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    Buck Henry


    This article was originally on the Plotpoints Podcast

    Buck Henry sounds like a name to be feared. It intimates a man of giant stature, powerful and muscle hard.

    And he was - just not physically.  The name was Henry's way of both honoring his grandfather, who was also a Buck, but also an enduring statement about perceptions.

    Henry Zukerman aka Buck Henry, was an award-winning actor, writer, and director. It’s doubtful that anyone was more accomplished in the facets of entertainment than the ones Buck Henry pursued.

    Like many of his peer group at the time, Henry was born and raised in New York city, cutting his teeth on high school plays. Unlike those of his time, however, Henry was a paid actor on Broadway at the age of 15 with a production of "Life With Father."

    Henry came to the entertainment world naturally. His mother, Ruth Taylor, was a silent film star, and his father, a brigadier general and stockbroker, provided a nice cushion for Henry to pursue his dreams.

    During a stint in the Army during the Korean War Henry continued to act and write plays for an Army repertory company. After the war he did improvisational comedy with a well-known comedy troop in New York.

    In an odd bit of real-life farce, and I’m going to quote this directly from Wikipedia because I won’t get it right if I don’t.

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    Linda Woolverton


    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints Podcast episode.  See right side, under slideshow on home page.

    Linda Woolverton is the combination of two rarities in Hollywood. One is a female screenwriter - a growing but still under-represented demographic, and two, a multi-screenwriting Disney star.

    Woolverton is a SoCal native born and educated in Long Beach, earning a masters at Cal State Fullerton in children’s theater.

    If Hollywood wouldn’t hire her, she reasoned, she’d just start her own children’s theater company which successfully performed in theaters, malls, and churches in the area and which also gave a venue to many aspiring young writers, directors, actors and actresses.

    While working as a development exec at CBS in children’s programming, she also began writing her YA novels, Star Wind and Running Before The Wind which were very well received.

    This decision to write and publish books would become one of her better ones.

    Tiring of the executive grind, Linda moved into children’s television writing.

    She wrote for animated series Star Wars: Ewoks, Dennis the Menace, The Real Ghostbusters, The Berenstain Bears, My Little Pony and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers but eventually chafed over the restrictions and seemingly dead end.

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    John Hughes



    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints podcast..  See top right of home page (under slideshow.)

    If John Hughes hadn’t been born someone would have had to invent him.

    In the 80's John Hughes ruled Hollywood when it came to a 15-30 yr old demographic. And as his repertoire grew, he ruled screwball comedies in the same way in the 90s’ and beyond.

    Born in 1950 into a comfortable middle class life in Lansing Michigan, Hughes channeled much of his teen years into film. He credits moving to Chicago for his inspiration for his first film efforts. He in fact met his future wife, Nancy Ludwig there. In high school he was a Rat Pack fan (Sinatra, etc.) and that certainly expressed itself in some of those teen comedies where groups of young misfits would go through 2 hrs of drama and comedy. In fact, some of these teens became known as the Brat Pack.

    Hughes dropped out of college and sold jokes to several top tier comedians of the time. He got into marketing and created several dynamic and well-known ad campaigns before he found his comedy groove.

    He became a regular contributor to National Lampoon - the magazine - and wrote a story called Vacation 88 which eventually became National Lampoon's Vacation.

    National Lampoon's Class Reunion which he wrote while still on staff at the magazine became his first produced movie screenplay but he had a few episodes of a TV show called Delta House and oddly enough, a co-writer credit in a Nicola Tesla film.

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    Frank Pierson

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    One of the more frustrating aspects of scriptwriting is that rarely are writers as celebrated as in other fields like novels or plays. And actors, directors - even producers get mch more press.

    Case in point: Frank Pierson.

    If you don’t who he is, that’s typical. But when I list his films you’ll be amazed.

    Pierson was a New Yorker born and raised. Chapp - a - qua to be exact. Both Pierson’s mother and father were writers so Pierson’s path was set.

    After an a stint in the army during World War II Pierson started selling teleplays in New York city but soon moved to Hollywood.

    His initial attempts at writing for TV failed so he became a script editor on the show “Have Gun Will Travel” starring...Richard Boone, and did manage to get some of his work produced for that show.

    Success continued as he wrote for such shows as “Naked City” Dr. Kildare, Route 66 and others.

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    Elmore Leonard


    This profile was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast #156 / July 10, 2019 iTunes

    You may not know the name Elmore Leonard. Or you may know him solely from the hit series “Justified” starring Timothy Oliphant which was based on Leonard’s character Marshall Raylan Givens. The short story “Fire In The Hole” became the basis of Justified in which Givens is sent back to Harlan County, the area of his birth, as punishment for basically having a old west duel with a drug assassin in Miami Beach, Florida. At a restaurant. During lunch. Not that Givens cared.

    But what you probably don’t know is that you actually do know him from many, many sources because at least 19 movies and 7 TV shows were based on Leonard’s work.


    Justified, Get Shorty both the current TV series and movie, 3:10 to Yuma, Karen Sisco (TV,) Out Of Sight (jlo karen sisco), Jackie Brown, Freaky Deaky, and Hombre to name just a few of the many productions that he had either written into screenplays himself, or that were done by others from his novels and short stories.

    And actually the movie Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) which was a wholly original screenplay by Leonard.

    Leonard’s early life was unremarkable although his father’s job required them to relocate frequently. After military service (he was a SeaBee) in World War II, Leonard began submitting his work while still at the University of Detroit and had some minor success.

    In 1951, while still a copy writer, Leonard had his short story “Trail of the Apaches” published. This basically started a run that lasted for decades as he wrote about the old West both in short story and novels.

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    Steven Bochco


    First published in audio form on Plotpoints Podcast, Episode 161

    Before he passed away in 2018, Steven Bochco had the type of career that most of us can only dream of.

    Bochco was born and raised in New York and attended Carnegie Mellon University as a theater major.   After graduation, he drove cross country to California with actor Michael Tucker and went to work for Universal Pictures as a writer and then story editor on legendary television shows like Ironside, Columbo, and McMillan & Wife.

    One of his Columbo episodes, "Murder by the Book" (in 1971), was directed by another young budding superstar, Steven Spielberg. Actor Michael Tucker, Bochco’s moving partner would find success as a character actor and especially as attorney Stuart Markowitz in L.A. Law, a later Bochco production.

    In 1978 Bochco went from Universal to MTM Enterprises which was at the time a major television player.

    Bochco had middling success at MTM until Hill Street Blues which started a trend in television that has lasted and grown until today of gritty, street-wise police dramas.  Hill Street Blues’ 1st episode caused a stir when two likable characters, patrol cops Renko and Hill, played by Charles Haid and Michael Warren, were killed at the end of the episode.

    Or so we thought.

    The coarse street stories, worn and dirty sets, and ambush assassination attempts sent a clear signal that Bochco had a vision for episodic police procedurals and it wasn’t like anyone else’s.

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    NBFF 2019

    2019 NBFF

    Newport Beach Film Festival 2019by Derek Nguyen

    As always, the Newport Beach Film Festival provides the perfect spot for Orange County film artists to share their craft. With theaters in Fashion Island, Costa Mesa, the Lido, and more, you can hardly imagine a better venue to premiere your films and shorts. It’s well-run, industry professionals enjoy the slower pace of Orange County in comparison to the chaos of Los Angeles, and great food venues like Five Crowns are open for the VIP’s and filmmakers to wine and dine. It’s been five years since I’ve last been here, and while my outlook on filmmaking has shifted, my love for the festival itself definitely remains strong.

    Back in 2014, I was a senior in high school just starting to learn about filmmaking. The ever-fantastic Mark Sevi was teaching me screenwriting and every time he showed me some facet of filmmaking, I was completely enthralled. My technical knowledge of film was nil, I simply knew that I loved the storytelling. So, when I went to the festival for the premiere of “Chef,” I just watched it as a fun movie. You can find my review on this website actually, and my thoughts about the event afterwards. In terms of film criticism, I mainly focus on screenwriting because that was the (small) extent of my knowledge. I looked at the premiere party simply as a fun excursion with good food and drinks. Looking back at all of this and comparing it to how I took in the event this year, it makes me realize just how much my perspective on filmmaking has changed.

    Since 2014, I’ve went and graduated from UCLA, and pursued filmmaking the entire way through. At first, this began with screenwriting and narrative shorts, but as I grew as a filmmaker, I ventured into other mediums such as music videos and branded content. This led to me evolving from a writer to a director, and often times I would work as a producer for my own works too. These experiences necessitated that I learned about all facets of film, from writing to cameras to VFX implementation. So, when I went to the Newport Beach Film Festival this year, I watched the shorts from a much more analytical standpoint.

    I went to two different short showcases, the UK Shorts and the “Realizations Came Shortly” selection, and I dissected them based on scene count, locations, production design, and equipment in order to guess-timate the budgets. I found that most of the shorts from the UK showcase were actually rather expensive and often had a medley of sponsors. It makes sense though, as the UK shorts had to have a sizeable budget in the first place to be submitting to festivals across the world. These shorts often had big casts, many scenes, intricate production design, and expansive locations on top of their top-notch equipment (drones, ARRI Alexa’s, Steadicams and the like). They exuded money, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that the budgets were upwards of $30,000 for most of them. On the other hand, the American shorts I saw in “Realizations Came Shortly” did have some lower budget selections. I could tell right away when a short was lower budget: the camera movement would not be as free-flowing, the casts were small, there would be only one location or continuous scene. As I watched these shorts, I made sure to analyze them to think about how I’d execute my own short. I wasn’t there just to watch them for simple enjoyment.

    That being said, I’m a sucker for good stories. I found myself slowly starting to focus less on the logistics and “ugly” side of filming, and started to focus on what made these stories click. Comparing how I interpreted these stories to how I viewed “Chef” five years ago, it was comforting to know that I still valued stories above all. Reflecting back o nthose shorts now, after I was enthralled by quite a few of them, I realized that I loved the stories when they were distilled to just one, simple narrative. They never needed to be overly complicated or produced. It didn’t matter whether it was a $5,000 budget or a $30,000 budget. A short can be great as long as it had a compelling story.

    After the shorts, I also attended the dinner party at Five Crowns this year, and it was fascinating watching all the networking going on all around. As a freelance filmmaker, I couldn’t help but to think of how great an opportunity that party would be. While I have a portfolio, I definitely needed a short to take full advantage of this party as narrative filmmaking really was the main subject people were interested in. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the well-drinks, the great food such as the delicious tuna tartare tacos, and the cozy environment that Five Crowns has to offer.

    Looking back at this year’s festival, it really illuminated how much there is to know about the film industry. I’m still a novice to say the least, and I feel infinitely more knowledgeable than I did five years ago. Five years from now, I’m sure I’ll think that I knew nothing about film in 2019. I just hope that next time I’m here, I’ll be able to showcase my own stories instead of simply watching them.  At least now I know I don’t need a $10,000+ budget to pull it off! I just got to find the right story to tell.

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    John Sayles

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    John Sayles isn’t one of those filmmakers you think about a lot. But if you’re a fan of his, as soon as his name gets in your ears, his movies inhabit your mind and you can’t think of anything else.

    Sayles’ career started in the incubator of Roger Corman’s production company. Corman, who at the current age of 93, has an astounding 415 credits as a producer - and started the careers of many famous Hollywood names such as Jack Nicholsan, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcesse and James Cameron also counts Sayles as one of his mentees.

    Lady In Red and Pirahna (1978 and 1979) were two films Sayles wrote for Corman before he did his own film, Return of the Secaucus 7 about a group of college friends on a reunion at a house in New Hampshire, and the drama that occurs as old wounds are opened and unresolved issues are aired. If that premise sound familiar, you might recognize it from The Big Chill which was made several years later in 1983. Secaucus 7 won several awards including a Writers Guild award for best comedy. It unfortunately was not a commercial success which marked a path that many Sayles films would walk.

    Sayles work has always been distinguished by low tickets and high praise. He’s won Edgar Awards, WGA awards, NAACP Image awards, dozens of film festival awards, Spirit and Sundance awards, critics awards, nominations for Academy Awards and on and on even as box office rewards mostly eluded him.

    His dramas are marked by intense and painful exchanges. Raw and emotionally bloody, they grab and hold you uncomfortably tight. His comedy is broad and absurd. His genre films, notables like Pirahna, Alligator, and The Howling never failed to scare or thrill.

    The exception proving the rule, Sayles was a writer on Battle Beyond the Stars widely named as one of Corman’s worst films. How Battle failed is beyond me. It featured Sayles as writer and James Cameron and James Horner contributing - but that’s the joy of creativity. Even the sure things can sink under the weight of their own expectations.

    Sayles has dabbled in television and appeared in many films as an actor.

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    Newport Beach Film Festival 2019

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    The Newport Beach Film Festival honors short films with more screen time than any other festival I've attended.

    Over 200 short films are screening this year!  And only fourteen percent of the shorts submitted to the festival are accepted!  That number comes straight from Dennis Baker, Director of Shorts Programming.

    The math is pretty simple:  Over 1435 short films were submitted to the festival this year!!

    Surely those short films that made the cut deserve some serious kudos.  And it means, as a screenwriter, you should pay attention to the short form.  Given the exposure you may get, it’s a viable ticket to “the show,"  a point of entry in a marketplace filled with gatekeepers.

    Many of the shorts at this year's festival are written, directed, produced and sometimes star talented young people in the industry.  Some are proving concepts and skills, and their “how-I-got-it-made stories” are perhaps as interesting as the stories they present on screen.

     Stay turned for more on that.  In my next article, I’ll focus on a handful of the shorts screened here, how they got made, got funded, and the inspiration behind them.

    For now, I’ll tell you more of what I learned from Dennis on how these movies are presented to the public at NBFF.

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    William Goldman - Nobody Knows Anything Except Him

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    This profile was part of a Plotpoints Podcast on July 12, 2017 (LINK TO PODCAST)

    I’m not sure that any podcast that purports to cover scriptwriting can neglect to mention a true genius and legend of the craft. Writer Aaron Sorkin has said of him, “He taught me everything I know and about a tenth of what he knows.”

    Who is this genius?

    William Goldman.

    As if his name was somehow indicative of his potential for fame, in the 60's, 70's and 80's Goldman was the A-list writer who delivered box office gold.

    Movies like:

    1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay) 1986 Heat (novel) / (screenplay) 1979 Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (characters) 1979 Mr. Horn (TV Movie) 1978 Magic (novel) / (screenplay) 1977 A Bridge Too Far (screenplay) 1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay) 1976 All the President's Men (screenplay) 1975 The Great Waldo Pepper (screenplay) 1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay) 1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited) 1972 The Hot Rock (screenplay) 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)

    Many of his most successful films were based on books he had written which were also successes. The Midas Touch was more than a phrase for Goldman.  Not only was he writing scripts that would star A-list actors and win numerous awards, he was also the most sought-after script doctor in the business.

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    © 2017

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    Mel Brooks - Funny Man


    If you’re too young to know Mel Brooks from his heyday, you certainly can still see many reflections of his work today.

    The film “The Producers” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder has been made into a Broadway hit that is still playing. The original production starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, has run for 2,502 performances and counting, and has won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.

    It was also remade into a 2005 movie starring Lane and Broderick.

    Brooks’ “Get Smart” series, which he co-created with writer Buck Henry, was recently made into a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as agents 86 and 99. The same silly, hilarious bits that infused the late 60's comedy and made it a TV hit were in abundance in the movie version.

    More recently, there’s been talk of remaking "Robin Hood, Men In Tights," "Blazing Saddles" (which I’d love to see how or if they could,) and "Young Frankenstein."

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    Harlan Ellison

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    You can be forgiven for not knowing Harlan Ellison’s name. In the last few years he’s been pretty quiet because of a stroke which eventually took his life in late June. But if you’ve never experienced an Ellison story the good news is his work is all over the multi-media landscape and his books and short stories are still at the top of everyone’s lists. He’s dead simple to find on Amazon because his work, thematically, is still as relevant as when it first exploded on the world in the late 60's.

    I remember the first time I read a Harlan Ellison story. The writing was so strong, so brutal, so impactful that the last line hit me with a force that my adolescent brain couldn’t process. I remember sitting there and actually feeling sick to my stomach. I felt as if the world, as I knew it, had ended.

    And it had.

    I’d taken that step from the scifi fanboy of rockets, ray guns and Dandelion Wine, to aliens, humans - and machines - who existed for nefarious reasons that had nothing to do with our silly human values.

    The line? The one that knocked me silly...?

    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

    That was also the title of the short story first published in 1967.

    "I Have No Mouth and Must Scream" is an allegory for Hell where people are endlessly tormented by an all-powerful sentient supercomputer.

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    Kristen D'Alessio, Alex and the List

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    On July 18th, at C3 Vape and Coffee, OC Film and Television and OC Screenwriters held our 3rd Wednesday networking event. 

    Kristen D'Alessio (IMDB) was our guest to speak on the process of taking a concept from script to screen and beyond.  The first words that come to mind when I think of Kristen D'Alessio are forms of the word grace.  Graceful, gracious, and graced. 

    Kristen was so knowledgeable about the process of filmmaking and shared that information without reservation. No question was rebuffed, no avenue unexplored as she dazzled the group at C3.

    The consistent message that I head from Kristen is this is not for the faint of heart.  Coming from an acting background, she and Harris Goldberg (IMDB) wrote, produced, directed, and distributed the film, sharing those tasks together and separately for two years and counting!

    "Alex and the List" is probably considered an indie film but it has a high concept worthy of any studio film:  Alex (Patrick Fugit) is getting married and his fiance (Jennifer Morrison) has a list of things she wants him to change about himself before they say I do. 

    Fugit is confused and upset but his gal pal (Karen Gillan) tells him that every girl has a list - Morrison's character just wrote them down. 

    The vagaries of love and expectations are explored.  Hilarity and shrewd observations of humanity occur as each player explores what it means to be in love - or think they are.

    Kristen covered the entire process from concept to completion, something that, as producer, she's still not fully done with yet as she continues to negotiate foreign territories for distribution. 

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    The Gallows Event on June 02

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    It was a bit of a nervous moment when filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing arrived from Fresno and the banquet room was still only half-filled.  However, faith in the OC film community was restored when the tables filled with enthusiastic attendees hungry to hear the remarkable story of how the horror film, The Gallows, got made, distributed and then rocketed Chris and Travis to genre film fame.

    Short version: 

    • Unemployed Travis meets film student Chris after Travis had won the TV show "Wipeout." 
    • They come up with a plan to make a low budget, found-footage film like "Paranormal Activity" with neither having much actual film experience.
    • They raise enough money, shoot the film, and it gets picked up a management company that then gets Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema involved.
    • Reshoots ("sweetening") happen with Kathy Lee Gifford's daughter Cassidy Gifford because the original actress was unavailable.
    • Movie released.
    • On a budget of approx. 100k + 200k sweetening, the film earns 43 million dollars worldwide.
    • Blumhouse pictures, the number one horror production company, makes Tremendum Pictures (Travis and Chris's prodco) a part of their production house.
    • Chris and Travis field offers from everyone on the planet.

    It's a Hollywood dream come true.

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    NBFF 2018 Red Carpet with Rudy Garcia

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    Rudy Garcia is an OCSWA board member and an amazing success story.  One day we'll interview him and detail his journey but for now we'll satisfy ourselves with the great red carpet interviews he did at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival!

    Janice Arrington, the OC film commissioner and friend of the Orange County Screenwriters Association (even if she can't remember our name 😀), is one of the interviews in this playlist.  Janice, good to see you!  You look fabulous!

    Great job RUDY.  Thanks for traveling down south the help us out.  RUDY'S WEBSITE

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    NBFF Closing Night


    The Newport Film Festival is over!  And the highlight happened an hour before it even began. (For me, anyway)

    Here’s the story:

    Before the first red carpet, I killed some time at Flemming’s happy hour where I chanced upon Dawn Bierschwal, the lead producer of “Better Start Running,” one of the bigger features this year, mainly due to the cast including Jeremy Irons and Maria Bello.

    “So what’s your favorite story,” I asked. (Making a movie always means you have stories to tell.)

    “Oh, definitely the fight over the fuck,” she said.

    I recognized immediately that she cut her movie for a PG rating, and that meant some compromises. Let me explain (in case you’re not following):

    Movies are more marketable when you produce them with a PG-13 rating (or lower) because the market is bigger.  It isn’t “restricted” by an arbitrary age requirement that leaves the bulk of your potential audience outside the door.

    And if the word “fuck” is spoken more than once in your film, it gets an R rating.

    Bottom line: You get only one fuck. If you use the word “fuck” twice, you’re screwed.

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    What Is Science Fiction

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    On a recent podcast ( our new co-host Jeff Lyons was tasked to create a top ten list of science fiction films.  These were his choices, not necessarily by any measure of performance or popularity.  In other words, they were films he deemed worthy of a top ten list.  He did not put them in any order.

    His first step was to try to define a genre that has constantly defied definition.

    Or has it?

    Many say science fiction is about extrapolated science (in any form) impacting the lives of people and civilizations.  So "Star Wars" "Ready Player One" even "Downsizing" and "Lost In Space" would fit.  But sociological extrapolations of future events or alternate realities or worlds also can be science fiction like "Handmaids Tale."

    Some definitions are rather narrow.

    Someone who is off-times quoted is Darko Savin, a essayist and academic: Science fiction is "a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment.

    My hero, Rod Serling, is a bit slippier:  Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible

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    Newport Beach Film Festival 2018 - Seminars



    The Newport Beach Film Festival is not just about watching movies!

    It’s also a chance to network with filmmakers and industry pros. You can do this at QA’s after world premieres, at nightly parties, and at FREE seminars this Saturday and Sunday at the Newport Civic Center.

    Access to working people in the industry is limited in Orange County. Your only regular options are the events we sponsor here at OC Screenwriters.

    So don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity!

    The NBFF’s FREE seminars are a great way to shake hands and chat with working writers, directors, editors, musicians, animators, and other industry pros.

    This year, the panel titles are:

    Cinematography Master ClassBuilding a career in AnimationHeroes of the Editing RoomDiversity in Film and TV Musicand….Screenwriting Seminar

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    The Newport Beach Film Festival 2018 - Riki Kuchek

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    Every wonder how the Newport Beach Film Festival is put together?  Writer/producer Joe Becker ( interviews programming director Riki Kuchek to find out.

    The Newport Beach Film Festival bills itself as the biggest social event in Orange County.  And they might just be right!  Each year over fifty-five thousand people attend a screening or buy a ticket to one of their nightly parties during the eight day event in late April of each year.

    The festival began in 1999, and now, nineteen years later, NBFF is bigger and -- few would deny -- better than ever before.  Over three hundred films are screened in multiple south OC locations, principally the Lido theater and the Triangle Square theater complex on Newport Boulevard.

    I chatted recently with Programming Director Riki Kuchek, and what she had to say is of great interest to screenwriters and filmmakers here in the OC and worldwide:


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    The Empty Space

    black hole of scriptwriting

    Screenwriting, any writing, is such a solitary occupation.  It suits me.  I'm always comfortable alone and inside my head.  Or perhaps I've just become more solitary as a result of my 25-year span sitting behind a desk by myself.  I'm Italian and gregarious by nature (and nurture) but there's a lot of me that likes being alone with a computer, book, script, or TV/movie.  I always thought I could be the erstwhile caretaker on the old scifi film "Silent Running" or the Sam Rockwell character on the film "Moon."

    The solitary nature of writing has tendrils into other aspects of the lifestyle.  No one, perhaps even another writer, can quite understand the internal nature of who you are.  Of course, that's true of most of us anyway but writers face a unique doubling down of that truth.  Unless you've "made it" most of your work goes unrecognized and unrewarded except for a few friends or an attaboy you might give yourself when you type FADE OUT or THE END (do novelists still type THE END?)  Perhaps you're like the hilarious character in "Romancing The Stone" who cracks a mini-bottle of booze and feeds your cat its food in a champagne glass when you've finished your latest project.

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