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Monday, November 25, 2013

Connection - the film: In the beginning, there was the idea....

Jacques Thelemaque is blogging again, about his latest film...

Connection - the film: In the beginning, there was the idea....: So this is the first post to my blog about the journey to make my new film, "Connection". Why, how, where, when, with whom, etc...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Publishing Screenplays as Ebooks: eScriptsHub

There was a time, and it feels like not that long ago, when screenwriters would go to Kinkos and run off fifty copies of their scripts in order to send them to agents, producers, and anyone else who might be willing to read them. Now there are numerous ways to showcase a screenplay on digital platforms, including publishing that script as an eBook.

I've investigated several ways of creating such an eBook. Some services advocate translating the script to a simplified novel (Aisle Seat Books), and other books and blogs tell scribes how to just tinker with a traditional script file and upload it to Amazon (see: How to Publish Your Script or Publish Your Screenplay on Kindle eBook, by London Tracy.)

However, nobody seems to have really found the right format, connected movie scripts with a viable market of readers, or provided an easy way for screenwriters to make the transition.  Ken Miyamoto thinks he's solved the problem.

If you have already read Ken's smart and entertaining Quora answers on the craft of screenwriting, you know he is a man who knows what he is talking about. I recently had a chance to interview him about his latest venture...

You have been a professional screenwriter for many years. What motivated you to create eScriptsHub.com?

Rejection. 

As screenwriters, we pour our hearts and souls into our stories. We spend anywhere from a few months to a year or more on each script that we write. And what do we want to do the moment we finish that final draft? We want to take it to people that can get it made.

And then what happens? Most of the time… nothing. Because getting a film made is difficult. It’s damn near impossible. Even making a sale on a spec script is damn near impossible these days.

That’s what is unfortunately unique about screenwriters. We only have one platform for our work to be seen. On the screen. If the scripts aren’t produced in whatever fashion, nobody sees it. Our stories aren’t told. They are left in the void of our own imaginations.

So I started to think about the thousands upon thousands of great screenplays that will never see the light of day. They’ll never find an audience. That’s a shame.

Then I started to look at my own spec scripts, thinking, “Gosh, I’d love for them to have an audience.” Then I started to look at the current craze of ebooks and the idea that these undiscovered writers are self publishing their own ebooks on Amazon. Garnering hundreds of thousands of readers.

Thus my idea of eScripts was born. The thought was to create a hybrid of ebooks and movie screenplays. To create a format that popped off of the screen of those Kindles, iPads, and PCs.

eScriptsHub.com itself started as a drop page to my own eScripts. Then I began to think that if I really wanted this new format and platform to grow, we’re going to need to drive a universal format (i.e. the format I cracked) into the mix to offer readers some consistency. So I created the Hub to be a central gathering point for this format and platform, offering screenwriters everything they need and also offering readers a place to learn more.

How is an eScript different in format than a regular script?

Many of the scripts being self published on Amazon were converted PDFs. They look horrible on Kindles, Nooks, tablets, and PCs. That format and the fonts that we normally write screenplays with just don’t pop off of the screen like an ebook.

The format changes that I eventually made to eScripts came to me by chance. I eventually discovered that moving almost everything to the left margin made the read so much better.

And here’s the kicker. Because we are trying to find a new audience with ebook readers, it created the perfect hybrid for them. They are used to reading from the left margin. Their eyes are tuned to that scanning, as opposed to going from left margin to center margin back and forth, back and forth, between scene description, dialogue, etc.

Beyond that, with eScripts, we’re allowed to use chapter headings, images, and can allow ourselves to use an extra few lines or so here and there in our scene descriptions because we don’t have to abide by Hollywood standards.



Reading screenplays, because they are essentially just a blueprint or armature for a movie, is generally less fun that reading books or even plays. Why would ordinary people read eScripts?

I disagree somewhat. To me, reading screenplays is a whole new medium of storytelling for readers. A visual medium. It’s the perfect hybrid of literature and watching movies; two of the world’s most favorite past times. And eScripts are the truest form of that perfect hybrid.

Beyond that, the exciting factor for readers is that they can experience a whole story, told in visual flare, in just two hours worth of reading, if that, per each eScript. As opposed to the commitment of multiple hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months of reading an ebook.

eScripts are perfect for lunch breaks, late night reads before bed, while waiting for their flights in the airport, etc.

If the format is easy to read, would it make sense for development professionals to read all scripts in eScript format?

That would be a big leap for them. Creatures of habit. Personally, I think it would make a real difference, especially with the advent of iPhones, iPads, tablets, Kindles, Kindle Readers, Nooks, etc. But easier said than done.

Why would it be a good idea for screenwriters to publish their un-produced scripts as eScripts?

By all means, screenwriters should go the film industry route to try and get their scripts packaged, sold, and produced. The reality of it is that chances are that’s not going to happen. So if you’ve exhausted those attempts, and it isn’t happening, with self publishing your scripts as eScripts you have a Plan B. You have a secondary platform.

And who knows what happens then? The possibilities are endless. In the end, the short answer to this question is that it offers screenwriters multiple platforms instead of just one. And with multiple platforms comes multiple opportunities. And with multiple opportunities comes better chances for our dreams to come true.

Others have advocated translating a script into a traditional novel-ish format. (see: Converting Your Script To a Novel) Why do you think eScripts is a better way for the average person to read a script?

What if the average ebook reader has never read a screenplay before? That’s the core of this question. I’m a firm believer that reading screenplays is easier than reading a book, and within the format that I’ve come up with, there is a brief opening page that offers descriptions to the most common technical jargon found in most scripts. INT. EXT. Etc.

What really makes eScripts stand apart, beyond the freedom to use chapter headings, images, and what not, are the format changes I mentioned above. They look great on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, tablets, Kindle readers, etc. They are so much easier and vibrant to read.

With the deluge of self-publishing and millions of ebooks already out there, how is there a market for eScripts?

That’s the undiscovered country. It’s a new platform.

The key thing is marketing. You’re right. There are millions of self published ebooks out there now. But any successful author that has published hit ebooks will tell you that marketing is everything. If you don’t market, how can you expect to stand out amongst those millions of others?

It’s not about creating a whole new market. We as writers can’t do that. Only the consumer can. But a market can’t be created without product. That’s what I’m trying to do. Shepherd this format and platform and hope that down the road it takes on a life of its own. 

It’s a new dawn. A new age of technology. In the film industry, we are seeing a major shift for screenwriters. Gone are the heydays of the 90s and early to mid 2000s, when spec sales were at all time highs. Spec scripts are calling cards now. Samples. Rarely are they ever picked up and even more rarely are they ever produced. These days it’s all about the pre-packaged deals. Projects with existing fan bases are the ones that sell (Graphic novel adaptations, ebooks, novels, etc.). This leaves thousands upon thousands of screenplays left unseen. Rich concepts, stories, and characters without an audience.

It’s about time we screenwriters start doing something about that. 

You can read one of Ken's own scripts in eScripthub.com format HERE:

You can follow Ken on Twitter at @KenMovies.
You visit his blog at http://kenmiyamoto.quora.com. 
You can also follow eScriptsHub.com on Facebook and on Twitter as well at @eScriptshub.


I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Real Myths Are Weird

If you are a screenwriter, you already know The Hero’s Journey.  Every writer, agent, producer and executive in Hollywood knows all about Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as popularized by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.  Perhaps you’ve analyzed “the refusal of the call” and “the symbolic death and rebirth” in Star Wars.  Maybe you’ve identified mobsters in The The Godfather as “Mentors," “Tricksters” and “Supernatural Aids.”  It's not hard.  We really can find reflections of the “monomyth” in movies as diverse as “Blue Is The Warmest Color” and “Iron Man 3.”

But… have you read any actual myths lately?  They're weird.  Really weird So weird they make me wonder if The Hero’s Journey, as interpreted by screenplay gurus,  ignores the uncanny, disturbing, and intriguing weirdness of the myths on which it is based. 

For example, take Gilgamesh.  First composed some 4000 years ago, it is our oldest story, and the mother of all mythic quests.  Yet it contains none of the clarity, simplicity, or easy classifications found in screenwriting books.  In his introduction to his recent translation Stephen Mitchell writes, “The more we try to fit Gilgamesh into the pattern of this archetypal journey, the more bizarre, quirky and postmodern it seems.” 

The story goes like this:  Gilgamesh is our hero, but he is also a tyrant, a rapist, an egomaniac and a coward in the face of death.  His counterpart, the yin to his yang, is not a princess or goddess, but a wild, hairy man, Enkidu.  The major female character in the story is a high priestess but also a prostitute who civilizes Enkidu by having sex with him for six days straight.  She then hands him over to King Gilgamesh, who first brutally attacks his “other half” but who then “takes him in his arms and caresses him the way a man caresses his wife.” 
Enkidu

Next, these two best-buddies set out to face a monster, Humbaba (which is what heroes do after all, slay monsters) but these particular heroes weep at the sight of Humbaba, they fail miserably in their battle with him until a god steps in and fixes the fight in their favor, and when the now-helpless monster turns out NOT to be evil at all, and simply the guardian of a sacred forest, they kill him anyway and clear-cut the old, sacred trees for their own glory and profit. 

All this, of course, angers the gods, and they respond by killing Enkidu and causing our hero, Gilgamesh, unbearable grief and suffering, mostly because he now realizes that someday he is going to die too.  So, egotistical a fearful as always, Gilgamesh goes on a long, painful journey to find the one mortal man who was given the secret to eternal life.  However, when Gilgamesh finally finds this man, all the wise mentor can tell him is that quests like his are pointless and that he should get over himself.  

As Mitchell writes. “By preemptively attacking a monster [who was a danger to no one], Gilgamesh brings on himself a disaster that can only be overcome by an agonizing quest that results in wisdom by proving its own folly."  This is a story with NO light and dark side of the force.  "In its refusal to side with either hero or monster, it leads us to question our dangerous certainties about good and evil.”  

Which is to say this story is weird.  It’s not the kind of thing that would make a good pitch to Disney.  And, if you spend time reading various original myths, you start to discover that they are all weird.  Did you know that sleeping beauty was NOT awakened with a kiss?  She was raped in her sleep and abandoned by Prince Charming only to finally awaken a year later to find two babies suckling on her fingertips.  Did you know that the story of the 12 labors begins with Hercules murdering his wife and children in a drunken rage?  Great stories are strange.  Myths are bizarre.  And, while all these heroes and heroines still reflect, at least in part, the generic features of the Hero’s Journey,  it is precisely the way these tales diverge from the norm that makes them memorable.  

It's also a good idea to remember that while all classic movies do reflect some aspect of the monomyth, all lousy movies do as well.  Stories - great, mediocre, and dreadful - all follow the same patterns.  The Hero’s Journey is not a recipe for success; it is a description of the collective building blocks of any story - including those for Gigli, Catwoman, and Troll 2… or for that matter, Star Wars Episode One.  The monomyth is a kind of symbolic and spiritual average, not some storyteller's "secret to eternal life."  Maybe instead of searching for "control, order, and meaning" in magical templates, what we screenwriters really need is to face the futility of "the quest," as did Gilgamesh, and embrace life's chaotic weirdness.

So, consider all this before you spend too much time with “step-by-step guidelines for plot and character development.” (Volger, back cover) Be less obsessed with fitting a story into a “Hero's Journey,” and more concerned with finding those excessive and inscrutable human experiences that cannot be so neatly contained.


I write this blog in order to connect with intelligent, ambitious, and creative people. If you leave a comment, you will inspire me to write more. If you liked the article, please share it.