Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monthly meeting and guest series with Dr. Bonnie Orr and Suzanne Weinert

Tonight's Reel Women Students meeting was a complete success! Our gracious speakers were Dr. Bonnie Orr and Suzanne Weinert. They enlightened us with the experiences of their lives and their successes.

Kat Candler, our moderator, did a great job of asking questions that pertained to our guests and to us as students. There was a good turn out of film makers that showed up for the UT Reel Women dialogue and they also came with an arsenal of questions that have been burning holes in all of our pockets! Some of the questions included the process of screenplay writing, and individual aspects as well as universal techniques of film making and script writing. We also got some insider information on what to do and what not to do when starting our careers in the film industry.

Orr, who studied screen writing at UCLA, encouraged us to take a few simple steps to ease through the pre-writing stages. She instructed us to "do our research".
She told us of one experience in particular where a director made a comment on her beautiful writing of Costa Rica. The ironic part of the story was that she had never been to Costa Rica. Her research on the topic made her an expert about the place, and the director could tell she had done her home work. She suggested that students should use the Internet to locate documents such as journals, shoot scripts and other information. The Internet was not a tool that was used when Orr first started her career, and she suggested that students should take full advantage of it. She also talked to the audience about creating a beat sheet. She instructed writers to begin a beat sheet by writing 12 phrases down, just phrases, not complete sentences. These phrases form the foundation for an entire script. Then the writer can break every beat down into 10 to 12 pages each, equaling the 120 pages needed for a script (9 beats = 90 pages for comedies).

Weinert, who went to Columbia University, talked to the students about her extensive career in the film industry. Over the duration of her career she has established a working relationship with Ron Howard and Julia Roberts, as well as many other well known film makers. She told us that she sharpens her writing skills by writing every day. She encouraged students to do the same and said that by the time a student graduates with an undergraduate degree, they should have completed two feature length scripts. Each script should be a different genre, and it is a good idea to always have that second script in the hole. It will serve as a back up just in case inquiring directors or corporations want to see what else a writer might have up their sleeve.

The students also learned some differences between short and feature film making and writing, the importance of budgeting, and some great tips for Indie film making. Some of these tips included; shoot during the day, and use as few actors and locations as possible. Another sensible tip was; if a student isn't sure what line of work they are interested in, they should decide now! This will save young film makers time and money in the long run!

Thanks to all who showed up for the dialogue! Feel free to bring your friends and remember Reel Women welcomes everyone, including men! The following are two of trailers that we watched from each of the two experts latest works:

Here is a link to a trailer from Bonnie Orr's latest script:

Also, here is a link to a trailer from Suzanne's Weinert's latest script and production: ExTerminators

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reel Dialogue: SXSW Spotlight

On Wednesday, in the midst of all of the SXSW festivities [madness] Reel Women had the pleasure of hosting a Dialogue with an esteemed panel of filmmakers and film programmers. The guest speakers consisted of programmers Jennifer Wilson with Film Independent and Los Angeles Film Festival, Jane Schoettle from Toronto International Film Festival, and filmmakers Janet Grillo who directed “Fly Away”, Anne Buford who directed “Elevate” and Mike Nicholson, editor/co-producer of the documentary, “Better This World,” all of which screened at SXSW.

Sherry Mills, Reel Women’s Executive Director and moderator of the Dialogue, got the conversation rolling by asking some general questions about film festivals. In the end, the Dialogue largely centered around the significance of festivals, taking chances and, basically, the fact that there really is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’

Film programmer, Schoettle urged everyone, educate yourselves about the festival world.” For example, the panelists said that it is important to bear in mind that some festivals only want your film if it’s the world premiere. Make sure you’re clear on what you want out of a festival.

“Ask yourself, ‘who’s the audience?’ ‘What do I want out of the festival?’ And shoot for the top,” added Schoettle. “No guts, no glory!”

Even if you don’t get in to the festivals of your choice, all’s not lost. Mike attributed a lot of his motivation and hard work to festival deadlines. The panelists also stressed the importance of budgeting for festival fees (e.g. admission fees, travel expenses, copies of the film for submission.)

Moreover, don’t underestimate the significance of legal counsel and (the boring, though necessary) procedures. One example they used is this: You and a friend are making a movie—what happens if you break up?” Who gets the rights to the movie? Make up a contract. Certainly something to think about, lest some great movie be tied up in litigation and never come to fruition …

During the Q&A session, one attendant asked Anne Buford advice for a novice filmmaker. “Talk to people,” Buford urged. Ask questions…Ask those that you admire to talk to you for even ten minutes, and go to things like this [meeting].” All panelists agreed that you’re only as good as those you surround yourself with. Grillo compared the system to that of a bicycle wheel—the director is the center where all the spokes connect, but you need all those spokes for things to go round.

“No one should be above getting coffee,”
said Anne. “I’ll get coffee. I’ll carry the bags.”

This statement was coming from someone who looked as if she had stepped off a New York runway; and you can tell she meant it. To put it in perspective, she quoted Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine and fashion icon: “We’re all hired help, you know.”

Remember what Alma Kutruff said about ‘everyone being a PA on the Coen brothers’ set’? Synergy is what makes a great film work, and no one seems to be able to stress that enough. The general consensus from the numerous meetings, dialogues and interviews that are on my radar is that equality is key, and making a movie is truly a team effort.

So remember, kids…be willing to learn and work hard, and be humble, but shoot for the moon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reel Women SXSW Showcase

Right off, gals, I’m gonna give it to you straight—yesterday’s Reel Women Showcase required some pre-downtown coffee drinking on my part. And the showcase started at noon. As in…12 pm. I rolled out of bed and into the Long Center parking garage just in time to help set up. (Apparently, if you get there early enough—aka: around 10:45 am—parking is free because there’s no attendant…but you didn’t hear that from me.) I was actually concerned for other festival goers who might have partied into the wee hours of the morning. ::cough, cough::

Nevertheless, the SXSW and Reel Women devotees poured in. With around 200 attendants, the showcase was a rousing success.

Featured in the RW Showcase were shorts by RW Student filmmakers, Gabbie Burns with “Austin Memory Project: A History in the Making,” Carlyn Hudson’s “Have it All,” Ivete Lucas’ “La Lupita,” Elizabeth Chatelain’s “Karin’s Shoes,” Gaia Bonsignore's "Valentina" and Nina Vizcarrondo's “The Carolyn Jackson Story".

After the showcase, all of the filmmakers stuck around for a brief Q&A session, sharing advice for women filmmakers, budgets for their films and amusing anecdotes about their filmmaking experience. Said one filmmaker who was dishing out advice, “Join clubs or organizations like Reel Women.”

Warm fuzzies abound! And it gets better…

Later, whilst lunching at Whole Foods downtown amongst hippies and crying babies and flying soy-covered napkins due to a persistent wind, a boy, who appeared to be about 14 years old or so, asked Carlyn to sign his Reel Women Showcase program. I wish I could have snapped a picture…but alas, I was geeking out on Carlyn’s behalf.

But it’s more than a random person asking for an autograph… I am constantly reminded of how brave and talented you girls are for doing what you do, and I immensely enjoy getting to see your work. I can’t wait to see what you all create in all of the years to come (or any upcoming meetings, for that matter.) Be proud, girls!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Partying for a Cause

Last night, Reel Women helped kick off SXSW festivities at what was dubbed one of the “5 Essential Parties for SXSW Film-Goers.” It was a night of, “ohemgee, where do I park?!,” drinking, dancing, mingling, and an all around good time at Karma Lounge downtown. RW members partied it up alongside advocates of Animal Trustees of Austin (or ATA), and TAG Talent and DVA Talent who so kindly helped put the shin-dig together.

Yours truly was passing out some super cool swag bags with some sort of heavenly chocolate concoction and an awesome box of Post-Its (among other things) to fancy-looking people, and chatting it up with a bunch of pretty cool strangers. I didn’t see any fellow RW Students there, which can only lead me to assume it was because you couldn’t find parking…

The party was hosted by comedians Sheena Simmons and J. Ryan Jarmon, with some tune-age provided by The Johnston Brothers, Faction Discord, Legs Against Arms and Nick Krause.

Proceeds from VIP ticket sales were set to benefit RW and ATA in an effort to help fund the public service announcements the two are partnering up for. Big thanks to everyone who came out and to the talent agencies for sponsoring this upcoming project!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March Speakers announced!

This just in: Here are our March Screenwriting Guests.

Thursday, March 24th, 7pm - 9pm at Studio 4D in the CMB Building. They'll get here at 7:30pm and go until 9pm. We'll have the 1st half hour for meeting stuff.

, writer of over thirty screenplays, two teleplays and three TV pilots, completed the graduate level screenwriting program at UCLA in 1998. Credits include writing and producing The Lights, Corr and Secret at Arrow Lake at Ranch Studios, where she served as the studio manager for three years. She wrote a script for Fireside Entertainment called Revenge of the Soccer Moms, which was greenlit by the Lifetime Channel and became a series called Inspector Mom. Prior to that she produced her award-winning TV pilot, Poodle Dog Lounge, which is in post production. She wrote a sequel for Contact for Michael Gordon (Narc, The Devil & Daniel Webster). She was a senior staff writer for ScreenTalk Magazine and has received awards in several screenwriting contests, such as Fade In and Script Magazine’s contests. She is a script doctor, and she worked in development for several production companies in LA, such as Nine By Nine Productions and Tony Blain Productions. She is currently in development and preproduction on Texas Venom, The Basement and Hotel Paradise. Agent Mickey Freiberg represents her on several projects and optioned her script Earth on Fire to Lone Tree Productions in Malibu. He is currently working on setting up a TV series called Courtroom Cupcake, co-written with her husband. Dr. Orr has taught screenwriting classes at Austin Community College, GSD&M and the Writers’ Academy. For the last four years, she has taught a seminar on “How to Pitch” at the Austin Film Festival, as well as various seminars on screenwriting and filmmaking across the country.

SUZANNE WEINERT is a screenwriter/producer who previously served as Vice President of Julia Roberts’ New York film production company, Shoelace Productions, where she participated in the development and production of more than 25 projects, including Erin Brockovich by Susannah Grant and Gigi LeVange’s Step Mom, and produced the award-winning wildlife documentaries, Nature Series: Wild Horses of Mongolia for the Nature Channel and Orangutans of Borneo for PBS, as well as the award- winning short film The Call Back starring Sam Rockwell. Prior to that, she interned with director Ron Howard during the production of The Paper starring Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall and Marisa Tomei. Recent screenplays include rewriting Shrinking Violet for Revolution Studios; Road Stories, directed by Steven Seebring and starring Johnny Messner; and Good to the Last Drop, a finalist for Best Comedy at the Austin Film Festival. Her most recent writing/producing project is the dark comedy Ex-terminators, starring Heather Graham, Jennifer Coolidge and Amber Heard, which had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in 2009. It is currently available on DVD and Video on Demand. She also recently completed producing a Western, The Legends of Hell’s Gate, starring Eric Balfour, Henry Thomas, Jenna Dewan, Summer Glau, Robert Buckley and Lou Taylor Pucci. In Spring 2011 she will produce One in A Million Hero, a drama set in the world of NASCAR. Ms. Weinert holds an M.F.A. from the School of the Arts, Columbia University; a Graduate Certificate from The Writing Program, Columbia University and a B.A. in Writing from Columbia University. She is a Professor of Advanced Screenwriting at the School of Visual Arts and Fordham University, both in NYC.