Posted by: michellemuldoon | May 13, 2014

Redefining How To “Break In”: Part 1

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I wrote this article a year ago for Hollywood Scriptwriter on the new necessity to be a filmmaker versus simply a writer, or as I call it, a dot or a dash: 1. writer. (dot) 2. Writer/(dash)/ Director or any other dash you must be. The resulting conversation with Bill True, Richard Moon and Michael Gibrall produced some interesting points. I plan to post the second part of this article later this week. From March  or 2013, I give you Part 1 of:

To Write or To Film
— Redefining How To “Break In”

“There are tectonic shifts in the underpinning of the industry.”
–Bill True, Writer-Producer

Digital cameras, You Tube, the writers’ strike, a reduction in studio output, corporate encroachment into independent film support structures like kickstarter.com; the last ten years has seen massive changes in the way content is created and consumed, and those changes have led to a real shift in how new writers break into the industry.

Film has always had “the hyphenate”, the writer – director, who was seen as the great auteur of the industry; someone with a personal creative vision who had the tools to translate it to film with great success. The concept goes back to French New Wave Cinema in the fifties, but the digital age has changed exactly what being a hyphenate really means.

The advent of low cost digital cameras has made the dream of producing content a reality for many who aspire to a career in film. Add in readily available editing suites, and the egalitarian screening sites of the Internet, and we’ve entered the age of the filmmaker and content creator, not just the hyphenate.

With workshops, seminars, pitch events, software, and online access to WGA registration, the writing world is now at the fingertips of all writers, regardless of location. Written content is generated at a much higher quantity than ever before. The haystack grows exponentially bigger every day. Are the odds of finding that big break decreasing with the increase in content? Does this mean that the writer must become the content creator/filmmaker if they want to improve the odds? Is there any reason they shouldn’t, considering the current ease of production?

“People are having to retool their thinking, not just because the industry on the outside has changed, but there has been a fundamental shift.” Bill True sees the trends, and knows he has to stay one step ahead.

His career took off with the independent feature, Runaway. Produced in 2005, Runaway’s cast included Aaron Stanford, Robin Tunney, Melissa Leo and Terry Kinney. It was a big hit on the film festival circuit, screening at two of the largest festivals in North America, Toronto and Austin. The film won the prestigious Best Narrative Feature Award at the 2005 Austin Film Festival.

Thanks to the success of Runaway, and the long climb to distribution, Bill True has a unique perspective on how the film industry is evolving, and as a writer and instructor, he sees first hand how access to the industry has changed.

The genesis of Runaway can be traced back to 2000, when Bill True, successful family man and corporate employee walked into the two-day Dov S-S Simens film class. A reformed “theater guy”, Bill wanted back in the creative industries. The one thing he learned was that he needed a great script, and so he spent two years working on, and honing Runaway. The result was a semi-final placing in The Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting and a production deal with Producer Al Klingenstein. What makes this story such a worthy lesson is what happened next. Bill applied for, and interviewed for a producing position with the film. He got the job, which might be the best part of the Runaway experience. The industry lessons gained from working at every aspect from film development to distribution places Bill True in a rarified position.

“By understanding how movies get made, from development to distribution, I was going to have information other writers refused to get… I have a viewpoint a lot of my other screenwriter friends wouldn’t have.” It’s a viewpoint that’s still opening doors for Bill True.

 

 

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