Posted by: michellemuldoon | May 15, 2014

Redefining How To “Break In”: Part 2

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This is part two of an article I did a year ago for Hollywood Scriptwriter. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read part one, and share their thoughts. I hope you enjoy part two just as much.


It’s that viewpoint that writer – producer Richard Moon is also cultivating. He too sees the value of diversifying his access points to the Hollywood system by not only writing, but producing his own material under his Moonhill Productions banner. “ As long as you’re sticking with one part of the process, you’re relying on someone else.”

Moonhill is the company Richard runs with his wife, Isabel Junie Hildebrandt, and fellow producer Colleen Kelly. They’ve produced two feature and three short films.

“One of the things about becoming a producer or director is you get to cheat a little bit, and, you know, rather than getting past the gatekeeper, you become one.” While people do break in through things like pitch events, they can also be soul crushing experiences. “Sitting across from you taking pitches is usually a junior, junior executive who drew the short end of the straw”, he says. It can be exciting, and still feel futile at times. Richard feels that creating your own content is a great way to get the writer’s words in the hand of actors and show that the words on the page work on the screen.

In regards to why he chose to produce, Richard Moon believes, “It’s a much harder job, in a lot of ways, but it’s a much easier sales pitch. You can get a lot more people involved, simply because more people are willing to get involved with someone who says, I’m willing to do it, I’m going to get the hard stuff done.”

While producing was supposed to be a transitional position to promote his work, Richard may have found a second calling. He enjoys the process to the point that he’s now interested in producing work that isn’t his own. “I love writing, but I really like completing films.”

Like Bill True, Richard Moon has seen a change in the way people in the industry relate to him. “People respond when you say, I got this done.” But its more than that, producing has changed the way he writes. “It’s made it tighter, and stronger.” The added strength to his writing, and the increased respect for creating content have resulted in the kind of forward momentum that wasn’t possible when he was just Richard Moon, writer.

Following in the trail blazed by Bill and Richard, is Michael Gibrall. Michael has a storied career as a technical director with ESPN, and has a Sports Emmy Award to show for it. The success at ESPN led to directing for WRIC, the ABC Richmond affiliate, and a second statuette at the National Capital/Chesapeake Bay Emmy Awards.

Michael Gibrall isn’t someone who just wakes up and decides to make a film; he’s someone who does his groundwork first. After an encouraging, but ultimately disappointing attempt to launch a children’s televisions series (Learning Curves), Michael turned to writing. Like every good writer, he’s had disappointments, but decided that he was being challenged to hone his craft. For Michael, the discovery of The Screenwriter’s Bible by Dave Trottier made a huge difference. “In my opinion, this book was a game changer for me. I took to heart the book’s message, retooled my script using the techniques and advice noted in the book. Same story. Same dialogue. Same everything. Only now, the script was more professional and a much smoother read.” That script is called Positive Variance, and it’s gone on to multiple Film Festival nominations and awards. It also firmly set Michael Gibrall on his current path.

The Action On Film (AOF) International Film Festival incorporated a bold and new kind of competition in 2012. Called The $100,000 Challenge, the festival awarded one lucky writer production of a screenplay. Excited by the possibility, Michael set to work on a new script called, Available. Available was a semi-finalist, and this encouraged Michael to move forward with the script.

Following the AOF experience, Available was placed on the newly minted Black List website. What happened next sealed its production fate. “Available has been accessed and downloaded several times, and someone gave the script a 10/10. A perfect score. When that happened, I started the process of making the film myself.”

Michael is using a combination of crowd-funding and private investment to finance the film. “I’ve been using my crowd funding campaign to do two things:
1. Get funding from the general public while advertising the project and developing interest.
2. I can now go to investors and show them that there is both interest, and funding, from the general public, as a catalyst to invest in the project.”

Michael Gibrall is a part of the new breed of writers. He’s becoming a filmmaker not because he sees himself as an auteur, but because, “In most cases, it looks like that would be the most realistic route. There are exceptions, but it appears to be incredible luck or who you know that gets your script made into a film by someone else.” Michael is taking his career into his own hands, and in the process showing the film industry that not only can he write a great script, but he can also make things happen.

Bill True has learned a lot about the system since 2005. He’s also learned that as much as things are constantly changing, some things stay the same. As an adjunct professor in the Scottsdale Community College Film Program, he still sees students entering his class with the misconception that they’re going to write their screenplay, get an agent and have a Hollywood producer outright buy the script.

“The business isn’t at all like the myth that people propagate about it,” he says.

The myth will continue to propagate if institutions fail to keep pace with the massive shift the industry is experiencing. As Bill notes, “Teachers are still teaching from business paradigms of ten to fifteen years ago. It doesn’t exist anymore… The system itself is changing and the system doesn’t understand itself. It’s in the process of changing literally as we speak.”

Bill acknowledges that if the system changes, so does the definition of “Breaking In”.

“People have to be more creative, and they have to look at different ways to break in because breaking in, of itself – the definition of that is shifting.”

Bill True believes that there are advantages to wearing multiple hats in today’s business model, but feels that once you prove your worth through producing your own scripts, then Hollywood would prefer that you stick to one hat. He believes that once you’ve broken in, producers and agents would prefer that writers write, because the business demands that writers be able to produce three to four quality properties per year. “Making it” doesn’t make life easier, it makes it more demanding. Says Bill, “Everything you do should be the best you can do.”

Richard Moon and Michael Gibrall are both taking their careers in their own hands, proving something that the writer who only writes cannot prove; people want to work with them. It’s an important message that separates them from an ever-growing crowded market of writers.

Richard prescribes to the belief that, “Anything you do to expand your horizons beyond the one career path probably increases your odds.”

Richard Moon and Bill True are living proof of that. Michael Gibrall is following close on their heels. “Market yourself and your script. Create your own webpage, create a Facebook page and market you and your script, list your script on, and never stop marketing.” concludes Michael Gibrall.

Never stop… indeed.

You can follow the careers of Bill True,  Richard Moon, and Michael Gibrall on their websites.

You’ll find me on twitter at: @chat2michelle



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