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Number two! Number two!

A little behind, but not too bad all things considered.

Hopefully I’ll catch up next month,

-Shady

Finished!

eleven to go.

Already working on number two,

-Shady

Go!

Start.

I think this is going to be fun,

-Shady

With the recent wrap of my latest screenplay (The Gets), the reality of twelve new scripts in the next year is now, well, a reality. But rather than wait for 2015 to get started on the first of a dozen scripts, I’ve decided to get busy on Christmas Is Gonna Be Awkward This Year right away.

My process of writing scripts is a weird one. I never knew I had an odd process until I read how other writers went about writing scripts, but it works for me so I don’t really care if it’s odd or not.

I don’t create outlines, act breakdowns, or even one-page synopses of the scripts I write. Typically, I have no idea where any one scene is headed, or which scene it will lead me to next.

Instead, I develop a few key characters (in an extremely minimal way), and then create six bullet points: the first and last scenes of Acts I, II, and III. Most times, those six points are the only outline I have before starting a script; other times, I don’t even have that much. Sometimes I have four of the six points figured out; with America’s Guest, I had two.

Rather than having a story fully fleshed out before getting started, I create from things that have influenced and inspired me along the way. These can include stories, old acquaintances, funny sounding words, a bit of history, or even something as minor as something I overheard a stranger say.

I eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers frequently, especially in public spaces; sometimes, these conversations turn into character dialogue. Basically, I’m a collector of people’s thoughts.

That is to say, I pull inspiration from weird places. Today, I’d like to pull some of that inspiration from your weird place. (Heh… dirty.) Your head. (Heh… also dirty.)

Below is a 20-question survey. If you have a moment, I’d love for you to fill it out. You can either post your replies directly in the comments section (under your real name or anonymously), or (if you’d rather not flash your weirdness to the masses) you can email me your answers here.

No need to be overly detailed in your answers. I appreciate brevity, mostly because it allows/forces me to creatively expand on your answers.

None of the information below will be used as a full story (to be read: stolen). Instead, some of your answers might show up as a bit of color in one of my scripts. A name you recognize might appear as a tertiary character, or a brief scenario you outline might end up being the spark a bigger story arc. I’m not looking to take stories from anyone, but rather gather inspiration from your suggestions for what my stories might become.

So… here you go!

20 QUESTIONS:

1. What is the name of the worst teacher you ever had (preferably, his/her full name)?

2. What made that teacher so awful? Specific, brief anecdotes appreciated.

3. Give me a word you think sounds funny.

4. Now, give me another one.

5. Tell me a short, supposedly true story you heard (at least) second-hand, like a “friend of a friend” type of tale. Specifically, a story so ridiculous sounding that you highly doubt its authenticity, but one that’s so amazing it also doesn’t keep you from spreading the lies.

6. Give me a word you think sounds gross.

7. Now, give me another one.

8. Where do you think would be the absolute worst place to get hit with a bout of diarrhea? Please be specific.

9. Tell me a short story of something that happened to you as a child that, at the time, you thought was life-ending, but looking back on it now is just silly and stupid.

10. Where’s the weirdest place you’d like to have sex? Not have had sex, but would like to have sex.

11. Name someone (non-famous) you think is a sweetheart (preferably, someone I don’t know).

12. Name someone (non-famous) you think is a shithead (preferably, someone I don’t know).

13. If you had a child and could name it anything you wanted without fear of ridicule or retribution from your family, friends, or society, what would you name it? Full names appreciated.

14. What was the worst gift you’ve ever received?

15. What was the worst gift you’ve ever given someone?

16. Finish this sentence as honestly as you can: “One time, I was so drunk/high, I _____.”

17. As a child, what was the strangest Halloween costume you ever trick-or-treated in?

18. If the eight-year-old you had owned a car, what would its vanity license plates have read?

19. Name an animal you think is total bullshit. Explain.

20. If you were a wrestler, what would your name be? Also, what would your finishing move be? Bonus points for creating a finishing move rather than naming an existing one.

Can’t wait to read these replies,

-Shady

We’ve been living in L.A. for a little over six years now.

On the day we arrived—November 4th, 2008, to be exact—we admittedly had very little going for us. KB had just accepted a temporary (three-month) contract gig with Variety. I had just signed with a literary agent (who is now long gone), and there was some interest in adapting The Roberts for the screen (a process that, to this day, is still in development).

Essentially, we moved here on a whim with the idea that if it failed, we could just move back home.

Six years later, KB has moved her way up the ranks at The Hollywood Reporter (after being hired away from Variety in 2010), and I wrote a movie that will be released sometime next year. (No, I still don’t have an exact date yet.)

But our recent L.A. anniversary got me thinking: “If I had a time machine and could go back and tell the 2008 me what to do, what would I tell myself?”

To be honest, my answer to that question is painfully simple:

1. Immediately start writing as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Just because you have people interested in your work and an agent representing that work doesn’t mean shit. Those materials will then become equity because they will be your intellectual property (I.P.) forever, no matter if you sell it the day you finish it or twenty years down the line.

2. Write whatever the fuck you want. If you want to stick to film over TV (or vice versa) or a particular genre (or all genres), awesome. If you want to do the opposite of all that, also awesome. Write whatever you want to read/watch, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Because—

3. —nobody out here knows what the fuck they’re talking about. It’s like that old saying: “Opinions are like assholes… everyone’s smells like shit.”

Never let someone tell you what you should be writing (or, for that matter, how you should be writing) because I promise you they’re almost always wrong. If I’ve learned anything while dabbling in this ridiculous industry, it’s this: NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.

And I’m talking about everyone: writers; directors; talent; producers; execs; managers; agents, and even poor, sad-bastard interns who are stuck doing shit work for free/credit. I also admittedly include myself in this equation.

The truth is, there is no math that can be applied to this industry. If there were, everyone would be rich. Instead, we’re all just throwing mountainous piles of shit against the walls and waiting to see what sticks. When it doesn’t stick, you’re to blame because you created an inferior idea. When it does stick, they take the credit because they’re the geniuses who discovered/championed/rallied behind you.

Whatever. They can lay claim to that shit all day long so long as it also pays my goddamn rent.

This train of thought then lead me to another question: “If I could go back and redo the first full year we were out here (in this case, 2009), what would I do?” My answer is this: “I’d write a shitload of screenplays, one right after the other, and build up my I.P. library.”

One of the people I aspire to be like is screenwriter Michael Arndt. Some accounts state that Arndt was a script reader before he hit it big, but the story I heard was that he was an assistant to John Cusack for many years. One day, he realized that if he didn’t do something to change his situation, he’d die John Cusack’s assistant. I’m not sure which of these anecdotes is true (or if either of them are true, for that matter), but the basic premise of both scenarios is this: Arndt had a shit job, realized he was meant for something greater, and then did something to change his situation by working his ass off.

Specifically, he saved up enough cash to quit his job for a year. During that year, he wrote seven screenplays. One of them—the last one, if I’m not mistaken—was a little script called Little Miss Sunshine. Next thing you know, he’s winning an Oscar for it. His next script? Toy Story 3, which landed him another Oscar nomination (though not a win). Since then, Arndt has contributed to the new Star Wars movie, and he also wrote next year’s Pixar release Inside Out.

To be read: This guy committed to his craft, buckled down and wrote a shitload of original material, and then came out the other end of it not as a script reader or John Cusack’s assistant, but as an Oscar-winning screenwriter.

That’s the fucking guy I want to be.

So then I got thinking: Arndt wrote seven scripts in twelve months. The quickest I’ve ever written a screenplay is ten days. I wrote a quiet little dramedy (I really don’t really like that word, but whatever) called America’s Guest in ten days in May 2012… mostly in bars in Cannes… and completely drunk on rosé. To be read: THE ABSOLUTE BEST WAY TO WRITE SCRIPTS.

Anyway, I figured if I could write America’s Guest in ten days, I could easily write another screenplay in 30. And then that got me thinking: “I wonder if I could write a new script from beginning to end for every month in 2015.”

And so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Because, you know, I really should’ve done it back in 2009.

Over the past six years, I’ve (mentally) collected a ton of ideas that are just waiting to be fleshed out, so I went ahead and created a script lineup for next year. Some of these are working titles, but I already have a lot of the logistics of these stories (characters, arcs, anecdotal ridiculousness, etc.) already worked out in my head. That is to say, I may not have anything down on paper just yet for any of these, but my brain is filled with the direction, details, and dialogue of these stories.

And so I officially announce my outline of twelve scripts in twelve months in 2015. Or, as I like to call it:

12 in 12 in ’15

JANUARY: Christmas Is Gonna Be Awkward This Year (Dramedy)

FEBRUARY: Life Sentence (Action)

MARCH: Pop, Rock & Andy (Comedy)

APRIL: Thai Village (Horror)

MAY: Tether (Thriller)

JUNE: The River Otters (Comedy)

JULY: A Reluctant Villain (Animated)

AUGUST: Father (Horror)

SEPTEMBER: Nightbeast (Stage Play/Musical)

OCTOBER: My Fellow Americans… (Comedy)

NOVEMBER: I Did It (Comedy)

DECEMBER: Dick, David & The Ladybug (Comedy)

Obviously, if I finish a script early I won’t wait around for the month to end before I get started on the next one. So, who knows? Maybe I’ll be done before the end of 2015. But I wouldn’t count on it.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress as the year flies by (which it will).

Wish me luck,

-Shady

Old Poop!