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kids as cops: Actors get into their roles in a 2008 Nibley Children's Theatre production of Pirates of Penzance. Click Arts&Life index for a link to this unusual theater group. / Photo courtesy of Bonnie Schenk-Darrington

Today's word on journalism

February 17, 2009

Why I miss my hate mail:

"It's an odd thing to admit, but in a perverse sort of way, I actually miss the wretched river, the rancid flow of puerile, nasty, sickeningly homophobic email I used to receive on a regular basis from the ultra-right and the Christian right and the Mormon right and the Bush-impaired whenever I would post a friendly, pointed column full of tangy liberal attitude. . . . . Oh, I miss all the lovely and positive email too, which outpaced the nasty stuff by a huge margin. But the hate mail was very special indeed, great fodder for live readings, for the reaction of horrified disbelief of anyone who saw it, for the charming reminder of just how ugly and violent and grammatically challenged the human animal can be."

--Mark Morford, columnist, (2/13/09)

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Just write, and keep writing, called the key first step to getting a screenplay picked up

By Jason Sanders

January 23, 2009 | Calling all aspiring screenwriters! Are you still sitting around with that screenplay idea in your head? Or do you have script in hand and now you're wondering, "What's next?" The word at Sundance is to stop thinking about it and start doing it.

On Tuesday the Queer Lounge, a popular Sundance hangout, hosted The Road to Park City and Beyond: Launching Your Film Career. On stage sat six screenwriters and/or producers whose films are being screened at either Sundance or Slamdance film festivals. The structured yet casual format allowed each of the guest-panelists to take a turn sharing success stories and to field questions from the audience.

The artists' advice seemed to have an overriding theme: if you want to succeed in the "biz," you had better start working at it now. Cherien Dabis, writer and director for Amreeka, stressed this when she said, "Write. Even if it's shit, just write." According to these screenwriters, practice equals experience and experience will turn into success.

However, before tasting success a writer must endure the creative process of drafting a screenplay. And the creative process is as unique to the individual as the films they create are.

Mississippi Damned screenwriter Tina Mabry begins by solely focusing on her characters. Slowly they come to life as she writes about even their most intricate details. The characters actually help her shape the story, rather trying to force characters in the screenplay.

She's also found that meeting with a writing group helps in the creative process. She meets twice a month with several screenwriters. As a group they bounce off each other new ideas and writing samples, giving one another honest and helpful feedback.

Dabis uses her own techniques as well. She drafts her screenplay in no particular order. It's important for her to constantly write so she can feel she is consistently making progress.

The panel suggested that once your screenplay is written comes the hard part: funding. Several of the writers noted the importance of signing on a talented producer to help in the process.

To the left of Mabry sat Mississippi Damned producer Morgan Stiff. Mabry said she was amazed at money Stiff was able to bring in.

Stiff said she'd ask for funding believing she couldn't be turned down. And while beaming on stage she admitted that her smile helped.

The panel mentioned the advantage of living in Hollywood or New York while fundraising. However, there are ways to get your screenplay picked up if you live outside of the heart of the industry. Mabry suggested contacting filmmakers in your community and going from there. "Most communities have some connection to film," she said.

The panel was a powerful example to any aspiring screenwriter that it is possible to succeed. Now, just stop dreaming and start living.


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