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Kraig Wenman, Screenwriter

by Justin Samuels

Today’s interview is with screenwriter Kraig Wenman, who has been a prolific screenwriter since 2006.

Justin Samuels: Do you think the Internet has made it a lot easier for screenwriters to break in and find work?

Kraig Wenman: Absolutely, without the Internet, I wouldn’t’ve been able to make so many inroads in the industry. But like anything, it’s a tool within a larger toolbox.

JS: What’s your opinion on online services like Inktip?

KG: Da’ best. Almost every job I’ve had has come from a connection I made on/through Inktip.com. There’s other services out there, but it’s the only one I use.

JS: What roles do social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail play in networking? Have they replaced the Rolodex?

KG: It’s helpful to an extent, but at the end of the day, people want to work with people they know they can interact and hang out with. Going into a film is a lot like a relationship. So a blind date via Twitter or LinkedIn hasn’t replaced face-to-face meetings, lunches, dinners and the inevitable conception and birth of project.

JS: How did you learn screenwriting?

KG: The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier was where it was at for me when I started. Had been to film school before that.  But I hadn’t focused particularly on screenwriting, so Trottier’s book saved me. It’s great because it’s an actual working textbook that you can write in. Had read the usual books by the usual gurus, but I’d rather write than talk about writing any day.

By this, I mean that the best way to learn screenwriting is to do it. Don’t wait for inspiration.  Force it or you’ll be waiting a long time. You can always press delete, and no one’s going to read it but you. There is no such thing as writer’s block, only fear of failure. Fail, try again, and then say, “Tomorrow I will make better mistakes.” You’ll learn more from your mistakes than from your triumphs.

JS: Is Absolute Deception, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., your first film to star an A-list actor?  Absolute Deception is distributed by Sony, isn’t it? How did it feel to get such a big deal?

KG: I originally wrote Absolute Deception at the end of 2008 as an assignment, and it was originally meant as an MOW. I didn’t even know it was getting made until the first-day-of-principle-photography check showed up. It was written in Canada, shot in Australia and bought at Cannes, so it’s made its journey around the sun and many other creatives’ hands. I haven’t seen it yet, but looking forward to seeing what they’ve done with it.

JS: How did you feel when you got accepted by the WGA?   How do you think the Guild is supportive to writers?

KG: Being Canadian, I’m currently in the WGC and transferring over to the WGA in the next month, so I’ll keep you posted on my experiences. But the WGA is cool because it’s a great proverbial crucifix that helps protects you from the demons of the Hollywood.

JS: The Body Farm is the first feature film that you’re both writing and directing, right?  How does it feel to step into the director’s chair?

KG: Haven’t stepped yet, but making steps toward it. Currently in development and financing so unfortunately not much to report. What is exciting, though, is a new project called Creation of the Gods that I’m co-writing with Transformers/X-Men producer Tom Desanto. Tom’s a solid guy with a lot of passion for the project, so things are heating up substantially. Gods is like an X-Men meets Lord of the Rings. It’s an epic tale that you’ll see out in theaters soon.

JS: Can you say who will star in The Body Farm?

KG: Still in development, so nope.

JS: Do you have any advice for other writers out there that you’d care to share?

KG: When you first start out, everyone will tell that, in Hollywood, everyone has a script. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good or filmable (that’s not a word is it?) script. Millions of people have cars too, but how many good drivers do you know? Don’t be discouraged, as there’s a way into the industry or no one would already be there. It really just takes persistence and then more persistence. It’s not in how many times you fall, but how many times you get up.

However, a good way to see it is that Hollywood is a party you haven’t been invited to yet. No one owes you anything, or needs to hold open a door to let you in. So you need to earn that invite past the Doorman (who also has a script) by hustling and writing every day. It’s like lifting weights: the more you do it, the stronger you’ll get. The more you sweat in training, the less you’ll bleed in battle. Damn, can you tell I’ve been researching war movies for the last couple of months?

A Staged Reading of Your Dramatic Screenplay

The Guild’s next Screenplay Reading will be held in February 2014. We will feature two screenplay excerpts, each chosen by a panel of judges from among your submissions. One except will be a comedy, chosen from among the previous round of submissions. We are now accepting submissions for the dramatic screenplay reading.

The readings will be cast, directed and performed by experienced industry professionals. WGAE President Michael Winship will conduct a Q&A with the writer after each reading, and a reception will follow the Q&A.

To enter:

1. Pick the best 20-page excerpt from your screenplay.

2. Write a narrative to cover the rest of the story, making sure to indicate where the excerpt fits into the narrative.

3. Include a one-paragraph bio.

4. Submit all of this in PDF or MS Word format to scriptreading@wgaeast.org.

Do not include your name or other identifying information on the title page. This is a blind entry process. ONLY the title should appear on the cover page. Your name, bio, contact information, as well as a logline and any comments, should appear in the body of your email and nowhere in the screenplay itself.

The competition is open only to WGAE members; only one submission per member will be accepted.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm EDT on Tuesday, September 3.

WGAE Discounts for The Black List

BlackListLogo

WGAE members will be able to add their script titles, loglines, tags and representative information, as well as be able to monitor their work’s ratings and user traffic, free of charge. Additionally, all scripts uploaded to the BL website by WGAE members for the next 30 days will be hosted free-of-charge for one month. After that, script-hosting will be charged with the 20% discount that WGAE members are entitled to receive.

Click here to visit The Black List!

Call for Applications: The Berlin Prize 2014–2015

The Berlin Prize
Call for Applications 2014-2015

The American Academy in Berlin invites applications for its residential fellowships for 2014-2015, as well as early applications for the academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. The deadline is Monday, September 2, 2013 (12 pm EST or 6 pm CET). Applications may be submitted online or mailed to the Berlin office.

The Academy welcomes applications from emerging and established scholars and from writers and professionals who wish to engage in independent study in Berlin. Approximately 26 Berlin Prizes are conferred annually. Past recipients have included historians, economists, poets and novelists, journalists, legal scholars, anthropologists, musicologists, and public policy experts, among others. The Academy does not award fellowships in the natural sciences.

Fellowships are typically awarded for an academic semester or, on occasion, for an entire academic year. Bosch Fellowships in Public Policy may be awarded for shorter stays of six to eight weeks. Fellowship benefits include round-trip airfare, partial board, a $5,000 monthly stipend, and accommodations at the Academy’s lakeside Hans Arnhold Center in the Berlin-Wannsee district.

Fellowships are restricted to individuals based permanently in the United States. US citizenship is not required; American expatriates are not eligible. Candidates in academic disciplines must have completed a PhD at the time of application. Applicants working in most other fields – such as journalism, filmmaking, law, or public policy – must have equivalent professional degrees. Writers should have published at least one book at the time of application. The Academy gives priority to a proposal’s scholarly merit rather than any specific relevance to Germany.

Please note that the next application period for the Inga Maren Otto Berlin Prize in Music Composition will be in 2014. The Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship in the Visual Arts is an invitation-only competition.

Following a peer-reviewed process, an independent Selection Committee reviews finalist applications. The 2014-2015 Berlin Prizes will be announced in spring semester 2014.

For further information and to apply online, please see http://www.americanacademy.de/home/fellows/applications or contact:

The American Academy in Berlin
Attn: Fellows Selection
Am Sandwerder 17-19
14109 Berlin, Germany

Telephone +49-30-804-83-0
Fax +49-30-804-83-111
cs@americanacademy.de 

May Day March

mayday1On May 1, the 125th anniversary of the campaign for the eight-hour work day, WGAE led a march in New York City to Atlas Media, a nonfiction TV company known as a flagrant union buster and violator of overtime and labor law. Convening at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, WGAE members and staffers joined ranks with hundreds of other union members to protest Atlas and other companies who are trying to suppress the fundamental right to organize and who are committing wage theft.

The rise of Nonfiction and Reality Television has been dramatic in New York City. While profits are being made hand over fist, many thousands of employees in the industry — part of the new freelance economy — are obligated to work 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours a week without overtime pay, healthcare, pensions, vacation, sick days or any basic protections. Atlas Media is one of the biggest offenders, with a notorious reputation as a postmodern digital sweatshop.

mayday2Atlas Media is well-known throughout the television industry as one of the worst places for producers and associate producers to work. That reputation has been earned from a history of overtime violations, low pay, lack of benefits or any basic protections — and a general disrespect towards employees. Moreover, to this rap sheet Atlas has added union busting as they have recently flouted labor law to suppress union-organizing efforts by their producers and associate producers.

“As the hundreds of activists made clear rallying outside Atlas’ offices, wage theft is wrong, it’s a crime, and New Yorkers will not tolerate it,” said Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of WGAE. “The company needs to stop exploiting its employees and it needs to respect their right to negotiate improvements in their benefits and working conditions.”

 

Behind the “Best Screenplay” Awards

Photo: Ken Goodman

Letty Aronson accepts Woody Allen's WGA Award for Best Original Screenplay. Photo: Ken Goodman

Is a WGA Award a true predictor of Oscar gold? That was certainly the case this year, as both the WGA and AMPAS chose The Descendants and Midnight in Paris as respective winners in their Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay categories. (This year’s only noticeable difference, it turns out, was but one of presentation: at the Writers Guild Awards, Letty Aronson, producer of Midnight in Paris and Woody Allen’s sister, was allowed onstage to accept Allen’s statuette.) But pomp and circumstance aside, The Descendants’ and Midnight in Paris’ 2012 WGA-Oscar “doubles” illustrate a growing convergence in awards-season decisions between WGA and the Academy.

Indeed, 2012 marked the sixth time in the last eight years that both WGA and the Academy opted to honor the same writers for Best Adapted and Best Original Screenplays.

With two exceptions–in 2011, when the Academy chose The King’s Speech over WGA Award­-winner Inception for Best Original Screenplay; and in 2010, when the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay went to Precious after the WGA Award had gone to Up in the Air—recent history of the two Best Screenplay awards has been noteworthy for Guild-Oscar synergy. From 2005 to 2009, the WGA and Academy agreed on their Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay winners every year.

Before the beginning of that streak, however, the WGA and the Academy had demonstrated across-the-board agreement only five times since 1985, the year WGA adopted its current two-fold “Best Adapted” and “Best Original” categorizations.

While both the WGA and Academy seek to honor the finest in screenwriting in a given year, the differing imperatives of the two organizations can explain incongruities in their choices of winners. The Writers Guild of America is, of course, a labor union whose prime directive is the representation of the rights of screenwriters in the workplace. To that end, then, only films produced under the jurisdiction of the Writers Guild of America (or an affiliate Guild) are eligible for consideration for WGA Awards. The Academy does not consider the terms and conditions under which nominee films were created.

The recent harmony among WGA and Oscar-winners, then, is heartening. By awarding Oscars to screenplays that have already met the WGA’s stricter eligibility requirements, the Academy is, in effect, tacitly validating the Guild’s mission of honoring both great art and the artists who labor to create it.

“Our goal is not to provide spin for the Oscars,” says Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, “but to give writers the opportunity to honor other writers. We believe writers should be paid decently, and should receive the benefits negotiated by the Guild or by our sister guilds abroad. The Academy doesn’t require that writers be treated well, and sometimes non-Guild films are nominated for writing Oscars. But that is increasingly rare.”

Top 10 Reasons to Become a Screenwriter by Catie Lazarus

Dalton Trumbo at work in the tub

1. You possess a laptop, New Balance sneakers and a tendency towards self-delusion.

2. You feel you have too much control over your life as it is.

3. In Hollywood, no one will ever wonder if you’ve had work done.

4.  If you went to Harvard, you’ll easily score a plum TV writing gig. Oh wait—you would’ve scored a plum job anyway.

5. Fastest way to convert your 120-page diatribe about snakes on a plane into cash.

6. You’ll have plenty of downtime to play Words With Friends.

7. If you’ve seen the Hallmark Hall of Famer Riding the Bus with My Sister, you must have thought, “I can do that! I can write that poorly.”

8. In entertainment, you’ll be considered an intellectual.

9. You’re cool waiting 43 years to cash a pay check, because that’s about how long it takes Disney to deliver it.

10.  It’s your best chance to touch Halle Berry (at least your words might touch her).

Catie Lazarus is a writer.  ECNY awarded her “Best Comedy Writer,” and she currently hosts EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH at UCB, a talk show and podcast.