Internet Movie Big Deal
Issue #4 - September 30, 2019
On Tuesday October 8th, our new movie is having a one-night-only special theatrical event, including a live-stream Q&A with Lupita Nyong'o, Alexander England, and the writer/director Abe Forsythe. I hope you come out and see the movie!
You can buy tickets on the official website here:
Several years ago, I started a file to keep track of movie title ideas I come up with. I have never actually used one of these titles for anything, other than the occasional fake title for secret test screenings, so I figured I'd just share all of them with you. This is a totally unedited list. Any time something popped in my head that I thought could be a movie title, I'd throw it on the list.
A Haunting in Havana
After the End
As The Crow Flies
Beyond the Stars
Blood is Thicker
Contents Under Pressure
Dead Don't Dance
Dead Sea Scrolls
Faster than Light
Fight or Flight
First World Problems
Food For Thought
For Immediate Release
If The Shoe Fits
In the Cards
Of Commoners And Kings
Oil and Water
One More Thing
Out of the Loop
Rust in Peace
Rust in Pieces
School of Hard Knocks
Table for One
Tea and Crumpets
The Book of the Dead
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Great Indoors
The Harder They Fall
The Killing Blow
The King's Bastard
The Last Knight
The Pauper King
The Placebo Effect
The Second Line
The Sicilian Defense
Things Go Wrong
Two Kinds of Men
Where the Heart Is
While You Were Drinking
Woke Up Dead
You're Not The Boss Of Me
🎮 is a delightful indie game where you're an asshole goose.
📖 "" by Tamsyn Muir. Imagine if "The Hunger Games" was about Wednesday Addams.
🎶 HBO haven't officially released it as a single, but you can still watch on YouTube.
Internet Movie Big Deal
Issue #3 - September 23, 2019
Earlier this week, I tweeted that I get a lot of unsolicited emails from aspiring professional screenwriters, and that I noticed a weird trend that a lot of these query emails start by praising only the concept of a movie I produced. Such a bizarre backhanded way to start what is essentially a sales-pitch!
This turned into a full thread where I tried to solve the mystery of where these emails were coming from, and how writers are getting this advice.
If you want to read the full thread, you can find it here:
A side effect of this thread becoming popular is that a lot of screenwriters have been reaching out to me for advice on how to approach producers. My advice is probably not what they want, but I think it’s relatively useful.
In my experience, producers like finding material through either recommendations or from their own direct research. By "direct research," I mean living their lives and consuming the media they enjoy, and finding inspiration there. Hard for an aspiring writer to find a way in there, which leaves recommendations. Those recommendations could be from agents and managers that have a fiscal stake in the success of the writer and project. It could be from a producer or film executive friend who loved a script, but knows it would never fly at their company. It could be from a fellow screenwriter or director. It could be from someone interviewing for a job. Honestly, it could be from anyone who a producer knows and trusts.
This might seem like a bizarre closed system, but the reality is that every producer I know who can get movies made is a producer who has way too many things to read. If you’re an active producer, it’s literally impossible to do your job (getting movies made) and also read every submission that makes its way into your inbox. There needs to be one or more threshold that you can use to reduce the stream.
For producers, the simplest solution is to only read something if someone else you know is already vouching for it.
But how can a writer get that “first read?” Focus on people whose careers rely on being able to find new talent! Agents and managers with thin client lists. Assistants who are about to be promoted. Directors who can’t get hired by a studio. Producers who aren’t established enough to already have a wide network of people they trust who are submitting projects to them.
I think email queries can work with this set of people, but I recommend being very targeted with your approach. Don't just assume that a shotgun form-letter approach will work. Your email will almost certainly be deleted immediately. Be clear about who you are, and what your script is about. Be specific about why you think it's worthwhile for this person to read your screenplay. If you can't think of a good reason why they should be reading your screenplay, then don't email them!
Realistically, the most success will come from building a group of peers who are all trying to break into the industry, and sharing your work with each other. Help each other climb the rungs together. That's why the most common advice is to move to Los Angeles. It's possible to break into screenwriting from outside a film-hub like Los Angeles, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you are building a career with a set of peers with similar dreams.
🎮 I am obsessed with the new League of Legends spinoff game .
🎶 My favorite song of the year is “Nothing is Safe” by Clipping. Enjoy .
📺 I helped produce a weird animated show called "Walt" that's .
Internet Movie Big Deal
Issue #2 - September 16, 2019
Yesterday, I went to my local cineplex to see , and I can confirm that the movie rocks hard and that J-Lo brings the heat. But I'm not going to focus too much here on the film itself. I'm going to focus on something that I noticed while watching the movie, which reminded me of an observation I had a few years ago. And it's something that helped me understand how to use test screenings as a way to improve movies, and how they're often used poorly by executives who don't get how people watch and enjoy movies.
The couple sitting next to me were excited to be seeing ; their anticipation was palpable. As the movie got going, I could tell they were into it. But they spent most of the second half of the film talking to each other, trying to figure out what was happening on screen. I suspect they would have understood the plot more if they paid attention to the movie, rather than talked over it. But the key thing I want to highlight is that they LOVED the movie. At the end, they were very vocal about how much they enjoyed it.
Several years ago, I watched with a friend who isn't in the film industry. She loved it. After the movie, I started talking about the relatively complicated plot mechanics, and it became clear that she didn't pick up most of it. Didn't understand how the pirate curse worked. Didn't understand how the pirate curse was used in the plot. Just didn't get it at all. But she loved the movie!
When you do test screenings, there is a tendency to use the process to try make sure that no one in the audience ever feels confused by any aspect of the plot. I think this is often a losing game. I believe each member of the audience exists on a spectrum of confusion. There are people who feel like they usually understand everything that happens in a movie and people who are used to being confused by the plot-intricacies of a movie. People who fall into the first group get very upset when they don't understand something, and it will often result in them disliking the movie. People who fall in the second group don't couple their enjoyment of the movie with their understanding of every plot detail. They're used to missing things. They're generally fine with moments of confusion, as long as the missed details don't ruin their enjoyment of everything else that they like about the movie.
I know that there is an ideal of making sure that everyone understands everything that happens in your movie, but while a movie is a fixed work of art, the audience is never the same. The method of removing all potential confusion will often result in a movie that is either "too on the nose" or "too predictable" for audience members who are savvy viewers, used to comprehending every detail of a plot. You're making the experience worse for one segment of the audience just to make the plot clearer for the segment of the audience that doesn't seem to mind being confused. You can't make both of these audience segments happy just by reducing confusion! The better alternative is to find ways to make sure the often-confused audience member still enjoys your movie even though they aren't picking up all of the plot machinations.
At least that's my theory. I don't know how else you explain that a huge set of people consistently love movies that they seemingly don't understand.
Internet Movie Big Deal
Issue #1 - September 9, 2019
Let's call this the first issue, and call last week's missive the zeroeth issue. I still don't know what this weekly newsletter is going to be, but I'm ready to dive in and start figuring things out. And this feels like the first real attempt at that. I also hope this isn't a one-sided conversation. Feel free to reply, and let me know what you think. And please let me know if you end up launching a newsletter of your own!
I back a few writers on , because I want to help support them between bigger writing projects. They'll occasionally send dispatches to their backers, and I was struck by this gem by from a recent mailing:
We're two-thirds of the way through 2019, and I'm rethinking (again) how I want to use the internet. I'm finding that most of my internet-related joy this year has been reading the various weekly newsletters I subscribe to. The pace and style of a weekly newsletter is something that I think leads to interesting writing and lovely communities. These weekly newsletters feel retro in a sense that they capture a creative spirit that has been lost and found again. And I want to join in the fun.
I will be less active on Twitter for the rest of the year, and I'll be shifting my energies over to this newsletter to which you once-upon-a-time subscribed. If you don't want to receive a weekly newsletter from me, then I suggest you unsubscribe.
Dispatches will be sent weekly, every Monday morning. I'm not sure what they'll look or feel like yet, but I'm eager to find out.
In case you missed it, I recently cancelled the "Snoot Zine" project that I started a couple years ago with a Kickstarter campaign. The project contained a lot of my thoughts on the process of making movies, so it might be of interest to some of you. I have returned money to all of the backers, and . Feel free to download, read, and share.