NaNoWriMo 2016 Prepartions

Today, I hit 62,000 words on my debut Novel Hetero (out January 1st, 2017), and it has got me thinking about what to do for NaNoWriMo. I’ve had an idea for a novella (about 35,000 words) that I would love to write during that month, but I think to hit the full 50,000, I will convert a few of my short screenplays into novelettes or short stories. Would that be something that’s allowed? 

Honestly, I don’t really care as long as I finish what I started. So, the plan right now is to finish the novella tentatively called My Friend Benjamin. I won’t even give out a teaser just yet. Then, if I finish the novella, I will finish two short stories based on my short scripts. That’ll put me at about 50,000 words for the month and give me three fresh works. 

Part of me also thinks that it is a good idea in preparation for the release of Hetero. I figure since I have no works currently available for people to see, it might be good to have a few short stories for them to read for free or cheap, which might cause them to be interested in the novel when it’s released.

I don’t really have a marketing plan, but that will all come later. For the time being, I will finish Hetero, write the novella and short stories. Wish me luck… September was a very long month and October is turning out to be the same. Looks like I’ll be writing like crazy until December, where I’ll give myself a weekend off and get back to it. My goal by the October of next year would be to have three or four works published (doesn’t matter the size) and a T.V. pilot complete. Maybe I’ll even be shooting the film adaptation of Hetero.

Quote of the week (10.16.16)

Quote of the week comes from the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. There were many fantastic quotes in this book, but the one that stood out to me the most and highlighted Hugh’s writing style was:

“In the distance, low rolling hills stood, a pretty shade of brown, like coffee mash with just the right amount of pig’s milk in it. The sky above the hills was the same dull gray of his childhood and his father’s childhood and his grandfather’s childhood.”

A simple, yet perfect simile that placed me in the moment so well, I wanted to taste the hills.

Quote of the week (10.7.16)

This quote really struck a chord with me and it comes from the text Curious by Ian Leslie - the book I'm reading this week.

He speaks about the origin of the word serendipity and about how Percy Spencer was working on creating magnetrons for radar sets when the candy bar in his pocket melted. A normal man would've simply shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Percy instead went on to create the first microwave.

The quote by Louis Pasteur is:

"In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind."

An interesting idea on the concept of serendipity. 

Hitting 50K on my debut novel

It was September 7th, 2016 (just a month ago) when I downloaded Microsoft Word for the first time in years. You have to understand that as a college dropout, the last time I used Word was in high school and it’s not like I was paying for it back then. I had always used Google Drive since then, but that was just for quick notes or ideas. Mostly, as a screenwriter, I was working with Adobe Story (and more recently Highland).

The point is, it had been a while since I used Word. The reason I wanted to use it was because I decided to adapt my feature screenplay Hetero into a novel. It had been an idea brewing in my mind for a while, but I wrote it off as just another crazy distraction. The thought refused to leave my head, though, making it nearly impossible to ignore. My showers were becoming too philosophical. Eventually, I decided to listen. 

So I started thinking: I have a feature screenplay that I plan on directing at some point in the future. The script has seen some success in large competitions, and I was even brought out to L.A. to meet with people about it. However, what I knew (and what was confirmed for me by the agents and managers) was that Hetero was a great writing sample, but not something that was going to get picked up. That was fine with me as I didn’t want to sell it but rather make it myself. I did realize; however, that by being determined to make it, the screenplay would sit, unused and unappreciated for months, years, or decades until I was able to pull together funding and a producer. Granted, I can make shit happen when it’s time, but we were still talking about a while for this story to not be read or seen, and that was the kind of the whole point I wrote it in the first place. I just wanted to get the story out there.

I went to the Microsoft website and downloaded it. Free trial for 30 days and then after that  $9.99/ month. It was both great and not, so I set out to finish my novel in a month so I could cancel my subscription before being charged.

Here’s the deal. Last night, I reached 50K words, 51,740 to be exact. The first pass of the novel was 33K, far too short as it was mostly a direct lift from the screenplay, adding about 13K words. The second pass (which I am currently right in the middle of) has added new scenes, explored new ideas, and most importantly, described characters and locations more vividly; hopefully with some nuance. So, I hit 50K words last night and I am on page 110 of 195. I expect the book to be a little over 215 when it’s all said and done. Of course, this means I will end up having to pay the dreaded $9.99 after all. Damn!

Overall, I am tremendously excited about the book. I talked about it with a few managers and agents when I went out to L.A. for the meetings and they all agreed it was a good idea for me to take the story and get it out there. It meant that I could build an audience before even making the film. Not only would that help me get funding, but it also meant people might actually watch it. Most of them wanted to read the manuscript once it was finished and maybe they’ll submit it to a publisher. If it doesn’t work that way, I am fully prepared to self-publish the novel. Stephanie Fournet, my aunt and Romance novelist, has seen some great success starting out as a self-publisher and I am eager to pick her brain when the time comes. 

The one biggest takeaway from adapting the screenplay into a novel is just how much I learned about the characters and the story as a whole. I thought I had the screenplay locked down, but every page of the novel made me answer questions I may have left too open ended for the book (mostly because of laziness). I've learned more about my characters in the past month than I have in the past year writing the screenplay. When the novel is finished, I can't wait to get back to the screenplay and work with my newfound opinions of the story.

It’s 12 PM now. I’m going to get some lunch and then finish this damn book. 

Breaking in: How I got Representation (ongoing)

At the time of writing this post (9/19/16), I, Brennan Robideaux, do not have an agent or manager; however, I figured this would be an appropriate place to detail the many ways I am going about getting representation. It may be months or years worth of updated blog posts, but hopefully, by the end of it all, I can give you the definitive guide as to how I (“I” is in italics because this method will clearly only pertain to me) got it. Maybe, just maybe, my story will help you get representation, too.

Alright, let me take you up to speed. As of now, I have worked in the film industry for six years. I started out as a cam-op filming high school football games for my local T.V. station. From there, I gravitated to an interest in short narrative and documentary work. I bought my first large camera with the money I made from camera operating for two years and set out to make a few shorts. I did exactly that. My first short was called Another Quiet Morning. A completely silent film about the morning of someone you don’t know is deaf until the end *spoiler alert. By silent, I mean dead silent. No music, nothing. My father and I thought it was brilliant; everyone else hated it. They kept trying to turn on the speakers wondering why there was no sound. It’s almost a psychology study to see people squirm having to sit in absolute silence for three minutes. Maybe I should make a film about that.

There were a few other small pieces here and there in between and plenty of odd jobs, but the next project I’m really proud of was a piece I directed, shot, and edited titled A Riehl Blacksmith. This short doc tells the story of Sam Riehl, an incredible blacksmith in southern Louisiana who was at the time, one of the youngest professional blacksmiths in the world. That film was the first one to ever get me attention and it was a bizarre feeling. It took home second place at the first annual Film Convert Cinematography competition and was also optioned by SoulPancake Rain Wilson’s YouTube Channel. It then went on to win the Smithsonian’s In motion editor’s pick.

Then I went to college, and this is where the story gets a little weird. I spent a semester there - mostly skipping classes and making a name for myself amongst the local filmmaking industry. I was starting to build a nice reputation for being a hard worker and a good camera assistant, plus people seemed to enjoy the films I was directing as well. So, in January of 2014, I dropped out of college. I still firmly believe that it was a great decision. One of the first projects I directed after leaving school was called The Cutoff. It was a short film about a man who was wrongfully convicted of rape and spent 17 years in prison, only to get out at the same time Hurricane Katrina devastated their hometown. The short came out seemingly well but had some glaring problems. It was so melodramatic, I have trouble watching it now. It also was simply too much story for a short film. It was like we condensed a feature into 17 minutes. No good.

With that said; however, it was good enough to get us into the LA Film Prize, a $50,000 short film competition in Louisiana. We ended up placing 8th overall and that was really exciting, but something really bugged me after that film was made. I had learned so much about making a film. I learned how to call up random people and ask for locations (we secured prison cells, courtrooms, two separate houses, a car repair shop, and a diner. All for free. I think it helped that I looked (and still look) like a fourteen year old. I also learned how to speak to actors to try and get the performances I’m looking for out of them.  The problem was that I didn’t feel good about the film. I learned this about myself recently. I am completely afraid to fail. I hate it so much, which has really hindered me since making The Cutoff in 2014. I wasn’t happy with the final product and I felt like I wasn’t that good of a filmmaker. We also made that film by ourselves, super low budget with minimal crew. I figured after the success of it, more people would want to work on my future films, but that never happened. It happen because I gave up on myself a bit. I thought I wasn’t good enough and didn’t want to make bad products, so I just didn’t make anything.

I’m writing this nearly three years later more as a confession to myself than anything else. I spent the next two years still working my ass off in the industry; working on other people’s projects, but I wasn’t making anything of my own.

Let’s fast forward now to one year ago, to the day.

I never thought of myself as a writer. I always wanted to be a director, like David Fincher, who could distinguish great writing and find great scripts. It was October 2016 when I realized I was bullshitting myself to the highest extent. I figured out that I needed to do one of two things if I wanted to further my career. Start directing more films, spec commercials, anything. Or I needed to start writing. I decided to do both.

Now, I say I never thought of myself as a writer, but that’s not to say that I never wrote before. I always enjoyed coming up with ideas and stories. When I was younger, I had notebooks full of little stories. I even wrote a parody of The Office in 8th grade called The House. I also starred in it… We won’t go any further. Point is, I was writing, I just didn’t think I was good. Mostly because I didn’t read enough and my vocabulary was not big. See?

Nonetheless, I decided to start writing and directing more stuff. But about what? Tackling a feature film seemed like the tallest wall in the world, and I was nervous to try and climb it. That all changed when I went to a diner I frequented one night.

I won’t divulge into too much detail, but the gist is that a man approached me outside and asked if I was alone. He was short and very flamboyant as the diner was in the gay part of Bourbon street. I told him yes and he offered to pay for my meal. Of course, I was going to take that offer. We sat and talked, and this guy was easily one of the most interesting characters I had ever met. He thought I was gay and we kinda bickered back and forth because it reminded me of stuff I dealt with in high school, but ultimately, I was just intrigued by how flamboyant and free he was.

So, after dinner, I immediately went home and wrote fourteen pages that somewhat resembled our conversation. From there I began to slowly craft a longer story out of it. Over the course of October, I long-handed 110 pages. I wrote every night and would work on other people’s films during the day. When I wrote the last sentence, I couldn’t believe what I had done. I wrote a feature film. It was right there in front of me, and it was absolute garbage. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back… Wow… If I ever become famous, I’ll auction the original hand-written draft off for charity. You’ll get to see just how bad I was at writing.

So, from there, it was time to revise. I knew there was a few screenplay competitions worth submitting to coming up so I needed to get it in tip-top shape! I typed up the second draft and it was only 92 pages versus the 110 hand-written. That wasn’t good since it was pretty dialogue heavy, so I worked on it for months trying to get it to a point I was happy.

By the 4th draft, I was ready to show it to a very select group of people. Only those whose opinions I really trusted and who would be brutally honest with me. The reviews came back positive, but with many, many suggestions to make it better. I was thrilled to know I had at least gotten it to a point for them finish reading it.

Okay, let’s skip forward a little more. I edited, edited, and edited. I was living in New Orleans and my rent was super expensive. My roommates never saw me because I was always writing. The problem of course was that I was making no money. I submitted it to a few competitions and the results were: Blue-Cat - Semi-Finalist, Scriptapalooza - Semi-Finalist, Nicholl - Quarterfinalist.

Needless to say, I was thrilled with those results, but I wasn’t exactly fielding calls from agents and managers, so I knew I needed to be proactive. Write more. Direct more.

The next project I did was direct a spec commercial for Adidas. I crafted 60 second piece about a guy in my hometown who overcame great adversity to become one of the greatest runners in the Nation. At 45, he has won nearly every masters he competed at and was the oldest male to qualify for the Olympic trials.

I'm still trying to get eyes on the video from someone at Adidas.