Monday, November 9, 2009

Act Two - Heartbreak Hill.

Today we continue Act Two of our little movie venture. 

Wait! What was Act One? 

Alfred Hitchcock,  when asked what makes up a good story said, "It has a beginning and a middle and an end." Now, in an era where there are at least two hundred books on screenwriting including a dog's version, is Mr. Hitchcock simplifying it too much?  Don't we need the plot points or the inciting incident, or my favorite "the character arc". Don't we need to take expensive courses from teachers who more often than not have EVER SOLD A SCREENPLAY!

Because I think Mr. Hitchcock knew more about story and structure than any of those self-appointed experts, I used his simple formula when I taught extension classes in screenwriting at UCLA. 

Act One is where you set up the story. You introduce the main characters and the situation and some obstacles in their way.  This was back in August, when I introduced Shirley and myself to all of you, then began to explain the situation; we are going to try to make a movie and we're going to let you see exactly how we do it.

Then I introduced the obstacle. In Die Hard, Bruce Willis suddenly faced terrorists who held his wife and her whole office hostage. In Juno, she discovered she was pregnant. In Star Wars, Darth Vader was introduced.

For me it was... the Budget.

I don't have $900,000 US in my bank.  I don't know anyone who has $900,000 in their bank either. In fact all of my friends put together don't have $900,000 in their banks, mattresses or socks. Maybe I need new friends.

There you have it -- Act One.

Act Two, the middle, in writing, is always the hardest act to write. Because somewhere around Page 50-60, you reach the Heartbreak Hill of screenwriting. Act One is easy, Act Three is just resolving what you set up in Act One.

But Act Two is a mother... because you can't keep the same idea and hold an audience as no idea is that good. Well, maybe now and then, but very rare. And that's where you've been for the last five months. Shirley and I produced the proposal and I began sending it around by email and postage as well as emailing and calling everyone on my list to help me find money.

We had a good start with a strong indication of at least $400,000 based on the premise I find the first $500,000. Very few producers get that kind of commitment from the get-go. But now it seems to be unsteady.

I have continued to contact people and court the ones who have an interest and look for references to other potential money. Some weeks were good, some were just downright bleak. It was up and down and sometimes more down, until we finally reached Heartbreak Hill, that place in marathon runners' minds when many simply give up.

But I had been prepared for Heartbreak Hill.

Part 2 of Act Two came in the form of the American Film Market.  AFM.

Because I was waiting for it to come along to give us the momentum to continue after Heartbreak Hill. And it did. Now I can introduce TD to at least 50 potential investors and or distributors and even maybe even presales. It's not easy, but it sure hasn't been easy up to now, and it's never easy.

Take into consideration that many producers look for money for years, my own Emperor of Mars project has been around for 20 years!  Dustin Hoffman's D-boy told me Hoffman had a project that he wanted to do for 15 years and it still hasn't been made. Juno was around for a couple of years before someone made it. There are countless stories of projects taking years at every level of this business, from A-List to Z-List.

We went this far in 6 months.

Not that I'm bragging. Anything but bragging. It was a combination of luck, timing, 2 Academy nominated actresses and meeting Shirley.  All three of these women wanted to make my screenplay. This is a package. Much better than me running around with a script in my hand and nothing else. You need validation and I sure the hell had it. Enough to encourage me to go ahead.

So now we crest on the hill, and look ahead to where another hill looms. But we have help. The Manitoba producer Dane is beginning to bring his participation in, another money source has appeared, and we move ahead again towards Act Three. Then we have that Christmas thing where everyone goes to Aspen.

Well, some of them go to Aspen.

I go to Swan River, Manitoba. Who needs Aspen when there's a Tim Horton's less than a block away from my mom's house.  And I'm stopping by in Winnipeg to see the Manitoba guy, Dane, and Rachel, the Eh Channel exec.  I get back in early January as does Shirley from NYC (which has considerably more stoplights than Swan River's 5) and we start looking at preproduction if all works out.

And moving towards a February 2010 start date for filming.

God willing and the river don't rise.