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

BlueCat Screenplay Competition   

July 5th, 2012 

Written Into A Corner


Sorry for the delay in this week's newsletter! We had every intention of celebrating America's birthday with a brand new look for the newsletter, as you may have gathered from our rather wistful tone in last week's issue. However, you've probably noticed by now that this is the same old style as before. Yes, as it turns out we sort of wrote ourselves into a corner last week.
- it looks like it's going to take a little longer than expected to make the big transition to the new mass-email service, so you've got a little more time to say goodbye to the old layout than you perhaps initially thought. 


But just because we're enjoying some humble pie here at the newsletter doesn't mean that we're taking a break on BlueCat's tutorials, selected scripts, videos, or other features. This week we're pleased to feature yet another interview from BlueCat contributor Heidi Haaland, this time with producer Temple Fennell of ATO Pictures, responsible for films like Choke and Joshua. On top of that, we've got another Gordy Video, some updates from a past finalist, and a very patriotic Selected Script, in honor of the holiday. 

So get reading! We hope you had a great holiday! 

-The BlueCat Team 

The (Other) Producer: An Interview With Temple Fennell Of ATO Pictures
By Heidi Haaland

It takes courage to christen your production company Art Takes Over, because when it comes Art, we Americans can be an ambivalent bunch, and when Art comes to us as a film, we're less likely to regard the encounter with joy than dread. The fusty theater. The funereal crowd. The two hours of one's life, sucked into the wake of some self indulgent Bergman pastiche through which only the director's family, friends and various patsies will willingly sit. Happily, Temple Fennell and his partners at ATO Pictures (and yes, this includes Dave Matthews, so let's move on) have steered well clear of this particular cow pie, as their filmography (Choke, Joshua, Terri) illustrates. This Art has staked out its place at the table, confident it won't merely entertain, but also offer something to ponder on the ride home, and not one bit interested in the crumbs or left overs of fringe success, as Mr Fennell explains.

HH: Do you recall the first screenplay you ever read?  

TF: I don't remember the first one I read, but I do remember the first one that made an impression: Sex, Lies & Videotape. I just sat there reading and thinking, "This is an amazing piece of writing."

HH: 'Art Takes Over.' How did you arrive at that?
TF: We're part of a larger organization and borrowed that acronym from ATO Records, which stands for According To Our Records, so we took that and started playing with it.  We aim for films with commercial or crossover potential and believe there's an audience looking for heart in writing and execution. 

HH: When you finished school, you went off to work at KPMG and Clinton Capital, and then one day you decided "film." This is not the phone call most parents dream of.
TF: No, but I'd saved up enough money, so that I could live very frugally for 24 months, which was my deadline for becoming a writer. Two years. During that time I directed a short film that I adapted from my own short story. I took it to various festivals and at one of them I met a woman from AFI who encouraged me to apply to the Conservatory. I was enrolled there before my deadline was up.

HH: You were a Directing Fellow there. What put you on the road toward producing?
TF: I didn't really start producing until 2002.

HH: In a do-over, would you opt for the Producers Conservatory instead? Or would directing be something you'd still have pursued?
TF: That is a tough question to answer, because it comes down to life choices. But I do think everyone who aspires to be in this business should spend some time writing. If you want to direct you have to be able to write and should probably write your first film. Even if you don't ultimately make your living as a screenwriter, you have to be intimately involved in the writing.

HH: It seems directing experience could be both a blessing and a curse for a producer.
TF: It makes it harder for me. It is hard for me to be on the set, particularly if I see something being done that doesn't make sense to me. I tend to get involved first with the script and then again at editing stage.

HH: ATO both produces and distributes. How do you balance that? Are some years producing years vs. distribution years? Or are you more fluid, depending on what turns up?
TF: Our ideal mix is half acquisition and half production. We've been acquiring completed films of late, but have begun moving toward developing projects again.

HH: When evaluating a potential screenplay, what clicks for you? Do you see a movie in your mind or is your reaction visceral?
TF: There are a few things, and this is advice that I try to give writers working in the independent realm. We believe that the specialty film - as distinct from an art house film - can cross over and that the ideal audience is women, 30+. To create films that don't appeal to that audience is a problem. Three guys out on a Friday night probably aren't going to a movie - unless their significant others are there. But three women? They'll go. Women determine movie going patterns. So when you're writing films, be sensitive. Don't just write to a male demographic.

HH: Can you talk about the development process of Choke, which was an adaptation, and Terri
TF: Both came as completed scripts from first time directors. At that point we were working very, very closely with the directors and making sure that we had a common vision.

HH: These days, domestic box office is slowing down, in contrast to the overseas markets which seem to prefer big, splashy pictures. Has this made life more difficult for a company like ATO that specializes in subtler storytelling for the 30+ moviegoer you described?
TF: Actually, that audience share has held steady. Moreover, the 50+ audience is both growing and grossly under served, so that's one of the reasons we will continue focusing there. That audience requires interesting story and interesting storytelling, and we look for a really strong voice, where the dialogue and characters are surprising and interesting. Part of that is very intuitive, but this audience is also very attune to films that are not just carbon copies of what they've seen before. If all you're doing is covering the same themes and characters, you won't get the word of mouth that this group generates. The Judy Dench film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good example.

HH: You've commented elsewhere that ATO got into distribution in 2008 because of a sense that relying on a festival sale wasn't a viable model for independent film makers. Is that still the case?
TF: At that point, there had been a significant attrition amongst distributors. Many had just shut down. Yes, I'd say that was still true. Nowadays there are not a lot of those big sales people remember.

HH: In the past five years, crowd-sourcing has combined with digital camera and social media advances to put DIY filmmaking within anyone's reach. Even with less money involved, is it enough for these filmmakers to stake everything on their WithoutaBox accounts, or do they, too, need to be concerned about distribution?
TF: Absolutely. If you look at this year's Sundance, there were about 111 films, with about  twelve out of two dozen or so purchased for under a million. For many films, a festival screening, even there, might be the only screening. And then they're done.

HH: And what advice do you have for screenwriters who might ponder taking that plunge?
TF: Anyone who spends their time writing needs to ask themselves what, ultimately, is their goal. Spend time looking at films that have been released in past years. Not just ones that have been distributed, but ones which have done well. It's really critical to study what market is looking for. Who is the target audience of your story? To write without that target in mind, makes what is already a tough climb even harder. Try to get a sense of the current.

HH: Microbudget films often feature unknown casts. 
TF: That's tough. That's tough for everybody. Independent films are highly dependent on publicity. There are exceptions, like Precious, where an unknown can do incredibly well. But even the big distributors like Fox Searchlight struggle and work very hard to get the word out for films with known actors.

HH: What do you wish writers would do, in general?
TJ: That voice, that uniqueness, is pretty much everything. You're working in a constrained format, but people like to see characters arc. They like a thematic core. They like story arc. You don't want to completely ignore those rules. I remember a screenwriting book from years ago that said, in essence, that being a successful writer means that you know the rules and can break them. But I often see writers breaking rules that they don't seem to know. Find a really great way to hide the rule, or break it. 

HH: Are there any common problems do you see in screenplays?
TF: One question that writers don't seem to ask at all is "does this story travel?" There are a number of films that are too U.S.-centric, they involve some aspect of Americana ,  baseball or football,  that won't resonate internationally, because they're not relevant to overseas audiences. Writers should understand foreign values.

HH: In what way?  Are you speaking of conservative mores?
TF: Yes. What I really try to push writers to do is to understand the industry as best you can. There aren't many distributors these days in a position to give a film a proper launch, a million dollars in P&A, and so on. As a writer, you really need to think about that. Festival success doesn't build a career. Look carefully at what is being realized in the marketplace, both domestic and foreign. A portion of financing is derived from overseas and they need to see their return, too. But it all starts with the material. Then the actors, the director, the distributor will follow.

HH: Do you see yourself returning to directing and writing at some point?
TF: I don't have plans to do that. I don't have the time.

Heidi Haaland is at HeidiEliseHaaland at  
BlueCat Alumni Corner: Lance Hammer
Where Are They Now?  
2004 BlueCat finalist Lance Hammer's name may make him sound like a superhero, but to our knowledge his only superpower seems to be the ability to have a remarkable run of post-BlueCat good fortunes. Following his success at BlueCat with his finalist script, The Imperfect Cell, he went on to write, direct, edit, and distribute the film Ballast in 2008, which won Best Director and Best Cinematographer at Sundance, appeared on several critics' top ten lists and received a rare four stars out of four from Roger Ebert, who went on to name it one of the 20 best films of 2008. Keep up the good work, Lance! You're the hero American filmgoers deserve.    
Selected Script: Born On The Fourth Of July
It Was Either This Or Independence Day...


The second installment in director Oliver Stone's trilogy of films about the Vietnam War (preceded by Platoon and succeeded by Heaven and Earth), Born on the Fourth of July was a critical and commercial success for its frank take on American idealism and the atrocities of Vietnam. It's a  worthwhile read, both because it's a great screenplay and because at this time of year it's good to remember the sacrifices that've been made for us to live the lives we do.  
The Viscera Film Festival
Hollywood! This Saturday!

Viscera, an organization dedicated to female genre filmmakers, is thrilled that the 2012 Los Angeles Bloody Carpet ceremony and film festival, showcasing the best new horror films by women, will be held at the fabulous Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on July 7th, 2012.

The Viscera Organization is about supporting the filmmakers, creating equality, and a night of horror films you will never forget.


Admission is JUST $11 to access ALL the films, food, free alcohol/drinks, carpet and awards ceremonies, and our kickin' AFTER PARTY at the Hotel Roosevelt.

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: Description
Like Pictures With Words

Films are a primarily visual medium, but their scripts are written in text - this puts a lot of pressure on the screenwriter to be as descriptive as possible in a small space. It's a tough tightrope to walk, but fortunately BlueCat founder Gordy Hoffman is here to talk to us about how it can be done.     
Write Yourself Into A Corner
For Fun And Profit!

We wrote ourselves into a corner last week by promising a fresh new layout which we then failed to deliver upon - whoops! But believe it or not, this sort of activity can actually be a boon to your story! Screenwriter Raving Dave elaborates on how devising an impossible situation for your characters can take your mind - and your story - in completely new directions.  

"Screenwriting is no more complicated than old French torture chambers, I think. It's about as simple as that."

James L. Brooks

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!      
Do you watch America's Got Talent?   AGT

One of the BlueCat employees needs your vote!  Heather is a member of one of the magic acts competing for the upcoming Live Youtube Special!  Please go to  AGT's Youtube Channel and vote for "Rudy Coby's 'Puppet Illusion."  Voting ends on Saturday, July 7th and you can vote once a day!   
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.


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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