Tag Archives: Sawbuck

Sawbuck Trailer

I’m so grateful for the team who helped put this trailer together!

Praised by a Hollywood reader as “MYSTIC RIVER on the ROAD TO PERDITION with a splash of WATCHMEN and THE SIXTH SENSE,” SAWBUCK is the story of a 10-year-old boy joins the hunt for a bizarre serial killer to save himself and a missing child.

Other industry feedback includes:

“Great Structure, characters, dialogue, and conflict. This guy’s good.”
Tom Verica (RED DRAGON, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, SCANDAL)

“Great ride! Several twists and turns. Keeps you guessing all the way. I’d love to be in it!”
Richard McGonagle (500 DAYS OF SUMMER, STAR TREK: VOYAGER, JAG, THE PRACTICE)

“It’s rare when a script comes along with this many entertaining set pieces and audiences will undoubtedly be constantly asking ‘what’s next?’ There will be a terrific film here, and could very well attract the eye of a great director and/or actor for the lead role.“
Hollywood Story Analyst

Click here to request a copy of Sawbuck for review.


Structure and the 2015 BlueCat Screenplay Competition

The 2015 BlueCat Screenplay Competition Semi-Finalists were announced earlier this week and SAWBUCK is among the chosen scripts. It’s a tremendous honor to make it this far in such a prestigious screenwriting contest (top 2% out of 4,494 feature-length entries).

A key ingredient of the excitement is something so simple I don’t always see it: people sat down, opened to page #1 and joined a 10-year-old boy on his hunt for a bizarre serial killer to save a missing child — and they enjoyed the journey!

While this announcement is only a step toward the goal of getting SAWBUCK produced, the following excerpts from the contest reader notes reminded me of my early struggle to embrace story structure:

“It’s the thoughtful and thoroughly justified weaving of these various story-lines that prompts such a decisive, deliberate build in the story structure. Even if the motives and desires of these characters are less than morally sound, their traits are precise and justifiable.”

“There’s an intricacy to the various motivations – and thereby frictions – that pass between the supporting characters.

“The epilogue proving <The Hero>‘s complete transformation — which began when he pointed the water gun at… <snip> — resolves all last subplots, and gives him the opportunity to conclusively solve the central dilemma of the script.”

And to think… I wanted nothing to do with story structure when I started writing.

Like some new writers, I looked at story structure as training wheels. So I just dismissed it and wrote.
After creating bloated, one-dimensional, meandering stories and finding myself trapped by plot dead ends, I grudgingly accepted structure as a necessary evil — Fine. I’ll use it. Whatever… I guess I’ll pack my unique ideas inside your stupid little structure boxes and watch my creative brilliance suffocate a cookie-cutter death. Then it happened…

I saw the light!

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! was my first exposure to beats and structure. My understanding grew through Robert McKee’s Story and many other books and blogs that showed me that story structure is not just for films and books, but is how humans have assimilated story for thousands of years.

One of my favorite moments of clarity was when one author likened story structure to musical notes explaining how a seemingly infinite amount of music is created from just 12 musical notes.

Today, I find building a story’s structure to be as creative as any other part of the screenwriting process; it’s the wire frame to sculpt a story around rather than a constricting necessity I once thought it was.

Congratulations and good luck to all of my fellow Semi-Finalist Writers!


A Nicholl for your thoughts? (part 3)

“A Nicholl for your thoughts?” parts 1 and 2 were about the 2011 competition, which was a bittersweet experience:

About month before the first round results were announced in July of last year, I got some fantastic notes on Sawbuck from both talented local writers who have sold and optioned scripts, and from a couple pro screenwriters currently writing blockbuster movies. That month was a little tough because I knew deep down I wasn’t going to advance as far as I had originally hoped.

When the first round results were announced, I was actually pleased to find out I got two positive reads (places 1302 – 2161 out of 6,800 scripts) considering what I knew needed to be fixed in the script.

Armed with valuable notes and a positive experience with the contest, I put two other scripts on hold and started on a page one rewrite to get ready for…

The Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting 2012 Competition

I basically tore Sawbuck down to the studs and rebuilt.

One example of a major change was taking 3 secondary characters and combining them into one (a corrupt Police Sergeant + a Detective + a Forensic Psychologist = a Detective).  This difficult, time-consuming revision changed motivations and timelines throughout the script and, along with a myriad of other changes, had a positive effect by simplifying the story, putting much more focus on the protagonist, and taking the whole script to deeper mysterious and emotional levels.

I couldn’t be more pleased with this draft.

One of my favorite parts of being involved in the contest is seeing the daily Reader Comment Excerpts posted on Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Facebook Page.  Of course, it’s easy to read some of them and think, “Oh man!  They’re talking about mine!”

Could it be?

We’ll see.


I Can Write That 2: Electric Boogaloo

It’s no secret that for quite some time Hollywood has been making ostensibly safe bets with remakes, sequels, and films based on franchised properties like comics, games, toys, etc.

As both a businessman and a writer, I completely understand making belt-tightened, smart business decisions in this difficult economic climate.  Choosing to invest in projects with built-in audiences is just plain smart.

Heck, I just plunked down a sawbuck to see the remake of True Grit… and it was good!

However, since piles of quality, original material collecting dust is the unfortunate by-product of this ever-growing trend, my question is…

Will the time come when original ideas again dominate the market?

I don’t have the answer, but a couple things over the last day got me thinking.

Sequels, Sequels and More Sequels!
The title of yesterday’s article over at slashfilm.com says it all: 2011 Will Break The All Time Record For Movie Sequels.

Here’s a snippet from this informative article:

“By the end of 2011, Hollywood will break their record for most sequels released in a calendar year. According to Box Office Mojo, 27 films released in 2011 will be sequels, up from 24 in 2003. That averages to about one every other week and about one-fifth of total wide releases. It’s almost impressive if you don’t consider the lazy, money hungry thought that had to go into such an exorbitant amount of unoriginal content (and that’s not even counting the innumerable other films based on previously released material).” read more…

If I take off my writer’s hat and look at this from a consumer perspective, this would be less of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that having a built-in audience seems to put less pressure on filmmakers to create quality films in some cases  (Transformers 2 anyone?).  Even as I write this, I can’t help but think about when I saw the trailer for the upcoming Transformers 3, my first thought was, “That looks awesome!  I hope it’s as good as the first one!”  I’ll certainly go see it in spite of my Transformers 2 movie-going experience.

To be fair, the opposite is also true in some cases.  Just look at the Harry Potter film franchise.  I enjoyed every one of them.

A Manager’s Comment
Yesterday, I got a reply from a Hollywood Manager after he read Sawbuck.  While he didn’t feel he was the right manager for the script, he confirmed what I suspected about him as a result of the research I did before sending out the query… that he’s a quality guy!

His feedback and market-related suggestions were very much appreciated.  As to the subject at hand, a comment stood out in one of his emails that shows a related trend in Hollywood:

“… what seems en vogue these days are revamped classic characters in the public domain but I’m not sure how sustainable they are or if I’d recommend writing one unless you had the absolute most exciting revisionist take on one of them.”

So, along with remakes, sequels and franchised materials, it seems that also crowding the attention of Hollywood decision-makers is revamped content in the public domain; making it even more difficult for original scripts to be considered.

I can only assume that — at some point — original material will again dominate the market.  But how long it will be until that happens is beyond my scope of knowledge.

So, I have a choice: I can either sit and bemoan the status quo or persevere to create exceptional, original stories.

Since I choose the latter, I will continue to seek that balance between what is true to my creative self and what I believe to be valuable to those on the “business” side of show business.