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What's New, BlueCat?                                          
The Official Newsletter of the

BlueCat Screenplay Competition   

June 20th, 2012 

Fade In 


And so it begins! The 2013 BlueCat Screenplay Competition is off with a bang. Already the scripts are flooding in and we're hard at work delegating new material to our staff of eager readers. Did you submit your script yet? If not, get it on it! Our deadline is November 15th, and while it may seem like the distant future now, it'll be the evening of the 14th before you know it. Start writing! 


Today we're very excited to present an interview with producer Jim Burke, the man behind such indie hits as Election, Kingpin, and The Descendants, conducted by BlueCat supporter and all around swell gal Heidi Haaland. If you don't think a producer has any worthwhile advice for a writer, you'd best think again. Producers are the people who make the movies happen. They navigate the bureaucratic BS, deal with all the big picture problems, make sure the film has a budget, and, most importantly for writers, they're usually a big part of the red light/greenlight process that determines whether a screenplay stays just a screenplay or becomes a movie. They know the business and they know what it takes to get a screenplay made, and Mr. Burke is no exception.  


The rest of the first newsletter of the 2013 competition season is equally jam-packed with information - we've got a fresh Gordy video, an update on a former finalist's literary exploits over in the Alumni Corner, along with some tutorial information and the usual selected script and quotes. So get reading, and when you've finished reading, start writing! 118 days, people!  

-The BlueCat Team 

An Interview With Jim Burke

by Heidi Haaland
The stories favored by award-winning producer Jim Burke (Election, Kingpin, The Descendants) could stampede an entire herd of the entertainment industry's most sacred cows. No one meets cute, talks cute, does cute. There is no obligatory petting of dogs, no gratuitous saving of cats-- just imperfect, sometimes unlikeable people, sifting through their short-comings and self-created troubles in search of something good about themselves.  This clear-eyed, unsentimental approach has yielded films to which audiences are deeply attached. How do you pull that off? Mr. Burke recently took some time to answer that, and a few other questions.

HH: What was the first screenplay you ever read? 

JB: I'm not sure, but I think it was Die Hard. I was at Warner Brother in TV Syndication, dreaming of making films, and I got a hold of a copy that I took along on a plane ride. I remember thinking, 'Oh, so this is what a script is like' and also that I was just so impressed. When I finally began producing, I was much more generous in my assessments. At this point, though, I'm much more critical. 


HH: What lead you to film making? 

JB: Film making came as a goal, after college, but  until then, all I knew was that I wanted to be in show business. I didn't know anyone. I just drove out here. It wasn't a great plan, it was more of an intention.  

HH: So that worked out. 

JB: There's a real advantage in not knowing how hard things are going to be. Keith Samples and I founded Rysher Entertainment with a goal to make movies. We began there. We worked for HB0, and made four films in a row. That's how I learned.  


HH: When did you know producing was your calling? Did directing or acting ever appeal to you? 

JB: It came to me pretty quickly that I had the skill set for producing. That was my strength. If I were to direct, it would be good, but not great.  


HH: When did you really feel like a producer? 

JB: Actually, it might just have happened recently. When you work in the arts, you always have your doubts. If you don't, you're probably not doing a very good job.   


HH: What is it about a piece of material that makes you sit up and take notice? 

JB: How it makes me feel. 


HH: What completely kills your interest? Are you a stickler for structure, for example?

JB: No, not at all. Many of the writers who work with us are, however, and I sometimes make suggestions that run counter to that. But I'm okay with unconventional.  

HH: When choosing projects, do you cut your coat to fit your cloth, or do you decide "we want to do this and we will find the money." 

JB: I don't really think about money. It's my strong belief that if the material is great enough the director and actors will come and then the money will come.  


HH: You read The Descendants prior to its publication. How did the development unfold? 

JB: When I was sent the manuscript, I didn't know much about it other than it was set in Hawaii and wouldn't it be great if the book was great? I worked really hard to acquire it and was successful. As with any adaptation, all sorts of choices have to be made. Big chunks of the book have to be left out and what are those going to be? After about two drafts, we had what we felt was a really good script, which Stephen Frears and I worked to develop with the screenwriting team, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.  

HH: I did not know that about Stephen Frears.
JB: What happened was, he had another project going halfway around the world and had to drop out. So I went to Alexander [Payne]. The timing was more right for him. The two of us and our production designer went to Oahu, on a journey of discovery, and spent a month just absorbing it. Although we'd visited Hawaii previously, we wanted to portray the world people actually lived in, just as the Los Angeles we know differs from the ideas of people who come here as tourists. Afterward, Alexander began writing on his own, which was a first time for him, because Jim Taylor had another commitment. He started by going back to the book and re-envisioned the movie.  


HH: It seems that could be a potentially difficult situation. How do you handle that constructively? 

JB: You're right in saying it can be sensitive, but the ultimate goal of any writer is to make a movie, and a great one. We were lucky. And Nat and Jim's script wasn't being rewritten by a hack, it was being rewritten by an Academy Award winner. It wasn't about the quality of their draft, but that the script was not yet personal to Alexander, which is what he needs as a director. Do you know who Thomas Lennon is? 


[co-written with Robert Ben Garant]. It was extremely funny [NB: The State = hilarious!]

JB: That's him. So, his comment was "I don't understand writers who get up in arms when changes are made to scripts that they sold. It's like being annoyed that the people who bought your house changed the color." I don't mean to sound cold, but that's how this process works. And it's the same for actors. They may believe that a particular take represents their best work, and while that might be true, it may not be the one the director selects because it isn't the best choice for the movie. No one has total control over the film making process and that is one of its main lessons. 


HH: You have six projects in development. Can you talk about them?

JB: I'll just mention Keep Coming Back, which is the story about James Fearing, the first person to ever professionally practice the art of intervention. He realized this was something he was very good at. A wife would call Hazelden or Betty Ford because her husband refused to seek treatment and they'd refer James who would organize the family and friends. He himself at times was kind of dysfunctional, however. The script is very funny and action-packed, and we have an excellent writer, Mike Gilio. 


HH: Have you cast this yet?

JB: No, but there is a great deal of interest already. 

HH: How do you gauge how much time to devote to development? Have you ever had to cut bait?

JB: Oh, yes. That's one of the toughest decisions for a producer to make. To get involved, you need a certain passion for the material and then you go out and expose it to the creative community and it is very hard when people aren't receptive, when they don't respond to the thing that you're passionate about. But if everyone tells you the same thing, you have to pay attention. Sometimes you need to listen and take that note. But other times you have to power through.  

HH: Has there been a time when colleagues discouraged you from pursuing a project and your judgment was vindicated? 

JB: With every single movie I've made. But anyone making films will tell you the same thing. Often, in those rare cases when everyone gets behind an idea, those are often movies that turn out poorly.  


HH: In the past decade, there has been nearly a 20% decline in domestic box office, while the overseas appetite for the blockbuster movie has grown steadily. Is that something that wakes you up in the middle of the night? Or do you feel that Ad Hominem has figured out how to connect with people who still buy movie tickets?  

JB: No and no. As a matter of fact, The Descendents did 15% more business overseas, which made us very happy. At a certain point, though, I just stopped paying attention to trends. There are so many ways to deliver product these days and the goal is to execute well and that just doesn't happen enough. I keep my eyes focused on executing. I have made films that didn't perform well at first, but over time have found their audience. That's not the feeling I'm looking for. I'd much prefer for that audience reaction to be immediate. But if the alternative is a blockbuster that makes money but is quickly forgotten... 

HH: What do you wish writers would do more of? 

JB: Be original. Write well. Be a good writer.  


HH: What do you wish writers would stop doing, immediately?   
JB: Being sloppy. Let me tell you something: when I read a script and encounter typos I have serious reservations. The same goes for leaps of logic and plausibility, where you wonder "how did she know that?" I've read scripts that don't seem to have been read by anyone before they were submitted.  

HH: You mean from writers with agents?

JB: Yes. 

HH: Oh. Do you have favorite screenwriters? 

JB: Alexander and Jim, of course. And also Mike, who I mentioned. But I have many favorite writers. 

HH: If you made a board game movie, what would it be? 

JB: There would never be a board game movie. 

HH: On commercial flights, do you reveal your occupation to your seat mates, or is that just asking for trouble these days?

JB: If people ask, I tell them. I don't advertise it. I come from a large family and someone always has a script to pass along. I have two conditions: one, I will read it if you've read it and two, I will read it if it's great. That stops the flow. I don't want to read anything you haven't spent 2-3 hours of your own time on because reading takes a lot of time. And also, this isn't original, but we always say around here, you have one chance to make that impression. We don't take a script to a studio until it is as good as it can be and everything makes sense. It may not be ready to shoot, you might like to make some changes, but it's bulletproof. And if I were writing a screenplay, my chief objective would be that air-tight, best-possible version. 


HH: Anything else? 

JB: Many screenwriting gurus and coaches have rules and principles, I don't know them all, but one you often hear is "Never use voice over." Well, we use them all the time and I think that's fine to do. Obviously you don't want to use it like a bandage, to solve problems you haven't worked out, but we see it as a means to get inside the head of the character. To be funny. To be human. To show a character saying one thing, but doing another. Whenever I hear someone say "I'm the kind of person who..." I know one thing for sure and that is, you are not that kind of person because we are all horrible judges of ourselves. We all share the basic qualities. And being human will play wherever you are.

Heidi Haaland thanks Adam Wagner of Ad Hominem Enterprises for setting a land-speed record in scheduling this interview. She can be reached at  
BlueCat Alumni Corner: Ryan David Jahn and Aaron Guzikowski
Where Are They Now?
2005. George W. Bush was still president, gas cost about $2.30 a gallon, and nobody knew what the hell an iPhone was. That was also the year that Ryan David Jahn was a BlueCat finalist, thanks to the strength of his script The Break In.

Since then, Ryan's creative output has taken a turn for the literary, with the release of four crime thriller novels: Acts of Violence (Winner of the 2009 Crime Writers of America Dagger Award) , Low Life (based on The Break In), The Dispatcher, and The Last Tomorrow. More details are available on his website.

Ryan's post-BlueCat success is a testament to the fact that all writing, be it prose or screenplays, comes down to being able to tell an engrossing story that keeps the audience engaged until the last page or scene. If you know how to tell a good story, the world will beat a path to your door!

2005 must've been a great year for BlueCat finalists, because one of our other finalists from that year, Aaron Guzikowski, has just been recruited by Universal to rewrite the studio's upcoming adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.

Guzikowski made waves earlier this year for writing the American adaptation of the Icelandic thriller Reykjavik-Rotterdam, Contraband, which starred Mark Wahlberg.

Congratulations, class of 2005!  
Selected Script: The Producers
No, It's Not The Musical


Mel Brooks' classic comedy The Producers is a giddy romp through the seedy life of a third rate Broadway producer as he and a hapless accountant try to embezzle a hefty sum by financing a guaranteed flop. It's classic comedy and well worth your time - read it    
Write Faster!
Looking for an excuse to get your script finished early? Look no further! Scripts submitted by July 1st, 2012, will receive their analyses by July 15th, 2012 and will be automatically entered in our Title Contest! Our entry fee is $60. Click here for more information!      
The Clock Is Ticking - Yes, Already

Title Contest Deadline

Scripts submitted by Aug1st, 2012 will receive their written analyses by September 1st, 2012 and will be automatically entered in the Title Contest.

$60 entry fee.   


OCTOBER 15TH Regular Deadline  Our Regular Deadline is October 15th with an entry fee of $65.

Final Deadline 

Our Final Deadline is
November 15th with an entry fee of $70.

Gordy Video: Novels or Movies? 
Make The Write Choice

Did Ryan David Jahn's success get you thinking about dabbling in the prose game as opposed to screenwriting? If so, BlueCat founder Gordy Hoffman is here to advise you on the differences between the genres.    
Pitching Your Script To A Producer
The Clock Is Ticking

The interview with Jim Burke took you inside the mind of a producer - for those of you looking to stay there a little longer, this article from has a rundown of what you can expect to deal with should you be so lucky as to get in front of a producer and have a chance to pitch something you've written. 

"In every place there are 100 people who can say no and only one person who can say yes. You have to get a good piece of material to the right person."
Robert Evans

BlueCat Interviews    

Miss an interview? Don't sweat it! All of our interviews with 2012's winners - along with some other interviews from BlueCat's past - are available on our website. It's a great opportunity to tap into the psyches of our winners and figure out what makes them tick - and, more importantly, what makes them write good screenplays! 
Free Entry To BlueCat 2013!
Details Below!

The 2013 BlueCat Screenplay Competition is getting closer and closer, and to celebrate we're going to be giving away free submissions to a few lucky contest winners over the next three weeks! Keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter feed, where we'll be announcing the contests and giving you a shot at entering BlueCat, getting two pieces of feedback on your script, and a shot at a $10,000 prize all for free!      
Join Gordy this Sunday, June 24th on #Scriptchat 
where screenwriters chat, share and learn -- it's not a competition, it's
Scriptchata community  


EURO chat

USA chat
8pm EST/EDT (5pm PST/PDT)

At the designated time, go to TWEETCHAT( or search the hashtag #scriptchat on the web, Tweetdeck or Seesmic and jump in.

Find @bluecatpictures and @scriptchat on twitter and join us!

BlueCat Workshops   


We've got four new workshops open for registration----Phoenix, Wichita, New Orleans and Kansas City.  


  We're coming back to New York on Sunday, July 1st for one day only. If you've attended a workshop in NYC in the past, you can register at a discount price.  


Are you in Philly? We still have room on June 30th.  


Can't make it to a workshop? Try our online workshop!      

      About Our Workshops    




We write screenplays for people.    


The relationship between the story on the screen in the theatre and the people sitting in the seats makes or breaks the artistic and commercial success of the movie.


What does a screenplay do to authentically engage an audience? What compels a reader to keep turning the pages? Why do specific elements elicit stronger emotional reactions to our stories? How does a writer write this into their screenplay? Where does this come from within the writer?


An award-winning screenwriter, Gordy Hoffman founded the BlueCat Screenplay Competition in 1998, having since presided over the evaluation and adjudication of over 10,000 screenplays. This unique combination of writer and reader of screenplays has allowed Gordy to develop and evolve a keen eye and feel for how a screenplay works successfully, and the intuitive, personal ways to address the  problems of a screenplay through a writer's approach.


Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 Writers)

Participants read seven screenplays in advance of the workshop. Screenplays can be first drafts or rewrites, with first time writers and veterans all welcome. During the workshop, Gordy provides direct and in-depth feedback on each screenplay, with everyone encouraged to contribute his or her own thoughts and concerns. Gordy provides brief written notes to each writer after the workshop. Audit option available.


What if I don't have a script ready, but I'd like to attend?

Do you want to participate, but do not have a script to submit at this time? You can audit the workshop, which allows you to attend without submitting written material, read the scripts in advance and still participate in the discussion.



The BlueCat Workshops
Head for
New Zealand and Australia!

Inspired by our recent Joplin Award Winner (Best International Script outside UK, Canada and USA), BlueCat is traveling down under to lead a few workshops and have a staged reading of our Joplin winner in Wellington, NZ.

We hope to see you when we come in August! Have any places we need to visit while we're there? Like us to visit you somewhere? Let us know. We want to meet and talk BlueCat with you.



Los Angeles

Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers) 

Saturday, June 23rd, 9:00AM-6:00 PM

  Full Registration $175  (SOLD OUT) 

Audit $45  
Register Now

Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Saturday, June 30th, 9:00 AM-6:00 PM 
Full Registration $225 (FOUR SPOTS OPEN!) 
Audit $45 
Register Now

New York City
Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Sunday, July 1st, 9:00 AM-6:00 PM 
Full Registration $245
Workshop Returnee $215 
Audit $45  
Register Now 
Full Script Workshop  
Saturday, August 25th, 9:00 AM-6:00PM 
Full Registration $395 USD 
Audit $75 USD 
First Ten Pages Workshop (Limit 12 writers)
Sunday, August 26th, 9:00AM-6:00PM 
Full Registration $150 USD
Audit $75 USD
Register Now

September Online Workshop
Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
SCRIPTS DUE: September 6, midnight PST
COMMENTS RELEASED: September 23rd, 6:00 PM PST
Full Registration: $195
Audit: $40  

Register Now

Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Saturday, September 15th, 9:00AM-6:00PM
Full Registration $225
Audit $45

First Ten Pages Workshop (Limit 10 writers)
Sunday October 21st, 8:00AM-5:00PM
Full Registration $115
TFA Member $85 
Audit $45
TFA Member $30  
Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Saturday, September 29th, 9:00AM-6:00PM
Full Registration $225
Audit $45
Register Now

New Orleans
Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Sunday, September 30th, 9:00AM-6:00PM
Full Registration $225
Audit $45
Register Now

Kansas City
Full Script Workshop (Limit 7 writers)
Sunday, November 18th, 9:00AM-6:00PM
Full Registration $195
Audit $45
Register Now   
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