The words that make me as giddy as a little kid are: “your work was selected to be included in the festival.” Yesterday, I was so pumped up that I forgot about all the terrible things going on in our country. I instantly became childlike and danced one of those weird, awkward dances in the living room. Why? Because my screenplay STELLE BLUE: The Forgotten Crime was selected as an official entry for an action film festival.
Festivals have various benefits like having your work reviewed by Hollywood producers, agents, managers, etc. Other festivals pull out wads of cash prizes. Some festivals lead to option agreements and production contracts. A few festival winners even qualify for submission into the Oscars.
I wrote the first draft of Steele Blue a long time ago. It was a good action/buddy cop story with several really cool scenes. Years later, I tried my hand at writing the novel. This was a rich experience that helped me realize how different the skills are for writing books and scripts.
After getting my MFA in Creative Writing, I decided to pull the STEELE BLUE screenplay off of the shelf and do a complete rewrite based on my new knowledge and increased skills. While much of what I learned came from classes and peer reviews, I had also been connected with a top Hollywood writer that spent his career writing top television cop shows and TV movies for the major networks. It was a privilege to learn techniques and industry secrets from him.
Once COVID-19 hit, I converted the entire book to screenplay for my first draft. It turned out to be three hours long and I needed to cut 70 pages. The first set of cuts were easy, as I took out everything that wouldn’t work on screen. I then determined what the key plot drivers were and established the beats necessary for a great visual action film.
The next step was determining what subplots to keep. The book had plenty of room for numerous plot points, but great films are limited. I almost shed a few tears as I cut out some really great scenes. But scenes that didn’t move the action plotline forward had to go. All the fat and extra nuances in the story were sliced out.
I eventually got the story down to two hours. In doing so, it became really clear what scenes worked and what scenes needed to be reworked. It was rewrite time. Thanks to my newly developed skills, I crafted the story with focus and a great emotional tone that would satisfy the action genre fan and his or her date/spouse.
The next step was to enter a handful of festivals and see how my writing compared to others. I entered both niche focused and highly respected festivals. The festivals announce their selections at various times and the first announcement included my screenplay as an official selection—a good sign for other festivals.
The good news continued with the festival requesting information for networking introductions with industry leaders to include my needs for budget, funding, and distribution. This request made me feel like my story had value and I’m looking forward to every door the festival opens for me. And, who knows, I might even win a festival or two.
Copyright © 2020 by CJ Powers
I am absolutely thrilled for you! You share your knowledge and experience freely, I’e learned so much from you, and to see your work get official recognition is wonderful! Congratulations!
Thanks, Francine. I’ve always admired your work as well and hope one day our paths will place us on the same project. I’m looking forward to that future fun.
As am I! Always have a few irons in the fire, and many plates spinning, one has got to have our names on it!