Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top 10 Secrets of Successful Screenplays

As I was preparing for TIGER'S HOPE, CBS organizers asked me to present a talk at a local film production expo—Michigan Makes Movies EXPO. My workshops are based on my book: "The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success", that Will Smith says is "the most powerful tool in his new toolbox." When I gave the organizers the title of my talk, they weren't sure they wanted to use that title, because it would confuse people. "What is this guy doing talking about a moral premise at a film expo? I mean it's Sunday, but isn't morality for Sunday morning at a Church?" So, I changed the title to "Top 10 Secrets of Successful Screenplays." Of course, the content was identical, except I put ten magenta and yellow numbered buttons throughout the presentation. "There's more than 10, here." I blurted out.

The organizers were hoping for 500-600 to show up. Instead 1,500 crammed the aisles of the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, just 3.6 miles from my driveway. It's closeness to my home was good, because time got away from me (we went to a late Mass), and I found myself rushing to the site and the "greenroom" trailer, flying a "Welcome Guest Speakers". When my handler (Steve) guided me through the hall for my 3:30 talk, I could hardly find a place to walk for all the people in line behind several of the breakout room doors. (!). They set me up with a room that had crammed into it about 120 chairs. Be the time I started all the chair were filled, and 1/2 way through the SRO crowd were turning people away.

Now, I don't think this SRO crows was "me" or my particular presentation (there were numerous presentations all at once)... although I took notice that no one was sleeping at least by falling out of their chair. I think the crowd was more evidence that the film industry in Michigan has the potential of popping out all over. There is a raw enthusiasm here for filmmaking.

The day of the expo I read a web news report of a man at a fair nearby, who was impersonating Robert DeNiro. Guess what, the man was no impersonator. About every other day that I'm out on the road I pass a movie trailer or make-up trailer.... with California plates. And when we decided to use the RED camera on Tiger's Hope (the latest technology that Hollywood has embraced) I was surprised to discover a supply of perhaps 12 in the city for rent. That's really significant. (But I think the cheapest rates are still in CA

There's a thirst for knowledge, and the Expo this past Sunday was one of those great events where for $20 attendees could gain a huge amount of knowledge in a very short period of time. The best students are enthusiastic and hungry students. And they were in large supply on Sunday.

At the end of my one-hour talk (the workshop is actually 16 hours, so these 1 hour gigs are a challenge, especially with the multiple movie clips I use to demonstrate the moral premise) I announced that the books were available on line at or, and that I had a box of books with me, but I wouldn't be able to sign them personally until after the next session in which I was scheduled to appear on a pitch panel. Well, before I could unplug my laptop, 18 books disappeared from the box and $20 bills were being stuffed into my hands or Steve's. After the second session on pitching, I had a line up of people to talk to, and a few more books to distribute, and when I left the building, the green room was being towed out of an empty parking lot.