Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dig: Second Draft

Finally got some time to sit down and write out some thoughts on the latest project. Picking up where we last left off: following the holiday break Travis and I sat down and went through my draft of Dig.

There were a few issues. We both knew the ending didn't work. It was a holdover from a previous version of the script that I really wanted to try but it just didn't work. Even though I knew there was a chance it wasn't right, I decided to try it anyway because hell, it's just words on a page, it's easy to change, and who knows? No harm, no foul, right?

Travis felt the opening scene was really, really solid, something that I certainly felt good about. It was the section I was most confident in. But we also both knew that middle would have to be adjusted. There's some good stuff in there but it needs to be structured a little different, we need to tweak one of the characters and the interaction needs to be adjusted (it's vague, I know).

After our analysis, Travis actually suggested that we sit down and each write separate 2nd drafts. We'd then see what parts work best and combine them. Thinking this was an interesting way of going about it (as you know, I'm all for interesting ways to write a script) I agreed. After all, it's a 16 page script, not a feature.

So, we spent he rest of the week writing our separate drafts. Travis, lacking the commitments of a wife and puppy, managed to finish his draft by Saturday. I needed until Monday night.

I actually spend a good amount of time last Thursday working on the opening scene. Though everyone agreed that it was very solid, I knew there was a conversation that would need to be expanded for shooting purposes, and I couldn't get myself to move on from the scene without trying to do so.

The scene features a philosophical discussion about Nietzsche (I know, I know but it's meant to play in the background of the action and it actually pertains to the theme of the short so bugger off). I don't know a whole lot about Nietzsche (I mostly slept through philosophy class in college but, honestly, I blame the teacher) and because of that, writing this two page scene required quite a bit of research. But in the process of doing so, I discovered a lot of really great things that not only confirmed Nietzsche as the correct choice for this discussion (I had originally chosen him because of one specific quote) but also gave me so much more ammo to play with in how what our characters are talking about, relates to the overall theme, the overall message, of the short.

Sometimes you can get too lost in the research (as Tarantino reportedly did, early on, with Inglourious Basterds) and for a very short time, I did. The research should support the writing but it's not a replacement for it. What you'll find in your research is not drama and drama is what we're writing.

I rewrote the rest of the script on Monday and, that night, Travis and I exchanged drafts, which we in turn, each read on Tuesday.

Tuesday night, we got together, went through both drafts, talked about what we liked, what we didn't like, new ideas that came out of each version.

And now, Travis will be going through the two versions and combining them into a Super 3rd Draft, which will then become the single document we'll work off of from now on. It was an interesting way to get there but the point is we got there.

We'll give this draft to our manager for the weekend, get his notes next week, do another pass, then give it out to a few close readers to get their reaction and then go from there. Depending on the solidity of the draft following our managers notes, we may be at a point to begin pre-production.

We'll need to start breaking down the script, come up with a budget, scout locations and start approaching talent.

My goal is to shoot this in October or November. If it doesn't happen then, I may have to wait until spring because, while Los Angeles is the land of sunshine, our winters haven't been that great recently. Plus, the majority of the script takes place near sundown and, well, we'd like to have as much sun as possible.

So, we'll see where we stand next week.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

3Questions: Jack Campbell - International Sales Agent

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Jack Campbell, President of International Sales at Spotlight Pictures, located here in Hollywood, CA.

He's responsible for "licensing feature films and documentaries to distributors, brokers, and television channels/networks worldwide. Basically, producer’s need the services of a company like ours in order to get their films sold on a global scale. We structure deals with video distributors, theatrical distributors, other sales agents/brokers, television channels and networks and license films for a specific period of time in exchange for a monetary sum. Our job is to get the best deal possible for the producer. These deals come from long-term relationships with buyers worldwide."

HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?

JC: Growing up as a kid, I was always interested in the entertainment industry. In middle school, I was in my first play,
The Sound of Music and throughout high school and college I was always part of the theatre and music programs, singing and performing in their respective show choirs, touring as far as Russia and around the western United States.

While living abroad in college, I decided that “life is too short” to not take some chances, so after graduation, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career. After that floundered for about 2 years, I decided that the acting side of the business wasn’t for me and moved to Las Vegas. While working at a restaurant and going back to school for digital video editing and production, I met an independent producer/sales agent who gave me an intern position with his company. After a few days of working with them, I was offered a full time job.

After working for a year with this small company, I ended up moving to New York City to take on a job with the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival, IFQ Magazine and ITN Distribution. This was a small operation but was able to give me some legs to take my career to the next level. After working with ITN for two years, I was offered a job by the US Home Video distributor, Maverick Entertainment. They hired me to implement and run a foreign sales division, Maverick Global. I worked there for three great years after finally moving to Los Angeles in September of 2008 to take my current position of President of International Sales at Spotlight Pictures.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

JC: I suppose the biggest challenge that I’
ve faced to date is the overall decline of our industry and having to find a way to reinvent our company in order to just stay in business. The global market is changing at such a dramatic rate for independent feature films right now, everyone is scrambling to figure out where the next revenue streams are going to come from. It’s a problem that we’re dealing with on a daily basis and although VOD is the wave of the future, it’s time has yet to come. Replacing the home video/DVD boom is going to be a long, arduous task for all sales agents and distributors and we have to find creative and innovative ways to get the stories told and exploited in order to recoup investments for producers. It's a very difficult and challenging time right now.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

JC: It’s extremely important that any young person understands technology and the ever changing buying/viewing trends of the general public. The kids are changing the way films are screened and it’s important to have a finger on that pulse. Film rentals and buys are down, as there has been a major shift to consumers now watching reality programming, people are just not watching as many feature films as they had in the past.

More directly, I’d advise them to go to their local video store (if there even is one anymore), take a look at some of the distribution companies who are still releasing product, contact their human resources department and try to get their foot in the door as an intern, work hard and hopefully be able to gain employment thereafter. There are no schools who teach film distribution and sales as a career; it’s more of a “who do you know” type of career.

You can also attend film and video festivals, film markets and get your name and face out there as a person who can be depended on and who is known for a professional demeanor. I'd also advise them to try and get a job working on a film set or television show, in whatever capacity they can. Once you prove yourself as a dependable worker, the doors will start to open up for you.