Archive for screenwriting

“The Smiling Zombie” advances to the quarterfinals in the 2009 Bluecat Screenplay Competition

Posted in screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , on June 17, 2009 by Tom McIntire

My feature-length script, The Smiling Zombie, has advanced to the quarterfinals in the 2009 Bluecat Screenplay Competition. Coming on the heels of placing as a finalist (along with a second script of mine, The Karma Stone) in the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) in Toronto and advancing to the semifinals in the 2008 Writemovies competition, this is exciting stuff for my drama with dark comedy, music, dancing and yes a few zombies.

The Smiling Zombie is planned to be the first feature produced by nonprofit film studio Smiling Z Studios. We are currently working on the budget and urge you to support the studio if you can. There’s a link on the Web site. Smiling Z Studios provides paid cast and crew positions in quality productions even when budgets are low.

Why Is That Z Smiling? A new approach to supporting filmmaking

Posted in Making Movies, screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was thinking about how what I do producing and directing low budget films like Greenspoke is similar to a nonprofit live theatre group like Washington Ensemble Theatre. We raise the money we need (or in my case pay for it myself), hire the cast and crew and create a show. Then we try to get it out to the public, either by ticket sales in the case of live theatre or by festival submissions and distribution for films. The main difference is I have a finished product that can be seen again and again. And the live theatre teams rarely have much cash to pay anyone. I started to see many parallels and ways for us to work together to support eachother’s efforts. Many of the actors and crew I hired were struggling to make ends meet and grateful for even the small amount I was able to pay them. The loss of my day job last year and my subsequent difficulty finding other employment led me to think about alternative means of funding my filmmaking passion. These thoughts all ran through my mind as the idea to create the nonprofit Smiling Z Studios was formed. Don’t know if this is an original idea but it’s a new way of thinking for me.

Here’s the official pitch:

Smiling Z Studios feeds the artists while feeding the art. Local actors and crew often are called upon to work for nothing to help struggling filmmakers. While this may get a film made, it creates an environment where creative work is not valued and compensated. We like to think of what we are doing as fair trade film. Here’s how we are different:
1. With few exceptions, everyone who works on our productions gets paid.
2. We raise enough money to run professional productions even when working with a limited crew.
3. We use talent from many of the local live theatre groups and schedule in such a way as to maximize their availability for other work.
4. We schedule our crew during slow times to ensure we don’t conflict with higher paying commercial and industrial gigs. This has the added bonus of making equipment rentals more affordable.

Smiling Z Studios is a non-profit corporation that evolved out of Tom McIntire’s for-profit concern, Smiling Zombie Productions. We decided to become a non-profit film studio because our focus is on the work and the artists. While many of our colleagues leave the Northwest to pursue their film careers in Los Angeles, we believe we have the talent and the skill base here to do extraordinary work that helps everyone involved in the productions. Quality work that will be recognized with festival screenings and distribution, and ultimately help fund future productions.

Your support now will help us build a stronger, more sustainable filmmaking community here in the Pacific Northwest. To kickoff the 2009-2010 schedule, Smiling Z will produce Tom’s award-winning dramatic feature script, The Smiling Zombie. Successful musical theatre performer Jack Alcott’s career is cut short by multiple sclerosis. With the support of his HIV+ partner, he attempts a comeback of sorts with a featured extra role in a no-budget zombie film. A bittersweet human portrait inspired by actual events, The Smiling Zombie examines the performer forced to turn his attention inward and confront his own mortality.

Official pitch ends here.

So what do you think? Check us out at http://smilingz.org – if you want to help out through donations, helping with fundraising or working on our projects, let me know. We’re going to do some fundraising that puts the fun back in fundraising. Stay tuned.

The Smiling Zombie AND The Karma Stone Made the Finals at RHIFF

Posted in Making Movies, reelheart, screenwriting, Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Two of my feature length screenplays have made it into the finals of the 2009 ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) Screenplay Competition. I’m still processing this information but I can say that I am thrilled.  These scripts also were semi-finalists in the WriteMovies International Writing Competition. At a time when I am struggling to find another day job (I was laid off from my job at Washington Mutual last June), it’s great to get this encouragement and recognition. Like most artists out there of all stripes and sensibilities, I am trying to figure out how to make my way in the world and still feed my passion. Finding that elusive mix where they are one and the same is what keeps me submitting films and scripts to festivals and writing competitions.

What are your secrets to reaching the next level? What challenges are you facing?

Greenspoke Post-Production Continues

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Greenspoke post-production marches on. Or crawls on I should say. My laptop was purchased as a writing machine and evolved into my editing, sound and special effects unit. Dreams of Mac Pro towers on are on hold until I find a new day job. Which has not been going well. But that’s another blog post.

I’m editing in Final Cut Pro and am enjoying those wonderful surprises you get when you work with newer formats like those from the RED camera we used for Greenspoke. Like the Trim Edit window crashing my machine consistently, taking away one of the niftier features of FC Pro. I’m still able to do fine edits but it is more of a dance than a simple step. I’m using Apple Motion for some of the special effects and to add simple camera movements to some of the static shots – lots of interesting freezes, crashes and a frightening fan noise that makes me shut the machine down so it can go have a cigarette. Disk speed is something I’d prefer not to think about but it is on my mind right now.

Why is he babbling on again about technology? Technology is what makes it possible for me to be a filmmaker at this stage of my life. The tools are amazing – the Red workflow uses no tapes, what seem like huge hard drives fill up with high resolution video footage, being able to go from raw footage to finished product almost entirely on my MacBook Pro – even down to burning DVDs for festival and distributor screeners. What’s tricky is not letting the technology take over the creative process. When I’m having trouble getting the exact edit I want because the system is crashing, it takes away from the time and energy and thought that I could be putting into the piece. And unless you have resources like Charlie Chaplin earned from his early work, you can’t spend years working on each (later) piece as he did. Well, you can, but if you are just getting started it means you are not getting your work and your name out there.

Now back to the cutting…

Unsolicited Monster Calling – Are You In?

Posted in Rants with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2008 by Tom McIntire

A gentleman named Brian called me on my cell after seeing my resume on Monster.com.  Unsolicited Monster calls are generally pretty useless – agencies that want to take your money for jobs that you could easily locate yourself online. It sounded like a cool opportunity – screenwriter for a charitable foundation’s feature. He wasn’t clear about what the mission of the foundation was other than it goes around the world and helps people. He wasn’t clear on the phone whether they wanted to do a documentary or a narrative piece – he said they wanted to create a “new genre”. They also said they had a full-time video editor position. Two of my favorite things to do and they would pay me.

For those of you who don’t know this already, Monster.com is probably the last place a serious film producer would go looking for a screenwriter. I knew that and hoped that maybe this was an exception.

Brian told me to come in the next day at 7 a.m. In the morning. Really. On the other side of the lake. I did some very preliminary research about the company and foundation and didn’t find much. It seemed worth a shot so I got my lazy butt out of bed and was there 15 minutes early.

The office was nice – right on Lake Washington, dogs in the office, nice people at the door. Oddly, someone was playing Christmas music at their desk at 6:45 in the morning. 6:45 is too early for Christmas music on Christmas Day, much less October 14.

Brian looked exactly like he sounded on the phone – military-style haircut, shirt and tie. He brought me back to a conference room with photos of unfortunately still-President Bush in grip and grin poses with what looked like a company executive. This didn’t phase me too much – the company that sponsors the foundation makes portable shelters that are used by the military, oil industry and in disaster areas. Brian asked me the same questions he had asked over the phone while we waited for the other interviewers – he obviously had a script to follow as all good interviewers do.

An older gentleman and a young woman came in, questions started, other people came and went and came back. The older gentleman shook my hand but barely touched it. Three of the interviewers asked me questions about what charities I supported and what I would be willing to do to support a charity. I tend to be a ‘write a check often’ kind of guy rather than a volunteer, and told them so. They asked questions about how long it would take to write a script and how long different scripts of mine had taken. We talked about finding the story in their footage (they have already shot 1000 hours of footage with no script and apparently no plan). I talked about making it something that people could relate to – finding compelling characters and situations that illustrated their point. Tried again in vain to find out what that point was.

The person they all looked at when I said I wanted to know more about the foundation repeated almost word-for-word what Brian had said on the phone – they go around the world and help people. This was in response to a direct question as to the mission of the foundation. She went on to criticize UNICEF and other NGOs because they are just taking money and not helping anyone. This was a little surprising – this tiny foundation that doesn’t even have a Web site is the only one out there helping people? Brian went back to Doctors Without Borders as one that they think doesn’t do anything. Huh. When it came time for me to leave, they asked me on a 1-10 if I was interested in the job, with 10 being ‘hire me now’. I told them an 8 (I do love the video) because I wanted to know more about the foundation and to research what they were saying about Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF. Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, I thanked them and left.

After I got home, I did a little more digging on Google, and figured out that the foundation name was the initials of the company CEO who created the foundation. Still with me? More research revealed that he was a heavy donor to the Republican party and the foundation (or one with the same name) had been reported to be a donor to Focus on the Family. Sigh. I sent an e-mail to Brian and let him know I was no longer interested and why. This prompted an e-mail from Erik (who may have been at my interview – people come and go so quickly there) denying the connection to Focus on the Family.

I would pursue this further except that I have never gotten a straight answer about what their foundation does, or what the ‘blockbuster’ movie they want to make is about. I’m taking my public resume off Monster. And when I finally get a job, I’ll be making donations to UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.

Lessons Learned in L.A.

Posted in Greenspoke, screenwriting, Shriekfest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by Tom McIntire

My recent trip to Shriekfest was supposed to be about networking with other filmmakers, producers and potential investors. While I did do some networking (and gnoshing) with fellow filmmakers Paul Yoo, William Lu and David Shin, I felt like a fish out of water at the two Shriekfest screenings I attended. After some reflection, I’ve come to these conclusions to make my next outing more productive:

  1. Plan ahead – what are you trying to accomplish on this trip? Have you done your research and legwork to make sure you connect with the people who can help you?
  2. Be prepared – a variation on #1. Do you have your pitch ready? If you have 2 minutes of a producer’s time, will your glorious script grab their attention or will they wish you luck and move on?
  3. Choose the right festivals – if a festival is focused on a specific genre – do you work in that genre? Are you enthusiastic about it? When you watch the films at a particular festival, how would you feel about your work in juxtaposition to the other films you are seeing?
  4. Be open to speaking to people who may not be in a position to help now. I’ve learned so much from other people who are also starting out. We’re dealing with the same issues – commiserate, encourage and stay in touch. When you have a time when you are feeling a little overwhelmed or discouraged, these are the people who can help you understand that it is not you it is just the way this highly competitive business works.
  5. Be honest with yourself about your work – if you are having trouble explaining a script to someone else, is there a problem with the script? We get close to the work we do and can turn a blind eye to glaring problems in the concept or execution. A great story should be easy for you to pitch enthusiastically.
  6. Have fun – you don’t do this for the money – at least not yet anyway. Enjoy the cast of characters you meet from writers to actors to producers to directors to film lovers.
  7. Celebrate your own victories – finishing a script is a major accomplishment. So many people out there are talking about being a writer or a filmmaker. Sitting down and DOING the work to get there is something to be proud of.

Off to Toronto!

Posted in Toronto with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2008 by Tom McIntire

We’re heading to the ReelHeART International Film Festival (RHIFF) in Toronto tomorrow morning. The shuttle arrives at the uncivilized hour of 4:35 am. That’s a nice time to come home after a long crazy evening – not  a great time to roll out of bed and comb your teeth, brush your hair, take the dog for a shower and do your business on the lawn.

I’m excited and nervous about the festival. two julias was my life for about a year – I made some lasting friendships, learned alot about working with actors and producing a film on a microbudget, and am proud of the piece we submitted. It’s wonderful to get into a festival in a big film town like Toronto. RHIFF has been great and I’ll be posting my impressions as Kurt and I spend time at the festival and in and around Toronto.