to keep her own sinful activities a secret.
  1. A music industry mogul with a fatal disease must keep his illness a secret until his company goes public on the stock market and he figures out which one of his sons will take over after he dies.

Answers:

  1. Coming to America, 2.  The Fugitive, 3.  Straight Outta Compton, 4.  Scandal, 5.  Empire.

Um, That Ain’t No Logline

A lot of new screenwriters often mistake taglines for loglines.  They are not the same thing.  Taglines are marketing tools used to lure moviegoers into the theatres.  They’re those short catchy sentences you see on movie posters.  Loglines are not seen outside of the screenwriting world.  They are used to entice a producer, agent, or studio to request and read your script.

Here’s some examples of taglines that I grabbed from IMDB.com:

Coming to America:  This summer, Prince Akeem discovers America.

The Fugitive:  A murdered wife.  A one-armed man.  An obsessed detective.  The chase begins.

Straight Outta Compton:  The world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group.

Scandal:  The secret is out.

Empire:  Welcome to the Lyons den.

See the difference?  A tagline is an advertisement.  A logline is a story summary.

So, before you click send on that email to Hollywood, go back to the drawing board and write a logline that will make them beg for your script.

If you’d like to know more about loglines and need help writing one, stay tuned for my upcoming logline consultation service.

Posted on

A Gift Deferred

When I was a kid, I thought I would be a lawyer.  Not that I really knew what that meant at the time.  I was around five years old when some adult told me lawyers make a lot of money, so that’s what I should be.  That’s the worse thing that could have been said to me.  If only that person would have talked to me about following my passion…

As a kid, I had a natural attraction to words and stories.  I loved books and made good grades in English class without much effort.  My favorite school activities were book fairs and weekly trips to the library.  However, being a writer wasn’t something I thought about.

During my teenager years, I started writing short stories, poems and song lyrics, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties when I started having a serious desire to be a writer.  I wanted to write novels like Zora Neale Hurston, Terri McMillian, and Jackie Collins.  Still, I did nothing about it. I continued to write short stories, poems, and song lyrics for my own pleasure, but I never really shared them with anybody; just a couple of friends.

It wasn’t until I had to declare a major in college when I finally knew that I wanted to be a professional writer.  It was an indirect decision though.  I was a music connoisseur and wanted to work in the music business as an Artist and Repertoire representative.  I know.  I was all over the place.  Anyway, at the time there was no such thing as majoring in the business side of music.  Schools only offered music degrees to musicians or people who wanted to teach music.  So, I picked the closest thing to the music business: Radio, Television and Film.

In one of the classes, we had to learn how to write television commercials.  I quickly got the hang of it.  That was all it took.  The screenwriting bug bit me.  I spent years learning the craft.  The journey has been long due to a nasty habit of procrastination, but I’m finally at the stage where I’m ready to cross into the professional arena.  I think I would have arrived at this stage when I was younger had I received encouragement as a child.  I’m not blaming anyone.  Back then, being a writer wasn’t thought of as a viable career.  Still, a little direction would have been golden.  Good thing it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

The next time I find myself with the opportunity to encourage a young person about their future, I’ll make it a point to let them know it’s okay to go for the gold as long as it involves their passion.

Posted on

Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Take Your Call

Someone called my office to submit a project.  I explained our script submission process to the caller and gave her my email address.  She sent a logline and synopsis five minutes later.  Cool beans, right?  That should have been the end of it, right?  Of course not.  That would be too much like right.  The caller called back to tell me that she already submitted a logline back in September of 2014.  Okay, my bad.  I didn’t get to it.  I let her know I wasn’t aware of her previous submission, but I’d be sure to take a look at what she just sent to me.  She reiterated the fact that she sent it back in September.  Um, was she looking for an apology?  Obviously, we didn’t get to it.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, another person called asking to submit a project.  I gave her the same instructions as the previous caller.  She informed me that she was at lunch at the moment and asked if I would mind texting her my email address.  Uh . . . YEAH I mind.

First of all, it is not the company’s job to put in work in order to read your stuff.  Secondly, as if I want some stranger having my cell phone number!  Her request was very unprofessional.  Why couldn’t she wait until she was in a proper setting where she could break out pen and paper to take dictation of my email address?  Was she under some kind of duress to call that very minute?  Like, did somebody have a gun to her head?  She easily could have waited to make the call at a time when she was better prepared.  It would have saved her from looking unprofessional and amateurish.

Most people in Hollywood wouldn’t have put up with that kind of foolishness.  They would have told her to call back when she had her shit together.  I tend to be on the nicer side of the fence.  I was kind enough to ask for her email address so that I could shoot her an email, then she would be able to get my email address that way.  I wrote down her email address with the intention to email her.  Eventually.  The manner in which she approached the company didn’t incite me to email her quick, fast, and in a hurry.  I would have gotten around to it.  Eventually.  Lucky for her, she called back later that day to get my email address.

I warn you, don’t conduct yourself like these callers.  You will annoy the hell out of us and land yourself on the “Do Not Read” list.

Here’s how to get Hollywood to take your phone call:

  1. BE CONFIDENT

Don’t call there stuttering and “um-ing” all over the place.  Speak in a calm, self-assured manner.  Know what the hell you’re talking about or earn an Oscar pretending like you do.  If you’re told to submit a logline and you don’t know what a logline is, don’t be all, “What’s a logline?” That’s a red flag.  The person on the other end of the phone line is thinking, if you don’t know what a logline is, chances are you don’t have a grasp on screenwriting yet.  That won’t make them eager to read your script.  Google is your friend.  Use it.

  1. BE PROFESSIONAL

Scene for Blog Post

So, that happened.  Like, in real life.  Minus the atom splitting request.  But, yeah.  Really, dude?  A ‘lil sumthin’ sumthin’?  And what would that be?  Have a purpose when calling.  Are you calling to find out about the submission process?  Are you calling to get an email address?  If so, have a pen and paper ready to write down information.  Make sure you’re in a quiet environment.  Nobody wants to hear your loud television or barking dogs in the background.

  1. BE PATIENT

Don’t call with an attitude because the company hasn’t gotten back to you about the script you sent months ago.  In this business, it’s normal not to get a response from a production company, agency or studio.  The correct thing to do is to follow up with the company after a reasonable amount of time.  The turnaround time is usually around six to eight weeks, but it varies with each company.   If the company has more submissions than they can handle, the wait time can be even longer.  At the end of the eight weeks (or whatever they tell you), feel free to follow up. If they still haven’t read your submission, don’t get an attitude.  That will only get you put on the dreaded “Do Not Read” list.

Wait about a month to follow up again.  That’s a good amount of time that keeps you from being annoying.  If they still haven’t read your script, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t ignoring you.  They have piles upon piles of scripts waiting to be read.  Chances are they don’t have a large enough staff to read the scripts in a timely manner.  If they tell you they’re going to read your stuff, they will.  Eventually.  Be patient.  Don’t be an angry stalker.  It’s not a good look.

So, that’s the trick.  Act like you have good sense when calling Hollywood and they’ll take your call and read your stuff.  Eventually.  LOL 😉

Posted on

Out On the Town | Produced By Conference 2015

Recently, I attended the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) Produced By Conference (PBC) held on the historic Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood.  The annual event is created by producers for producers to provide the opportunity to network with and learn from the most established and successful filmmakers, writers, and show runners in Hollywood.

My PBC Pass Final

At $1,099 for non-members and $375 for PGA members, the conference is a bit pricey.  However, the wealth of knowledge gained and access to the movers and shakers of the industry is well worth the price of admission.  I must divulge that I did not pay to get in.  That made my pocketbook happy.  I attended as a guest of my boss Tracey Edmonds who’s a PGA board member and PBC co-chair.

This was my third time attending the conference.  I truly enjoy it because being around thousands of like-minded people in one area does wonders for getting the creative juices flowing.  I love the energy of the up-and-coming producers who bustle from panel to panel eager for that morsel of insight that will catapult them into superstar producer status.

Upon check-in, attendees received a goodie bag filled with promotional items such as notepads, pens, and snacks from sponsors.  The lunch spread was magnificent and there was plenty of food to go around.  The price of admission included lunch with a choice of sandwiches and salads, chips, cookies, and a piece of fruit.  It didn’t stop there though.  Vendors were peppered throughout the lot offering up free all-you-can-eat goodies such as mouth-watering Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Don Francisco’s coffee, tea, and Kind snack bars.  I had the privilege of having lunch in the Speakers Lounge, a VIP room where only panelists and special guests are given access.  We were served special treats like Sprinkles cupcakes and cookies, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, and an array of fresh squeezed juices.

  • Can We Talk?

The highlight of the conference was the “Conversations With…” series featuring in-depth conversations with producers such as Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Eva Longoria, and Kevin Smith.  Attendees received loads of useful advice from the producers.  In Conversation With:  Reese Witherspoon & Bruna Papandrea, moderated by Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like a Man; Founder, Will Packer Productions), Reese encouraged young girls to intern and volunteer on film and TV sets in order to get their foot in the door and represent as a female in a male dominated industry.

Reese Panel XX

In Conversation With:  Tyler Perry, moderated by Ava DuVernay (Selma, Founder, AFFRM), Tyler talked about his introduction to Hollywood and experiences as a newbie.  He was very candid about not having a clue about how the system worked, which led him to do things his way and was all the better for it.  “If it feels right. I follow it,” Perry explained.  I admire his work ethic.

Tyler Perry Sign Final

  • Panel Discussions

The PBC also includes various panel discussions dealing with topics such as production, distribution, and branding.  In the panel, All Things Producing: Ask the Pros, moderated by Vance Van Petten (Nat’l Exec Dir, PGA), working producers such as Tracey Edmonds (Jumping The Broom, Deion’s Family Playbook) and Lori McCreary (Invictus, Madam Secretary; President, PGA) spoke about the hard work required to take a project from script to screen in the midst of an industry that is quick to say “no.”  All of the producers agreed that it requires a deep passion for the project to keep you motivated during the long journey it takes to get a project seen by audiences.  Other panelist included Ian Bruce (World War Z, Transformers franchise), John Heinsen (CEO/Exec Producer, Bunnygraph Entertainment), Stu Levy (Priest, Pray for Japan), and Gary Lucchesi (The Lincoln Lawyer; President, PGA).

  • Up Close and Personal

Tracey's Mentoring Table Final

For an additional $100 attendees could secure a spot at the Mentoring Roundtables.  This session gave attendees a close intimate chat with a producer of their choice.  Approximately eight mentees “sit at the feet” of their mentor for 60 minutes and learn first hand what it takes to be a successful producer.  They have the opportunity to ask as many questions as they want as long as they don’t try to pitch their own project.  The PBC highly frowns upon pitching because they want to provide a relaxed environment where the established producers can share information without being propositioned.  Producer Tracey Edmonds took her mentees through the start to finish process of bringing the film Jumping the Broom to theatres which involved everything from casting the lead actors to picking out the wardrobe for the female characters.  She also revealed how she primarily picks projects that relate to her personally.  For instance, she identifies strongly with the character Terri in Soul Food who’s the one the family relies upon financially.

Tracey's Mentor Table Final 2

  • Guilty Pleasures

For those with an idea for a reality show, the Unscripted and Uncensored:  Meet the Buyers of Non-Scripted TV panel, moderated by Hayma “Screech” Washington (Amazing Race), provided behind-the-scenes information on what producers look for in reality shows.  Susanne Daniels, (President of Programming, MTV) looks for break through content that will resonate with the audience while providing a fresh take on an existing genre.  Lauren Gellert (WEtv) looks for authentic relationships between characters, whereas Bruce Robertson (Rich Kids of Beverly Hills) looks for a clean and clear show format.

  • The Anatomy of a Hit TV Show

One of the panels that closed out the conference was 360 Profile:  Empire, moderated by Pete Hammond (Chief Film Critic & Awards Columnist, Deadline Hollywood).  Show creator Lee Daniels and his team of writers and producers discussed their surprise hit show, Empire (Fox), a story about a former rapper turned record company mogul (Terrence Howard) who has to choose one of his three sons to run the business after he succumbs to a secret fatal illness.  Lee and his team explored the series from every angle, including building storylines, casting, dealing with network notes, branding and marketing, and connecting with the show’s audience via social media.

Lee Daniels and Team

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the conference was the Creating Meaningful Brand Partnerships to Enhance Your Content panel.  No shade toward the panelists, but I didn’t find the information useful.  The panelist discussed how producers can connect with brands to support and enhance their projects in areas such as advertising and social media outreach.  I was expecting the panelist to cover the topic as it relates to new media and how to generate money in the fledgling platform.  The energy of the panel was low, so I ducked out early.

  • The Icing on the Cake

But, wait there’s more!  Even though I attended some amazing panels, networked with great people, and ate some delicious free food, none of that topped meeting Matthew Del Negro who plays Cyrus Beene’s love interest on Scandal!  When I spotted him, I couldn’t put my finger on how I knew him.  All I knew was that he looked very familiar.  Then it dawned on me.  Duh.  Scandal.  He’s quite handsome and very tall.  Ladies, he’s 6’4”!  He walked past me on his way out of the Speakers Lounge.  No way was I letting him escape without saying hello.  After all, I hadn’t met anybody from my favorite show of all time in person yet.  “Hi!  You’re from Scandal, huh,” I gushed.  I know I had the biggest cheesiest smile on my face.  Matthew stopped and assured me that I was right.  I told him what a great job he’s been doing on the show.  He thanked me, asked my name, and shook my hand.  How cool is that?  Handsome AND nice.  I would have asked for a picture, but he was on his way out and I didn’t want to hold him up.  It must have been in the cards to get that picture I desired because I ran into him again later.  As you can see, he was more than happy to take the picture!

Matthew Del Negro Final

Needless to say, I enjoyed the PBC.  It was a weekend packed full of knowledge and networking.  I look forward to attending next year.

Posted on

My Top 5 Screenwriters

# 1  SHONDA RHIMES | The Queen of Hearts

Best known for:  Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

My favorite work:  Scandal

scandal promo

Why I admire Shonda:

I admire Shonda’s writing because she writes about love in an antisentimatic way.  You gets no cuddles with Ms. Rhimes.  Instead of a character telling another that they are important to them or are the only friend they have, the character will say, “You’re my person.”  That’s what Christina told Meredith in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy when she needed to provide an emergency contact person in order to schedule an abortion:

Cristina: The clinic has a policy.  They wouldn’t let me confirm my appointment unless I designated an emergency contact person.  Someone to be there in case and…to you know help me home after.  Anyway, I put your name down, that’s why I told you I’m pregnant.  You’re my person.

Meredith: I am?

Cristina: Yeah, you are.  Whatever.

Meredith: Whatever.

Cristina: He dumped me. [Meredith hugs Cristina] You realize this constitutes hugging?

Meredith: Shut up, I’m your person.

Even when Meredith shows a moment of tenderness with a hug, she tells Christina to shut up when she protests.  Very funny.

On Scandal, the entire show is based on everybody’s love for Olivia.  It may be warped, twisted love, but love nonetheless.  On any given day, Fitz is willing to give up the presidency or go to war for her.  They both do dangerous, irrational, stupid things for each other in the name of love.  You won’t find their type of love described on a Hallmark card.  It’s raw, dark, and by any means necessary.

Olivia and Fitz

Daddy Pope loves her so much that he basically stalks her and kills for her in order to keep her safe.  Same for Mama Pope.  Same for Jake, Huck, and Quinn.  Their loyalty for her is unwavering because they love her.  Abby and David lie and cheat for her.  Cyrus, her male BFF, always takes her back after she does something to jeopardize the White House.  Even creepy ass Tom thinks she has a “face that launched a thousand ships.”  Yes, Shonda is the queen of the love story, but she isn’t going to give it to you “Leave It to Beaver” style.

#2  NANCY MEYERS | The Ultimate Girl Power


nancy_meyers 4

Best known for:  Father of the Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, Private Benjamin

My favorite work:  Something’s Gotta Give

somethings gotta give 3

Why I admire Nancy:

Meyers’ films are all about grown ass women living their lives, doing their own thing.  Her characters are usually over the age of 35, which I love because, seriously, Hollywood seems to think all the world wants to see is 20 year olds bouncing around on the screen.  Nancy’s female characters have it together overall, but learn they are lacking in a certain area.  They set out to fix the flaw and wind up learning a lot about themselves that they never knew.  Now, that’s girl power!

#3  DAVID SIMON | The Realist

david simon 2

Best know for:  The Wire, NYPD Blue, Treme

My favorite work:  The Wire

The Wire

Why I admire Simon:

When you watch a David Simon project, you get sucked into the world he created and you don’t want to leave.  He makes you feel like the characters are your friends and family members.  That crooked politician or drug dealer could easily be your loved one.  You feel like you’ve walked the streets of the neighborhood in the story because he paints such a vivid picture of the way of life in the city.  The characters communicate the way real people speak; yet the dialogue still manages to be full of subtext.  It’s relatable because it’s lean and mean, no fluff.

This can be seen in my favorite scene from The Wire.  Detectives Moreland and McNulty run ballistics at a crime scene.  Each time they figure out a clue, they utter, “Fuck me.”  Each time they say it there’s a different meaning behind it.  How Simon managed to give two words multiple meanings is pure genius.  And that’s some fine acting too.

#4  AARON SORKIN | The Wordsmith

aaron-sorkin

Best known for:  The Social Network, The West Wing, A Few Good Men

My favorite work:  The West Wing

west-wing-banner

Why I admire Sorkin:

Aaah, the king of dialogue.  Sorkin’s dialogue makes me drool.  You learn a thing or two from his words because they’re packed full of knowledge and wisdom.  Those marathon monologues are like a symphony.  I think Aaron influenced Shonda when she created Scandal.  Sorkin’s dialogue keeps you on your toes too because you have to pay close attention to the rapid-fire pace of the characters’ words.  Blink and you’ll miss an important piece of information that either reveals character or is a set up for some scenario later in the episode.

#5  BEAU WILLIMON | Mr. Personality

Beau Willimon

Best known for:  House of Cards, The Ides of March

My favorite work:  House of Cards

house-of-cards

Why I admire Beau:

When I saw House of Cards for the first time, my mouth dropped open within the first minute of the premiere episode.  Willimon has a way of letting the viewers know what type of person the character is immediately.  He does this by showing the character’s trait through action.  In Season 1, Chapter 1, Congressman Frank Underwood goes to the aid of a dog that has just been hit by a car.  Frank breaks the fourth wall and tells the viewer there are two kinds of pain:  the kind that makes you stronger and the useless kind that makes you suffer.  He has no patience for useless things and demonstrates that philosophy by putting the poor dog out of its misery by suffocating it.  BOOM!  Beau doesn’t bullshit around.

There are other writers that I admire, but the above are my top 5.  Rhimes, Simon, Sorkin, and Willimon are my uber favorites because they create anti-heroes with major flaws who you love anyway.  That’s my kind of writing!

Additional favorites:

Matthew Weiner | Mad Men

Mara Brock Akil | Girlfriends

Posted on

Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Read Your Script

. . . ACTION!

Okay, so you finally grew the balls to call a production company to ask if you can send them your script.  Good for you!  Now, here’s how not to eff it up.  Find out their submission policy and . . . DO. WHAT. THEY. TELL. YOU. TO. DO.  If they tell you to submit a logline, then send them a logline ONLY.  Don’t throw in your script, cast wish list (you’re not the decider here), budget, and soundtrack suggestions (nobody cares about soundtracks anymore) all packaged in a pretty blue presentation folder that you eagerly bounced down to Staples to pick out thinking it would make the production company buy your script.  No.  It will not.

Different production companies have different policies.  One may want a logline, another may want a synopsis.  You may even stumble upon that rare unicorn of a production company that will allow you to submit your script without having an agent.  Whatever their submission policy is, adhere to it.  Why?  Because they have their particular policies for a reason.  For example, one company may only want a logline because they receive tons of submissions and don’t have time (maybe due to lack of manpower) to read a bunch of full-length scripts.

A logline saves the reader a lot of time.  It immediately tells the reader what the story and character are about.  It also lets the reader know if the writer has any skills.  If your logline sucks hard, there’s a 99% chance that your whole script sucks even harder because if you haven’t mastered how to write a logline, you haven’t mastered how to crank out 100 pages that somebody other than your mommy would want to read.  Production companies ain’t got time for that!

Just work on your logline.  Make it sing and then send it in, but follow the rules and save your little presentation folder for school or something.  You will only piss off the reader on account of her having to shuffle through all of that extra crap.  And when you piss off a reader, your script goes in the trash and you get placed on the “do not read anything from this person EVER” list.  It’s basically like an airline “no fly” list minus the terrorist.  In other words, you’re screwed.  Yes, the punishment seems petty and mean, but it is what it is.  “Life is pain.  You just get used to it” (Charly Baltimore, The Long Kiss Goodnight).

. . . CUT!

Tell me, have you ever submitted something to a production company, agent or studio?  What happened?  Spill the tea in the comments section.

Posted on

CUT TO THE F*CKING CHASE | HOW TO KEEP HOLLYWOOD FROM TOSSING YOUR SCRIPT

Dear Fellow Screenwriters,

I know you are excited when you get permission to submit a script to a production company or studio. They’re going to flip open that script, be blown away by your writing, and call you up to ask if they can buy it for one million dollars, right? Of course!  So don’t blow it by sending crazy looking packages like this.

Crazy Package

It literally took me 3 minutes to open this package.  I had to whip out a box cutter and put my back into it.  The last thing you want to do is make it difficult to read your script.  Why?  Readers are swamped with mile high piles of scripts waiting to be read.  If they fee like they have to break into Ft. Knox in order to read a script, guess where it’s going.  The TRASH!

package2
Sealed with tape and INDUSTRIAL staples.

I didn’t throw this script away though.  I don’t do that because as a fellow screenwriter, I have a heart and wouldn’t want anybody to throw my script away without reading it.  But, I was annoyed and tossed it to the side to read whenever I can get to it.  Most readers aren’t as nice as I am though.  Your script will be in the can before it’s in the can.  Get it?  No?  Sorry, I write drama, not comedy.