Lots Happening in the Past Couple of Months…

I just realized it’s been two months since my last blog post. Whoopsie! I’ve had my ups and downs, some exciting firsts, and competition/fellowship results, both good and bad. In addition to currently sitting in Italy as I write this, a recent highlight is that both Curio and No Rest for the Wicked were named semifinalists (top 55) in the first Stage 32 female-driven screenplay competition! This also bumped both scripts into the top 3% of scripts on Coverfly. Which took the sting out of being rejected from the Circle of Confusion Fellowship.

As for firsts, I wrote my first short. I use WriterDuet for screenwriting, and they did a 48-hour throwdown. Participants get a theme and an object, and then have 48 hours to write a three-page script. For this round, the theme was “now or never” and the object was sunglasses. I made it to the quarterfinals, which felt amazing considering it is the first time I’ve ever attempted to tell a story in so few pages. Unlike all the writing I do for HOOD, this is something I can actually share!

I’ve also been trucking along on an as-yet-unnamed audio drama in the World of Hood as a writer, director, and producer. But I’ll go into all that in another post. For now, let me just say that being limited to only sound and no sight in a script is a whole other level of challenge.

And as we’ve hit June once again, it’ll be time soon for another “My Year in Screenwriting” round-up post. So stay tuned!

No Rest for the Wicked is a Semifinalist in the InRoads Fellowship!

Huzzah! My first pilot got itself another placement, Semifinalist in the InRoads Fellowship by Filmmatic. Though I’ve been submitting this one since I started this screenwriting journey in 2020, I’ve continued to tweak it. This included a revision at the end of 2021 where I trimmed out 5 pages and gave it a new ending. Looks like it paid off. I guess it goes to show how true it is that these things aren’t ever really “done” until they find themselves on screen.

And despite going 4 for 4 in its first outings, Curio did not place at all in this one. So that’s another good reminder of how things are all subjective and it really depends on the reader you get any time you submit. Congrats to the winners and I look forward to competing with you again someday.

No Rest for the Wicked is a Quarterfinalist in TSL’s Free Screenplay Competition!

My, it’s been a great week for my female-led pilots. First Curio went 4/4 on placing in competitions on Wednesday, and now my first pilot is also advancing in another competition. Because this TSL competition is free, they had nearly 10,000 submissions, and the quarterfinalist cut is about 1000 scripts, so I’m roughly in the top 10%.

Next week between Apr 14-15 I will get four more results for these two scripts as well as my other pilot Riftmaker. I’d better start getting those queries out…

Curio is a Quarterfinalist in the Screencraft Fellowship Competition!

I’ve got a cascade of competition results coming in during the next 9 days, and I’m off to a great start. This is Curio’s fourth time competing and fourth time reaching at least the quarterfinalist level, so as you can imagine I am walking on sunshine. Last year, No Rest for the Wicked also reached the QF stage of this competition, so fingers crossed I will be able to do even better with this script!

And speaking of No Rest for the Wicked, tomorrow I’ll find out if it advances in The Script Lab’s free screenwriting contest. Wish me luck 🙂

Curio is a Quarterfinalist in the Emerging Screenwriters Genre Competition!

As we head into the second quarter of 2022, I’m happy to announce that my supernatural procedural Curio is a quarterfinalist again. This is its third time competing and its third placement, so I must be doing something right 😉

This is also my third pilot, but the first one that started its life as a pilot rather than a novel that I wrote previously and then adapted. (I had planned to write it as a novel first but hadn’t gotten around to it before I discovered screenwriting.) I think this is probably working in its favor because it has a very recognizable structure, and acts as a more self-contained episode than the pilots for either No Rest for the Wicked or Riftmaker. It’s a lot easier to predict what you’d get from a whole episodic Curio series than the other two, which are decidedly serialized. Good info to file away for the future…

I’ll find out about the semifinals for this one on April 14, and the quarterfinals and top 100s for some other competitions around the same time. Here’s to hoping!

The HOOD Character Videos are now LIVE on YouTube!

OMG OMG OMG OMG!

This has been quite a journey. When I joined the Quivalon team back in May, these “character idents” were just a twinkle in the HOOD creator’s eye. Now, after a Kickstarter campaign, shooting during Covid, and post-production woes, we finally got to release our creations yesterday and launch our YouTube channel. Check them out!

During this part of the overall HOOD enterprise, I wasn’t able to be on set because the dates happened to fall during a long-awaited family vacation. But I was part of the pre- and post-production stages in a big way. I learned so much about casting, video editing, sound design, and music over the past months that I will be able to carry forward with me on this journey to the screen. In 2022, we are going to have another campaign so we can shoot some proof of concept scenes from the pilot and make a real sizzle reel to show possible production partners and investors. So I’ll get to continue my education on set next time!

Welcome to the World of HOOD

In May of 2021, I was fortunate enough to join the Quivalon team to work on a multimedia project called HOOD. It’s a reimagined Robin Hood story with a female lead in an alternate present where climate change has already changed the shape of the world. We’ve been hard at work getting several facets of the project ready to launch in the new year, including a brand new website built by your truly, WorldofHood.com.

In August, we shot a series of character introduction shorts and they will be dropping on January 7. I learned so much working behind-the-scenes on these doing casting, choosing music, and giving notes on the editing process. To get started, we released a trailer for the project to ring in the new year.

Coming up in 2022, I’ll be working in the writers room to write the complete season, be part of a table read recording of the pilot, lend my pen to an episode of a new podcast series, and continue learning so much more!

I hope 2022 has awesome things in store for you too 🙂

Curio is a Semifinalist in the Screencraft Pilot Competition!

Huzzah! My pilot about a clandestine order of supernatural artifact hunters post-WWII has reached two new milestones. This is its first semifinalist placement (you can see a full list of semifinalists here), and the bump to my Coverfly score means that I now have two scripts on the Redlist for 1-hour adventure scripts!

The fact that Riftmaker has not proceeded past a quarterfinalist placement is a little disheartening, but I am trying to look at it as educational rather than frustrating. Clearly, my tales of morally gray women are speaking to more readers than my ensemble fantasy script, which is important to know going into the fellowship application season in the Spring. I stand by Riftmaker as a good script, but these others are obviously more accessible. And it’s still competing in a few other competitions, so who knows?

I recently started a new pilot in the same vein as Riftmaker, so I will still finish that first. But now I can keep the back of my mind on coming up with something else that is more similar to No Rest for the Wicked and Curio. (You can check out the loglines for all of my TV projects on my TV page.)

We live, we learn, and we keep on writing 🙂

Next up, I am waiting to hear about the Coverfly Pitch Fest shortlist on Dec 18. Fingers crossed!

Have a lovely holiday season, everybody!

A Brief Rant About Pain on Screen

We all have our pet peeves when it comes to the media we consume. Mine has to do with how pain, injury, and treatment are portrayed in film and TV.

For context, I am in pain most of the time. Small injuries that normal people recover from in a matter of weeks can linger for years. I also get micro-tears in my major muscles, leaving me aching and weak in my arms or legs for days at a time just from emptying the dishwasher or walking my dog. I’ve had a couple surgeries, so I also have a lot of experience with the recovery process.

Which brings us to how pain is (or often isn’t) shown on screen. Though this is a habitual problem, the particular scene that made me want to write this post is from the new live-action Cowboy Bebop. This is by no means a knock against the show in general (I really enjoyed it!), but is emblematic of the issue.

In S1 Episode 4 (“Callisto Soul”), Faye Valentine is shot during an attack by eco-terrorists. Her injury is in almost the exact place on my own shoulder where the surgeon sliced me up years ago. Not only is she able to blithely point her gun above shoulder level a few moments after being shot, but she also slides into a booth with Spike a few minutes later and nonchalantly puts her arm across the back of the booth, her wound clearly on display but miraculously no longer bleeding NO. FREAKING. WAY.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for suspending my disbelief. When her injury is repaired almost instantly once they get back to the Bebop, I am willing to give her the easy skip over the recovery process (which would be months of agony in real life) because this is sci-fi so whatever. But before that, she shows basically no recognition of the pain. Granted, I’ve never been shot, but considering how much more damage a bullet does than a scalpel, I think I’ve got a good grasp here on what she’d be going through.

I haven’t seen the script, so I don’t know how much of her actions were on the page vs. a choice by the director or actor, but somewhere in there, someone should have noticed this was an issue. One easy fix would be to have her shot in her left shoulder instead, which wouldn’t impede her shooting arm. Then she’d be free to throw her good arm up on the back of the booth to get the shot they wanted of her and Spike sitting side by side.

Why Does This Matter?

Beyond any questions of whether media should be an accurate representation of reality, the way characters respond to pain, especially pain caused by violence, affects our perceptions.

I don’t love the term “desensitized” because even though I watch a lot of action movies and adore the Assassin’s Creed games, real-life violence and pain such as bodycam footage and monks setting themselves on fire in protest make me sick to my stomach to watch. And actual good portrayals of violence on screen has the same effect. I had to leave the theater during the end sequence of Gangs of New York, for instance. Perhaps I am the outlier here, but I wouldn’t say I have been desensitized by any stretch.

And yet, I can see how this can happen. If all you ever see is the fantasy of violence rather than the reality, it can certainly skew the perception of how pain works. (I’m only talking about physical pain at the moment, but of course, there is also a whole slew of mental issues violence can cause as well.) I know we like to see heroes overcoming their pain in order to accomplish their goals, but to completely brush off all injuries as the special effects makeup that they are totally dismisses reality and also takes away from the power of the overcoming itself. One of the reasons Die Hard is such a fantastic movie is that John McClane regularly shows fear and pain, making him more human and the stakes that much higher. By glossing over pain, characters (and by extension the viewers) are robbed of these moments.

There can also be totally unintended consequences for the viewers who actually do suffer pain on a regular basis. Despite the fact that my health problems began at age 20, it took me about 10 years before someone took me seriously enough to prescribe me medication. And even then it was a young, female nurse practitioner who advocated for me rather than a doctor. The look of mirrored pain on her face when I described my experience still makes me tear up to this day because she not only believed me, she gave a damn.

Beyond the fact that women’s pain is taken less seriously than men’s to start with, I can’t help but wonder if those doctors who wouldn’t listen to me were swayed by the portrayals in the media that treat pain as no biggie. I have moved several times since my pain started, and it is a battle to get treatment every single time I meet a new doctor. By minimizing the experience of pain and showing characters “toughing it out” all the time creates the illusion that the person in pain is the problem, not the pain itself. And it can do real harm to those of us that live in reality rather than on screen.

So, What Can Writers Do?

As I said, we can’t control what directors and actors do with our words, but there are still things writers can do to help create more realistic portrayals of pain. As a caveat, it isn’t unusual to see side characters or love interests in pain. However, rather than reinforcing the fact that pain is real, it usually serves to motivate the protagonist. Then they go on some kind of rampage and never feel pain themselves because they are just so much better, stronger, more motivated, etc. than the loved one (often a woman) who gets hurt.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re writing:

  • If a character is going to take a bullet, leap off a building, get hit by a car, or any of the other action movie mainstays, don’t just have them brush off the dirt and walk away after a snappy one-liner. Have them show surprise, fear, confusion, or any number of emotions that accompany pain.
  • Learn about anatomy. Depending on the injury, some things may become physically impossible for your character. When the tendon in my shoulder was severed, it not only hurt to lift my arm, I was physically unable to. Any injury should have lingering effects that follows them from that point on. If a character is battered, they will move slower and more carefully. They will wince from certain movements. Or use their weaker hand. Rather than being limiting, these considerations can give you a chance to come up with more creative solutions. A character who is accustomed to shooting their way out of things but suddenly can’t lift their gun can be way more interesting than one who just shrugs off a bullet wound.
  • Sometimes taking one character out of commission can give another the chance to shine. In the series finale of Lost in Space, for instance, the sibling who has been the major driving force for the entire series is too injured to save the day. It’s up to another member of the ensemble to step up and it is SO gratifying. Leaving someone on the bench led to a far more interesting turn of events and character arc than if they’d made some kind of miraculous recovery.
  • Get them treatment. Let them take medication. Give them crutches or a cane. But remember, a bandage doesn’t mean the injury goes away. It just means that it is more stable and the person is less likely to bleed out. There should still be echoes of the pain long after the scene where they get their wound tended to. If they overexert themselves later, they should start bleeding again.
  • An aside about pills – one pill won’t “cure” the pain. Furthermore, they usually take 30-45 minutes to take effect and only last a limited amount of time. It is painfully common to see a character take a pill and immediately see it take effect. But if you’ve ever had a headache, you know it feels like forever before that pill will even make a dent.
  • In the last year, I’ve discovered the benefits of kinesio tape. Seriously, when this stuff is applied right it is downright miraculous when it comes to relieving pain from tendon, ligament, and muscle issues. If you watch pro sports, you’ve probably seen it on on athletes to stabilize their joints. It comes in bright colors, making it ideal for the screen, too.
  • People with chronic pain probably won’t talk about it much. Over time, it’s hard not to feel like you are burdening other people with your problems and they are bored of hearing about it. (It was a seriously big step for me to feel like I could write this post at all, to be honest.) And perhaps that explanation works for some characters we see just shaking things off. On the other hand, I have found that people who are unaccustomed to being in pain or inconvenienced by an injury rarely keep it to themselves. Not to mention the ones who revel in getting extra attention. So there can be a spectrum, and having different characters react in different ways can add interest and depth to your story.

Ok, </rant>. I hope it wasn’t too… painful <wiggles eyebrows> to read.

If you’ve got any strategies I missed or experiences writing about pain that you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment.

Oh Snap! I’m a DOUBLE Quarterfinalist in the 2022 Screencraft TV Pilot Competition

I’m thrilled to announce that I got word last night that BOTH Curio and Riftmaker advanced in the competition. (You can find out more about them on my TV projects page) I admit I was a little worried about submitting twice to the same competition because I wondered if they would just pick one even if both of them were good. But I am very happy to report that this wasn’t the case (at least with Screencraft).

They received around 3900 submissions combined for the 30-minute and 1-hour format, and just shy of 950 moved on. Interesting side note, for last year’s competition I think it was closer to 4800 submissions, so the “pandemic surge” may be subsiding a bit.

This placement holds a special place in my heart because the 2021 competition was the very first time I entered anything and I was a finalist with No Rest for the Wicked. With the inevitable imposter syndrome most of us face at some point, I had worried that my early successes had been flukes. So this one feels extra special to place again.

The semi-finalist announcements for this one will be posted on Dec 1, but I’ll also find out about the semis for Curio in the WeScreenplay competition on Nov 15. Wish me luck!