On hiatus

I’ve been on hiatus to deal with various family issues ranging from the bad, to the fantastic (preparation for, and the birth of my daughter, Nadja). I will return to film blogging in July or August (2011).

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Cinequest 21 Second-Place Winner

My screenplay “Welcome To Akron” took second place in the Cinequest 21 screenplay competition. I went down to San Jose for the event, and found Cinequest to be a well-run, enjoyable festival with an interesting selection of films and script finalists. Thank you to everyone involved. I would be happy to return in future years.

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Finalist: Cinequest 21

My script “Welcome To Akron” is a finalist in this year’s Cinequest screenplay competition. A winner will be announced at Cinequest, which is in San Jose, CA and runs March 1st through March 13th, 2011. I’m happy to be a Finalist (or better) in any competition, but it’s particularly nice (and convenient) to be recognized by the best festival in “my own backyard” of the SF/SJ/Oakland Bay Area.

The particular script that was chosen, “Welcome To Akron”, has also placed in several other competitions (including as a semifinalist at Nicholl). This story asks the rhetorical question: “Dying’s boring, why rush into it?” Young Deathrocker Akron Szabo comes to realize this with a little help from a cantankerous, old terminal cancer patient named Izzy Mendelbaum. Akron’s dead-end path of worthless jobs, methamphetamine abuse and hiding from life within the Gothic party scene leads him to take a job at a hospital. He doesn’t plan to clean up, work hard and get out of his old life, but rather to use the job to maintain his party lifestyle while he hangs his hopes on a long-shot win at a national synthesizer building contest – dreaming that he’ll luck into a life of fame by parlaying contest money into his own music studio and become a big name music producer. But in the hospital he meets Izzy, who clings to life in order to make amends to himself for his own angry, debauched past. Through Izzy, Akron starts to see that there’s really something to life — but then his world falls apart around him. His girlfriend dies in a meth lab explosion, and he spirals deeper into self denial and abuse, and finally loses his job, his remaining friends, and misses the deadline for his dream contest. It’s his friendship with Izzy that saves him. When it seems Akron has lost the battle with himself, Izzy gives him just the kick in the ass he needs to pick himself up. Akron sends himself packing off to Los Angeles to try to win the contest despite missing the entry deadline and open his own studio. Finally realizing the foolishness of living in fear and trying to fake your way through life, Akron returns home able to accept himself for who he is, and face life’s challenges without crumbling before them.

This is my most personal of all my scripts so far, and the one I’m most passionate about making “at all costs.” I’ve been trying to get financing for it for quite a while. Hopefully Cinequest, along with its placing in Nicholl and several other competitions, will help with that.

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Free Jafar Panahi

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been jailed for six years, and banned from making films for twenty, for his criticisms of the Iranian government. Censorship is the greatest threat to our work, and we filmmakers need to stand together to support the free exchange of ideas, and the right to practice our art.

You can sign a petition supporting his release, but given the Iranian “revolutionary” government’s history, it seems likely to be an unfortunately symbolic gesture.

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2010 Gimme Credit Screenplay Competition Winner

I am the first place winner in the 2010 Gimme Credit Screenwriting Competition. While winning a competition like this is not an end goal, in that it does not directly result in the script being made into a film, it is still very nice to have external validation that one’s ideas and writing style are considered worthy by someone other than friends and family.

The particular script that won, “Let The Games Begin”, is a family story about nerdy video game entrepreneur Dave whose perfect geek world has become unbalanced by his teenage daughter Star, whose love of sports is seen by her parents as mere teenage rebellion. Dave, feeling his youth slipping, his family unraveling, and his company stagnating deals with this midlife crisis by attempting to regain his teen status as a video game champion. Star,feeling distanced from her family, and her chance for sports success slipping away, deals with this teen crisis by joining the boys’ football team. Dave’s quest to show the world that “old me” can still be great video gamers parallels Star’s attempts to prove herself in the male-dominated world of sports, and father and daughter must learn that in the end what really matters is family, fun and self respect.

I wrote it because my wife and I have been discussing having kids, and I am trying to imagine myself as a father. And I keep seeing fellow geeks and nerds I work with becoming parents, and buying their kids video games and Legos and Star Wars everything and trying to imagine how they’re going to rebel.

It’s the ultimate horror for nerd and geek families that one of their kids might turn out to be jocks. But since I’m also a baseball fan (the sport of statisticians), and my wife’s brother is a hardcore sports nerd through and through, I know that the distance between one sort of geekery and another isn’t as great a chasm as many would like to think. (The Onion article “Walking Sports Database Scorns Walking Sci-Fi Database” really sums that up.) So I decided that this idea would make a fun, unique family film. I’m glad the Wildcard readers agreed.

It’s done well in a few other competitions as well, including being selected as a winner of the juried portion of WildSound, and I’m just happy that family stories are something people still consider worthwhile (because there are so few being made right now). I truly am a fan of genre pictures, action packed fight sequences, epic special effects, and adult themes as much as the next guy, but I think the family story definitely has a place in the medium and would love to see it come back.

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