Please join me on 2/24 for my newest LIVE webinar…
It’s a challenge to get the right people in power to read your screenplays. The chasm between a query – or even a successful pitch – to a sale can feel insurmountable. Encapsulating everything that’s great about your project into a logline or even a one sheet can feel daunting.
Enter: pitch packages.
A pitch package is the very best of your verbal pitch captured on the page, often with conceptual visuals. Flawlessly executed, it can either secure you that elusive pitch meeting or serve as a brilliant follow-up tool that will carry your passion all the way up the ladder to close the deal. As meticulous, creative and tonally specific as loglines but encompassing the structure and themes of the entire project, pitch packages condense your conceptual material into marketing ad copy. [Read more…]
How to Work the Film & TV Markets takes independent filmmakers, television and digital content creators on a virtual tour of the entertainment industry’s trade shows – essentially the circulatory system of the entire global media landscape.
This book highlights the most significant annual events around the world, details a dossier of all the players they will meet there and examines all the elements that drive the market value and profitability of entertainment properties. State-of-the-art, in-the-trenches insights are contextualized into immediately implementable practical advice. Demystifying these markets, Heather makes them less intimidating, less confusing and less overwhelming and clearly lays out a plan to strategize and navigate these events, making them far more accessible, productive – and fun!
Make the most of your investments of finite funds, time and creative energy. Optimize your odds for success not only within the mainstream, business-to-business circuit but learn how to select, apply and scale its most prudent, proven principals and most promising disruptive strategies through your own Do-It-Yourself / Direct-to-the-Consuming-Crowd fundraising, distribution and promotional efforts.
This creative guide offers: [Read more…]
I’ve been helping them re-edit their sizzle reels, rewrite their one-sheets, practice their pitches and in some cases, even really re-evaluate and figure out what it is they’re actually trying to pitch (i.e.: existing footage to be re-purposed or translated for other territories, themselves as a host or segment guestpert, a replicatable format, or a show they want a financier or distributor to commit to develop or co-produce).
To that end, there are some past blogs that have been helpful to many, so I thought I’d share ‘em with you all (in some cases, again):
- Story Selling: The Art of Pitching
- The Do’s and Don’t’s of Reality Show Pitch Proposals
- Where Should I Pitch My TV Show?
And here’s a Brown Bag Lunch video interview I did with NATPE a couple of years ago (during the one month I thought I’d try being burnette! 😉 Wasn’t my best look – but the content is good!)
We all know that great writing comes from great rewriting. And that second acts are where the real writers live. All that’s true. So very true. But it’s also true that we can all be guilty of nursing a labor of love script to death. At some point, you just have to let go and move on. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly you execute a marginal idea, if you don’t begin with a concept that intrigues or excites your pitch listeners, script readers or trailer viewers, today’s market is simply too insanely over-saturated with competition for a weak project to get noticed above the din.
Don’t begrudge all those hours you invested on “that” script (and we all have one!). Every hour or page you write empowers you to write better, faster, smarter. KEEP WRITING. Put in the “ten thousand hours of practice” that Malcolm Gladwell, in his third great book, Outliers, identified as “the magic number of greatness.”
One of the best ways I know to access the genius of your mind, the richness of your memories, sensory life experiences and unique expertise is to mind map. [Read more…]
When earth passes through the comet-like trail of the ghost of a long-dead planet, its restless alien spirits possess every human body they encounter except for a young boy and an Army Sergeant, the only two seemingly immune, who must team with deep underground scientists to save humanity.
Ghosts of Mars meets I am Legend
You should never pick your DP based on what camera he or she owns or has access to or can get discounts on.
The decision on which DP to hire should be based on his or her talent (not just the reel but entire films – several of them), reputation, relationships, referrals, shared vision for the project, what he or she brings to the table and how enjoyable they might be to work with 14-hours a day!
As a Director who tries very hard to do her homework and respect everyone’s jobs (and let the DP pick the camera and lenses to achieve the look I’m trying to achieve) and as a Producer who does her darndest to raise sufficient money to pay cast and crew a fair wage and secure the highest and best value equipment the project warrants – commensurate with its likely market value, there are a few things I’ve learned:
* A great DP can get beautiful shots with any camera.
* The most state-of-the-art camera with all the bells and whistles in the world can’t be fully capitalized on unless it’s operated by a skilled craftsman/technician/artist executing the vision of another at the helm.
* There is a right camera for each and every project and budget.
* Lenses are at least as important as the camera (if not even more so).
The camera should be selected because it is the sweet spot between what the DP and/or Director want to capture the visual style, what the budget can adequately afford (including lenses and post production considerations) and what is right for what you’re shooting – and how (size, weight, location space and mobility (rigging).
Buckle up for the ride of your life.
When his dream car is hijacked, a high school football coach is seat belted in to a terrorist death trap and forced to play the unwilling suicide bomber in a Jihadist game of revenge roulette when he must race cross country in 21 hours flat to beat the clock to save his family – and his country.
Rural high school football coach DANNY MITCHELL (late 20s) gets his ass handed to him by a stranger in a Jeep who beats his 1970 Challenger at an impromptu stoplight drag race. His humiliation is completed when, unable to match his competitor’s maneuvers, his accidental one-eighty skid onto the shoulder leaves just enough room for his neighborhood buddy, CHP JOHN, to pull up and park right alongside – lights flashing – ticket book at the ready.
When he gets home and his due-any-second pregnant wife, SARA (20s), sees the broken eggs and groceries tossed all over his car, Danny blames the mess on the jerk who cut him off – just about the time that same victorious Jeep hauls threateningly right up into their driveway! As Danny’s being tackled, he clues in that he’s been punked by his older brother, BLAKE (30s), an accomplished Marine, who’s just returned home from Iraq.
Sara’s elated to see Blake again and eager for the brothers to reconnect. Blake shares that he met a girl. In Iraq. And he might ask her to move in with him when she gets discharged, too, in a few weeks. As they process this, he reveals she’s Lebanese but that she was born in America – and she’s a Marine. They met when she saved his life by detonating a bomb. How hot is that?! he gloats.
When Danny shares that he’s going to compete in an amateur race, Blake ridicules his recent dismal performance on his own home turf – not to mention the caliber of his car. Danny reveals his motivation: he covets the race grand prize: the very first Saleen F-16 to roll off the line: a 2015 Dodge Challenger souped up by Steve Saleen into a SuperCar, built in honor of the US military, designed as an homage to the F-16 fighter jet. Danny begs Blake to help. Blake was a race car driver: he could help Danny win this. But Blake demolishes Danny’s hopes. Blake almost lost his life racing – a decade ago in a fiery crash – and he’s not about to let his little brother risk his own life in the same way.
Danny explodes: “It’s a race for the rest of us!” (i.e.: car enthusiasts, not professional drivers). Sara works her magic and manages to mend the chasm by giving Blake the insight that Danny’s always felt the underachieving runt in a family of war heroes – and win or not – this promises to be fun bonding for them.
Blake surprises Danny the next day when unveils his smashed up ’69 Charger – the car he almost died in – crumpled in a dusty mangled heap under a tarp in their parents’ barn. Still pissed, Danny is oblivious to Blake’s olive branch until he clarifies: he’s offering him the perfectly working and completely tricked out five hundred and fifty horse power, four-twenty-six hemi salvageable for his own car – and his help installing it and training him how to handle it. And the brothers are – literally – off to the races.
Blake helps Danny soup up his car and hone his driving skills. Come race day, Danny does surprisingly well. He makes it through all the heats and the final race finds him head-to-head with the clearly superior AMEER HAIDER (40s), a formidable Iraqi. Pit support HAKIM HAIDER (30s) does a last second check on Ameer’s tires.
Danny performs admirably but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough to win until Ameer blows a tire seconds before the finish line. Danny manages to snake around him for the win. Suspicious, Blake’s military instincts kick in – that was too easy – which Danny takes as an insult to his triumph. Danny can’t understand why Blake can’t just be happy for him and accept that he won fair and square.
It’s a long drive back home to California from Arizona, too long at least for about-to-pop Sara to make without stopping for the night. Danny’s only too willing to take his time joy riding in his new car and he tosses Blake the keys to drive his old Challenger home. Blake drives straight through, save an unexplained detour under a retired F-16 at the Arizona aircraft boneyard, followed with a random game of Texas Hold ‘Em at an upholstery shop.
When Danny gets home, Blake asks if he can take the new Saleen F-16 for a spin. Danny’s leery – but how can he deny him? He helped him win it afterall. But when Blake returns the car, Danny’s livid to see that his older brother inexplicably installed a real F-16 jet fighter seat into the car. He’s furious. Blake explains that those harnesses have saved his life many times. Danny doesn’t care. He wants the seat out. He’s gonna be driving in suburbia with a baby seat in the back. He wants it to look good – not like he’s heading off to war. Blake agrees to take it out the next day and heads off to pick his girlfriend up at the airport.
The next morning, Danny and Sara are awoken before dawn by an odd call from Danny’s mother, MRS. MITCHELL (60s): Could Danny pick his father up at the air force base? This strikes Danny as really unusual since he can’t remember a single time in their forty-year marriage that she’s ever missed greeting him home from deployment.
Indeed: she’s being held at gunpoint by a PALESTINIAN JIHADIST and a JORDANIAN MUJAHID who are coercing her into setting her son and husband up.
Unaware of his mother’s predicament, Danny’s eager to show off his new dream car trophy to his father, four-star GENERAL MITCHELL (60s) who shares Danny’s concern that his wife isn’t there to welcome him home. He’s disinterested in the car, which hurts Danny’s feelings – that is, until General Mitchell discovers that Blake helped Danny prepare for and win it – which of course, only goes to solidify Danny’s jealousy of his father’s lifetime of favoritism for his heroic older brother.
Still, General Mitchell wouldn’t have been an Air Force pilot to begin with if he hadn’t been a speed junkie himself in his heyday, so he lightens up a little during their joy ride home – that is – until it is cut short by CHP John giving chase.
Only: it’s not John. It is John’s car that they recognize – but Hakim and an AFGHANI TALIB have relieved him of it – and are now hijacking Danny’s precious new ride on the side of the road. The terrorists rig Danny’s supercharged driver’s seat with C-4 explosives and load the dashboard with a live video chat-enabled iPad, set up ready to play an installed video, a red digital timer poised to tick down from 21:00 and a secondary pre-programmed GPS.
Forced back into the car as an unwilling suicide bomber, Danny is told if he gets out of his seat, his car will explode. He must follow their instructions or both his parents will die as they take General Mitchell into custody. Terrified, Danny pukes. His weathered veteran father tells his son to remain calm and follow their orders – as he’s knocked unconscious with a rifle butt.
Peeling out for all their lives, Danny hasn’t a clue what to do but call Blake on his cell. Interrupted brushing his teeth, Blake is instantly laser focused and perpetually level-headed. He gets Danny to play the video and overhears Hakim detail that their father’s military commands killed the former Iraqi Prime Minister’s youngest son and now their family is hell bent on revenge. As Danny is General Mitchell’s youngest son, he has just become a pawn in an Iraqi game of revenge roulette. Tousled and sexy in his shirt, Blake’s girlfriend, MEIRA HAFSA (late 20s, early 30s), overhears and has her Beretta M9 loaded before she even gets her pants on.
Danny has been given twenty-one hours to make it from Barstow to Washington, D.C. He must hit several destinations and deadlines along the way – or U.S. landmarks will be destroyed – along with lots of innocent people. His speeding bomb is monitored non-stop via the Iraqi’s GPS. It’s not long before CNN is non-stop live over his high-speed plight – and the terrorists’ reign of terror spreads like wildfire across the nation – just as they wanted it to.
Blake warns Danny not to call Sara as there’s nothing she can do but worry and the distraction will be too much for him to bear – he has to think clearly and stay unemotional. Blake promises he’ll make sure she’s safe and take care of her. Blake and Meira race nearby to the Mitchell’s home. Getting there just as the terrorists are moving his mother, Blake and Meira miss the two key leaders as they leave but manage to perform a precise extraction to rescue Mrs. Mitchell. Blake introduces them with the comment that saving your future mother-in-law from terrorists should hopefully make a great first impression is not lost on either of the surprised women in his life.
Danny finally breaks down and calls Sara. He tells her what’s going on. She bears it nobly and doesn’t let him hear her cry. Blake collects Sara and safely ensconces her at the hospital with their mom – surrounded by guards. Then he and Meira race off to help Danny.
General Mitchell is held at gunpoint and ordered to call his good friend, GENERAL KEEFER (70s), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to deliver the terrorists’ demands: a full and complete pull out of Iraq in 21 hours. Impossible. Yeah, they know that. But Keefer’s on it, he calls in PRESIDENT TATE (60s).
En route, Danny rallies support from family friend SHERIFF PARKER (50s). As Danny is understandably now the #1 suspect in CHP John’s murder since he was seen screeching away from his patrol car not long before his dead body was found nearby, Parker has to shift the powers that be’s perception that not only is Danny not a cop killer – nor is he a criminal at all – but rather: he’s the victim. Sheriff Parker manages to turn those pit maneuvers around into a surprising police escort.
Meira is adamant that she get into Danny’s car. Blake’s having none of that. But Meira makes a solid case: she’s a bomb and computer expert – and it’s kind of impossible to sit idly by on the sidelines with the necessary skill set to just watch your family-to-be careen in danger. Blake pulls strings to get Meira on an F-18 and she flies ahead to intersect with Danny in Arizona during a 70-mph refueling stunt paralleling with a huge gas tanker.
Danny is grateful for the fast food handed in through the window by the truck driving tandem but he’s shocked that anyone is fool enough to crawl into his car with him – much less a woman. Given his predicament, Danny’s knee-jerk reaction of prejudice toward her Middle Eastern heritage might be understandable – but thick-skinned and confident, Meira quips: “We’re not all terrorists” as Blake introduces them over the hands-free. Danny apologizes, sincerely.
Meira came bearing electronic gifts: not only her own laptop and other counter-surveillance devices but CNN, no fool to the live promotional opportunities, asked her to bring in a dash-cam and cell phone with her, to give their viewers vicarious shotgun seats to the high speed inevitable tragedy. Meira connects the dashboard iPad monitor and Ameer, the evil mastermind, comes on screen – live. Both Danny and Meira recognize him – but from different frames of reference – but there’s no time to compare notes. Even though Danny made it to his first destination: Flagstaff – on time – he had no idea what he was supposed to do or where he was supposed to go once he got there, so Ameer chalks that up as a miss and Danny and Meira are demoralized to see Ameer blow up Lake Havasu’s London Bridge live on the screen in front of them – but they don’t have any time to grieve the innocent hikers and boaters that were killed – they can’t even slow down to think about it. Riddled with guilt, Danny must make his next deadline or more people will die.
Sara suffers helplessly in silence, watching the horrific ordeal unfold on TV. Her water breaks while she’s on the phone with her husband but she’s unwilling to add to his burden, so she stoically refrains from telling him she’s slipping into labor – and the stress is jeopardizing the baby.
Danny hits all his stops in record time in spite of every obstacle imaginable. After some drunk, fame-digging frat boys nearly kill him in a joy ride collision; Danny must convert passers by into good Samaritans to jump-start his famous bomb. The Governor of Oklahoma refuses to let the traveling bomb cross his state line. He sets up a roadblock and there is a stand off between Texas and Oklahoma state police. Fans and protestors alike line the overpass and freeway. Political hierarchy prevails. The President supersedes the Governor’s federal jurisdiction with her national power and orders a couple of Huey Cobra helicopters to blast a path through the police barricade so Danny can get through. The President then asks Danny, knowing he’s not going to get out of this alive, if he’d be willing to drive his car into a sand-filled container to try to limit the other innocent casualties. Danny says he is willing to do whatever she asks to protect innocent lives – but only after she can confirm his father is safe – until then, he’s gonna stay on course.
As dusk settles, it dawns on famous NASCAR driver, DALE EARNHARDT, JR., that Danny’s stock headlights won’t illuminate the pitch black of night at the speed he’s traveling. He saves the day and rigs his own racecar with high-powered lights and the team caravans Danny safely through the night.
The car’s ECU light flashes and the car’s computer must be rebooted – but they don’t have time. They are confronted with quite the quandary: they can’t stop but they can’t go on. Meira turns off all the cameras and takes the batteries out of every piece of electronic equipment and in privacy, saves the day by jury-rigging the terrorists’ GPS to an algorithm that will make Ameer mistake a fake beeping signal for Danny’s car, misleading him into believing they made their destination by the deadline without him knowing that they’ve actually pulled over to make repairs and catch up. Danny insists that this is the perfect time for Meira to get out of the car safely. Meira agrees. They say their goodbyes.
The Pit Crew team has the car back on its electronic feet in under seven minutes but before Danny can take off, Meira hops back in his front seat?! Turns out: she didn’t have any way of knowing that their next destination involved a huge cloverleaf freeway interchange. She programmed the algorithm for a straight line. If they can’t make up the time and swap the signals before Ameer clues in, he’ll figure out their ruse and undoubtedly blow another landmark. They haul ass, catch up and manage to swap out the “fake” car-signal as the whole caravan cloverleafs in the pitch black at breakneck speeds while Ameer comes on to congratulate them for having made the destination they missed.
When dawn breaks, Dale hops out to shake Danny’s hand as a real American hero and loans him his helmet: “Maybe it’ll make a difference?”
Blake and his team of Marines have tracked down General Mitchell being held hostage on a houseboat. They deploy a swift, tactical rescue. The President informs Danny and he concedes to her containment plan. Snipers, ordered illegally by General Deaton, begrudgingly follow their orders to take out his tires and make it look like an accident. His glass t-top roof shatters but Danny escapes.
Cleverly, Danny instructs Meira to reverse-track the Iraqi’s GPS signal and discovers that Ameer is not in Washington, D.C., afterall, as was previously assumed – he’s hiding safely in Arlington, Virginia. Blake calls and talks to Meira and has her rig something under Danny’s seat. Danny freaks and pulls off to the side of the road. She tries to tell him something but he shoves her out of the car.
Along with the President and Pentagon staff, Ameer hears the roar of Danny’s car approach. Certain that Danny has reached his final destination, Ameer double crosses Danny and gives the order to blow him up, the Pentagon and all the rigged landmarks simultaneously. Ameer is more surprised than the President to discover that it’s actually Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s NASCAR that pulls up in front of the Pentagon as he tosses Danny’s swapped out and still-tracking GPS triumphantly into the air. The car bomb that Danny’s actually driving is headed – surprise! – straight for Ameer’s no-longer secret hold up.
Resigned to the fact that he’s not getting out of this alive, Danny says goodbye to his wife on his cell phone as his life flashes before him as he prepares to martyr himself for his country…
21 Hours is unapologetically a testosterone action popcorn flick. An entertaining suspense roller coaster. We want to give the audience a visceral, authentic race experience so they’ll “feel the speed.” We want them to feel claustrophobically trapped inside the contained space of our hero’s rigged muscle car as if they were vicariously in his driver’s seat along for this terror ride. Just as the original Rocky caused audience members to punch the dark air in front of them, we want our theater-seat drivers slamming their feet on imaginary brakes in the dark.
Our country – the entire world – changed forever in an instant on 9/11. No longer can we sit idly by, thinking someone will come to our rescue because…maybe no one is coming – no one can save you – and you have to save yourself. We realize now that we might actually have to take action ourselves. Alone. Or even with strangers. Figuring out unconscionable circumstances on the fly while overcoming overwhelming obstacles in an instant. Worse, perhaps, might be to be stuck at home – helplessly watching our loved ones in situations no one could’ve ever been prepared for in our constantly, real-time-connected world.
While timely and relevant, this “ripped from the headlines” terrorist thriller is also universal and evergreen. 21 Hours taps into the global zeitgeist of coping with terrorists in your own homeland while holding a mirror up to the world’s fascination (if not obsession) with reality TV and incessant technological connectivity. Unashamedly patriotic but without taking any polarizing political or religious positions, 21 Hours shows the men and women of the US military in an honorable light. It’s a purely fictional story – a decidedly personal vendetta – of one family attacking the innocent civilians of another – on their own soil. It’s a road trip journey for all the citizens of the world who value their families, free will – and the open road.
Building upon the shoulders of the greats in the rich lineage of race and road films that have come before us, our goal is to conceive fresh and original stunts and sequences that will delight this rabid core audience. Screaming past the wide variety of beautiful vistas our country has to offer, 21 Hours is a picture postcard love letter to America.
We’ve also made great efforts to – and will continue to strive to – avoid stereotypical or prejudicial clichés. Not only does the script offer smart and powerful female role models, most notably the President of the United States, the Hero’s wife and mother but perhaps most significantly, the key support brain and brawn buddy is a heroic Middle Eastern female Marine fighting for America. These are not just token hotties who sit prettily on the sidelines, they are prominent, proactive, thinking modern women who dramatically affect the plot.
I have lived with this script for almost a decade and a half. It was optioned practically straight out of the printer right before 9/11 – after which it got caught in the deep freeze that locked up all terrorist scripts at that time. Freed up and back in our control, we have worked relentlessly to polish it, tighten the plot, amp up the pace and deepen the emotional stakes. I have imagined every conceivable angle, I know the characters and storylines and backstories inside and out and cannot wait to bring it out of our hearts and imaginations – up off the page to come to life on the screen.
Several of you have asked me to keep sharing my watercolor progress. As embarrassing as it is, its kind of liberating, too. I’ve been painting for years and not showing anyone, so daring to share the crap I’m still struggling with is kind of a “coming out” for me. It is with the greatest frustration that I look at what I churn out – I just WISH I could DRAW what I see in my mind’s eye! But the truth is, you don’t set a kid at a free throw line and say he has no talent when he misses his first shot. Like anything else, it takes practice. Fundamental skills and (l)earned knowledge – and hopefully, some innate skill. And if you’re lucky, you run into (and recognize) some good teachers, mentors and coaches along the way who can help you develop all of that as they teach you the tools and techniques of the craft they’ve picked up along the way. [Read more…]