Part II: Secret Origins Of A Screenwriter
By Ken Robinson
December, 2007, 15:20
Here we are again. I've washed my clothes since I was last on my knees begging for you to come back and voila! Here you are.
Now where were we? Oh right, in Part 1 I had just finished writing my first screenplay. I sat there asking myself, now what? The obvious answer was to send it off to a Hollywood studio, and they would tell me how wonderful it was and turn my magnificent screenplay into a blockbuster movie. Uh, huh; get back to me if you're interested in a great lot in a nice neighbourhood on Mars.
I knew it wasn't that good, but it was nice to finally finish something. Eventually I found a local film festival, coughed up the entry fee, and sent the screenplay in. And then didn't hear anything from them for months, which is what I figured would happen. But then one day, I got an email that changed the course of my life forever. They told me I was a finalist for best screenplay. Wow! No way! By the way everything that happens to you changes your life forever.
So, I got organized and my daughter and I went to the festival where I didn't talk to a soul (other than my daughter) the whole weekend. Besides not knowing anyone, I didn't know any better. So after wandering around the festival all weekend, my daughter and I went to the awards ceremony. We sat in the audience mesmerized by the proceedings trying to soak it all in.
As they went through the finalist list for best screenplay it was exciting to hear my name called. So when it was called again, I sat there wondering why. What do I do now? I was totally unprepared. I knew I wouldn't win.
I got up grabbed my daughter and pulled her up with me using her as a crutch. We made it up to the front, I got on the stage, accepted the award, but I had nothing to say. So I stuck my daughter up in front of me as a shield and babbled on for a few moments and quickly left the stage – without falling off – and retreated to my seat to sit dumbfounded for the rest of the evening. And of course you know who has the award now, my daughter the shield.
As you can guess, that experience encouraged me to keep writing screenplays. Most of them have made it at least as a quarter finalists in a festival, but I haven't won one since. If I hadn't done well with that first screenplay, I probably wouldn't have continued writing them.
A while after that, I helped found a local amateur film group and the accompanying website. So far, we've shown finished shorts all over the US, a few foreign countries, and the group has won a few prizes. The website has over 800 members now. The group is the Oklahoma Movie Makers. If you have any questions about the independent film business I'm sure somebody there can help.
I also joined another film society, becoming a member of the board. Through this group I've met an academy award winner who lets me email him, a former line producer on the Gilmore girls who's given me advice, a co-star on CSI Miami, and various other local people who are trying to make it in the film business. And that's how I met the guy I'm working with on the current drive-in thriller feature I'm helping write.
So, that's how I got to where I am today. I've written ten features, I'm working on two features that I hope to get paid for, and I'm putting together two TV series concepts with four episodes written for each so far. And, of course, I've been writing this column for a almost two years.
A writing update: I've just about finished the first draft on one of the two feature projects. It's the first draft of the Costa Rica Project. The working title is Touching Van Gogh. I'm to the point where I want someone to read it and tell me how brilliant it is. But I've got to go through a couple more rewrites before I do that. You should never give someone something you've written unless it's the best you can do. You don't want your reader to think that a poor rough draft is the best you can do.
Ken Robinson, IN's Write On! columnist, winner of Bare Bones Int'l Film Festival Best Screenplay Award, has written over 10 screenplays, 3 episodes of TV series West Law, is executive producer for the feature Sacred Bloods, board member of the Oklahoma Film Society, founding member of Oklahoma Movie Makers. His email address is: Krobinson104@hotmail.com
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