Let’s do some News – #Rascacielos

Yes, someone likes our work!

In the last couple of months there have been some developments I want to share with you. I left some cryptic clues here and there but it’s time to set the record straight that tell you what we’ve been up to. It’s quite cool but I’m pretty sure it will fall apart quite soon, that’s basically why I’m posting this now, before this post becomes obsolete.

But not too fast, let’s rewind a bit… previously on Hard but unfair… You probably know that the last year was a difficult one for me. Things1 didn’t go according to plan and life has been strange, difficult and just generally sucky. I always had a really hard time coping with these kinds of experiences and feelings and this time it completely knocked me off base. I’m a different person because of it, at least I feel different and I’m finally moving on. I hope though that these feelings and experiences make me a better person or at least inspire me to become a better writer but when it comes to unrequited love, being emotional just sucks. Life is hard but unfair… but even in these dark times, there’s usually a silver lining, you just have to look really hard. Sometimes a personal failure can lead to something good and in this case it did.

Out of respect to others, I’m not going into the details of what exactly happened, it’s not too hard to guess though and as an avid reader of this blog you have enough information to fill in the blanks but I’ll tell you what happened afterwards. I cried my soul out and I promised myself something: Become the best possible version of yourself.

So, who is that? Well, basically it’s a better looking more successful version of the thing I was looking at in the mirror. If you follow this blog you probably read about what came next, I lost some weight, started to use some hair product, bought some new shirts, tighter trousers, generally speaking, I started to take better care of myself and my looks. One thing was missing though, professional success. I’m not saying that I’m a loser, I have a decent job I like and I’m not bad at it but this blog is supposed to be about my endeavours as a writer so you probably know how I’d describe success or what my dream version of success is.

Take your broken heart, make it into art. – Carrie Fischer

I wrote a new screenplay last fall and I promised myself to work hard on achieving my goal of becoming a professional writer. A broken heart can be a really good incentive to get things done and I admit, I definitely used those feelings, as chronicled on this blog. My motivation was about 50% hope and 50% defiance, or maybe the other way round. So I worked really hard on some new material, worked a bit on some old stuff and made sure that word (the screenplays to be specific) got around. I’m not sure how but … and here it comes … no, she didn’t confess her love for me…we reached someone. Yes, you read that right. Someone got interested in something we wrote, we being Orlindo and I. Yes, I’m serious.

On May 8th2 we got contacted through www.whiteworms.com by Capitán Araña, a Spanish production company. They heard about our script Skyscraper on the Blacklist and wanted to read it. They seemed legit, they just produced an animated movie called Ozzy that looked decent and professional enough, so we sent them a copy.

They read it.
They liked it.

A week later I was on a Skype call with them. They had some concerns but generally they saw a lot of potential. Their biggest issue, length. 104 pages was at least 24 too much. Too expensive was another issue. So we searched our feelings and a week later we had another Skype call. We agreed to cut the pages and find ways to make the script less expensive to produce. There were some easy fixes but also some areas that required a lot of work and some creative problem solving.

We worked our asses off. At this point I’d like to mention writerduet.com. Cutting the script down was very collaborative and writerduet’s collaboration features made it just so much easier. I don’t want to think about how much time and hassle that piece of software saved us. We also used Slack and Evernote to communicate and share notes and thoughts. It’s amazing how essential these tools became for me in the last couple of weeks and months. Somehow I can’t imagine my workflow without those tools anymore, especially if there’s a co-writer you have to share notes and ideas with.

There were a couple of steps we had to take to turn 104 pages into an under 80 pages. Some pages were easier to cut than others but after a few days we were down to a 73 page screenplay and that was where the real work started. In order to cut pages we had to get rid of some connecting scenes and sequences. We had to come up with new connecting scenes and reworked entire sequences.

Another thing we had to keep in mind was the proposed budget. We wrote Skyscraper without thinking too much about money, the world was big, many characters, crowd sequences, water, wet fur, … . So when the proposed budget is less than 10% of that of a Pixar movie, you have to make some adjustments. This was probably the most difficult issue but also the one that required to most creativity.

The biggest nuisance was proofreading though and I’m not just talking about typos and stuff, by cutting pages, whole scenes or even sequences you risk cutting something vital, a small detail that was important for the plot but because you’re so into the story you don’t realise its importance. That’s why I, on behalf of Orlindo and myself, want to thank our friends who provided some proofreading/feed-backing. It was vital and fresh eyes were sorely needed. Thanks, if there’s a showing in town, you’re invited… if the villagers want to run us out of the village afterwards we need someone to blame.

Jokes aside, we’re actually very happy with how the script turned out. There are a few details missing and some moments I quite liked are gone but generally speaking the script feels more focused and no matter what happens we’re glad that we rewrote Skyscraper and we learned some valuable lessons for our next screenplay, yes we’re actively pursuing some of our ideas and I’m positive that this rewrite will lead to a better next script.

But I digress, you were wondering about the guys from Spain. Well, we sent them the new version and started waiting and waiting and waiting …. After a week we started to doubt ourselves … not that they were taking that much time but they were really fast the first time around and let’s face it, emotions were running high. After the second week, all our doubts were gone, yes we suck. After week three….
Let’s just say we waited for some time. Our Spanish friends were busy with other projects and summer went by without any new developments. I’d love to say that in autumn the whole story gained “momentum” again but apparently they are really busy. We’re still waiting. So were basically experiencing our very first “development hell”, at least we can strike that off our bucket list.

This is the whole story up to this point. We’re obviously just at the beginning of this journey and there are many things that could and probably will go wrong but it feels like a really big step in the right direction. I’ve never been closer to achieving my childhood dream and I’m cautiously optimistic. There aren’t that many people who are lucky enough to get this close to achieving their dreams, especially if it’s something outrageous like becoming a screenwriter and yet here I am.

There are truly exciting times ahead and I hope that this journey takes me where I want to go or at least where I need to be. So stay tuned, hopefully there’s more to come, either a great Hollywood success story or a hilarious Hollywood failure story that ended before it really started… well not exactly Hollywood but you get the drift. I will continue to share news about this adventure under a new segment I’m calling #Rascacielos, that’s Spanish for Skyscraper.

The Hollywood process is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it. – Douglas Adams

This is getting really long, so I should wrap it up. Just two more thoughts, first, thank you3. Not for breaking my heart but for pushing me to become the best possible version of myself. I couldn’t have done it without you. Second, this is a strange thought though, it’s probably just me being me, like totally stupid and ungrateful for this awesome opportunity and just by contemplating this I feel like I’m betraying my childhood-self or it might just be that part of my brain/personality again that makes me a writer, anyway, if someone (fairy godmother, I’m talking to you) offered me a choice, either this or a little more luck in that other area… how shall I put it… a heartbeat seems like an awfully long time to decide something so easy.

You know what? Actually, I think my childhood-self would definitely approve. 🙂

Stay Tuned.

  1. Let’s be honest, we all know that I’m talking about a girl. I have no idea what it says about me that I start this post about my greatest achievement with one of my biggest failures… but I guess it’s fitting.
  2. That’s exactly 10 years, 1 month and 1 day since we officially started the project, April 7th 2007. Coincidence?
  3. You know who your are.

Progress Report 49 – Making Plans

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“I love it when a plan comes together.”

That was a crazy week. 3 rehearsals, 2 concerts, one procession and too many hours of not getting any sleep, some of this might have been my fault and I’m not complaining but I’m glad the week is over. It was awesome but exhausting, like all good things.

I’m skipping the numbers today and I’ll dive right in. We finished our new version of Skyscraper. We cut it down to 73 pages and we are quite happy with the finished product. As I mentioned last week, not everything is perfect and I also realised, that we fail the Bechdel test but we wanted too cut pages and sacrifices had to be made. We learned a lot and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to write a post just about that process and some “behind the scenes”. That one might actually be worth your time. So stay tunes.

Anyway, inspired by this milestone I decided to go though all my projects, dormant, on life-support and near death and triage them to decide what I’m going to do next. I decided on a few parallel ideas and projects to keep all my creative muscles exercised. I don’t know yet what Orlindo is planning but I intend to do my job as his #ProjectMomentum partner and keep pushing him to work. I’m going to focus on these 5 things:

  1. Inspired by the new shorter version of Skyscraper, I’m going to cut at least 20 pages from Saber Rider. There’s going to be heavy tweaking as well.
  2. I’m trying to crack the idea I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s a very personal project and I want to get it right. This one has the biggest potential to be my next project.
  3. Die Klientin: I need to rewrite that one, it’s a bit of a mess right now but I can really see that movie being made for TV.
  4. Windwheel: Windwheel is an idea Orlindo had and I hope to be able to push him to keep working ion it. I won’t be the lead in that one but I really feel good about that idea and it might be worth to explore where that one might lead.
  5. That new exciting idea I’m waiting for. I don’t know what, that seems to be the point but I’m pretty sure that in the next couple of weeks I’ll get inspired to write something new or at least get an idea for something. It might be animated, it might be something totally different.

This sounds like a lot and it definitely is but I think these things are different enough to coexist next to each other in my brain. But then again, maybe I receive a total curve ball and all my plans fall apart, I guess I have to take it week by week. So, see you next week.

Progress Report 48 – Life on Mars

Greetings my friends. Busy week so this is going to be quicky. We have a big concert coming up, actually tow and work requires some attention s well, it’s oral matura next week. I’m really looking forward to July, I’m in serious need for some R&R. But let’s do the numbers.

One book/screenplay: Looking at some books for my students to read next year. Haven’t made a decision though.
Two movies: As part of the Skyscraper rewrite I watched Ozzy, an internationally financed animation film. Its not a great film but I’ve definitely seen worse and the movie shows that a shorter, cheaper version of Skyscraper is something commercially viable. I also watched LIFE. Cool movie, too bad they didn’t do the Venom thing. Would’ve been great.
Seven pages and seven hours: Still polishing the new draft. We got some feedback from friends and we hope to have a decent new version by next week. I feel good about the new version. There are a few things I miss but overall the script feels a bit more in focus. There’s a new found purpose to the story nut much fat. Some of our friends argued, that the pace is almost too high, and they are probably right. It’s even faster than before and there’s almost no filler and the quite moments are short and far and few between.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a kids movie and I’m not trying to sound disrespectful, I love kids movies but they are generally faster paced than let’s say a P.T. Anderson movie.

Unfortunately, that’s it for this week. Too busy but stay tuned… who knows.

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Progress Report 46 – Up, Up and Away

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Keep calm.

I just booked my summer holiday. Canada, I start in Vancouver and take a trip through the country and I end up in New York and yes, I have a Hamilton ticket. I’m really looking forward to that. I need a break and 5 weeks of travelling should do the trick.

This is just going to be a quicky so let’s go straight to the numbers.

One book/screenplay: Not really, I had to spend some time with Skyscraper.
Two movies: The new Pirates is a mess. I also watched some random movies. Nothing too fancy.
Seven pages and seven hours: I spent most of my time with Skyscraper. We decided to cut it down to 80 pages and we hope to be don by the end of June. The goal is to make the script “cheaper” to produce. Pixar is not going to buy it but maybe someone who produces mid-budget animation movies might be interested. So technically I worked more than 7 hours but I produced minus 21 pages. We’re down to 82 right now but there are a few areas that require a lot more work.

There were some easy cuts, surprisingly easy, but some cuts require some adjustments and some new ideas. It’s quite an interesting process. You have a goal that creates problems and solving these problems is quite challenging but also inspiring. I haven’t felt so creative in quite a while. I love it.

In fact I enjoy it so much that I’ll stop now and get back to writing. Stay tuned, who knows.

Progress Report 45 – Master of None

What a busy week. So many things going on, I’m sure you are familiar with that. You have a thousand things to handle, so many different tasks to balance and then on top of that something totally unexpected happened and you just have to ask yourself where to find time for that. Two weeks earlier or later, no problem but why now? Why now?

Guess what, turns out you can find time. Sure you’re extremely busy and your nights get shorter but I actually like being busy. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing nothing but being busy, doing something I like or even love is not bad either. You probably wonder what Im talking about, well, a gentlemen never tells…no it’s not about a women, I said doing something not someone you love…but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if… no, not going there. Focus. Quick, let’s do the numbers before I get sidetracked again.

One book/screenplay: Do term papers count? I ha to read and correct some term papers, some of them good, some not so much but it’s work and it has to be done. I also reread Skyscraper but more on that a bit later.
Two movies: I didn’t watch too many movies but I binged Master of None, Season two on Netflix and wow, what aigret show. Season 1 was good but the second season is a sight to behold. Ansari and his team truly deliver on something great and unique. I don’t want to spoil anything, just go and watch it.
Seven pages and seven hours: I’m combining these two this week. A couple of month ago we wanted to rework Skyscraper to enter some competitions, well we reworked it a bit but we decided against the competition. This week I found myself going back to the script and I started to look for stuff to cut, shorten and polish. 103 pages is a bit long for an animation movie. Making it shorter seems like a good way to improve the scripts commercial appeal. In a way it’s similar to what we did with Saber Rider. It worked great for Saber Rider, it actually made the script better so hopefully we can repeat that with Skyscraper and who knows, maybe we soon have good news to share…c’mon, we’re allowed to dream. 🙂

Let me end with just a few quick thoughts on Master of None, I’m really busy remember. I liked the first season but compared to the seond one it was a bit unfocused. Maybe that was deliberate to some extent, Dev had to find himself at the end of the season and I think like Dev, the show really found itself in season two. It feels more mature and clearly wants to say something about human nature that goes far beyond the experiences of an Indian Muslim in America. All his problems, even the religious ones, especially those, are totally relatable and feel universal. I think that’s high praise and the show deserves it. I’m looking forward to season three.

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Jack of all Trades…

Progress Report 36 – Still Polishing

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Still polishing.

I’m sorry for being late again, hopefully it’s no going to become the new normal. It’s just really busy at the moment and by busy I actually mean really slow and I realised that I work a lot better with a reasonable amount of “stress”, not real stress though, just the feeling of being busy, in a way that was what #ProjectMomentum was (and is) all about, keep yourself busy writing. I hope to be able to “increase” the momentum from now on and increase my output.

I’m still polishing “Skyscraper” but I’m not as productive as I could and should be but lets do the numbers:

One book/screenplay: Almost done with The brief and wondrous life of Oscar Wao. It’s an interesting book and it really surprised me, I thought it was about popular culture but its more Latin American dictators. Next up: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.
Two movies: Week whatever of sleepless movie watching, stay updated on letterboxd. This week I rewatched the entire Mighty Ducks1 series and a bunch of other movies.
Seven pages: Still polishing Skyscraper.
Seven hours: Waiting on some Windwheel stuff to get feedback on.

After last weeks short post I feel the urge to write about something but I have no idea about what. My head is full of thoughts and ideas but most of them are not suitable for a blog that is mainly about screenwriting. I know I’ve stretched that definition in the past but by not suitable I mean too embarrassing. 🙂

So instead of a rant or something I’ll leave you with a nice video. John Oliver is back and he deserves your attention.

  1. The movies aren’t that good but they hold up, they are decent childrens sports movies. The bigger problem though, why the hell can’t I sleep?

A tiny update

So it has been a few days and I promised so here I am with an update. There is nothing new to report. We are still waiting for feedback on our Saber Rider script and The second batch of Skyscraper query letters is going out soon. We haven’t had any good news on that so far. I was turned down by a few agencies (the we are not looking right now) but Orlindo didn’t get any response from the production companies. Maybe they are still reading but I doubt it.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about all this. On the hand hand I’m glad that we didn’t get a message telling us how bad our script is but it on the other hand it would be nice to get at least something. I know there are a lot of people trying to to what we do but I really believe that pur work is good enough to compete on a professional level. Maybe we really have to refocus on the short film and try to get attention.

One thing we’ll definitely do is enter the Blacklist again. We got some good feedback there and I think that Saber Rider will find an audience there. At some point we’ll have to contact WEP but I doubt that they are interested in in pursuing it right now (with us).

So that’s it for the moment. I have to get back to tweak a few lines of dialogue but let me share with you another contender on our list….

Let’s try this news thing

Here we go.

Seems like we have a winner…well not really but we’ll get there. “Saber Rider” is making the rounds and so far (the little) feedback we got has been quite good.There seems to be a small group of people who really like the idea of a “Saber Rider” screenplay and they are really impressed that somebody took time (and was stupid enough) to actually write it. Hopefully they’ll still think this after they read it.

We are still looking for more feedback so please head over to our “Saber Rider” page and read it. For the lazy ones I included a direct link to the screenplay.

In other news…no news. We still haven’t heard anything about “Skyscraper” but we hope that will change soon. We are confident that we have a good script there and we are certain that someone will notice.

If not…I guess we have to write another screenplay…maybe this one…

Juts kidding…maybe. 🙂

How not to get an agent

Yes, we are trying to get an agent but so far no luck yet. Not exactly a big surprise but who knows, maybe we get lucky. Taking a cue from all the other screenwriting blogs, this seems to be quite a popular topic so I thought I’ll give to a go. 

So, what did we do?

Basically we’re working on two things. Orlindo is contacting various producers and production companies while I’m looking into agents. I bought a reference book for British writers with a whole bunch of addresses for agencies in it. I browsed through the lists and compiled a list for interesting agencies that fit our criteria (basically: we accept submissions). We decided to start with Britisch agencies. We think that the competition is a bit smaller and we hope that it is easier to get a foot in and frankly, we’d both be perfectly happy to work in Britain. 

But as I said, so far no luck. I contacted 8 agencies so far and received 2 answers so far. Obviously both of them negative. That leaves 6. We haven’t heard anything back from any of the producers or production companies yet. 

We know that an animation screenplay is a hard sell but we really believe in the story and we’re convinced that it is a good writing sample. Once “Saber Rider” is complete we’ll try the same routine with that screenplay and then again with the one after that. There0s just the tiny issue of coming up with another idea again but since we fancy ourselves writers, that should be the least of our problems and judging from the vastly improved timeframe we had with “Saber Rider”, chances are that we have a new screenplay ready to go in about a year.

Stay tuned. 🙂

It’s alive!

It’s one of those posts again….so skip reading if your sick if m ”This time it will work mantra.”

It’s alive!

Still here?….Ok, here we go.

As you can see, I redesigned the blog again. I found a neat theme that I really liked and didn’t require too much fiddling. Some of you may notice that I used the same theme on the newly redesigned www.whiteworms.com, this is no coincidence. I think of this site as a companion site. Whiteworms is were I try to sell screenplays and gregorvogt.com is where I blog about writing them.

I just feel I need to write more and sometimes I just don’t want to write screenplays and this here seems like a nice little distraction. I rely hope that I can post one real entry every week and maybe one or two little ones in between.

I will primarily write about writing and movies or tv shows or other things that I like or find interesting. I won’t write reviews, there are better places for that but I might tell you what you need to read/watch/listen to/eat/… . Maybe I’ll include a “Greg Recommends” feature at some point but who knows, don’t count on it.

So, let’s start with some news.

In october we mainly worked  on the new homepage. I redesigned the site (the old one was from 2007) and we relaunched it as a place to showcase our screenplays. We really want to make the site the best Whiteworms homepage ever.

I  also put some hours into rewriting “Saber Rider” and “The Passion of the Geek”.   We had some generous people who read our first draft of “Saber Rider” and they gave us some good notes and feedback. We are currently trying to solve some minor potholes and address some of their concerns. “The Passion” is coming together nicely. The plot still works (even though it doesn’t make sense) and I’m surprised that some of my jokes are still funny.

You’re probably asking why I didn’t tweak “Skyscraper”. Well, we are currently in the process of sending the script to various production companies and producers around Europe. We know that it is a long shoot but you never know.

We are also working hard on a few ideas for animated short movies. We are not completely there yet but we hope that we can present one in the near future. We are toying around with a few ideas but we want to make sure that we settle on the right one. We don’t want to repeat our past mistakes.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for the next entry. I promise there will be one.