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March 05, 2008

So you wanna write a script?

Today, because I'm just exploring which translates into I really have no clue as to what to do with myself, I decided I'd go talk to a guy who's a screenwriter at a local film company.

Knowing next to nothing about scriptwriting, I tripped over this company because I was sitting in my favorite chair flipping through some business magazine that came as a supplement in Business in Vancouver and I spot this company. It was part of a listing of fastest growing companies in BC.

Insight Film Studios Inc. claims to be the fastest growing independent film and video production company in Canada (well, actually they say North America on their website) based right here in the little ole backwater of Vancouver.

But, as Keith Shaw, the man who graciously agreed to meet me, pointed out, success is relative. Look around, he said, and I did look around at a really dumpy office, little tiny cubicles, and according to Shaw full of mainly accounting types. He was nice and he's the inhouse screenwriter. His co-worker was nice as well. Jason. Graduate of the Vancouver Film School back in 1996. Managed to pay off his humungous debt just recently because the film school, like every private school, is too damned expensive (my editorial comment, not his). But, at the same time, it's all about connections and I'm sure he learned what he needed and he met his film/business partner.

In fact, it just so happened he was giving a talk tonight so instead of running as in Running Room running, I bailed on the running hoping to hear some pearls of wisdom. I feel like I've been spending a lot of time walking back and forth on the route up to downtown along Coal Harbour lately. Tonight I went to a place called BizBooks which is a book store directed solely at film and television books and info.

Jason whose last name is Bourque, whom I'd met earlier in the day because he shares the wall of the cubicle with Keith at Insight Films, was an incredible wealth of information which he gave to us, for free, in a two-hour brain dump. The small venue was packed.

Everything you ever wanted to know about how to pitch a script (one-pagers - no spelling mistakes), what they look for at Insight Films, and the genres that are their bread and butter. The really interesting parts were his quick summaries of his own upcoming projects, past projects, and his pitches and the route some of them took or didn't take.

All these acronyms were swirling around. I mean, God, I didn't even know what MOW meant until he finally said it out loud. Oh, Movie of the Week! Treatment? What does that mean? Note to self: Buy a book on scriptwriting because you know NOTHING. But, there isn't anything about it that can't be learned, given a good idea, a script (that I don't even really have to be the one to write), the ability to visualize in pictures which I've always been able to do, and luck.

If you have a commitment from a broadcaster or you have money already or a known actor then that's good. Ya. None of that's going to ever happen. At least not the last two. If it's sci-fi, a true story with a strong female protagonist, a creature feature or if it's a Christmas movie of the week then it might have a chance. They also produce documentaries and Jason also has his own company called Gold Star Productions Inc.

Talk about a timely cold call. I now have so much information about the type of ideas they look for, how to present an idea to them, and even the preferred software they use. I know that Bravo! TV shorts, LifeTime TV network and the SciFi channel in the US are good potential venues for people trying to break in. Locally, there's the CBC, there's Women in Film for more information, and Telefilm, and the BC Film Commission. And they talked about translating some literary short story - such as what Sarah Polley did with Alice Munro's story or as in Annie Proulx's original story that became the feature film Broke Back Mountain.

Today was a testament to using this gift of time to just say MMMM? I wonder what THEY do? And then deciding to find out. Put on the raincoat. Act like Colombo. Just because you can.

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