We now continue with Part II of Frank Ponce's blog. If you missed Part I of Advice from Stage 32’s “Happiest” Writer, click here.
In this entry, Frank speaks the rapid movement of his career after he placed 2nd in the Stage 32/Blood List Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest. The exposure he received from that placement led him to developing a new short film starring Danny Trejo, which he will direct this summer. It gets better...His script has been picked up for development by Atlas Entertainment (American Hustle).
Frank also passes on 8 tips of creative discovery that you don’t want to miss.
Once again, I thank Frank for his inspiring contribution to the Stage 32 Blog.
Two weeks later, we celebrated over cocktails. I had the opportunity to rub elbows with a few of the exec judges, the two other finalists and the fine folks of Stage 32. I met two fantastic producers I’m privileged to call mentors. I’m currently collaborating with one of them on a short film I will direct in June starring Danny Trejo, the one and only! I’ll be sure to post crew positions soon on Stage 32!
Stage 32, execs, and the finalists celebrating at the cocktail party of the Stage 32 | The Blood List Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest
Joey wasn’t done. He had set up a meeting with an exec at Atlas Entertainment, at their office, not too long after the cocktail party. Atlas produces everything in the DC Comics Universe… I was pinching myself as I walked past the framed movie posters of The Dark Knight trilogy in their office hallway. We hit it off immediately and fortunately, he loved one of my pitches. Although it wasn’t ready yet, I told him to expect it in time for a holiday read.
I didn’t want to blow it this time, not like I did at AFM. Stephen, my talented friend who recruited me to Stage 32, became my writing partner for this project. We worked on this screenplay 24/7, literally. We turned down weekend parties from our friends. I deleted social media apps off my phone and disconnected my computer’s wi-fi. We were off the grid and fully focused on this screenplay. We cranked out a readable dramatic screenplay in a month. After we turned it in before Christmas, we slept like newborn babies, snapped back to reality, and began brainstorming other material.
The Atlas exec followed-up with an overwhelming response this New Year – and just like that, 2015 started out with a bang! In February, he passed it around the production company, offered us some notes, and expressed it go into development. By the end of March, we signed a shopping agreement!
It’s been a whirlwind of creative discovery since signing up for Stage 32 less than a year ago! My only wish was to find this site sooner for the sake of saving time, discovering in-depth educational value, and making legitimate connections. I have to tip my hat at RB, Joey and the gang for changing the game and helping shape my future in filmmaking. I’m honored to be swimming in a community of like-minded individuals. I’m proud to be Stage 32’s HAPPIEST WRITER right now!
Striking an Iron Man pose
Here are a couple of creative tips to pass on:
Be prepared. One of my producer mentors offered these quotes that stuck with me:
1. Perseverance and persistence will prevail, if you are properly prepared.
And the classic:
2. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
Always keep learning. We live in an incredible information age. Stage 32 is a great resource to film info and connections! If you have questions, post it! If you need help with your film project, post it! Need coverage for your script? It’s all there!
Study produced scripts. Branching from that, if you’re a writer, it is imperative that you study scripts by A-list writers. This was advice I took from a top-tier writer. I’ve also read many “how to write a screenplay” books only to learn the techniques and rules -- which I believe you can break once you develop the craft well enough. However, I learned more about the style of screenwriting by reading scripts from: the Coen brothers, Rian Johnson, Frank Darabont, John August, Mark Boal, John Logan, Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, John Milius, Paul Schrader, Francis Ford Coppola, Paddy Chayefsky, Oliver Stone, Paul Thomas Anderson etc. (I’m jotting these names down while staring at a bookshelf full of scripts by these writers). Think of it this way, great produced scripts are like famous gallery paintings; would you rather read about it, highlighting a small section of the screenplay, in a book probably authored from someone who hasn’t written a screenplay or experience it firsthand? Learn from the best. Then discuss it in the Lounge on Stage 32!
Let go of your ego. If you have a writing partner, be sure you have the similar tastes, instincts, and respect for each other. Above all, you have to trust each other. Don’t take things personal if you disagree about something – figure out what is most interesting to best serve the story, not your ego.
Share your work! Get in the habit of performing a short creative exercise in the morning. You need to work out and stretch your creative muscles. Ex: pick up a camera and take pictures of something that interests you. Try different angles. If you don’t have a camera, you can use your phone’s camera. If you don’t have a phone, sketch it! There are no excuses. Then once you’re done, share it!
Capturing an epic time lapse
Focus on story and characters, not the latest trending camera or technological equipment. I run into many filmmakers whose main concern is something along the lines of; does it shoot in 4K? What kind of lenses do you have? Etc. If you can speak technological lingo, good, but you better know how to tell a solid story. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a filmmaker, you should know what your equipment is capable of but that’s not your first priority. Cameras and technology comes and goes, faster than ever, but great stories with good characters last forever.
Don’t be afraid or rejection or failure, its part of the process of becoming better and stronger. It builds character. I could have quit filmmaking after my grant debacle of 2012, as it hit me hard in many ways. I didn’t quit and came back stronger than ever. It was a mixed blessing. You can apply this to life in general but this is so relevant to the film industry. When you do get a ‘YES,’ you’ll appreciate the opportunity more and you will work harder.
Set deadlines! You should always work towards an upcoming hard deadline; otherwise nothing will ever get done, you will get lazy, and your work will never see the light of day. That said, I’ll leave you with someone who said it best --
“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” -- Thomas Carlyle
Frank will be a guest on a FREE webinar with Stage 32 Happy Writers President tomorrow, Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 3:30pm PDT. Frank will talk more in depth about how he achieved his successes using Stage 32. To register, click here.
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As always, Frank is available for questions or remarks in the Comments section below...