Posted tagged ‘screenwriting contests’

Eyes on the Prize

October 7, 2015

I’ve been swamped with video production work, and taking care of business before my trip to New Jersey for a high school reunion, followed by a week in NYC where my wife and I will be seeing four Broadway plays. Even though I’m accustomed to high hotel prices since we live in Hawaii, I was surprised just how much it would cost us to stay in Manhattan (over $2,000 for six nights). Plus, we were paying premium prices for the theater tickets because I figured if we were going all that way, might as well get the best seats possible instead of trying to save a few bucks and sitting further back.

In any event, I should be excited about seeing old friends from NJ and my days in New York, but the truth is I was in a funk the past couple of months. After writing what I felt was some of my best stuff ever, I was disappointed when my screenplays didn’t advance in the big contests. On top of that, I had applied to a Hawaii-based accelerator program that is supposed to help develop local TV and film projects, and thought I had a very good chance to get in. I expected to be one of the chosen few… forgetting a zen saying I keep repeating to myself: When you cease expecting, you have all things.

Easier said than done! I suspect that if you are reading this blog, you are a writer and probably competitive by nature. Why else would you care what another struggling wannabe screenwriter has to say? Rather than dwell on my personal disappointments, however, I would like to share the positives that came out of my latest setbacks. Maybe it will help you deal with future rejections and close-but-no-cigar outcomes. In the past year alone, I’ve had three scripts get a fair amount of attention from producers and managers, who shopped them around — but no deals.

Anyhow, after I got the impersonal losers email about the Hawaii accelerator snub, I sulked a bit. Then I decided to play catch up on my journals. Each day I scrawl a couple of lines in a notebook to summarize highlights or low points of the day, just to keep track of my progress (or lack of it). When something significant happens or I have some down time, I transcribe my jotted notes to my computer journal entries. A funny thing happened though when I started typing up what I’ve been doing the past two months… I saw that I had actually accomplished a lot and should have been happy instead of fretting about what might have been.

For my monthly half-hour Career Changers TV show, which airs daily on Oceanic Time Warner cable in Hawaii, I had gotten to interview two Olympic gold medal ice skating champions (Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, who had a TV cooking show and remodeling show as well) for a paid gig to produce videos about a benefit show they’re doing to help early childhood literacy programs; a week later, I was doing a story on a company started by a talented singer that offers Storybook princesses and superheroes for customized party packages; a couple of nights after that we were shooting a pro wrestling match for a segment about a local actor who runs the wrestling league while managing a self storage facility during the day; and I produced segments about energy and agriculture-related startup companies that are using innovative approaches to help make our world a greener, better place. At the same time, I was getting calls left and right from companies asking me to produce new videos and commercials for them.

Yet all I could think about was what I didn’t achieve or get because the dream of being a successful writer seems so much more glamorous and rewarding than being a mere video producer or copywriter for local commercials. What’s ironic is that the more productive I’ve become on the local level, the more rich and famous people I’ve gotten to meet and work with… and what I find is even Olympic champions aren’t really all that different than you or I once you get to know them. They put their skates on one at a time, they’re excited to be visiting Hawaii, they talk about the hard work it took them to get where they were. And then after they win the gold medal, they have to find new challenges in life. They look for meaning in what they do instead of resting on their laurels or counting their money.

It reminds me of a trip my wife and I took to Vegas when we were still newlyweds and not experienced gamblers like we are now. She sat down at a slot machine, but had her eye on another machine she really wanted to play. While she was watching the other woman plunking silver dollars into the slot, she bided her time by playing one coin at a time in the machine she didn’t want, just waiting for that woman to finish playing and move on… then my wife looked up and saw she had hit the big jackpot! Except nothing happened. No bells or music, no flashing lights. Turned out to win the big jackpot, you had to play the maximum number of coins: three bucks. Because she was fixated on the other slot machine, she had neglected to read the fine print and missed out on the jackpot right in front of her.

The takeaway is if you’re going to play to win, go all in. But don’t overlook the prize right in front of your eyes because you’re fixated on something that may only be an illusion.

Making Sense of Contest Results

July 18, 2015

It’s July, and for unproduced screenwriters this is the cruelest month when big contests like the Nicholl Fellowships and Page Awards send out their dinks or congrats emails for the first round of cuts. Like most of you who are reading this post and seeking solace for not getting the good news you hoped and prayed for, alas I didn’t advance either — in those competitions. Trust me, it’s not the end of the world or last contest you’ll ever lose.

Remember that in the grand scheme of things, negative setbacks in any subjective venture judged by anonymous readers aren’t necessarily an indication that your script sucks. I know people who have never placed in a big contest and now have solid careers making money as produced screenwriters. And I know others who won thousands of dollars in prestigious contests, yet have zero produced credits or actual script sales.

What is particularly vexing for those who have previously done well in certain contests is how one year you could be a top finalist… and the next, zilch. No love at all for your masterpiece, which theoretically is even better since you have “improved’ it in the months between entering that same competition. Like hundreds — nay thousands of prior finalists — been there, done that.

I can see their perplexed, then anguished expressions as they click on the notification email, eyes scanning for one word: “Congratulations!” Once they see the dense block of copy at the top of the message, you already know it’s a fait accompli. Next, your eyes scan for the “P.S.” note saying although the script didn’t make the cut, at least one reader didn’t take a dump on it.

So, you’re sitting there hours or even days later, feeling like Job and wondering, Why hast Thou forsaken me? Listen, God doesn’t give a damn whose script was better. That is the nature of the universe. No one can answer that question. You just dust yourself off, look for other opportunities to sell your stuff or write another script with the hope it does have that bit of indefinable magic you sometimes achieve when all the stars align.

The simple truth is the odds are against you when it comes to the numbers game. To get the highest scores, you need the right person reading the right script at the right time and hope like hell the other scripts the judges also like are a tad less enamored with the competition. Different years, different readers, different results.

Meanwhile, before the latest round of dinks hit my email box, I was contacted by a filmmaker through InkTip. He has no produced credits as a director, but has been working in the movie biz for a few years and made enough connections to scrape together a small budget for his first feature project. He liked my logline and pitch for a big budget spec enough to read it, then gave me a call to see if we could work together to develop a very low budget genre movie. Was it my dream project? Hell, no. But it’s another chance to achieve my goal of writing a real movie, albeit a much smaller, less grand vision of Hollywood success than any of us start out with.

Coincidentally, I turned on the college radio station this morning and DJ Tanya, who I have a crush on because of her voice and musical tastes, was playing an old chestnut from 1980 by The Babys: “Back On My Feet Again.” I smiled, then sat down to write this post. To survive disappointments and rejection, you gotta be tough. You gotta be resilient. You gotta keep writing.

Nicholl Notes and Depressing Comedies

October 11, 2013

It’s been a rough month for me. After I got word my LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET script didn’t make it into the semifinal round, I received more bad news. Two smaller fellowship programs — one for Asian-Americans, another geared to Hawaii screenwriters — notified me I did not make their cut either. The same LOST script that scored high enough to be in the top 5 percent of 7,251 Nicholl entries did not impress readers in other contests that don’t attract nearly as many submissions. But judging at any level is subjective, so none of this surprised me.

In any event, when I get depressed, I look forward to reading books or watching movies that might get me out of my funk. Something to make me smile, laugh, see the bright side of life in general. So I had high hopes for THIS IS THE END since most critics said it was hilarious, although there was profanity and a lot of “adult” humor. They must have seen a different movie than the piece of crap I saw. Okay, at first the idea of watching Seth Rogen, James Franco, et al, playing over the top versions of themselves was amusing… for about 15 minutes. Then it became a series of increasingly juvenile bits with them screaming “sh*t… what the f@ck… f@cking this/that/you” and other unimaginative putdowns that I hardly consider “adult” in any way, shape or form of writing. In hindsight, I wonder if they even bothered to “write” a script for this movie. It was depressing to think that this is the new standard for humor in modern American films.

Which brings me back to the Nicholl Fellowships. I guess their readers are out of step with Hollywood because the notes I got back from two of their contest judges said they liked my script because they felt it was funny, yet was “very mature” and had an “adult vibe” that made it stand out. This was the first year that excerpts from the readers’ comments were sent to writers who placed in the quarterfinals on up.  They did not send the complete reviews/scores or indicate who the readers were, so it’s sort of like incomplete coverage that only focuses on the positives.

The thing I found most funny — and flattering — about the comments was that one reader wrote: “I would bet money that the author once worked the same job as the protagonist in real life.” In the script, my protag works part-time in a supermarket as part of the security staff that monitors customers for theft and other potential problems in the store… a job I never had, but did research for the screenplay. I always strive for authenticity and try to find details in my characters’ occupations that will create a sense of verisimilitude, and give the illusion I know what the hell I’m writing about.

For what it’s worth, here’s the Nicholl notes in their entirety just as I received them on a single page Word Document. If you’d like to read my script, feel free to hit me up with an email…

2013 Nicholl Fellowships – QF Readers Comments for “Lost in the Supermarket” by Rich Figel

This script captures both the thrill of witnessing a born musical talent who has gone full tilt to fine tune his ability as well as the yearning for an artist’s beloved and realization that a life of artistic passion also carries many costs.

Phil’s honesty about his own lack of sheer genius or extraordinary talent as well as his open awe for those who possess them are touching. Through his perspective, we too both admire Davis’ gift, courage and choices as well as mourn the losses these choices have cost him.

Gen is flawed yet sympathetic as we ride the ups and downs with her, through Phil’s infatuated eyes while he covets his idol’s girlfriend. The writer adds welcome complexity to this love triangle: Phil loves Davis as an inspiring mentor and longs for his gift and girlfriend yet also feels her pain in loving an artist whose music comes first.

The story builds more and the craft improves as it progresses. Phil’s honesty is disarming. The humor is funny yet also feels genuine. This story is poignant, and the writer doesn’t compromise, particularly at the conclusion.

 **********

Reader 2:

There’s a very mature and adult vibe and tone to this story that makes it stand out.  The way the protagonist comes to care about and form a friendship with the musician feels different from what we usually see and the way he falls in love with the man’s girl is refreshing— though he longs for her, he respects the musician too much and keeps his relationship with the girl on a friends only level. 

This has a simple set-up and is easy to follow yet it has special touches that make it feel unique and fresh.  Humor is integrated expertly into the story and there are some great individual scenes and moments that add to the story without necessarily advancing it.  The central conflict is subtle yet still drives the plot slowly drawing us into the action.  We can’t help but fall in love with these characters and care about what happens to them.

The characters show real depth and personality.  They are likable.  Many of them are funny and provide a nice balance to the main drama which deals with the jazz musician and his girlfriend.  The way our protagonist becomes involved with the couple is worked into the story in a logical manner.  The dialogue is great — the conversations have a smooth flow and the lines sparkle with wit and realism.

The setting is used to good effect and there are a lot of “inside” moments about the way the supermarket works — I would bet money that the author once worked the same job as the protagonist in real life.  The descriptions are good and movement and action are laid out clearly — the reader easily forms a mental picture of what is happening on the page.

There were a few typos and some minor formatting issues but nothing to get worked up over.  All in all, this is a solid and tight work that shows a lot of creativity and skill.  I liked it a lot.

Perseverance

August 2, 2013

“Congratulations!”

That’s the first word I saw when I clicked on the email that said “Academy Nicholl Fellowships Notification.” I had been so busy this week with my Career Changers TV show and other video projects, it had completely slipped my mind that the quarter-finalists were being announced. In prior years when I felt I had a good chance of making the first cut, I would anxiously check my mailbox each day before they switched over to emails.

Call me old-fashioned, but I preferred getting the news via U.S. mail. Picking up the envelope, feeling the weight (rejections were one page, advancing scripts had extra pages of info), opening the envelope… there was more drama than clicking an email. Still, I was pretty happy to see that out of 7,251 entries, my script was one of the 372 that scored high enough with two out of three readers to make the quarter-finals list.

It’s been a long time between placing in the Nicholl Fellowships for me. The prior two times with two different scripts, I didn’t get any farther in the competition, and making QF did not change my life. I’ve blogged about realistic expectations related to contests such as this one before, and noticed in the past couple of days there have been a lot of views of that old post.

The reason I wanted to share this year’s news is I blogged about the script I entered back in April, when I wrote about the Black List ratings service. Here’s a link to that piece. My “Lost in the Supermarket” script was an old coming of age drama/comedy that was semi-autobiographical. Some might call it a “soft” script with no commercial hook — not the type of thing that is likely to get interest from agents, managers or producers. There are script “consultants” out there who would tell you not to write this kind of story, unless you’re doing it for yourself.

And there’s some truth to that. I’ve pitched this script to my former manager, put it on InkTip, entered it in contests — including the Nicholl years ago — and didn’t get much love for it. But they say if you have a well written script, it’s often a matter of finding the right reader(s) at the right time. It takes a little luck.

I tweaked the script and revised a bit here and there over the years, while writing new stuff — specs I thought were more commercial (and got more requests from managers, prodcos too). Yet I never completely gave up on my Lost script because I knew the writing was good. The dialogue for each character was spot on — they each had their own voice. I also had a feeling that it had a better chance in the Nicholl because more and more writers are trying too hard to write the kind of movies that are being made… and dying at the box office because they lack soul and heart.

So what it means is at least two of three Nicholl readers in the first round really liked my script a lot for one reason or another. I got lucky — if they had been the Black List readers or some inexperienced reader, like the ones that do early round judging for other contests, I wouldn’t have made the cut. If you didn’t make it this year, don’t give up. Keep writing, don’t try to guess what readers are looking for… write something you can pick up years from now and still be proud of. Write something that is built to last.

Playing the Odds

September 16, 2011

When I go to Vegas, which is like a second home for most Hawaii residents, I am a fairly cautious gambler. My wife and I start out with a set amount to play with, then stop betting or decrease the amount of our wagers if we hit our daily limit for losses. We try to play the odds, and know what “the book” says you should do at the black jack tables, depending on the cards in front of you.

Yet there are times when I just go with my gut. I’ll see a slot machine or roulette table, and feel lucky. Sometimes my hunches have paid off in jackpots. I once got so hot at roulette, the croupier looked at me as if I was crazy because I cashed out after I kept picking winning numbers while only playing three or four chips per spin — and no one else was playing at that table. It looked like I was psychic. But I knew if I kept playing, eventually the odds would even out and I’d lose back my winnings.

And so it goes with any game of chance, or even screenwriting contests. Yes, talent and skill matter. However, there is always an element of luck involved in who reads your script, what that person likes, and where your work stands relative to the competition. Sometimes it’s a numbers game, and the “points” or score a single contest judge gives a script can mean the difference between making it all the way to the finals, or just being another first round dink.

Still, there are things you can do to improve your odds of advancing or winning contests. In past years, I’ve been a finalist in a bunch of competitions and won thousands of dollars. More importantly, doing well in bigger contests led to script requests from producers, agents and managers. Some of the smaller contests were judged by Hollywood people with clout too, so you shouldn’t dismiss those kind of opportunities.

Which brings me to my first tip on boosting your chances: enter more contests. That should seem like a no-brainer, but over and over I hear writers say the only ones worth entering are the Nicholl Fellowships, Austin Film Festival, and maybe the Page Awards or the TrackingB.com contest. Think about it though. If you truly believe your screenplay is good enough to beat out 5,000 to 6,000 Nicholl/Austin/Page submissions, why would you pass up better odds to win money and prizes in contests where you’re competing with “only” 300 to 600 entries?

I’m not saying you should enter dozens of contests just for the sake of spreading your bets around. Be selective. Pick the ones that have more than one winner because the odds are you will not come in first place. But placing in the top three in some contests can earn you enough cash to pay for all your other contest entries that year. You can also win some nice prizes for being a finalist in smaller competitions, or receive discounts to attend film festivals and screenwriting conferences — which can be good for networking and making personal contacts that could help you.

Also, choose contests in which finalists will be read by industry professionals who have good reputations. Even if you don’t win, there’s the possibility one of those judges might be impressed enough to contact you and ask what else you have to show them.

Speaking of judges, here’s another tip: you can learn to “read” the contest admins and judges. How? Check out their blogs and contest websites. Look at what type of scripts have won before, and what the contest director said about those screenplays. They may claim to be objective in the way the scoring is set up, but who they hire as early round judges usually reflects their own opinions and values. Some are sticklers for things like formatting and structure. Others are more interested in story concept or character development.

I’ll give you an example: one year I entered THE DOLL in a medium-sized contest that is run by a script consultant. It made the quarterfinals, and that was as far as it got. After the semifinalists were announced, she wrote in her blog that there were good scripts that didn’t advance because they scrimped on details in the opening. I had purposely written a minimalist type opening for THE DOLL because it’s a bizarre plot and I didn’t want the writing to get in the way of the story. In other contests that were judged by working TV and film professionals, they told me they really, really liked that script… in part, I think, because it was a very fast read with lots of white space — the minimalism this other contest director didn’t care for.

So I decided to re-enter it two years later and made some revisions in the opening. I added details to the descriptions of the protagonist and her apartment. Nothing else was changed. This time though, the script became a Top 10 finalist. It was the contest director’s perception that changed — not the story or the characters. And you’ll encounter the same thing with agents or managers. They’ll suggest revisions, and even if you don’t agree, you’ll have to at least make it look like you did what they requested (sometimes they’re right, so be open minded).

Another intangible is timing. For whatever reason, it seems certain topics and scripts get “hot” while the next year that very same script fizzles. It could be the zeitgeist. Or maybe word of mouth and news of other contest results prime professional readers for that particular script. Who knows. This year, I dusted off an old sci-fi spec that had never done well in contests… and it placed in the top 10 percent of both the Nicholl and Austin contests. The changes I made were minor. But since it was about genetically-engineered seafood turning humans into food, it seemed to resonate more with today’s readers than it did when I first wrote it 10 years ago. (Back then, there was a little event called 9/11 that was on peoples’ minds.)

Ultimately though, your goal should be to become ineligible for these contests. And you do that by putting yourself in a position to actually sell a script — the real jackpot. Everything else you do is about getting in the game, and doing whatever it takes to keep playing. Placing all your bets on one or two contests is going to be a losing proposition for 99 percent of the writers who enter. Play smart, but don’t be afraid to take some risks. Trust your intuition.

The Continuing Adventures of Pineapple Man

July 6, 2011

Actually, “Pineapple Man” is the comic book creation of Sam Campos, an artist in Hawaii. I read about him in the local paper a few years ago, and had wanted to meet him for a couple of reasons: he was friends with Jason Scott Lee, an actor I envisioned as the meth-addicted murder suspect — and possible curse victim — in my INUGAMI Japanese werewolf script; and Sam was doing storyboard work on Hollywood movies. I thought maybe we could help each other with our mutual contacts, and perhaps collaborate on projects right here in Hawaii. But he went to L.A. for awhile and I wasn’t able to connect with him.

What brought us together recently was the Amazon Studio contest. He had been shooting/editing a no-budget superhero television pilot on his own, when he heard about the Amazon deal and considered entering his project because there was big prize money being offered. I happened to be looking for a storyboard artist to turn INUGAMI into a “test movie” for the AS contest, since that’s what they really seem to be looking for. That gave me an excuse to email Sam, and next thing you know we’re having coffee in Kailua and talking about our respective experiences with various managers and producers in Hollywood. In fact, he has kept his L.A. phone number because he says it’s hard to get movie work if they know you reside elsewhere.

After I explained to him that Amazon has some pretty restrictive conditions for test movie submissions, Sam realized he didn’t want to tie up his TV pilot project in their contest. But he was very interested in doing the art work for INUGAMI and my Amish horror spec, SNALLYGASTER, which made the Amazon Top 50 monthly semifinals list twice. As it happens, I’m in the process of adapting SNALLY into an ebook format for Ed Gray’s Aisle Seat Books venture, which was another Amazon Studios-related connection. Ed’s concept is to turn good screenplays into good ebook reads that retain the best elements of a page-turning script — but in a prose format that’s easier on the average reader. You won’t see large blocks of narrative or internal thoughts. The emphasis will be on action and dialogue, just as it is with most movies. Will there be a market for these script novelizations? I have no idea. I’m willing to take a shot at it though.

Sam’s approach to storyboarding is to first ask the writer to choose three key scenes that contain the best visuals you’d want to see on the big screen — sort of like a movie trailer. He also asked me to list actors I’d like to cast in starring roles so he had a clearer idea of the characters he was going to draw. Doing both exercises helped me see my own movie in sharper detail as well. Try it with your own script or book manuscript. It might change the way you view (or pitch) your story.

For the SNALLY ebook, I asked him to give me a quote on doing the cover art work. He started reading the script and emailed me to say how much he liked the writing, and that he could really see it as a movie… a big compliment since he’s worked on Hollywood productions before. His price was very reasonable too, so I told him he’s hired. Now I just have to adapt my script to meet Ed Gray’s guidelines. Oh, and the reason I decided to chance it with Ed is that he got Amazon Studio’s endorsement for adapting AS script entries into ebooks. They even said they’ll help promote the ebooks, which is no small thing. Will I make any money from this publishing experiment? Who knows. But I’m sure it will get more attention than if I tried to self-publish my script adaptations.

More importantly, the Amazon Studios contest experience has kicked my ass into another gear. I’m not just sitting around waiting to hear back from managers or producers or contests. I’m taking numbers, meeting with professionals in the TV and film biz here in Hawaii, and trying to make something happen on my own. And I’ve gotten more results in the past couple of months than I did in two years while being repped by a semi-famous manager. So bad-mouth Amazon or other screenwriting contests all you want… it still comes down to what you do to promote yourself, and your work.

Life is cruel

June 21, 2011

One of life’s cruel ironies is that just when you think you’ve begun to figure things out, you’re either too old or too tired to act upon your impulses. When I lurk on writing message boards, it amazes me how so many can waste so much time arguing about stuff that amounts to nothing in the bigger scheme of our relatively brief existence. It’s a matter of perspective.

That’s what I think is lacking in much of today’s entertainment scene. It’s all so now-oriented. TV shows and movies have to hit the ground running, literally, before you even get to know the characters’ names. If a script or book you write fails to grab a reader in one page, it’s a pass. New television series that don’t catch on after one or two episodes get the axe. Movies that don’t test well won’t get a wide release and go straight to video.

Yet it’s so subjective when it comes to judging or evaluating any creative work. Which is why you shouldn’t put too much stock in contests or peer feedback. Pretty soon, early round screenwriting contest results will be going out and thousands of hopefuls will anxiously be waiting for Nicholl Fellowship letters or emails from the Austin Film Festival and Big Break contest or Page Awards. A few hundred will be happy to advance to the next round. By the end though, most will be among the “better luck next year” crowd.

However, since I’m getting older and have less time to fritter away, my question is: Why wait? Why not just either make your own movie or short or “test movie” as Amazon Studios calls them, and put them on YouTube or your own website? The odds of you or I winning a major contest are pretty slim and we ain’t getting any younger, folks.

If you can’t afford the financial risk of movie-making or paying for storyboard artists, etc., why not turn your script into a book and self-publish it or pitch it to traditional publishing houses? Again, the odds are better for book writers than screenwriters, since it doesn’t cost millions or hundreds of thousands to put out an ebook. Take it from someone who’s been a finalist in big and small contests, won a few thousand bucks, and made the Nicholl quarterfinals a couple of times… doing well in contests will probably not change your life (unless you win the Nicholl Fellowship or a huge cash prize for something like Amazon Studios).

But “hope” will forever steal away the little time we have left, as someone once said. It reminds me of a sad story involving my parents. Years ago, when they were living in New Jersey during a bitterly cold winter, my dad bought a lottery ticket. The next morning he checked the winning numbers — and his ticket matched! He called me in Hawaii with the fantastic news. The jackpot was something like $7 million if he was the sole winner. There was a happiness in his voice I had never heard before. He said it was snowing, but despite the frigid temperatures and messy road conditions, everything suddenly looked beautiful…

The next day he found out the store clerk had inadvertently handed him the store’s print-out of the winning numbers. It wasn’t an actual lottery ticket my dad was holding. He said it was fun while it lasted to imagine what he and my mom were going to do with their millions. But that’s how life goes, he said. Eventually, they retired to Hawaii. They had enough saved to travel… but they didn’t go anywhere. They had time to take up new hobbies or interests. Nothing interested them. They didn’t need millions to enjoy the rest of their lives. Instead, they mostly got into pointless arguments with people in their condo association and with each other.

Life is cruel. It hands us bad breaks or fails to meet our expectations. Yet, when you cease expecting, you often find you have all you need to be happy right before you. Write your own story, and screw anyone who tells you the only way to succeed is to do it such and such a way. Most of what’s being put out in books, TV and film is crap, anyway.

To wit: anyone watching FALLING SKIES, the new TV series that has Spielberg’s name on it as executive producer? Sheesh. It’s basically THE WALKING DEAD with aliens… dull, unimaginative aliens. The humans are even duller.

On the other hand, I just saw a little British film, MADE IN DAGENHAM, that I liked a lot. Took awhile for me to get into it because the English accents are tough on American ears, but this was a movie about something real: equal pay — and respect — for working women in the Sixties. Surprisingly, my wife wasn’t as inspired as I was by this true life story, which resulted in England (and other countries) passing laws to prevent gender pay discrimination. “In this country, we still don’t have equal pay laws, ” she noted, explaining her muted response to the film.

I guess what moved me about the Dagenham story was that these women had the courage and strength to stand up for something they believed in, and fought for it at the risk of their jobs and their marriages. To me, that’s a lot more meaningful than a bunch of stock TV characters running around with guns and shooting at big bugs or clunky robots.

Anyway, isn’t it sort of nice to know that even Spielberg can make crappy stuff that wouldn’t get past a first round contest judge? It means your lousy script or mine still has a chance of selling — you just need the right combination of aliens/zombies/vampires and apocalyptic setting!