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Update: The 10 Quest Initiative Finalists!

If you are interested in learning the identities of the finalists for The Quest Initiative, hit MORE.

I made the choices based on the quality of each logline, my sense of the commercial viability of a script based on the story concept, as well as some other considerations including trying to get a balance of genres for the group, avoiding similarities in general subject areas, and so on. Here are the finalists:

Jordan Austin
Matzenbach, Germany

Waka Brown
West Linn, Oregon

Christian Fontenot
Seattle, Washington

Earl Hardy
Southfield, Michigan

Summer Johnson
Simpsonville, South Carolina

Troy Warren Klith
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sandra Leviton
Santa Monica, California

Miranda Sajdak
Los Angeles, California

Barbara Thomas
Garland, Texas

Paul Wie
Fullerton, California

K. Nicole Williams
Winchester, Virginia

You will notice there are 11 writers. Sandra and Miranda are a writing duo.

Here is the schedule related to The Quest Initiative:

June 22: Information due from first round writers.

June 24: Emails to writers to set up phone call interviews.

June 25-June 28: Interviews.

July 3: Contact the Questers.

July 8: Announce the Questers.

July 15: The Quest begins! Core [Theory]: 8 weeks.

September 9: Prep: 6 weeks.

October 21: Pages: 10 weeks.

December 29: The Quest ends!

Because I know people will ask, I will not release the winning loglines to the public. If you stop and think about it, you will see that it makes zero sense to publicize them now. This blog gets a lot of traffic. There are many people in Hollywood who follow it. And there are tons of writers who visit the site. Who’s to say if I made public those loglines, someone wouldn’t grab one of the ideas, knock out a script and get it to market before the writer who originated it?

Is it likely someone would do that? No. Is it possible. Yes. What if that idea turned out to be worth millions of dollars and the original writer who came up with it got stiffed? As Max Millimeter might say, “That would suck balls.”

Now as I have indicated elsewhere, I do think I can provide some thoughts and analysis in a general way about the loglines in aggregate, as there were some intriguing trends in terms of genres and subject areas, and some aspects of logline-writing we can explore to improve everyone’s skills there. I will do that at some point in the next several weeks.

But I am not going to make public any of the loglines that were submitted for “The Quest” for the reasons I noted above.

In the meantime, start getting geared up for Go On Your Own Quest, your chance to go through the same time-frame as the Questers. While you won’t be privy to those lectures, discussions and mentoring, I will be uploading daily posts tied to where we are in the process, first Core, then Prep, then Pages.

There were dozens of writers who knocked out spec scripts last year using GOYOQ as a way to motivate them. In fact, The Black Board arose from GITS readers who were looking for a community within which to share that experience.

This year promises to be even better because The Black Board has a much larger and more active membership than 12 months ago. So if you haven’t yet joined this terrific free resource, the Official Online Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, why not do that now?

Go here for more information about The Black Board.

Onward and upward!

“Nothing succeeds like failure”

I want to continue to consider The Quest Initiative, specifically how to process the experience of not getting selected for it. I started into it with this post yesterday, the thrust of which is two points:

* I have been wrong before, so if I didn’t pick your story, use that as motivation: Write it, sell it and prove me wrong!

* If you are really passionate about your story, even if I didn’t select it, then write it. Ultimately creativity is about the relationship you have with your stories, so don’t be deterred, go for it.

I had planned on following up on that post because as I suggested yesterday as screenwriters we have to learn how to handle the losses and let-downs. Why? That is a constant dynamic in a professional screenwriter’s life.

Then lo and behold, The Fifth Ape posted this in comments:

First: Scott – You remain an absolute star.

Second: Here’s an interesting way of looking at the “failure” of not getting through:

There is a fantastic article about luck and how some people are luckier than others – This is not some karmic power that surges through the universe – it is simply that “lucky” people tend to do more, try more and are more open to opportunities.

This also means that they FAIL more too…
A “lucky” person will try 100 things this month, 10 will come off. They will fail 90 times.

An “unlucky” person will try 10 things this month, 1 will come off. They will only fail 9 times.

When we look at the first of these people we are inclined to say “lucky bastard”

We have to be open to enter things like this. All the time. If we enter more, we will fail more, but ultimately it might lead to something GREAT.

It’s a pretty long article – but well worth it:

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2013/05/23/survivorship-bias/

Now let’s get out there and make our own luck!

The Fifth Ape

The article is a good read as it uses logic to re-frame the perception of failure. Instead of thinking about it as… you know… failure, we should instead look at it as one more step toward success.

If, as The Fifth Ape suggests, the more times we fail, the more times we succeed, then instead of looking at failure as a negative, we can benefit by embracing it as a positive.

And that doesn’t even pull into consideration what we can learn from our failures.

As I was writing this, I was reminded of my high school tennis coach. I can only remember three things about him: his ruddy face, his buzzcut hair, and something he used to say quite often to us:

“Nothing succeeds like failure.”

I always thought that was the damnedest thing to say to a sports team. What, so you want us to fail? In retrospect, I think he was trying to plant a seed in us for our lives down the road, knowing that we would face inevitable failures, and recast how we might experience that.

And as I was strolling down that particular corner of Memory Lane, it occurred to me to see what other coaches and sports figures had to say about the subject. After all, a baseball player who fails to get a hit 7 out of 10 times at the plate can make the Hall of Fame which means by default they deal with a lot of failure. Here are a few choice quotes:

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
– John Wooden

I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.
– Michael Jordan

About the only problem with success is that it does not teach you how to deal with failure.
– Tommy Lasorda

The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.
– Vince Lombardi

So give that article cited above a read. Feel free to jot down any of the quotes as motivational tools. Or just determine to write that spec script to prove Scott Myers wrong.

Whatever it takes.

Because finding the courage and commitment to write is not only the only way to make things happen to further your career…

It’s also where the real glory is, that existential act of embracing your creativity and against all odds making something out of nothing.

I welcome your comments and any other resources you may have in this regard.

Onward and upward!

Update: The Quest Initiative

After reviewing over 2,000 loglines that were submitted by nearly 1,000 writers for The Quest Initiative, I have whittled it down to 10 finalists. Starting right now, I will be sending emails to those 10 writers to begin the interview process. Assuming they are all interested in going forward, I will post their names here on Friday, June 21.

There are perhaps about 30 loglines I put onto a preliminary list. In addition, there are others who showed some promising creative instincts — for example, three good loglines, but not a great oneso I am making a list of those writers and may very well reach out to them once this entire Quest Initiative process plays itself out.

So if you do not receive an email today, I may still contact you.

Bottom line: I am moving forward toward selecting — hopefully — four writers to do The Quest beginning Monday, July 15.

BIG NOTE: I HAVE BEEN WRONG BEFORE!!!

Many, many times. So if you fail to receive an email from me, that does not necessarily mean your ideas aren’t good. As I have indicated all along, I set my standards of assessment re your loglines extremely high. Indeed that is what led to me inviting Max Millimeter to advise me in this process, I needed his hard-ass voice to remind me we’re looking for stories that can compete against the best ideas and scripts in Hollywood.

Which means you may have a solid story concept, even if I don’t contact you.

Moreover there is always the opportunity for you to Go On Your Own Quest [which you can read about at the end of this post here], so you can write a script, sell it for big bucks, and come back to laugh at me for not selecting you.

So if you don’t hear from me, do not feel bad. Rather use the experience to get motivated. Prepare to Go On Your Own Quest and write that damn script! Come up with more and better story concepts! Read scripts! Watch movies! Become better at the craft!

Congratulations to the 10 finalists. I will be emailing you starting now.

Here is the schedule related to The Quest Initiative:

June 19: I will email those of you who make the first cut. That will be determined strictly on the merits of your story concept and execution of your logline. Those writers will need to provide information including a writing resume [basically your background and history as a writer], story synopsis [if you have fleshed out anything more of your logline], writing sample [screenplay or screenplay excerpt, short story, novel excerpt], bio, plus a brief questionnaire.

June 21: Announce the finalists.

June 22: Information due from finalists.

June 24: Emails to writers to set up phone call interviews with me.

June 25-June 28: Interviews.

July 3: Contact the Questers.

July 8: Announce the Questers.

July 15: The Quest begins! Core [Theory]: 8 weeks.

September 9: Prep: 6 weeks.

October 21: Pages: 10 weeks.

December 29: The Quest ends!

For background on The Quest, go here and here.

UPDATE: I’m taking the liberty of posting some inspirational words from Natalie Peluso, something she uploaded at The Black Board:

Aw come on guys! The Quest would be amazingballs but isn’t the whole point of what we’re doing to write our scripts and be as prolific as we can be, regardless? I was grateful to have an opportunity to submit – but I was even more grateful for the kick in the pants to remind myself that the power to declare myself a ‘screenwriter’ is mine. 

I know from doing the Prep class with Tom that the greatest value from The Quest for me personally would be constant driving for progress and pages from Scott and my peers – the deadlines, the expectation. It’s all too easy to drift off without deadlines and sit on my hands instead of moving them vaguely near a keyboard. But I can demand these deadlines from myself, right?

I live in Brisbane with four children under 9. I feel so distant from Hollywood and the business and the networking that often I wonder whether my passion for screenwriting is a deep childish flaw, and perhaps I should just grow up. But who else is going to believe in me if I don’t?

For so many of us The Quest is more than a chance to finish a script, it’s validation. And as a performer for many years, I discovered that validation can only come from inside. No matter how many audiences applauded me or handed me flowers.

And if we’re really, truly writers – all of us – then that validation is ours for the taking! We should all just consider ourselves Questers as of today and declare ourselves successful simply for having the discipline and persistence to get the words out and on to paper.

Sending huge vibes of inspiration and chocolate-flavoured awesomeness to all of you! Good luck everyone for tomorrow – but even more luck for all the great stories waiting for us – finished! – at the end of the year. :)

Now that is the spirit, Natalie! And to everyone of you who I did not select for The Quest Initiative, I am summoning up a special brilliant batch of creative juju. It’s on this winding road right here:

You may not be able to see it right now, but trust me… set your foot on that path. Take a step. Another. And another. It is waiting for you. It may take awhile to find just the right blend of idea, plot, genre, time and energy, but if you persist and keep on the journey, you will find what you are meant to find. And along the way, that creative juju will be there… to help you go into your stories and find the animals.

Onward and upward!

Update: The Quest Initiative

I have gone through all of the loglines submitted for The Quest Initiative, each and every single one of them. I didn’t count them as that would have slowed down my process considerably, but since most people included 2 or more loglines, my guess is the total tops 2,000.

What was it like reviewing 2,000+ loglines in a 72 hour period? I had a mix of emotions:

* Exhaustion: It’s a lot of work. But in a very real way, I think this condensed time-frame approach is the appropriate one because it really highlights the importance of what I am looking for: A strong story concept, one with a central conceit that jumps out of the crowd and hooks me right away. That’s important because I believe that’s what Hollywood buyers are looking for in a spec script [along with great writing, execution, etc].

* Surprise: There were some recurring themes and motifs that kept popping up. I’ll get into that in a future post after the dust has settled, but some of you were clearly on similar tracks in terms of story concepts.

* Impressed: I’d say on the whole, the quality of the loglines — speaking strictly about how they were constructed — was a notch above last year, so evidently folks have been doing their homework.

* Frustration: And yet a well-constructed logline does not necessarily translate into a winning story idea. While many submissions had some resemblance to what I could possibly conceive of as a movie, many did not. As Max Millimeter kept saying, “You cannot put fucking lipstick on a fucking pig.”

So the experience was a mixed bag. But I couldn’t help but come away from it with a sense of admiration that so many people are spending their time thinking creatively and having the courage to expose that creativity to someone else’s scrutiny.

Speaking of Max, he was a constant annoyance, hovering over my shoulder, spewing his creative vitriol at one logline after another, and yet his presence kept me locked on target in this review process. It is incredibly hard to set up a project in Hollywood, let alone get a movie made. He kept reminding me, “Ya’ wanna play with the big boys, ya’ gotta bring the high heat. The. High. Heat!”

What’s the hook? How would I sum up this story in 6 words? What’s the one thing about this logline that will get someone’s attention? Why is this a movie? Who is the audience? Is there an audience for this story? Can I really envision this opening on 3,000 screens? Do I really think millions of consumers will commit their own time and money to watch this story?

Those are the questions that kept rolling through my head as I went through 2,000+ loglines.

As a result, I have come up with a preliminary list of loglines submitted for The Quest Initiative which strike me as having potential based on the criteria I laid out multiple times in the run-up to the submissions period: Strong commercial, character-driven high-concepts with a focus on Action, Comedy, Thriller genres.

How many made that list? Again since I don’t know the actual total of loglines submitted, I’d have to guess, but I’d say we’re looking at 1%.

I am reviewing each logline on the list and will go through that series of questions noted above. I’m looking for High Heat, the best, most marketable story concepts. Based on that, I will end up with a list of writers who I will contact per the schedule below.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: A vast majority of people who submitted loglines did not make this initial short list. The dull virtual silence of not getting an email from me on Wednesday will likely sting.

Part of this reality is due to the fact I am only targeting 4 writers maximum for The Quest Initiative. Short of someone finding a way to give me 36 hours in a day, I simply cannot take on any more Questers for free.

There’s also this: What I’m looking for in a story may not reflect what you’re looking for in a story. Your creative take on things could just be different than mine. What’s more, I could end up being flat-out wrong.

Still I understand there will be disappointed writers out there.

How to respond? Well, I would suggest you consider this part of the learning experience. Professional writers deal with disappointment — a lot. There’s not a writer in Hollywood, I suspect, who hasn’t been rewritten by another writer. There’s not a writer in Hollywood who hasn’t lost out on a writing assignment. Most of us have worked up pitches that didn’t sell. Written a pilot script or even produced pilot that didn’t get picked up. Had a movie released that underperformed or even bombed.

This kind of thing happens all the time.

The key question for any writer is how will s/he deal with that disappointment?

That’s the beauty of being a writer. Unlike actors or directors who, if something falls through, have to scurry around looking for another gig, writers can initiate a project. We can be proactive.

We can write.

Bottom line, if you don’t get selected and you truly believe in your story, then I encourage you to write it. If you need extra motivation, how about this: Prove me wrong! While I’d likely kick myself for not selecting your idea — my own disappointment! — nothing would make me happier than to see you pound out a spec script, get representation, and sell that baby.

I mean that in all honesty.

To that end as discussed previously, I will be providing a structure to facilitate you writing your next spec script, something that arose last year called Go On Your Own Quest. More details as we approach the July 15 start date.

Here is the schedule related to The Quest Initiative:

June 19: I will email those of you who make the first cut. That will be determined strictly on the merits of your story concept and execution of your logline. Those writers will need to provide information including a writing resume [basically your background and history as a writer], story synopsis [if you have fleshed out anything more of your logline], writing sample [screenplay or screenplay excerpt, short story, novel excerpt], bio, plus a brief questionnaire.

June 22: Information due from first round writers.

June 24: Emails to writers who make the second round to set up phone call interviews with me.

June 25-June 28: Interviews.

July 3: Contact the Questers.

July 8: Announce the Questers.

July 15: The Quest begins! Core [Theory]: 8 weeks.

September 9: Prep: 6 weeks.

October 21: Pages: 10 weeks.

December 29: The Quest ends!

Finally let me thank each of you who submitted loglines for The Quest Initiative. Yes, it was hard work for me, but I knew as I was going through your story ideas, they represented hard work from you. The fact you did that and considered me as someone you would deem worthy of considering your loglines, and potentially work with as a mentor was a humbling experience.

For me, this all goes back to January 1987,  when I was a Hollywood outsider. I had no formal training in screenwriting. All I had was a lifelong love of movies, a passion to learn the craft, three spec scripts I had written including one called K-9.

I have never forgotten those feelings and that state of mind, outside looking into Hollywood

That’s one big reason why I started this blog to give a point of contact online for aspiring screenwriters.

It’s also a chief consideration why I created The Quest to provide a coherent, comprehensive, character-based approach to screenwriting that grounded writers in both professional theory and practice.

I want to see more writers succeed and better movies in theaters.

I want to do whatever small thing I can to provide another path into Hollywood.

That’s what The Quest Initiative is all about.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted loglines.

Onward and upward!