Last week we announced the launch of our Summer Screenwriting Contest… and now it’s time for our latest genre prize! Last year we had a great time with this one, so it’s back once again – ladies and gentlemen, our Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award 2020 is now open!
Our Summer 2020 Screenwriting Contest is now LIVE! One of the big prizes for our top three scripts is pitching them to industry – and here’s a sneak peek into how we do just that. See the latest instalment of Ian’s LA Diary below, featuring a trip to BAFTA LA and a meeting with SCARFACE co-producer Peter Saphier…
My first meeting today was a first chance for me to meet BAFTA LA and get to know their services and initiatives first-hand. Our founder Alex Ross is a BAFTA member, and recommended I reach out to them about how we’re increasing both our presence on the ground in LA and our transatlantic partnerships with the UK industry at the same time. Good call.
So this morning I met BAFTA LA’s Head of Partnerships Wayne Watkins at their 12th floor office, with great views across LA in all directions, from the sea to the Hollywood Sign and far beyond. Wayne gave me nearly two hours of his time and was great company. It was really satisfying to hear about the value that BAFTA LA add to the whole industry in LA and its future talent pipeline, especially for outsiders and those who wouldn’t have had the chance to get into the industry there otherwise. I’m really looking forward to taking discussions forward and finding further synergies: thanks very much to Wayne for being so generous with his time and thinking.
So from there I moved to the famous Musso & Frank Grill – Hollywood’s oldest (established over a century ago!) and fresh from its latest big-screen appearance, in Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. There I was hosting Peter Saphier, the producer of SCARFACE (with Al Pacino), EDDIE MACON’S RUN (with Kirk Douglas) and BLACK DOG (with Patrick Swayze) among many other achievements. Peter passed on traditions of visiting Musso’s and what to order, which he had inherited from the passing generation of filmmakers who first brought him here, and which I will now continue and pass on too – such as the tradition of ordering their excellent Flannel Cakes. It was also one of the best-value meals I’ve had in LA, and a beautiful venue. What’s not to like?
It was fascinating to hear Peter’s stories about oldtime stars of the postwar years and subsequent decades. His stories from SCARFACE were particularly eye-opening – and made me all the more aware that sometimes we have to take big creative and reputational risks in order to achieve works that will really break through and resonate down the generations. In that spirit we both later began to talk about our own current slates and consultancy services, and it was great to be able to share some industry insights and approaches that can help even someone at his experience level (transatlantic industry knowledge again!).
Peter also offered to host a lunch for our winners in Hollywood in the future, like he and Alex used to do for them at Warner Brothers – an offer I’ll be delighted to take up. It’s another great example of the kind of industry access and expertise we aim to open up for all our winners at WriteMovies, and anyone else who we come to partner with.
After lunch with Peter discussing about a wide and very enjoyable range of subjects, we got into a final conversation about the filming equipment I’ve been walking round with lately, to be able to film and photograph at instant industry quality wherever I go: the audio recorder, monopod and 4K DSLR camera I walk around with, to be able to shoot spontaneous useable footage, audio and stills at a few moments’ notice. I explained that the DSLR had already recorded tens of hours of primetime UK series, produced by a Director-Producer-DP friend of mine. It’s remarkable how far our technology and potential has come, in the space of our careers, and it’s fun to be able to show an experienced hand like Peter something new!
The DSLR came to good use straight after the meeting with Peter too, because I stepped out of Musso and Frank’s straight onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As I ambled back, I took dozens of new stills of the famous names there in the space of a few minutes, which can help to illustrate our future WriteMovies articles for many years to come. Though I can’t say the nameplates themselves are all that exciting, they’re a great token of how the work of Hollywood is kept alive and gets to resonate down the ages like so few other works.
I only photographed the names that meant the most to me, and maybe half of those were for stars who died before I was even born. Truly, great cinema is a global gift for the ages. My meetings this week have really invigorated me with that sense of purpose once again: to continue to champion great global storytelling through WriteMovies. It’s a great position to hold in the industry.
And something else amused me too. At one crossroads on Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame comes to an end while the Boulevard continues on ahead. Once you cross the road and continue along Hollywood Boulevard, straight away, the next sidewalk is just a messy patchwork, without pretences or tourist traps, yet still at the heart of the action. Yeah, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
My last meeting of the day was with the creator of an online LA industry network that now has over 30,000 members. I don’t think there will ever be over 30,000 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but considering the length of the credits on any major movie, there’s definitely enough work to be had supporting the ones who do get one. It’s great to know that so many established industry players we’ve met this week can recognize the difference we try to make for those writers and storytellers looking to move up to the next rung in their own journey in the industry, wherever they’re starting from.
I, and our founder Alex, both got separate emails from Peter after my meeting with him, telling us hugely complementary things about how the meeting with me had gone. I replied that if I could print and frame an email, that would be the one! Moments like that make all the hard work worthwhile…
NEXT TIME, IN FRIDAY’S L.A. DIARY… Producers of many huge movies look at ALL of our slate and clients!
If you’d like to see more of Ian’s diary, you can check out how he prepared for pitching on Monday HERE and how his meeting went with Shaun Redick (GET OUT, BLACKKKLANSMAN) and Yvette Yates of Impossible Dream Entertainment HERE! And find out about his trip to Warner Brothers and Digital Monarch Media HERE.
The coronavirus crisis is making life hard for everyone right now – today, all Californians were ordered today to stay home. Here at WriteMovies, though, it’s business as usual thanks to an established business model we developed several years ago, enabling us to continue our work around the world from our own homes where necessary! We’ve got big plans coming up to help support our followers and clients during this pandemic, too – we’ll be telling you more about that next week…
But before that, we promised to share a week of Ian’s L.A. Diary from the beginning of March – and here’s Part 3! We GUARANTEE to get our winners’ scripts in front of top producers with the power to say yes and make things happen, and this sneak peek gives you an idea how. Here’s what Ian got up to on Wednesday March 4th…
So today I had two long crosstown trips to make. First was to Warner Brothers, where I had to check and collect the movie assets they had distributed for a decade from the film WriteMovies produced in 2006 – THE LIST. It’ll be really exciting to open new doors for one of our greatest success stories – a charming New York rom-com written by our winner Marcus Folmar and starring Wayne Brady, Sydney Tamia Poitier and Jane Lynch among others – but at this moment the focus was purely on the nuts and bolts: cross-checking the inventory, ensuring all the assets are present and indexed and in good condition, packed and ready for shipping.
I took my time to check that all of the details were right, because you can’t expect to be able to go back after the fact, to argue that something should have been there but wasn’t. I videoed the contents of the pack and inventory too, in case we ever need that for reference. Some things you only ever get one chance to do right, and this was one. Thanks to WB staff for their help throughout the process! As you can imagine, their media archive is a vast and (as far as I could tell at this point!) meticulously indexed warehouse facility, and was a fascinating place to visit and spend time.
So, one big box heavier, I set off from Burbank to Marina Del Rey, an hour away, to meet double Oscar-nominated and double BAFTA-winning VFX expert Habib Zargarpour (THE JUNGLE BOOK, BLADE RUNNER 2049, and much much more including Tom Hanks’ imminent GREYHOUND). Habib is now Head of Film Development at Digital Monarch Media, a division of Unity Technologies, and welcomed me to meet his groundbreaking team managing film for a company within Unity Technologies. I spent time getting to know the team, and catching up about the latest filming for THE SQUADRON (directed by Habib and produced by our founder Alex Ross).
Then they took me along as a visitor to a demo they were doing for a fascinating film school, who it was great to meet and get to know as well. Then we all came back to the company office where Habib and his team showed how their latest equipment enables directors to generate – and customize – their VFX in real time. This technique proved extremely effective when they produced the VFX for THE JUNGLE BOOK live-action/CGI remake and we look forward to sharing much more about their unique work and tools with you in future. In the meantime, massive thanks to Habib for his team’s hospitality and help with our media assets from Warner Bros!
Next, another lengthy cross-town trip later, I liaised with further candidates for the new role we’re looking to add to our team, and caught up on emails – with so many exciting meetings happening, it’s vital to follow up what’s been agreed and discussed thoroughly. Emails are important to confirm them and start to make things happen and take industry interest in us to the next level every time: vital details are easily missed or forgotten in the rush of other work if not, and could come back to bite you if you can’t show a trail of substantive evidencing for them. And meanwhile, not forget to check in for the next meetings and confirm any extra details.
The logistics of a week like this in LA are vital to its success, and agreeing the wrong number of meetings or times that don’t work with each other can undo all your good work getting this far.
NEXT TIME, IN THURSDAY’S L.A. DIARY… BAFTA LA, and Hollywood traditions with an iconic film role producer!
Want to see more of Ian’s diary? Check out how he prepared for pitching on Monday HERE and how his meeting went with Shaun Redick (GET OUT, BLACKKKLANSMAN) and Yvette Yates of Impossible Dream Entertainment HERE!
The first ever WriteMovies Romance and Comedy Award has a winner! It’s been great to read all the scripts that were entered, and the standard was extremely high, as it usually is – but there can only be one script that takes the top spot…
There’s just one week to go until we announce the winner of our first ever Romance and Comedy Award! To celebrate, we put together lists of our favorite films from each genre… and now it’s the turn of the hybrid rom-com genre!
Once again, this isn’t comprehensive and we don’t necessarily think these are the best comedy films. They’re just our favorites, and we think that there’s lots to learn for writers by watching them…
1. THE BIG SICK
No genre is more plagued with clichés than romantic-comedies, and avoiding them is a big problem for even the most experienced writers. They’re not a problem for THE BIG SICK, however, which somehow manages to tell a story that is both moving and funny without falling back on any of the usual tropes. It helps that it was based on the real-life romance between its writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (who also starred in the lead role), but the care and originality of this script always shines through – and was rewarded with a nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2018.
2. ROMAN HOLIDAY
A classic of the genre, William Wyler’s tale of a princess escaping her guardians and roaming Rome (see what we did there?) with an American reporter has a rare kind of charm. Having Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (in her only Oscar-winning performance) in your cast certainly helps, but the script is a wonderful work of art, winning the Academy Award for Writing in 1953. It wasn’t until 1992 that the real writer was retroactively given his award, though; Dalton Trumbo (brilliantly portrayed by Bryan Cranston in 2015’s TRUMBO) was blacklisted at the time.
3. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Another Oscar nominee for Best Original Screenplay! It’s almost like good writing shows… WHEN HARRY MET SALLY is smart, funny, and original, and introduced the world to a lot of new concepts about relationships. If you ever doubt its importance in the canon of romantic-comedies, just go and watch something in the same genre from the 1990s and you’ll find this film’s fingerprints (both Harry’s and Sally’s) all over it; FRIENDS, the biggest sitcom of all time, is a notable example!
4. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
The second film to star Audrey Hepburn on this list, which just goes to show how she excelled in these kind of roles. This one was adapted from the novella of the same name by Truman Capote, so there was already a great writer behind it before George Axelrod got his hands on it – but strangely enough, the part was originally written and tailored for Marilyn Monroe, who was Capote’s first pick but turned the role down. He apparently hated Hepburn in the part… but we’ll disagree with him there. There’s a difference between writing a novella and a screenplay, and while those differences didn’t make BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S the most faithful adaptation, it certainly made it a great film.
5. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
This one might prove a bit controversial – although perhaps not quite as controversial as when it beat out SAVING PRIVATE RYAN for the Oscar for Best Picture. Still, it also won Best Original Screenplay for Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, and with good reason in our opinion. Charming, witty, and romantic, it ticks all the boxes for a rom-com that we can think of. A big plus, of course, is that it’s about the greatest writer in history, and that definitely helps win our approval too.
HONORABLE MENTION: MOST OF HUGH GRANT’S MOVIES
No, this doesn’t include PADDINGTON 2 (although we’re a big fan of that as well). You know what we’re referring to: most of Richard Curtis’ output, with a few others thrown in for good measure, including ABOUT A BOY, NOTTING HILL, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, and LOVE ACTUALLY. We’d have loved to have included them in the main list above, but unfortunately they all cancelled one another out and it was impossible to choose between them.
Ian’s L.A. diary, March 2nd 2020 – preparing for a big pitching opportunity and growing the WriteMovies team
To give a picture of how we engage with industry and pitch our winners’ scripts, our Director Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his L.A. diary with us. He’s got meetings with major producers, organisations and other industry professionals to share with us, plus images from the scene.
A lovely warmer to our week began over the weekend with a meal at the historic Culver Hotel (lots of fun industry connections, especially from THE WIZARD OF OZ, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne) with Kathryn Nawrocki, a former WriteMovies winner who has been a great support for us over the years. As well as setting us up for a meeting with producers of acclaimed recent hits, she gave some really thoughtful contributions to our slate of scripts and how we’re currently presenting them. Huge thanks to her for her kindness, connections and positivity!
The start of the week is a great chance to check in on upcoming meetings, firm up the details and logistics, and rearrange any that need it – people are busy here so confirmed meetings often still get reshuffled! Amazing how much time that can take up when you’ve got a lot of other appointments and locations to juggle with, but it’s the info you need first so you can know your schedule and what else is going to be possible. Learning to keep communications brief and clear is key, and it’s what everyone expects from you as well.
Next up, a check on where we’re at with our planning and preparations. First bit of that is reaffirming our goals for the week, our priorities and focus. It’s way too easy to be a head-down worker, get straight into the little jobs that are ongoing or waiting in your inbox, and lose the bigger picture. For me, this week is about affirming an ongoing presence here in L.A. that is highly visible to the industry and to achieve the kind of conversations that will lead to our scripts getting optioned and produced. To make that happen, it goes without saying we should go into all meetings prepared and crystal clear about the people we’re meeting and their work, us and our relevant scripts, and what we’re looking to achieve.
It’s easy to only look at things in terms of yourself and what you’re trying to achieve – but nearly always, it’s only by helping someone else achieve what they’re trying to, that you’ll achieve a deal that works. So you have to get a feel for the slate, priorities and values of the people you’re talking to, and use your human intelligence and networks to get the info you need. Of course, we’ve been pooling our team knowledge and colleagues and networks to do just that for a long time before any of this week’s meetings were confirmed.
So while I’m doing the above I’m liaising with our team to firm up the sharpest, clearest pitches possible as we confirm the most suitable of our scripts for the upcoming meetings. Every new thought or bit of research can change our approach to this and the reference points that will be the best to use, so this kind of thing I like to manage as an ongoing conversation, keeping a short summary of the things I need to memorize in an accessible location as I do.
We’ve been given huge amounts of great tips and insights over the years so it’s important to process that into easy-to-access summaries and checklists too. So easy to miss the one crucial thing that could make or break an opportunity. For example: “So what’s your ‘big trailer moment’ in this story?”
Meanwhile, a top priority early this week is interviewing candidates to be a new voice on the ground in LA for us. Today that process started very promisingly. Quietly optimistic that we can get someone with the right skills and credentials in place by the end of this week – watch this space!
IN TUESDAY’S L.A. DIARY…
Find out how Ian gets on in his next meeting with acclaimed producers, and further interviews to join the WriteMovies team!
Parting is such sweet sorrow… and we can’t bear to say goodbye to our Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest just yet. So as a result, we’ve decided to give this contest a one week extension!
You’ve now got until Sunday March 8th to submit, giving yourself a chance to win great prizes from us here at WriteMovies – not to mention the prestige of becoming one of our winners!
We’ve talked enough about what the contest prizes are in our newsletters and articles – but if you need a reminder, there’s $2000 up for grabs for our Grand Prize winner, plus a year of free script development and guaranteed pitching to industry for our top three scripts!
Our Director, Ian Kennedy, will be sharing some of his Hollywood/LA diary with us over the next few weeks, with news of meetings at major studios and with elite producers, giving you insight into what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies. Make sure you don’t miss out, so you know how we present our winners to industry.
And in the meantime, put yourself in the best possible position by entering our contest! The window of opportunity is still open… for the moment. Click here to submit by Sunday March 8th for your chance to win the WriteMovies Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest!