I had this sick twisted bastard of a yoga instructor tonight. I swear this guy used to reign over the Fifth Circle of Hell but he was too rough on people so they cast him out and he ended up at my yoga studio. He didn’t just make us do terrible hard things, he made jokes while he was doing it and laughed because he knew how hard the things he was making us do were.
After I limped home and was licking my wounds thinking how damn hard that session was, and thinking, Yeah, but you’ll go back to that guy’s class, damn him, because no matter how hard it was, it was good —
It occurred to me that is quite possibly how my students think about me. I’m not easy. My classes are hard. Some of them extremely hard. I know it. And I make jokes. They are not mean or derogatory jokes, they are basically saying, Yeah, I feel your pain, but you still have to get that knee over that left ear so let’s go. But they are still jokes.
There is a shirt, “I Survived Max Adams’ Structural Writing.” That shirt totally started out as a joke. Except —
People who finish Structural Writing buy that shirt. It’s not a joke any more. That shirt has turned into some sort of medal of honor.
My students come back. But after tonight, I wonder if it is maybe for a different reason than I used to think. Damn. I’m the sick twisted bastard instructor.
How did THAT happen?
Excuse me now, I have to go soak in a tub of hot water.
*Structural Writing is only open to people who have taken previous AFW classes so don’t get all het up and try to jump in there first — I won’t let you — go look at other classes. Like High Concept Writing and The Art of the Pitch. Those are both coming up in a week and are good precursors.
So here is how this is going to go down.
[It always goes down like this.]
I have these two online classes opening September 18th.
One is The Art of the Pitch. That’s about learning how to pitch a story so you don’t soil yourself in front of a crowd of spectators.
The other is High Concept Writing. That’s how to work on a story concept so it isn’t the first thing that popped into your head that felt clever at 2 AM on a Friday night with a few beers in you — and you just never got around to maybe bringing it up a notch — before tossing months of your life into the sand pit with it.
Both those classes start September 18th and run through October. Right about the time people start showing up at the Austin Film Festival and pitching ideas in the big pitch rally at Austin Film Festival that sounds like a gauntlet to me but I have never watched it in person because it is just too painful to me to watch people crash and burn like that.
What will invariably happen is right about the time these classes are coming to an end, someone [or several someone’s] will email me in a panic, getting geared up for the pitch event at AFF, and want me to drop everything and leap to help [with no time to do it in] with a pitch –- most likely on a concept that wasn’t thought out all that well before starting the script in the first place.
And I’ll say, Look, I teach a class on this, Why didn’t you take the class? That would have given you five to six weeks to work on the pitch with me before this came up. Or better yet, to work on the story so you had a story worth pitching here? Now you’ve got three days, who do you think I am, Anne Sullivan?
[Even Anne Sullivan got more than three days.]
And they won’t have a good answer.
Don’t be one of those people. Go register for the pitch class.
March classes High Concept Writing and Character Writing start March 13. There are open seats. Run don’t walk to grab these, when class opens you are out of luck.
»> Register Now
Want a free class? Win a $375 class from Academy of Film Writing in the 3Pages Comedy Scene Writing Competition.
Underbelly Blues Racks Up 3rd Festival Win
Underbelly Blues (which I am in) just took home its 3rd festival win: Best Experimental Movie at the American International Film Festival.
Former Underbelly festival wins include the 2012 Vegas Indie Film Fest & the LA New Wave Internat’l Film Fest and we also just found out Underbelly Blues is a selected film at Desert Rocks International Film & Music Event.
5150 Kids Make Good
5150’s Jodi Davis is a Charleston Internat’l Film Festival finalist WTG Jodi yay! Former 5150 members Lee Patterson and Ryan Jackson are kicking ass, Lee Patterson just signed to adapt Tale of The Body Thief and Ryan Jackson is working on 12 Midnight for Aro Productions yay! Meanwhile, 5150’s Nancy Bilyeau is taking the planet hostage with her novel The Crown check out her book trailer. 5150’s Deborah Chesher is going to town with her Kickstarter financed short film End of the Innocents. And Alvaro, of Machete fame, well we just love Alvaro go read one of his interviews.
AFW is putting out a daily online “newspaper.” Check it out at AFWnews. Or, hit the feed.
FaceBook Gets a FaceLift
Things are shaking up over at FaceBook so the FB page got a facelife. Check it out and —
Do not forget to hit —->
Did you miss the blog post on branding? Bad you what were you thinking? Panic not. You can hit it now. Whew!
A friend is renting out her Austin Downtown loft during SXSW — it’s a good deal, check it out if you are oh so fly by the pants you just don’t have a place lined up yet. [That would normally spell me, but I have a downtown loft in Austin, ho ho ho ya bastards.]
March Newsletter 2.0
It’s unusual for AFW to send out two newsletters in one month but I’m experimenting with a new format and you [cue evil laughter] are my guinea pig. [It’s for science, damn it.] Let me know what you think: :::contact:::
When you’re writing in a fictional world your readers do not know, you can get away with making a lot of stuff up. A colony on Planet Saturn in the year 2072? No problem. Wing it. Who’s going to know the difference?
The place you can’t get away with just making stuff up is in non-fictitious worlds your readers do know – and know well. For example, Hollywood or the New York publishing world.
This trips up a lot of beginning writers who write protagonists who are successful authors or successful Hollywood players. (Do not ask me why, new writers are compelled by some law of physics to as some point early in the career write a successful writer character. It’s like animation artists being compelled to as some point animate an evolution sequence. Everyone has to do it at least once and no one knows why.)
If you don’t intimately know the inner workings of the film industry, the publishing industry, or the locations New York or Los Angeles, and try to set a story in these worlds, this is going to kill you dead when you try to fake it because people in the film industry and publishing industry know these worlds intimately and every error you make “winging it” will stand out like a neon red elephant standing ankle deep in a kiddie wading pool.
It’s October, 2011. I’m in Austin attending the Austin Film Festival. There is a huge barbeque at this French Legionnaire place that I have not figured out yet, but it is in with the film crowd, I have been there before to see an outside open air screening. The Legionnaire yard is a big open space. The sun is high. The grass is green and prickly. There are white canvas tents parked over picnic type tables. The meal of the day is barbeque – allegedly authentic Texas barbeque. [I’m sure we are in Texas. I’m not so sure about the food.] I’d rather be admiring David Boreanaz from afar than eating questionable barbeque or talking shop but one of my workshoppers grabs me by the arm and says, There’s someone here who’d like Jane’s story. [Her name isn’t really Jane, but it works for this story.] Can she pitch?
"Jane" is another workshopper. She can write. We both know that. We’ve read her pages in workshop. I have no idea whether she can pitch though. I say, I don’t know, let’s find out. I turn to Jane. What’s your story about?
Jane can’t pitch. I’m getting a jumble of information none of which is telling me what the story is about. Uh oh.
What follows is fifteen minutes of intense “No, that’s not a pitch. Okay, not that, who’s doing this? Okay, what does he want? Okay, what must he do? No, not that, what must he do to not end up dead at the end of this story? Going back and forth with Jane, and then with my other workshopper – who seriously can pitch which is one reason she has the contact in the first place – till we have a simple one sentence description of the story that tells someone what the story is about. And then my other workshopper hauls Jane off to meet the important someone who would like Jane’s story and the important someone hears the short pitch and says, Send me the script.
Tragically, by the time this is all over, I am wrung out and David Boreanaz has moved on. [TRAGEDY!] But. My workshopper has a new contact and a submission and hasn’t embarrassed my other workshopper out of the business.
There are a couple things you should be paying attention to there.
One, even though both of us knew Jane could write, my other workshopper was not going to introduce Jane to an important contact unless she knew Jane could pitch – because if Jane couldn’t pitch, that introduction would hurt my other workshopper. “Guilt by association.” That is not just for breakfast. You make a bad intro, your credibility just went down a notch too.
Two, my other workshopper came to me because she knew I would know or could find out real fast whether Jane could pitch. She didn’t go to Jane because she couldn’t trust Jane to know. Lots of writers don’t know they can’t pitch, they think they can pitch just fine – and can’t. So Jane would just say, Sure. But that might not be an accurate answer.
Three, if we hadn’t been able to slam a short pitch together in those fifteen minutes, Jane would never have met that contact or gotten that submission request. We could pull that off because there were two of us who seriously knew how to pitch right there hammering the right information out of Jane and stringing the pitch together for her. But. On her own? Never would have happened.
Think you can pitch?
Think or know?
In this business you have to know.
*The Art of the Pitch begins January 10th.