As I get older, I am starting to feel that the risk of playing it safe is risking more than anything. I am very glad that I am responsible and that I do make educated and well thought out decisions, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where a little risk is necessary. I’m working non-stop on my future goals, and things are moving at a great pace. I hate to be a tad bit cryptic here but a lot of what I’m working towards has to remain secretive for the time being (for various reasons.) Just know huge changes are coming in my life. Can’t wait for the next adventures ahead.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a script that was out of my normal and preferred genre. It was a period piece set in the Antebellum South about a young woman’s struggle in the midst of an abusive marriage and the discovery of her half black sister. Even though, it didn’t receive a standing ovation or development deal, it was still a great experience to flex my creative muscles and build on some new writing techniques. I got a lot out of writing such a complex script with such diverse characters. It also took quite a bit of research to complete, and it was great for my growth both as a writer and mulatto to revisit America’s dark past. I’m proud of my black heritage and how far we’ve come as a nation.
However, I’m back to my horror stories! Just submitted one to a studio, and I’m in the editing process for two others, Ice Cold and Valedictory. Horror has always been my strong suit, and it’s my favorite genre!! With that being said, I would encourage all my peers that are writers to get out of your comfort zone for a bit and build your creative muscles. If you have an idea WRITE it! Regardless, of the fact that it may not be a “commercial” or “high concept” idea. I don’t regret one moment of writing my script, even though, I know it’ll not be the first of my scripts to sell, and it may never sell. I still have a completed piece for my expanding portfolio.
My advice to all writers is if you see it and feel it, write it!
The dark cloud has disappeared from over my head, and I’m back to my old joyful self. I’ve always been very positive and friendly, and I’m starting to feel like myself again. I finally feel like I’m on the right career path as a screenwriter. I’ve always been a writer since I could remember. I attempted to write my first screenplay when I was fourteen years old (all my teenage screenplays look more like playwrights) that’s why I say “attempted.” Needless to say, I’ve always been attracted to a career in Hollywood. After I graduated from college with a degree in creative writing, I was unsure if I had what it took to be a professional writer. It’s safe to say, I started to doubt myself. My professors were great, don’t get me wrong, but their feedback was honest and sometimes brutal. Especially, when they talked about the daunting task of breaking into Hollywood.
However, I still worked on and off on my screenplays throughout my master’s degree, but I always found an excuse for why I didn’t have time to write that often or as long as I should. About a month and a half ago, I decided to put my energy back into my writing after a serious heart to heart with one of my advisors. I buckled down and stuck to a strict writing schedule. I can honestly say, I’m now comfortable with my writing abilities, stories, and I feel like every script I write is better than the last (both artistically and technically). I can see why industry people often say you don’t get good until around your fourth script. To make a long realization short, I just wanted to share my new found enthusiasm for writing! If I could shout from a mountain top, I would. Hopefully, I’ll have some exciting things to write about in the future as I continue on my journey…
lim·bo1 2. an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.
Lately, I feel like I’m in a limbo land, not there nor here, just stuck somewhere between my hard work and my future aspirations. Over the past five years, I’ve been a full-time student, my eyes glued to textbook and stressing about my next assignment due date. I have no idea where time has gone, it feels like I was a freshman and then “BAM” I’m in graduate school. Now that I’m graduated, equipped with a Master’s Degree and a broader and more mature viewpoint of the world. I’m ready to move to the city of my dreams and start making major steps toward the career of my dreams.
I have been working hard at networking and making contacts, and have managed to get an impressive following, but it’s time to make the BIG move. My soul is anxious and ready for the change. However, today I felt down, restless, and even entertained the notion that I’m an underachiever and should be doing more. Sometimes working a full-time demanding sales job, running my own company, and working on my scripts constantly, I forget to stop and smell the roses.
Needless to say, I needed to slow down today and start to think about what I’m grateful for in my life and not focus so much on what I don’t have yet. My life is 100 times better than I ever thought it would be as a depressed and often suicidal adolescent (some facts many people may not know about my bubbly self.) So, I jotted down everything that I’m grateful for and made a list of about 50 things and only four things I would like to improve, not bad ratios. As I proceed on my journey, I need to remind myself that things don’t always manifest overnight, and I have to be okay with slow and steady progress. I thought I would share and update my blog. I’m going to make it a point to blog more. It’s great getting my feelings out.
What better time than October is there to talk about the horror genre!
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
As a lot of people know, I’m a huge horror geek, and it’s also my favorite genre to write in. There is just something about the suspense that a horror film delivers that make them irresistible to me. I can remember when I was a kid sneaking out of my room at night to catch an old episode of The Twilight Zone or Tales From The Crypt. It has always been a genre that I’ve been interested in. Unfortunately, all too often horror is viewed as a rather substandard type of fiction, trashy, with impractical characters, which do dumb things in impossible storylines. Possibly, you thought that writing a horror script is easy because anybody can write a semi-topless woman running from a masked man with a chainsaw, right? Well, I want to inform you that creating a good horror film isn’t a very easy task (maybe that’s why few do.)
I am sure if you asked five horror screenwriters about what makes a good horror flick, you would get five completely different answers. I’ve studied the horror genre both formally and informally and here is my opinion on what makes a good horror movie. I believe the initial thing to do is to prevent the main character’s personality to appear shallow, predictable, or dull. You should provide your character’s personalities with believable traits. Let the audience get inside their head and know their past, present, friends, family, future aspirations, failings, and also accomplishments. Additionally, the better the audience knows the characters, the better they will be able to comprehend the character’s fears, overall fight, concerns, and also weak points.
One of the transgressions that some horror writers have is to have the characters act in a dumb or impractical way merely to progress the storyline. Don’t make your characters walk up the stairs in a dark house to investigate a weird creepy noise. Why would anyone do that? Make the storyline and character’s actions believable, so the audience wants to root for them. Also, set up the first act of your script in a way where the audience knows all the main characters involved in the story. Let the audience completely into their current situation. A good example of this comes from the movie, Scream. By the second act, we know Sidney Prescott and all about her past. We can identify with this teen girl who is struggling with her mother’s death. It makes the storyline more compelling knowing this information, otherwise why would the audience care about her fight to beat the bad guys? Why would they root for her to survive? Sidney Prescott is a survivor, and that’s why the audience wants to see the next chapter of her journey. There are how many Scream films? We want her to win, and that’s good horror!
Furthermore, have some class. Horror movies are becoming much more graphic than they were in the past, but the funny thing is they aren’t becoming better. If you were to take the original Halloween (which is amazing) and compare it to Rob Zombie’s version (which fell short) the gore that is implied in the newer version is more severe, but with little positive effect on the film’s overall storyline. If anything the gore took away from the premise of the story, and it became distracting. It is perfectly okay to show blood, obviously there needs to be some shock factor in a horror film but in my opinion some of the new visual effects are crossing the line. I personally think the more that is left to the audience’s imagination, the better. Let the audience have some creative play in your film. To conclude, the storyline and character development in a horror movie is everything! Don’t just show people being chased by werewolves or cut up by a serial killer, have a backstory and a reason these events are taking place. Make the audience care about your character and get emotionally involved in their struggle, and you will have an amazing horror film.
If you wish to be a writer, write.
I think I can speak for a lot of aspiring screenwriters and writers when I speak about the deadly hold of procrastination. Letting procrastination take over can unquestionably hinder your success as a writer. No one is going to hold your hand and force you to pump out a script or the first draft of your novel. You have to find time to write and write every day! In the past, I would get an idea for a script, the images would flash across my mind so vividly that it would be like watching a movie. A sense of excitement would take over as I dashed over to the computer and wrote a detailed outline. A month later it’s still JUST an outline, at the very most there maybe a logline attached, but it’s by no means a script. It just sits there and sits there. I can’t even count how many times this has occurred, and I have quite an impressive collection of outlines.
About a month ago, I told myself that I needed to set aside at least two hours a day to just write. I work a demanding full-time sales job and attend school full-time pursuing my masters, but I had to force myself for at least two hours a day to just focus on my craft. Since I have been doing this, I’ve finally finished my feature spec, Ice Cold, and now I’m working on my next idea. I have two great ideas floating around in my head, but I’m going to write one and then the other. I have noticed if I work on more than one script at a time, the character’s voices tend to become scrambled up (that’s just me, I know many screenwriters that can work on multiple scripts at once.)
To conclude, my message to all aspiring writers that struggle with procrastination is to set at least two hours a day aside to write and also create a writing schedule. Treat your writing as you would any other job clock in and out. Take it slow in the beginning and ease into a routine of daily writing. I know you’re busy, and obligations can become overwhelming but don’t let those excuses hinder your future success as a writer. What I have discovered from my own struggle with this is that there is never going to be time that’s why you have to make it. In addition, I’ve noticed a new sense of confidence with my writing, and I feel like I can honestly say I am a screenwriter. My writing has improved, as well. So, lets write, write, and write some more because in the end of the day that is what we are… writers.
Many aspiring screenwriters wonder if they need an agent to start selling their scripts. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of great teachers that have guided me in this area, so I’ll share a little bit of what I’ve been told by industry professionals. For starters, you don’t need an agent to be a screenwriter once you get good enough an agent will find you. If you want to begin to build up a writing resume and send query letters, you can. It never hurts to try to go the agent route right away, and if your writing is good enough, it may be possible for you. However, the best way to get your scripts noticed without an agent is to submit them to screenwriting contests, and if you begin to place in these contests, Hollywood will come looking for you. In my opinion, this is the best path to take in the beginning of your screenwriting career. Some of the better contests are Final Draft’s Big Break, ScriptPipeline and Slamdance.
Another way to go is to go to pitchfests in the Los Angeles area. Of course, there are pitchfests in other demographical locations, just be a little cautious and make sure you’re going to a pitchfest that will have real industry professionals there. I’ve noticed a lot of pitchfests are marketing traps to get people to pay for way overpriced writing workshops or to sign up for future writing courses. It’s not bad to take a workshop or to attend a seminar to increase your knowledge of screenwriting. Needless to say, just make sure that you’re being taught from someone that has legitimate Hollywood experience. As I have experienced, there are a lot of fakes, talkers, and wannabees in this industry so proceed with caution.
Without an agent setting up pitches for you or introducing you to big Hollywood producers, the two ways mentioned above are the best ways to meet the right people and get your writing noticed. Many screenwriters get their start being discovered from placing in a contest. Another great thing is that even if you don’t place in the contest the script reader will usually provide some script notes which will help you re-write your storyline stronger. If your script happens to be rejected and comes back with notes try not to become emotional. Digest the feedback given and correct your script where they said it was weak and re-submit it to the next contest. Never toss your script because one reader didn’t like it. I hope that my advice helps some aspiring screenwriters with the question where to begin and if an agent is necessary to begin? Lastly, I want to wish you all the best on your writing adventures ahead of you. Keep writing!