Saturday, February 9, 2019

"Jim Boston, how could you skip a month from your own blog?"

Well, here's how:

Last month, I stumbled onto the world's biggest social network and educational center for creatives in movies, television, and the stage.

And I got hooked!

It's none other than Stage 32, and right now, it's up to 500,000 members worldwide...more people than live here in Omaha (by itself, not counting the suburbs). 

For almost three years, I've been trying to kickstart a pursuit that hooked me from 1980 to 1994: Screenwriting.

When I was still attending Iowa State University, I bought a paperback copy of the script to the 1973 classic "American Graffiti." I really liked the way George Lucas (the movie's director...that's right, that George Lucas!), Gloria Katz, and Willard Huyck wrote the story.

Bought a couple of handbooks on writing for TV and for movies...and I've still got one of them to this very day: "The Television Writer's Handbook," a 1978 publication Constance Nash and Virginia Oakey teamed up to bring to the world.

Then in 1979, as an elective, I enrolled in a screenwriting class Joe Geha conducted. The chief project for each class member was a 30-minute script...and I ended up concocting a TV sitcom pilot called "Long Way," about two women who drove a truck for a Central Iowa soft-drink bottling company. (I worked at such a company during the summers of 1976 and 1978...and liked it!)

The next year, I moved here to the Big O, where I tried and tried and tried to come up with movie scripts (when I wasn't working for a local inventory service). I subscribed to Writer's Digest as well as something called Hollywood Scriptletter, a newsletter that, in the mid-1980s, was renamed Hollywood Scriptwriter.  

Through WD, I found out about the Peggy Lois French Agency. Armed with another TV sitcom pilot ("Edna's Garage," about a New Orleans auto mechanic and her crew), I tried to get representation through that Southern California firm...but I was told: "You haven't had enough life experience." 

Not even working for my dad at his own Des Moines auto-reconditioning firm during the summers of 1969-72 and 1977 (as well as most Saturdays from 1969-72) supposedly counted to the PLFA staff. 

Well, in the middle 1980s, I joined a screenwriters' support group. In those pre-Internet days, we mainly wrote letters to each other. Things were fine...until a letter from a Phoenix member named Willi Waltrip stated that I should give up trying to write scripts and, instead, peck out novels.

OUCH!! 

I dropped out of the group, stopping trying for a few years to write scripts, then got back into it by 1990- two years after I'd moved from Omaha to Sioux City, IA. 

Between 1990 and 1994, I'd typed out four more screenplays...then packed it in as I started hitting the unemployment lines as the used-record-and-tape-and-CD store I moved to Sioux City to help launch got ready to call it quits.

I was through trying to cook up screenplays. That was it.

Until 2016.

Three years before that,
Nick Holle (who teamed up with Michael Zimmer to helm a 2012 documentary about the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival, "The Entertainers") gave me his Power Mac G5 computer...originally purchased by a former OTPP contestant,
Brent Watkins (who teamed up with his wife Jackie to help produce the documentary).

This Power Mac had- and still has- a copy of Final Draft 6. (Yeah, I know...that was five Final Draft iterations ago.)

But since 4-18-2016, I've been using that copy of Final Draft 6 to get back in the screenwriting race, cooking up a fresh-out-of-the-box, 2010s effort and refurbishing three others (two from the 1980s and one from the 1990s). 

I've learned a lot from logging onto Richard Botto's claim to fame
...especially when it comes to how a spec script should look. First of all, I learned that, in today's screenwriting, you don't refer to camera angles in a spec script. You keep character descriptions to, basically, age and traits. 

And every scene, in addition to being "EXT." or "INT.," must also be labeled "DAY" (if not "MORNING" or "AFTERNOON") or "NIGHT."

I've never been more fired up about writing scripts than I am right now, thanks to Stage 32 (named after Paramount's Stage 32, a property that previously was in the hands of the old RKO Studios; in fact, "Citizen Kane" was filmed on that very stage).

And I can't wait to pitch my stuff, either. Stage 32, matter of fact, has a page full of listings for pitch sessions.

Well, all I can say after that is: Log onto stage32.com to see what all the hoopla is. And if you'd like to see any (or all four) of the screenplays I've loaded onto Stage 32, just visit stage32.com/profile/673680/scripts_screenplays. 

Thanks, thanks, thanks for reading "Boston's Blog!"