Saturday, March 31, 2007

Showcase showdown

Though oft-maligned as buggy and crashy, the Final Draft screenwriting program remains -- with Movie Magic Screenwriter -- the industry standard (if there is such a thing). I, myself, have not experienced any problems with Final Draft since the universal binary update for OSX was released last year. In that time, the company has also begun to branch out into other areas of the screenwriting world. It purchased Script, the GoBots to Creative Screenwrting's Transformers of the screenplay magazines. A quick glance at the latest issue on the newsstand looked promising; it felt like there was more, and more substantive, content in it than the previous iteration.

A second area into which Final Draft appears to seek to make inroads is screenwriting conventions. Coming up on April 20-22 is the 2nd Annual Scriptwriters Showcase, at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City. It seems positioned as a smaller, slightly less expensive alternative to Creative Screenwriting's yearly Screenwriting Expo. Registration is limited to 999 attendees (Expo, in comparison, draws 4 to 5 times that many). Their "Take a Meeting sessions last 15 minutes versus Expo's 5-minute pitches (although cost $99 per session; Expo's pitches are $25 each). The agents/producers listed as committed to being present for the sessions didn't overwhelm me.

Another difference is live script coverage with the ScriptXpert Live service: 4 to 5 pages of analysis and 30-minutes of face time with the reviewer at the Showcase for $249. Comparable to what a critique/consult would cost a writer, on average, outside of the event. I didn't see on the website what "Xperts" are providing the coverage at the Showcase, however.

The panels appear to be the usual mix of nuts-and-bolts screenwriting advice, e.g., "Professionally Speaking -- Television Writing," and career development tips, e.g., "Represent! Agents v. Managers -- Writer Development." The panelists scheduled to appear are solid: Jim Uhls (Fight Club); Zak Penn (X2); and Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), for example. It doesn't appear that the keynote speaker(s) have been announced yet.

Packages start at $99 for a one-day pass, up to $399 for all-access, one (1) Take a Meeting, and other goodies. I'm on the fence about going to any part or all of this year's Showcase. I like the limited attendance aspect and the fact that it's close enough for me to just hop on the Red Line up to Universal to get there. On the other hand, it does feel just a notch below Expo in terms of the content and bang-for-the-buck. Did anyone attend last year's inaugural event? Any experiences to share? Does anyone plan on attending this one next month? I'd be interested to hear. I can envision this growing into a true alternative to the Expo, in the same way Script may soon be on a par with Creative Screenwriting as a magazine, but I'm not sure it's quite there just yet.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

PSA (Pet Safety Alert)

In case anyone is a pet owner and hasn't yet heard of the FDA recall of several contaminated pet food brands, Max has done yeoman's work with the full list of affected brands and products. The tainted foods can cause fatal kidney failure in dogs and cats, so if you have either, make sure you're not feeding them bad food. They'll thank you for it!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

London calling

Haven't heard too much on the music side of things that's really grabbed me lately but there are some good things coming from some female artists in the UK that might be of interest to some.

Although best known over here for the 1994 dance hit, Missing (as the vocal half of Everything But The Girl with husband Ben Watt), Tracey Thorn is just out with a solo album this week, Out of The Woods. KCRW has been hammering the single Grand Canyon the last month or so, another haunting dance stomper in the vein of Missing. Glowing reviews indicate other songs in the jazz/pop style of EBTG's pre-house work as well. For fans like me who didn't always follow Tracey and Ben on their diversions down the drum n bass side roads, it sounds like an awaited return to form. Meanwhile, Ben continues to mine the fertile London club scene with his Buzzin' Fly label and occasional d.j. gigs.

Also on the jazzy tip is Amy Winehouse, the young chanteuse from Camden Town. Somewhere between Lady Day and Shirley Bassey, Winehouse's voice is unforgettable. With a timeless quality that is enhanced by the traditional cabaret arrangments on singles like You Know I'm No Good. But also up-to-the-minute with subject matter like the Rehab that is so hard for other pop stars to apparently stay in of late.

London is also currently home to Claudia Brucken, former lead singer for the German '80s synthpop group, Propaganda. Claudia put out one fabulous solo album in 1991, Love and A Million Other Things (long out of print, sadly). Her new collaboration is Onetwo, with Paul Humphreys, formerly of British '80s synthpop group, OMD. The results I've heard so far are a little more ambient and dreamy than the dancy pop stuff the two had done in their previous incarnations, but still worth checking out (import only on CD but available for download digitally).

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Onward and upward

Still recovering from the push to submit for BlueCat by midnight last Thursday. Which I did with several minutes to spare. Rewriting 70+ pages, much from scratch, in the course of three weeks isn't my ideal way to work but I made it and am (mostly) happy with the changes. Semi-finalists are announced on July 1; finalists on July 15; and the winner on August 1. For others who entered and, like me, will spend the interim trying to calculate the odds of moving on to the next level, I was entrant #3957 at around 11:55 p.m. So, depending on how many more people got in just under the wire (and assuming that the numbers are assigned consecutively to entrants), that could mean almost 4000 submissions to BlueCat this year. By comparison, there were 4,899 for Nicholl in 2006.

Next up for the contest-inclined? Austin Film Festival's early-bird deadline is March 15 [CORRECTION: MAY 15th. I swear it said March when I posted this.] (which saves you $10 over the regular $50 application fee for submissions up to final cut-off date of June 1).