What I’m Writing : Children of Others

Logline: After struggling with infertility Skylar and Dillon  finally becomes pregnant, only to discover that their unborn child is part alien. Now their marriage and their lives are jeopardized as they race to uncover the truth about the baby and decide whether or not to carry it to term.

Maybe that’s the log-line, maybe it’s something different and I’ll come back and change it soon.  (If you’re reading this in a few days, you might not know if you are reading the changed version or the version I’m thinking of changing. The internet is spooooky!)  

Children of Others was the script that won a prize and was subsequently optioned by Amazon Studios. The option expired at the end of the 2014. Now that it’s back in my court I need to do some thinking about what direction to take it in.  I originally wrote it as either back-door pilot  (a movie that is intended to kick off a series), which will entail a lot of work on the bible (a compendium outlining the world of the series and the longer term arcs of the various characters) .

In either case it has to be back-burner thinking while I try to get one or two front-burner projects to the next stage–but this is a project near to my heart and for sure in the not-distant future I’ll be directing some attention to finding the right home for the version of itself it ends up being.

The Writer Speaks (an Amazon Studios post)

Well, that was disappointing! If you get my blog via letter, you last night received an empty blog post. I don’t know what happened–it looked far from empty when I sent it…so that’s a bummer. I fear also, that since I was writing late and tired after a long evening of driving, I won’t be able to re-create it.

We’re about to hit the road again, so I’ll keep this one short. Remember when I mentioned that there was someone doing a rewrite for Children of Others over at Amazon Studios, but I wasn’t sure if I should say who it was? Well, I guess I can now, since they just released an interview with Omar Naim.

Amazon Studios Update

Ahhh–haven’t seen one of these for a while, have you?  Just a little one–but a happy one.  As some of you know, Amazon has been interviewing writers for the next rewrite of Children of Others for a few months now.  Last week, I heard that they’ve found someone.  That’s exciting for me, because it’s the next step, and to get a movie made, you have to keep taking steps.  I’ve also heard who it is, but I don’t think I can say, because I don’t know Amazon’s plans for announcing or not announcing.  In any case, it’s not the kind of  name that you’d immediately recognize.  But I looked up  his/her credits, and found those credits really intriguing. I like that it’s someone with experience, but not a huge resume, because I imagine such a person is tempered by experience, but still sees a project like this as relevant to their future.  (I would like it if a project of mine benefited someone’s future –as well as my own!)  My producer also mentioned that this person is smart, seems to get the original sensibility of the film but also understands the kind of changes that need to be made for its next incarnation.  So I’m feeling good about all that.

But also, since I am on the topic of Amazon Studios, something has been weighing heavy on my heart, so I am confessing it here.  My Amazon Studios mailbox contains about a dozen requests from folks asking me to read their scripts.  I haven’t  opened that inbox for…eons. I haven’t read the loglines, or responded in any way.  That’s because I hate to say no, even though I know from my own life that nine times our of ten I would prefer  “no” to “no response,” and I get frustrated with people who opt for the “no response.”  But here I am, in the same boat.

So my goal, once the semester ends, is to  open those emails–one by one, write apologetic emails, and give some response.   Because I work almost full time, go to school almost full time, try to write almost full time, and I have a real-life writer’s group and network of people with whom I exchange writing on a regular basis, I know I can’t add the reading of more full scripts to my pile, but I’m hopeful that I can do something that might be helpful. Maybe it will be reading 5 or 10 pages in conjunction with the logline, maybe it will be something else. But it will be something.

And since this was an Amazon Studios-themed post, here are a couple of related articles that my WordPress suggests you read:

Like Sophie’s Choice for Writers

A month or two ago, I think I mentioned that my blogging frequency was going to to decrease, and I promised to talk about why at a future date. That date has come!  This isn’t the big topic of my post, but just to catch folks up– in the past few months there have been big changes over at Amazon Studios. They now have a structure that is substantially different from their first incarnation, and most people who were distressed about the original deal for writers have now given Amazon Studios their blessings (i.e. John August and others). So if you’re a writer, you might check out some of the opportunities they have now.  
How this applies to me is, that after my script, Children of Others, won one of the monthly best script awards in 2011, it was chosen for Amazon’s Development Slate and a producer was attached. (They called and asked me first, if I would be open to that.  I said yes.)  They renewed the option, and graciously offered to give me a shot at rewriting the script. This, under their old boilerplate agreement, is something I think they could have had me do on spec–but at the first meeting they offered some money for the rewrite, making this my first paid screenwriting gig ever. 
And pretty intimidating.
I’ve been paid here and there to write other things– like web-content or a brochure– but it feels very different.  Somebody or some institution needs “content” to take up a certain amount of space on a page.  It’s not hard to envision the final product: What I see on the published page looks a lot like the page I turn in, and thus I know in a direct way that I am providing a service for the money.  
A script is a very different thing–the final product is destined to be very different from whatever template I provide–and that different could be a dozen different directions of different.  Or there might not ever be a final product at all.  Even if I’m getting paid to write–the project as a whole is essentially a gamble for the company.  They might or might not like the script. The might or might not be able to find someone else who likes the script enough to share the costs of making a film.  Anyone might or might not like the film, or even go see the film for it to make the investment back. It makes me really sympathize with everyone involved: the producer, the creative execs and on up the ladder at the company.  You can see why people make “safe” choices (as if there are any), why they try to protect themselves, because the whole thing is really freakin’ scary! 
And as the girl at the bottom of the big upside-down pyramid of investment, I feel an additional responsibility…Which brings me back to blogging less…
One of my film professors was (and probably still is) fond of saying–“Any word you type into a blog or email is a word you’re not typing into your script.”  
In theory-land  I am reflexively opposed to the idea of rationing my words like that–because emails and blogging are a very different form of communication, with a very different audience, i.e. often people I know and care about, and I also blog for myself–to remember my life as it passes by.  It seems mercenary to cast aside these real “relationships” for the hypothetical fame and fortune (mostly fortune). It’s comparable to: “Every hour you spend drinking a cup of coffee with a friend, or visiting your mom or playing with kids, is an hour you aren’t working on your script.”
But in practice, I have certainly been giving short shrift to cups of coffee and other social activities.  I don’t know if this is something I will regret when I’m living in an old folks home, or if I’ll even remember.  The truth is that you can’t know in advance how rewarding any single interaction will be.  I’ve had several cups of coffee where there was no discernible connection and at the end I thought–shit–I could have spent that hour writing. 
So I guess it only makes sense that I post less often.  
But I miss it when I don’t blog.  Just so you know.
(I’m posting now because A) Work at my day-job is light today–yay, and B) Because I just turned in an outline this morning, so theoretically, I can stand “at ease” until I get notes on Thursday.  Most of the posts you have seen in the last month have occurred during this between-hand-in-and-notes window.)

The Countdown’s On

So, it had been a little while since I’d hung out with the Amazon Studios (now called The People’s Production Company) crew. Months in fact. They’ve had some stuff going on, apparently, at the corporate level, and I haven’t really been tapping my foot impatiently saying “I’m ready when you are,” because I’ve had a few things going on too. But on Tuesday I got a set of notes, along with an email saying “let’s meet on Friday.”

I immediately freaked out. I’ve been quite busy for the last three months, but now, looking back, I could not for the life of me, remember why. What had I been doing? Certainly not watching the half dozen reference movies, analyzing and breaking them down–which suddenly seemed like a no-brainer. It wasn’t re-breaking the story and writing up a little treatment, or visiting art museums for visual references.

“I am not prepared!” I said to myself. “I am doomed!”

But as I went through the notes, I remember there had been one day, or maybe two, that I had spent some hours reworking a couple of characters, and reworking their backstories, and reorganizing the mythology a little bit to fit with both of these things. There had been a week over the holidays where I’d done something all day that had had something to do with this script. I guesses I had been thinking about solutions to certain problems for three months, even if it was only in the back of my mind while making photocopies.

So I went to the meeting today and it was…okay, I think. I think it wasn’t too bad. I mean, you can’t be sure. We talked for awhile, and then the producer went to the bathroom, and then the creative exec went to the bathroom too, and so I thought it must be the going-to-the-bathroom-break time, and this was going to be a long meeting, so I went to the bathroom too. But maybe it was going-to-the-bathroom-quick-conference time, because as soon as I came back the exec said, “Well, I think we’ve worked out what we need to, and we’re pretty much on the same page…so maybe we’ll just see a rewrite in ten weeks.”

I nodded, like a rewrite in ten weeks was this completely reasonable, doable thing. “Ten weeks,” I confirmed.

“Ten weeks,” said another guy, “is about standard, right? Or eight weeks?”

“Ten weeks,” I said, “sounds good.” Which it did, in comparison to eight weeks.