Say what?! An actual multi-part online show all about screenwriting? Coooool! I don’t know about you, but this is something I’m pretty excited about!
Rick – writer of THE PROPOSITION (2008), STIGMATA (2009) and TV series’ HAUNTED and PEACEMAKERS – created this show because he wanted to prove to others that if he could do it, they could too. In the promo video (see end of post), Rick says himself that this won’t be a dry lecture on how to write your first screenplay, but a source of industry knowledge. Rick reached out to WRITESOFLUID to let me know about this exciting new show, and agreed to answer a few questions for us… We had such a blast that the interview ended up quite long! So it will be in two parts. Here’s the first part…
Just for fun… Do you have a nickname? What’s your favourite colour and animal, and do you love or hate Marmite?
I already like this interview! When the first question makes me smile that’s a good sign. Yes. I have a nickname. It’s “Rico” … It was given to me by a producer / friend in LA who sat in on one of my pitch meetings. He called me “Rico Suave” as we were walking out. And the Rico part stuck. But apparently I wasn’t too “suave” because we didn’t set the project up … Favorite color? Blue. Favorite Animal? I love all animals. But my dog has always been my best … Marmite? Um, marmite-whobie-whatie?
On a more relevant note, and to satisfy that part of me that is addicted to stationery… Fountain pen or ball point pen? Black or blue ink? Cheap jotter or lush notebook? Or perhaps you’re all for digital note-taking/writing nowadays? I like a bit of both.
Hm. I don’t own a fountain pen – but now I wish I did because it sounds much more sophisticated. I use my Bic with whatever ink is in it. I like big notebooks, so lush would be my answer. Too many ideas are lost when a notebook is filled and forgotten in a desk drawer. I do take digital notes, to, but would never do that in a meeting. Too distant. I like my eyes on the person giving the notes. If I’m getting script notes, I usually write it right on the page where the note is happening.
Rick, the promo for THE SCREENPLAY SHOW looks really fun and light-hearted. Can we expect more of this in the show?
Oh, yeah … to be honest, that’s the whole point of The Screenplay Show. I didn’t want to recreate those talking-head seminars from our fathers’ hay-days.
How long will each episode be, what will the release schedule be like and how will we be able to watch the show?
We definitely know that each episode will be at least 30 minutes. I can’t give you an answer on the release yet as we are still in prep. But our hope is that after our IndieGoGo campaign in July, we will begin production and wrap by the holidays. I did fully produce one episode to test the narrative – or style – that I wanted to achieve. It was also a great chance to experiment with the storytelling format. The most interesting note we got when we tested it, was:
Someone said they got so engrossed in the story, they forgot they were actually learning about method…
So we put visual bullet points into The Show to remind people of key points that I’m suggesting. As for how you will able to watch it? We are saying we’re a web series now, so you will find/watch us on the net. But I’m also in very early talks with a cable network – which was a complete surprise. But once they saw how different what we are doing is, they said, “Hmm. We should talk.”
I really love the production quality of the promo videos. It’s both entertaining and informative, while also creating a relaxing and warm feeling of being taught/advised in the comfort of one’s own home. You make it look easy, but how big a project was it in reality to make the show and is there a big team involved?
So glad you said it that way, because that’s exactly what we are shooting for: a light-hearted, conversational and visual style that advises but doesn’t preach. As for making it look easy … I wish I could tell you that being in front of a camera comes naturally, but far from it.
I’m very shy, and I feel very self-conscious when we are rolling, even to the point where I forget what I want to say half the time!
As for how big the team is? I have a camera/production crew of 5-7 people. It just depends on what the demands of the day are. My partner is an outstanding editor, we have a composer, a marketing person, a line producer and 2 other producers. So yeah, it’s a big mouthful of bubble gum. But I think that’s why you like the production value. I’m determined to do this right. The goal is not to make a home video, but not make it look too slick, either. The first episode was shot in my home, but now we’ll move to my production studio. (As you can imagine, shooting in your house is a complete bummer, but I thought it was important so people would feel like they are really getting to know me.)
In the BACKSTORY video on Vimeo you’re very honest about your first experience of feedback and rejection. Whilst it’s easy to look back on this now and spin a positive on it, it must have really hurt (as do all rejections). How did you, and do you, deal with rejection? How do you pick yourself back up again? Any tips for ways we can feel better and bounce back?
Anybody that tells you rejection doesn’t hurt isn’t dealing with reality. It sucks. I know people in LA who don’t get out of bed when their reviews come out. No one is immune to rejection and mean criticism. Looking back, I was lucky my so-called book critic quickly told me he thought I was a good writer, even though he didn’t like the book. Ultimately, it gave me hope and a reason to keep trying. When I began to adapt my bad book into a bad screenplay (smile) I remembered his positive reinforcement far more than his negative review.
One piece of advice I always give new writers is to try NOT to take the notes or rejection personally. Take a step back and listen to what is being said, rather than what your broken heart is hearing. When you’re hurt – and inevitably you will be – know that you’ll heal.
To my mind, the only way a person can fail in this subjective business we are in, is to quit. If you quit, your dream dies. You simply have to put your confidence in yourself above what comes so easy with rejection … self doubt. I once had a script rejected about 20 times around town. I was totally devastated, because I was sure it was one of the best things I had ever written. Then Laura Ziskin (Fox 2000) and Dick Zannuck bought it. Do you think I remember those other “passes” we got? No way, man! I was King of the World. I’ll always remember what my manager told me that day:
“See, Rico? Every writer in this town is just one script away from success – again and again and again.”
Going back to your personal back story – the novel. Did you ever go back to novel-writing later on? If not, do you think you ever will? And do you like the idea of writing a book about screenwriting? You know, that would make a nice accompaniment for the show!
I really would like to try another novel. In fact, I did a People Magazine interview way back when, and said that my dream was to be a novelist, because I wanted people to “hold my words”. Sounds kind of corny now, but you get the point. On the grand scale of things, not many people read scripts. But thousands – even millions read novels.
There is something intimate about someone reading your thoughts, as opposed to seeing how a director handled them.
I have an idea for a novel that I’ve been toying with, but luckily, I’m too busy right now to invest that kind of time. It will be there for me when I’m ready. As for a book on screenwriting … Who knows? I think we’ll publish a compendium of the ideas and suggestions from The Screenplay Show, that’s certain. But we’ll see if we’re successful as a show, first.
What’s your view on the need for a screenwriting “education” to make it in the industry? Is it still good, or better, to just write and do it without classes? Personally, I think both are good so long as feedback is involved; an essential part of learning and improving.
I went to the American Film Institute, which for me seemed like film boot camp. The very first day they divided us into production teams and said, “Go make a film”. That began the process of trial and error for me, because I had the chance to experience the relationship between the script and the actual film. It was invaluable to hear actors read my dialogue. To see how exposition translated …. I would literally sit in our screenings and cringe when I over-wrote a scene, or tried to be too cute, or too smart for my own good.
Here at Writesofluid, we love education and we especially love it when it’s free. Today more than ever before, thanks to the Internet, we can read up on our writing interests/theory and watch shows such as THE SCREENPLAY SHOW to learn the craft. Ever-present, though, are books. If you had to pick one book to recommend to aspiring screenwriters, which would it be and why?
I suppose it would be “Save The Cat” … But I have to be honest: I’m not a huge disciple of any particular screenwriting teacher. I respect and understand what they do – they have some good insight. But most of them have never sold a script. Therefore something is missing … I’m approaching the Screenplay Show from a different angle. I’ve learned what I know from other (talented) people in the business that were generous enough to share their knowledge with me for one purpose: to get the story right. Actually selling a script, and going through the notes process, and then watching your script come to life, or die of neglect on a shelf, cannot help but inform your process when you write the next one. Too many gurus have missed all those steps because they haven’t sold. The Screenplay Show is about the process – from conception to reality.
I’ve looked back at some of my old scripts and thought to myself, what was I thinking?! Do you keep your old work and do you ever experience this feeling when looking back at it?
(First of all, big smile for this question.) I cringe all the time when I read old scripts. But I do that with my movies and TV shows, too. Perspective is an amazing thing; it’s usually like I’m reading a stranger when I pick up an old script.
You can learn a lot by reading your old stuff – good and bad.
Next week, we’ll find out how about Rick’s experiences writing STIGMATA and THE PROPOSITION. He’ll share with us his favourite and least favourite screenwriting advice, and ways to make the most of the opportunities open to you these days.
To keep up-to-date with THE SCREENPLAY SHOW and its IndieGoGo campaign, check out thescreenplayshow.com.