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The Quest Initiative: Day 10

The submission period for The Quest Initiative runs from May 22-June 8. Each day I will provide an update.

Today: Marks the 10th day of submissions for The Quest Initiative. Number of entrants: 295. Number of loglines [estimated]: 550-575.

Question of the day: If I get selected for The Quest Initiative, what sort of time commitment should I be expected to make?

Answer: It depends on how fast you read [with comprehension], and how focused you can think and write. The Quest itself lasts 24 weeks: Core (8 weeks), Prep (6 weeks), Pages (10 weeks). Generally you can figure this:

Core: 10 hours per week.

Prep: 10-15 hours per week.

Pages: 10-15 hours per week.

While the focus will be on your own story and writing, part of your responsibility will be to read and critique your fellow Questers’ ideas and pages. This workshop experience will not only help each of your stories as you develop and write them, it will also force you to use your critical analytical skills. This is a huge part of what we do as professional screenwriters: Assess story problems, then brainstorm and articulate possible solutions. At the end of the day, a screenwriter is a problem-solver, so your ability to analyze stories is important. You will do that each week in The Quest, so you will have to figure that into your time commitment.

Tip of the day: We can look at a screenplay universe as being comprised of two parts:

* External World: This is the physical universe in which characters live.

* Internal World: This is the psychological universe of the characters’ emotional journey.

But there is a third dynamic at play: moral and/or philosophical issues often in the form of Big Questions:

In The Wizard of Oz, will Dorothy find her home?

In The Apartment, will Baxter find success, but lose his soul?

In The Godfather, will Michael become like his father?

In Star Wars: A New Hope, will Luke become what he’s meant to be: Jedi warrior?

In Groundhog Day, will Phil manage to live one authentic day?

In The Shawshank Redemption, will Andy find freedom and will Red embrace hope over despair?

In Little Miss Sunshine, will Richard, Frank and Dwayne sort out the meaning of ‘success’ and ‘failure’?

Stories have things going on in External World and the Internal World. But good stories are always about something, posing significant questions that play throughout the narrative, and typically only resolved by the very end.

So as you consider your loglines, ask this: What potential does this story have in terms of moral or philosophical concerns? Are there any Big Questions at work here?

If you have a great story idea, one that has compelling philosophical stakes, why not submit it for The Quest Initiative?

For specifics on how to submit loglines and general background, hit more.

Here are the essential bullet points you need to steer you through the process of submitting your loglines for consideration:

* What is the submission period? 12:01AM [Pacific / U.S.], Wednesday, May 22 – 11:59PM [Pacific / U.S.], Sunday, June 8.

* What is the email address? thequestinitiative at gmail dot com. This is the only email address at which I will accept submissions.

* How many loglines may I submit? A total of three [3].

* If I am submitting multiple loglines [2 or 3], how should I submit them? In the subject heading write QUEST LOGLINES and send them all in one email.

* What information should I provide with my submission? The following:

– Subject heading: QUEST LOGLINE / QUEST LOGLINES

Then in the body of the email:

– Story title [if you have one]

– Genre [if you know it]

– Logline

That is it. No biographies. No additional information about the story.

* What type of stories are you looking for? The following:

– Action, Comedy, Thriller [what I am most interested in]

– Drama, Family, Horror [what I am also interested in]

* What type of stories are you not looking for? The following:

– Huge big budget science fiction, fantasy or epic period pieces.

– Obscure independent movies [as much as I love them].

IN OTHER WORDS, I AM MOST INTERESTED IN LOW-TO-MEDIUM BUDGET MAINSTREAM COMMERCIAL MOVIES WITH STRONG MARKETABLE HIGH CONCEPTS.

* If I am a member of the Writers Guild of America or an international equivalent, may I submit a logline? No. I created The Quest Initiative with the goal of opening an alternate doorway into Hollywood for those outside the system.

* Do I have to have an extensive background in screenwriting to apply? No. While it is helpful if you have written at least 2 or 3 scripts, The Quest takes participants through a unique character-based approach to screenwriting that will transform whatever knowledge or practices you have re the craft.

* Is there any cost if I get selected for The Quest Initiative? No. The Quest Initiative is free.

For more background, read on:

What you need to know about “The Quest Initiative”

Cost: Free.

How many participants: Up to 4.

Who may apply: Any aspiring screenwriter who is not a member of the WGA or equivalent professional writing organization. Writers do not have to live in Los Angeles, and may be located in the United States or internationally based. Writers may be any age, gender, race, etc.

When will the workshop run: July 15-December 29, 2013.

How will I determine who gets accepted: There are three key standards. (1) Story concept: I am looking for strong story concepts that I believe when executed as a script can get set up as projects in Hollywood. In other words, I am almost exclusively interested in commercial high concepts. I will make exceptions if the story elements make me think the project is a marketable one, but the concept has to be extremely strong if it is not high concept. (2) Writing ability: I will ask applicants who make it past the first cut to send me a sample of their writing, as well as a detailed description of their background as a writer and a statement about why they want to be a screenwriter. (3) Personal interview: I will have a one-on-one conversation with applicants who make it past the next cut in order to assemble a group I feel will be compatible with each other.

How do you apply: A simple email with the word “Quest Logline” in the subject line, then a logline of your story in the text. If you have a title, please post that. If the genre of the story is not clear from the logline, you may include the genre.

When may you apply: I will be accepting loglines from May 22 through June 8, 2013. You may send them to me at: thequestinitiative at gmail dot com.

NOTE: THIS IS THE ONLY EMAIL ADDRESS YOU SHOULD USE!!!

If you are selected as one of The Quest participants, you must be willing to do the following three things:

1. You have to commit yourself fully to the workshop. That means active participation in constructive criticism and feedback, all writing exercises and assignments, and most importantly pledge you will finish the first draft of your original screenplay.

2. You have to write a weekly journal entry about your experiences in the workshop. As part of The Quest Initiative, I will be doing something akin to reality programming in that each week, I will post something on GITS about the group’s progress including excerpts from your journals. This is a great way for the GITS community to track how you are doing, something of what you are learning, see the ups and downs of the writing process, and so on.

3. If you write a script I believe has strong marketable potential, I have the right to attach myself as an executive producer. At that point, I will take you on into rewrites and we will officially be in producer-to-writer mode. Once your script is finished, I will take the lead in getting it to managers and agents, and try to get the project set up and you established in Hollywood.

You may only submit a total of three [3] loglines!

Last year some folks sent me dozens of loglines. As a result, I ended up reviewing over 3500 loglines. An overwhelming majority of them were not – in my opinion – commercially viable.

So if you are serious about wanting to have a chance to participate in The Quest, I encourage you — with extreme prejudice! — to raise your game. Give me your best shot. That means you have to set the bar high for what you submit to me. You need to ask: Is this really a movie? Can this story concept compete with what is currently out in theaters? Is this something I think Scott will respond to?

Here are genres I am most interested in reading: Action, Comedy, Thriller. Second tier: Drama, Family, Horror.

Cross genres like Action-Thriller, Drama-Comedy, Action-Comedy, those are fine, too.

Here are genres that will be tough sells: Fantasy, Science Fiction.

I love Fantasy and Science Fiction, but if you submit an idea that requires massive and complex world-building along with huge CGI requirements, I’m not in a position to do anything with that.

That said, if you have a truly great story idea that is either Fantasy or Science Fiction and it is low-to-mid-budget, that might work. A big idea with a contained environment like Moon, something along those lines.

Will I offer a free class for every entrant like I did last year? No!

I may be crazy, but I am not insane. There were 1500 entrants last year and a majority of them have received a free Core or Craft class through Screenwriting Master Class. It was a nice gesture on my part, but I simply don’t have the resources to make that offer again.

How should I submit my logline(s)?

In the subject heading of your email, just put QUEST LOGLINE or QUEST LOGLINES depending on if you are submitting one or more (NO MORE THAN 3!!!)

In the body of the email Title [if you have it], Genre [if you know it], Logline.

If you don’t have a title, that’s okay.

If you are not sure of the genre, take your best guess from the following: Action, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller.

If you have a cross-genre movie like an Action-Comedy or sub-genre movie like a Romantic Comedy, that’s fine. But if you put down: Action Comedy Mystery Adventure Contained Thriller? That suggests this story has not found itself yet.

If you have multiple loglines (remember: no more than three entries), please put them into one email.

Email your submission to: thequestinitiative at gmail dot com.

I WILL ONLY ACCEPT SUBMISSIONS AT THIS NEW EMAIL ADDRESS. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE NOTE THE ADDRESS AND USE IT TO MAKE MY LIFE EASIER!

Up to 4 writers will have what I believe to be an incredible opportunity, not only to write an original screenplay aided by other writers and myself, but also a chance to learn how to think and write like a professional. Because my goal with writers who go through The Quest is to educate and train them so they have the best shot possible not only at breaking into the business, but succeeding month after month, year after year. That’s one of my guiding principles with The Quest: solid screenwriting theory matched with solid screenwriting practice.

If you have any questions, please post them in comments.

Onward and upward!

OFFICIAL LOGLINE SUBMISSION PERIOD: MAY 22-JUNE 8, 2013.

EMAIL ADDRESS: thequestinitiative at gmail dot com. USE THIS ADDRESS ONLY TO SUBMIT YOUR LOGLINES FOR THE QUEST INITIATIVE!!!

Wanted: Black List interns!

A note from the Black List crew:

The Black List is seeking a few summer interns to work on projects ranging from building out data on the movie industry to helping catalog the Go Into the Story blog.

The position would be remote and flexible (and unpaid), so applicants wouldn’t need to relocate and could also continue other employment during the course of the internship. Preferably, interns would be able to receive school credit for the role. (These requirements vary by school, so check with your career services department. Generally, you’ll need to fill out a form or get a letter from your school.)

We believe this would be a great learning opportunity with regards to screenwriting and the film industry in general. We’re looking for people who feel comfortable thinking critically and giving their opinions.

If you’re interested, we’d love to get a better sense of who you are. Send us a PDF of your resume and a cover letter with at least one of the following:

  • In a paragraph, tell us what you think is the most useful website and why (excluding search engines).
  • Mount a defense for a movie that received a score under 30 on either Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic.
  • Explain to a five year old how the Dewey Decimal System and Google Search’s approaches differ in finding information.

Send these to terry@blcklst.com by June 10, 2013.

That person you’d be emailing is Terry Huang who I introduced here.

Great opportunity for a couple of motivated souls. Lots going on. See if you can be a part of it!

Interview: Chris Borrelli (2009 Black List) — Part 5

Christopher Borrelli, who wrote the 2007 Universal / Gold Circle horror thriller Whisper and co-wrote the 2009 Fox / WWE action film The Marine 2, sold the spec scripts “The Vatican Tapes” [Black List] to Lionsgate and Lakeshore in 2009, “Wake” to Hammer Films / Exclusive Media Group in 2010, and “Sad Jack” to Code Entertainment in 2011. In addition he has worked on the remake of Bad Influence for MGM, an adaptation of the French horror film ILS (“Them”) for Gold Circle, a live-action series “Necessary Evil” at the Cartoon Network with partners Jonathan Davis and Max Burnett, and has a blind deal at Focus / Rogue. In 2012, Chris adapted Joe Hill’s “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” for Mandalay Pictures.

In April 2013, “The Vatican Tapes” was greenlit for production with a July 15th start date. In May, Chris agreed to terms on the sale of another spec, the announcement is forthcoming.

Today in Part 5, Chris shares some insights into his approach to the craft of screenwriting:

Scott:  I’d like to ask some craft questions. You start your process with characters. How do you go about developing your characters? Any specific tips or tools you find yourself using regularly?

Chris:  Well, do you know the quote it’s always that either the times make the man or the man makes the times? To me it’s your character and it should be something you don’t have to think it thorough. You don’t have to be thinking this every moment you’re writing. In the beginning, your character should be the perfect character for the story you want to tell. By perfect, I mean he or she is challenged, he or she may have a skill that’s necessary so that they can succeed where others would fail.

Scott:  What about story concept? How do you develop story ideas.

Chris:  This is a challenge, because to me it’s really so much about the story. There’s a fair amount of really good screenwriters out there…there’s always a shortage of really good stories. But the more you train your brain to look for stories…to put two things together, that haven’t been put together before…to read up on articles…to do research in what’s coming out in science, or art, or looking back to stories from 1,000 years ago…myths, fairy‑tales.

The more knowledge you have, the more the stories will come. They’re still elusive. There’s not an easy answer for it, but you just get better and better at it. Right now I have a few stories I want to tell, and I’ve had times, even when I started to have success as a screenwriter, where I felt like I had no story to tell, and I had to search.

It’s frustrating, because you don’t feel you’re necessarily making process when you’re reading and searching for it.

It’s something you should always be doing, in my opinion. You should always be open to ideas and stories. I have an idea file. I look back over it and it’s 400 pages long of different ideas. I’ll try to put them together.

There are a lot of tricks to it. The number one thing I say to a writer is being open to different ideas. When something interests you, you write it down and maybe you go and look at it three months later, six months later.

Maybe there’s an angle on it you haven’t seen. Thinking about your favorite films, is there a way that you could take some of your favorite films and match them up with another kind of film?

I’m open to films that aren’t my favorite films. I’m interested in creature movies from the ’50s, if it has something there. I read a lot of short stories from the 1930s, some of them. It doesn’t matter to me.

I’m always searing for that idea and it’s a way of training your mind to be open to it. It’s not easy, but they will come.

Scott:  How important do you think the story concept is to the overall viability and commercial prospects of a spec script?

Chris:  I think it’s number one because it doesn’t mean it has to necessarily always be the most high concept idea ever. To me, it is about the story because otherwise, you have, no offense to anyone, but you have a writing sample. If you take it and move into it, it isn’t much of a story, but you put love into it, you put your character, you put great dialogue into it, that might get you a re‑write job, that’ll get you some meetings.

To me, to really sell something, I’m always thinking, what is the story, because the person behind the desk is thinking, what’s it about? The person who’s two years later going to see the movie, who’s not in our business, they’re asking their wife or their boyfriend, whatever, they’re saying, “What’s it about?”

That to me is the number one thing, and that’s what some of your time as a writer has to go to, is being open and searching, and sometimes it’s hard to search for something…it’s always hard to search for something where you don’t know what it is. But you’ve got to be open to it, and in some ways the ideas can find you.

Scott:  How about prep writing ‑ brainstorming, character development, plotting? How much time do you spend doing that, and which of the aspects to prep do you tend to devote the most time to?

Chris:  Well, that depends. Some of the actual writing actually happens when I actually write. I can be a little trigger‑happy to just start writing, but sometimes it works for me too. It kind of goes hand in hand. I won’t set out unless I have a general idea of the three‑act structure. If I’m working with somebody, they’ll have at least a three‑page, two‑, three‑page outline. At the same time, I’m taking a pitch out soon here, in the next week or two. It’s more than 20 minutes long. That’s what it has to be. I know it sounds very long. But with where we’re going, what we’re doing with it, people really want to hear essentially every detail of it. That’s not my favorite way to write, but sometimes it’s fine for a pitch.

I always think what the theme is, and I’m always thinking, what’s the emotion I’m trying to convey and get across, and what’s the fun of the movie? Even if it’s a dark horror movie, or sometimes in a drama, what’s the fun, what are the moments?

I have my own little system, and it’s a little goofy, but I have my $12 test, which is, whatever the price of a movie ticket is, is what my test is. I’m really trying to think about people spending money to go see this movie, that they get their money’s worth. It’s a funny, very basic way to do it, I realize, but that there are enough moments that either shock them, excite them, make them laugh, whatever the emotion you’re trying to get across, at the end of the movie, they’ll feel they get their money’s worth. As base as that sounds, it does help me and it is something I use.

Scott:  That’s so funny. I have my own test. I call it the Barcalounger test. Is this moment, this scene, this sequence or whatever, is this enough to motivate someone to get their ass off the Barcalounger, drive down to the theater, and actually see it?

Chris:  That’s great, I love that too…I love that too…absolutely. You know, a lot of writers think trailer, which I do too. I think of what the trailer’s going to be, but I don’t let any of that stuff cripple me, I don’t let any of that stuff stop me from wanting to write, and wanting to write what the basic story is. If my log line, for myself, is too sentences and not one, I don’t mind. I don’t really like execs that think that somehow it’s got to be exactly one, or two is too long. People fall for these hard and fast rules, and it can hinder you creatively.

I’m just open to what the story is, what the emotion is, how much fun is it, and the customer…are they going to get what they paid for, and is it going to be worth it to them?

Scott:  You mentioned theme…what do you mean by theme?

Chris:  I know there’s a very basic definition for it. For me, I would almost say, what am I trying to say? What am I trying to…and there is something I’m trying to say, in whatever I…and sometimes there’s multiple themes…one will stand out for me. But I keep it in mind as I write, and again, I love to work in genre, but I still will have that thing in the back of my head, of kind of say something about the characters, human condition, something we can relate to, and so I use it.

At the same time, I would agree in a lot of cases, if you don’t have a theme as you write, then you are writing blind. I think that is a fair statement. Sometimes the theme presents itself. Usually other themes present themselves as I write, and I’ve had a theme or two change as I write, but still become something I care about…I want to say.

That’s the jumping off point for me…something I care about…something I want to say.

Scott:  What about dialogue? What do you think are some of the keys for a writer to develop their ability writing dialogue?

Chris:  There are a couple of easy, quick ways, which is that basic idea that most of your characters have to have their own unique voice. So when you have that funny line you want to put in somewhere, and it doesn’t fit with one character, you shouldn’t be able to just change it to another character…they should sound different enough. But really, to me, dialogue, a little of it is an emotional, inherent thing. I like listening to people talk. I have a very funny family, and there are some gems I get out of them. I almost collect it sometimes and then I change it to fit my writing.

But for me, it’s just like an ear you have to have for dialogue, you should be listening and open. But the really, really quirky cool dialogue, you don’t need to do on your first pass. You really, again, you’re a screenwriter, so you’re really trying to get that story across. It’s OK to put in temp dialogue and then try to make it sound as cool as possible.

Except for like, for instance, Mamet might do, except for that, really, I’d say story is first and the dialogue serves the story. Not the other way around. I’ll see that, too, in younger writers, where they really wanted to put in some lines and they really want to have these scenes and they think this is funny or interesting or quirky or cool. But if it doesn’t serve the story, it’s just noise.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Chris provides more tips on the screenwriting craft.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Chris and ask any questions you may have.

Chris is repped by WME and DMG Entertainment.

Spec Script Sale: “The Asterisk”

Warner Bros. acquires action spec script “The Asterisk” written by Jordan Goldberg and Alex Paraskevas. From Deadline:

The studio’s keeping the logline quiet, but the spec is in the vein of Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop.

Article says Action, but the movies referenced are Action-Comedy. Anybody know any further details re this spec sale?

Writers are repped by UTA and Oasis Media Group.

By my count, this is the 43rd spec script sale in 2013.

There were 54 spec script sales year-to-date in 2012.