best photo of the festival

October 31, 2014


Honorary 5150 Member Pumpkin the Dog with Jon Stewart.

Pumkin the Dog with Jon Stewart, AFF 2014



screenplay contest despair

September 9, 2014



I’ve got writers flipping out over not placing in the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition.


Just stop it.






Do you need to win a competition to get a script read, a script sold, or a movie made?






Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 5.16.44 PM


Screenwriters Billy Wilder and I.A. Diamond

Screenwriters Billy Wilder and I.A. Diamond

I ran into —

Joanne Lammers at Austin Film Festival. Joanne is a friend and really cool and is the Director of the Archive at Writer’s Guild of America.

I have known Joanne more years than I will say in public but to put it in perspective, one of those babies was a bump in a hot dress at a big awards ceremony when we first met.

Joanne was out at AFF with a really cool WGA exhibit featuring archives like Billy Wilder’s original scripts and the typewriter the original Psycho was written on. [That type writer weighs like a hundred pounds too so kiss your laptap and say “Thank you dear God, that I live in a time in which moving the writing machine does not include a hernia and blow up donut” — also they didn’t have blow up hernia donuts back then either, those poor bastards.]


One of the things Joanne said to me was how surprised she was a lot of exhibit guests [and people lined up around the block so I give credit for that, that is pretty cool, but still, there’s a question here] and these exhibit guests are, you know, “writers”? How many of them looked at script pages in the presentation and and looked mystified and said, Wow I didn’t know they wrote what the characters were actually doing in the scenes.

This of course confused Joanne because she was wondering, Well what are these people writing or even doing at a writer’s conference if they don’t know that? And, haven’t they ever read a script before? Because all scripts — okay, all good scripts — do that.


People trying to write scripts who have never read scripts was not as much confusing or mystifying to me because even though it is totally confusing and mystifying that anyone would actually attempt to write a script without actually reading one? Ever?

[Isn’t that like trying to write a symphony without learning how to read sheet music? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?]


I have been around on the internet long enough to know it happens. Over and over again. [I blame Final Draft! Anyone can write a movie! Just buy this software! Ahhh!] I also have seen the appalling statements online that go something like, “Oh I don’t write anything that characters do physically or that actually happens in scenes physically or describe any settings or action at all, the director will do that and I would be stepping on his toes if I put that in.

Really? Writing the movie would be “stepping on the director’s toes”? Because, you know, no movie? In the real world, no movie on the page usually spells, no director signs up to direct. But I digress. Bottom line —

You should wonder, if you aren’t writing action or setting descriptions or what characters are doing or, you know, a movie? What is the director actually supposed to sign on to direct?


I’ve never met a director who wanted to write the script for the writer since the writer didn’t actually write it. I meet a lot of directors who want to change the fuck out of an existing script. Just not so many who want to write the script that doesn’t exist.


Let’s ask a real question. In a poll. Yay!

How many film scripts have you read?




We are having fun. Also I find it crazy fun that people actually come looking for me on the smoking patio behind Driskill Bar. Okay sure that is predictable but also, how cool is that?

Also here are some photos to cheer you up before you go all “don’t smoke” on my ass. Yay!

Max Adams, Terry Rossio, Jocelyn Jolly Stamat

Max Adams, Terry Rossio, Jocelyn Jolly Stamat, Austin Film Festival, October 2013

The Salt Lick, oh yez, we are all there, Austin Texas October 2013

The Salt Lick, oh yez, we are all there, Austin Texas October 2013

Max Adams, Vivi Gregg, with unsuspecting bystander who kept buying us beers, Austin Texas October 2013

Max Adams, Vivi Gregg, with unsuspecting bystander who kept buying us beers, Austin Texas October 2013

Kitty Sibille looking cute as hell in the TNSSG shirt yay!

Kitty Sibille looking cute as hell in the TNSSG shirt yay!

Kitty Sibille, Blane Sibillle, and Max Adams taking TNSSG out on the town at Salt Lick, Austin Texas, October 2013 yay!

Kitty Sibille, Blane Sibillle, and Max Adams taking TNSSG out on the town at Salt Lick, Austin Texas, October 2013 yay!

Deborah Eli Solis an Max Adams, Austin Film Festival, October 2013

Deborah Eli Solis and Max Adams, Austin Film Festival, October 2013


pitch frenzy

September 5, 2012


So here —

Is how this is going to go down.

[It always goes down like this.]

I have these two 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 sign up for the pitch class.


the emergency pitch

December 21, 2011


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 few 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.


*this cracks me up, it is from the vejadrew videoblog

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