Flogging the Blog

Did you miss me? Probably not. With the incessant barrage of Tweets, Facebook posts, Linked In messages, etc., blogs like this one are slowly fading away. I used to bookmark lots of bloggers, while maintaining three separate blogs of my own (one for the daily newspaper in Hawaii to promote my Career Changers TV show and another about public beach access issues in the islands). But I have little time these days to dash off pithy dispatches to feed the social media machine, or follow blogs that continue to churn out stuff worth reading.  So why bother, you ask?

When I first started Squashed Gecko about four years ago, the intent was to share my personal stories of frustration and failure in screenwriting as a motivational tool for myself. It was like the Alcoholics Anonymous approach to self-help: you get better by sharing your experiences with others. Paradoxically, the more you give, the more you get in return. Call it karma. And some of the online connections I’ve made here, have indeed helped me keep writing through those rough patches where you want to give up.

Yet there’s another reason I have recounted stories of semi-success and near misses: self-promotion. Once in awhile, you hear about an unknown writer like Diablo Cody or the woman who wrote the book “Julie & Julia” (which became a Nora Ephron movie starring Meryl Streep) being discovered through their blogs… and you think, hmm, why not give it a shot? Drop some names, find an angle, maybe Google will be your magic link to the Big Time.

Well, it almost happened for me. I alluded to being contacted by a famous producer some time ago through Facebook, but withheld the name since I didn’t want to jeopardize any potential deal. That contact never panned out, so I have nothing to lose by naming names now. It was Don Murphy — yeah, THAT Don Murphy (produced TRANSFORMERS, REAL STEEL), whose first major credit was NATURAL BORN KILLERS after he and his producer partner picked up one of Quentin Tarantino’s first scripts out of a pile that was lying around the house.

My connection is I was repped by QT’s original manager, Cathryn Jaymes, after he ditched her and signed with WMA. Long story short, Don admired CJ and wrote a nice eulogy to her when she passed away. I wrote my own piece about her and linked it to his blog… which is how I think Don found my post. He was probably Googling reactions to Cathryn’s death or his own blog. My post was about how CJ first contacted me to request a script I wrote about the mythical little people of Hawaii called the Menehune (I used an equery service that sent my pitch to thousands of agents, managers and prodcos). She loved it and asked to see more of my scripts.

So Don was curious I guess, and via Facebook sent me a personal message: “May I read your Menehune script?” That was it, along with his email address. Ironically, I was working on a script at the time that was similar to REAL STEEL with a couple of twists, for a friend who was working as Eddie Murphy’s personal assistant… and I’m thinking, holy crap, what if Don likes the Menehunes script? Maybe I can slip him the girl/mech fighters twist on REAL STEEL too!

I tried to play it cool though, and sent the Menehunes pdf with a short email saying I liked what he wrote about CJ in his blog. No response. Waited a couple of weeks… still, nada. Sent a short follow-up email asking if he had received the script. Nothing. I understand he’s a busy man, but the least he could do was simply acknowledge he got it, read it, passed or whatever. It takes what, five seconds to do that? When these people who request your script won’t respond, it winds up being even more of a time waster for everyone. Believe me, I don’t want to pester people with follow-ups — but I’ve also encountered situations where someone said they didn’t get an email or script, and asked me to resend it after a follow-up.

Anyhow, I presumed his passive-aggressive lack of response was a “soft pass” and figured I’d take another shot just to see if he was checking that email account. I sent a short email saying: Amish horror. Easter. “The Blair Witch” meets “The Village”… you know you want to read this. Attached was my SNALLYGASTER creature feature script (btw, that spec was a Top 50 Amazon Studios contest semifinalist — twice).

A few minutes later, I get his reply: Do I know you? Where did you get this email from?

Before I could even explain that he had contacted me first about the Menehunes script, he sent another email: Never mind. I figured it out and fixed it.

By which he meant he had blocked me from sending him any more emails, I surmise, and un-friending me on Facebook. Oh, well. At least I know he was getting his emails. Still, he could have just said the Menehunes script was a pass and I would have let it go at that. I can laugh about that Unsocial Media exchange now, but it just goes to show you never know who may be lurking on your blog or other blog sites you visit.

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INDUSTRY INSIDER CONTEST UPDATE

I also blog to help myself get over the latest rejection or near miss. As it happens, I did not win the Sheldon Turner round of the Industry Insider contest (see last two posts for background and details). It was a great experience, however, and the Writers Store story specialist/script coach really did give me valuable tips that will make me a better writer. From the first phone session until the last, he reminded me how tough screenwriting is and said I should consider making the Top 10 finalists a win in itself since I was getting the weekly notes/feedback for free. He also noted that some of the prior winners did not score major Hollywood deals, so winning was no guarantee of a breakthrough either.

This one hurt though. I put everything I had into this script, and thought I had come up with unique twists that Sheldon himself would be impressed with… if he got a chance to read it. I tend to do better with produced screenwriters as judges than consultants or paid readers because I think pros look for unusual concepts or big ideas, and don’t get so caught up in the technical details that readers/consultants like to dwell on.

My only criticism of the contest was that we didn’t get any feedback on our final drafts. Just a short condolence email saying we were not the winner. For our first draft, they gave us coverage style notes with an interesting chart that showed the reader’s “emotional response” throughout the script. The reader gave my rough draft a “consider” despite pointing out major flaws in the plot. I spent the next two weeks rewriting to address the notes, and felt it was much stronger. However, the Writers Store didn’t tell us who read the Top 10 finalist scripts or give us any indication of how we ranked in the end analysis. Not that it matters much in winner-takes-all type contests.

I’ve been a Top 10 finalist in over a dozen different contests, and came in second or third in four of those, but never grabbed the top prize. I suppose there’s some consolation in knowing that each time, there were nine of us who felt the same way — close, but no victory cigar. It’s bittersweet. All you can do is keep writing, keep trying, keep hoping that the next time you’ll come out on top. But it gets harder and harder to even make the finals cut because the competition keeps improving too.

The Writers Store announced that in the next Industry Insider round, which offers three loglines to choose from, all ten finalist scripts will be read by execs from 15 different companies — some of them being major players. If only that had been the case for me in their last contest!  Here’s the link to that contest, which I highly recommend… even though I lost. Again.

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2 Comments on “Flogging the Blog”


  1. You’ll do it yet and then your story will be an inspiration for others. I go through spells where I feel totally forgotten by agents who have asked to see my work. I know I can’t count on any of them accepting me, so just keep sending out queries — even if I sometimes wonder if they are actually landing anywhere.


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