Welcome to Day Three of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. Each day until Christmas we’ll feature another terrific and highly practical gift idea for the screenwriter in your life. On Day 1, we proposed ink cartidges. On Day 2, paper. So, without further ado, Gift 3:
Red Pens and Highlighters
We hinted at this one yesterday. Yup, after you’ve printed out that glorious (ahem!) first draft of the script you’ve devoted your life to for the past several weeks or months, it’s time to tear it apart. Line by line. Scene by scene. No character, no line of dialogue is immune to the cursed red strikethrough! It’s time to, dare I say it, KILL YOUR DARLINGS! Eliminate the excess, trim the fat. Be merciless!
So, for all of that, you’ll need: Red Pens and Highlighters!
Ask for them in your stocking! You’ll be glad you did.
Welcome to Day Two of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. Each day until Christmas we’ll feature another terrific and highly practical gift idea for the screenwriter in your life. Yesterday we proposed ink as our first gift, so today’s gift idea makes perfect sense:
You can’t use up your ink cartridges or toner if you don’t have paper. And you need paper to print out your scripts! Yes, you can read your scripts on your computer screen. A lot of people do, especially those intent on saving paper (planet!). But honestly, scripts, like books, just read better on paper. And, added bonus, you get to mark up your scripts with highlighters and red ink pens (but we’re getting ahead of ourselves as those are gifts for another day).
Get yourself a Staples or Office Depot/Office Max reward card and you could get exclusive savings offers and rebates on paper. Buy in bulk, even when you don’t need it, because you will need it someday. And hey, use that toggle setting on your computer to print on both sides. You’ll get twice as much from your paper that way.
It’s time for the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. We’ll feature a gift idea each day from now until Christmas. And unlike some of the other gift ideas for writers floating out there on the web, we’ll offer some more practical ideas.
Yes, you read that right. Printer ink is always in short supply when you are a writer. Face it, how many times have you tried to print off a scene or a collection of pages to bring to TSA and – bam! – you’re fresh out of ink! It happens. And at the worst imaginable time, too.
So, give the screenwriter in your life what they can really use. Ink! You can never have enough!
In the small corner of the galaxy known as Nashville, Tenn., writer/director Mark Naccarato hopes to make big waves with The Romulan War: A Star Trek Fan Production. Mark recently shared his story behind the film, his love of filmmaking and screenwriting with the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, of which he is a member.
What got you interested in writing and filming movies?
MARK: In a nutshell, if you’ve ever seen the sitcom The Goldbergs, I was kind of like Adam Goldberg. I was pointing an 8mm film camera or a VHS camcorder at people all the time growing up and made a bunch of stupid kid films that are now in a landfill somewhere. In college, I studied communications with an emphasis in film and video production. When I moved to Nashville, I worked at multiple TV stations, production houses, and post-production companies as a full-timer and as a freelancer.
And even though I’d always written scripts or ad copy for projects, I never took a whack at actual screenwriting until I found out that the Star Trek franchise was accepting unsolicited scripts from writers without an agent. So I took a screenwriting class at Watkins College – it was actually the first year they had offered a film program – wrote a spec script for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, mailed it to the studio, and that was that. I never expected to hear from them again – they received about 2,000 submissions that year. A couple of months later, their production office called me and I was on a plane to L.A. to pitch Trek stories on the Paramount lot!
The Romulan Wars goes illustrated. Check out the Holocaust comic here.
The very first pitch I threw at them – they had a story just like mine already in development! Producer Hans Beimler literally told me, “if you’d have been here a month ago, we’d have bought that story from you.” Anyway, they were impressed and asked me to come back when I had more material and I ended up pitching to Star Trek: Voyager three times over the next year. One of the Voyager stories, which I pitched to a young writer on the show named Bryan Fuller (who would go on to be a showrunner for Hannibal, American Gods, and Star Trek: Discovery) came close to being bought but they said no literally at the last minute because mine was a comedy and they’d already hit their “quota” on comedies that season. That’s TWICE with the near-misses!
Anyway, after my Trek experiences, I decided to make a short film, so I wrote/produced/directed The Crusader. It was made on a shoestring budget but looks like it cost a lot more than it did because I called in a lot of favors with friends and co-workers that I’d worked with over the years in the local TV/video scene. The Crusader was very ambitious. It had fight scenes, stunts, gunplay, and a couple of big crowd scenes that, frankly, I have no idea how we pulled off. It was also pretty ahead of its time. I made it in 2002 and it was a superhero movie framed as if you were watching it as an episode of a true-crime reality show! The Crusader is one of the only films I’ve made that I will actually let people watch and we actually sold a ton of copies of it out of the old Tower Records on West End.
After I finished The Crusader, I got married, got a whole new career, and had a bunch of kids – which means that I didn’t have time for anything related to filmmaking for about a decade… until I started dabbling with The Romulan War.
Obviously, you have a deep love for all things Star Trek. What is it about Star Trek that excites you so much that you’d want to make your own fan film?
MARK: Well, I’ve been drawn to Star Trek since I was a kid watching the original series in reruns back in the ‘70s and what initially drew me to it were the cool ships, costumes, and the colorful characters. When I got older, I grew to appreciate Trek more based on its ideas about peaceful solutions to problems, logic, and what humanity could be if we could get our act together.
For the uninitiated, let’s start with a brief overview of The Romulan War and where it fits in Star Trek’s continuity.
MARK:The Romulan War takes place in the “prime” Star Trek universe we know from all of the TV series. It is the year 2155 when our story begins, which means it takes place during the era of Captain Archer from the series Enterprise. As die-hard Trekkers know, the Earth-Romulan War is the pivotal event that leads to the creation of the Federation, but the actual war itself was never depicted on the series. In theory, the story we are telling would have been seasons 5-7 of Enterprise if that show hadn’t been cancelled.
Rather than film a narrative feature about the war, you’ve decided to tell this in a sort of documentary fashion. Tell us how that approach came about.
MARK: A few reasons. The first is that when I came up with the concept for TRW, the idea of an “in-universe documentary” hadn’t been done before in Star Trek – even in the fan film community. The second reason I went with a documentary format was because I had been editor in the TV and film industry for years and knew all the ins and outs of that kind of storytelling. The Crusader, for example, used a variation on the documentary format. But the biggest reason I went with a doc approach on TRW was so that I could control production costs with a small cast and crew and limited sets and locations. I could also keep things episodic where stories could change or be added without major disruption in the rest of the production.
You’ve had several people step up to assist in various phases of this project, from screenwriting to acting to costumes and special effects. Can you elaborate on some of that?
MARK: Principal photography was done in Nashville at 1085 Studios with a skeleton crew. Our Director of Photography was Denise Kerlikowske who worked with me on The Crusader, but whom I also used to work with at a local TV station. Local film pro Sheri DiGiovanna did our costumes and I think three other things I didn’t know about until after the fact! Our production crew was rounded out by the amazing Aubrey Erin and my daughter Sophia, who was on her first film set. We were also lucky to have fellow TSA member Elvis Wilson lending us his considerable talents and charm to The Romulan War.
We have over a half-dozen people working on our CGI and FX work and nearly all of them are based overseas. Leading the team is Samuel Cockings. Sam lives in England and he’s a fixture in the Star Trek fan community as the co-host of “Trekyards,” a web series that explores all the ships and design from Trek and other sci-fi franchises. We also recently added a Second Unit led by Aaron Vanderkley – a fellow fan filmmaker. He and his team are based in Perth, Australia, and they did some amazing work for us that raised the bar on the scope of the project.
All of our main cast members are based in Middle Tennessee. That includes actors Rob Wilds, Jeff Allen, Ethan Jones, and Katherine Morgan. Actor Marc Mazzone – also from The Crusader – plays the Romulan emperor and he is a delight to watch.
The TSA basically scratches my networking and creative itches at the same time, so I keep going back whenever I can. Plus, I think that under most circumstances, the group offers some great feedback that you might otherwise have to pay a lot of money to a script consultant for. — Mark Naccarato
What’s the status on filming? Are you getting close to the finish line?
MARK: Well filming is done but we are knee-deep in post-production. That means editing, sound recording, color tests, graphics, art, and scoring. And the CGI special effects. Wow, those effects take a long time! Samuel’s team is moving at a good clip, but it’s a LOT of work. We’ve got a bunch of new starship models that are original for our production, so that’s a lot of hours of design. The FX shots have to be storyboarded or pre-visualized before we light them properly, animate, and render them. We are going to end up with, I think, around 150 CGI shots by the time we’re done… that’s about as many as you’ll see in an entire season of “real” Star Trek! And then we also have everything that goes with the green screen footage: the virtual sets, compositing, color grading, etc.
So to answer your question… YES, we are getting to the finish line, but it’s a major undertaking for the amount of time and money that we have been working with. Having said all that, I really do think we can be ready to release the film in the spring if everything goes as planned.
You did some online fundraising, right?
MARK: We were on Indiegogo and are very proud of the fact that we were the first Trek fan film in about three years to raise over $10,000. We actually beat our Indiegogo goal, but since that happened we’ve had some other production costs come up that we hadn’t budgeted for. So yes, we are still gladly accepting contributions for TRW on our Indiegogo page! For the record, the Indiegogo campaign, believe it or not, was one of the most stressful things about this whole production. There are a lot of things I never saw coming and it takes an insane amount of time if you are going to actively promote the campaign. It is almost a full-time job for 30 days – not to mention all the prep work that has to happen first before you even launch, like making a pitch video, building your campaign page, planning out your perks and a hundred other things. I strongly recommend people do their homework and have a solid team helping you like I did on any kind of Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign or you’re going to lose your mind.
You’ve posted a lot of extras to YouTube and to the web. Can you talk a bit about how those extras came about and where folks can go to see them?
MARK: We have produced several audio episodes that tie into our film’s story. These episodes are kind of unique in that even though they are audio dramas, there are also video versions of them that people can watch on our YouTube channel. We are also planning some other content that helps us expand the story which will be released when the film itself comes out. Our Indiegogo backers have been and will continue to get the first sneak peek at everything before we release it to the public. We have a Facebook page too and that’s usually where we’ll post all the latest updates.
CBS/Paramount has some strict rules about what can and can’t be done regarding fan films. What were some of the restrictions and what kinds of challenges have those presented to the story you want to tell?
MARK: Well, by their own admission, the folks at CBS have said that those are “guidelines, not rules” and in their defense, they have so far been pretty fair to the filmmakers – myself included – since the guidelines were put in place. The challenge the guidelines have presented to this project is their seemingly arbitrary restriction on the length of the project. They prefer 15-minute stories, but will allow two 15-minute segments to tell one story. TRW was written and filmed to be a feature-length project, which means making a lot of hard decisions that compresses what should have been about a 75-minute production into essentially 30 minutes! Aargh! A lot of the “extras” you mentioned earlier are really ways for us to tell these other parts of the story while staying in compliance with the studio guidelines.
And big question here, why are you dabbling with someone else’s intellectual property when you could be doing your own thing?
MARK: Good question. First, as a lifelong Star Trek fan, I’ve always wanted to see the origin story of the Federation. The Earth-Romulan War is arguably the most important chapter in the Star Trek “history” and yet, we’ve never seen it realized using pro-quality special effects and acting on a grand, epic scale. Star Trek has been a major influence in how I view the world and my hope for what humanity could become if we embraced the better angels of our nature and this was my love letter to it. I’d also like to think that when it’s finished, that TRW will be seen as the definitive version of that period of the Trek timeline. If not “canon,” then the next best thing.
Second of all, I actually do have other original projects I am working on that are completely unrelated to Star Trek or sci-fi! They are coming along at various stages of development – including the occasional false start that some TSA members have had the misfortune to witness at the weekly meetings! So yes, I have my own original material and hopefully you’ll be hearing about some of it before long.
You invited members of the TSA to write some of the extra pieces for the project. How did that go?
MARK: A few months ago, I did an “open call” for TSA members to submit their 3-5 page script using the TRW concept that we would try to produce as an audio drama and which tracked with our main story. I gave them some parameters about what kind of stories I was looking for and the format. Bob Giordano wrote a two-part mystery tale called “Sleep Is Hard to Find” which was performed by another TSA member, actor Drew Dunlop. That story has gotten some great feedback and we might produce at least one more of the stories that was submitted by a TSA member… we’ll have to wait and see. I have three of my own stories that are in the pipeline first and it is really just a matter of finding time to get all of this done.
And finally, what do you enjoy about coming to TSA meetings?
MARK: I enjoy the people who are there, I enjoy the whole concept of sharing creatively with other people to try and improve the work, and since I don’t work full-time in the video and film industry anymore and have a lot of time commitments, it’s the one time a week where I can “plug in” with local creative folks – even if I don’t always have something to read or to give feedback on. The TSA basically scratches my networking and creative itches at the same time, so I keep going back whenever I can. Plus, I think that under most circumstances, the group offers some great feedback that you might otherwise have to pay a lot of money to a script consultant for. You have to take everything with a grain of salt and factor in people’s knowledge and skill levels, but by and large, TSA members give solid feedback that’s useful if you’re willing to listen to it and internalize it.
Tennessee Screenwriting Association members are fortunate to be able to draw upon the vast knowledge and experience of Bob Giordano when it comes to learning about the ins and outs of the craft of screenwriting. An instructor at Watkins College of Art, Giordano is a past TSA president and current board member. He is fresh off his directorial debut for his thriller movie, The Odds, which capped a successful festival run over the summer as the closing film at the Raindance Film Festival in London. We recently talked with Giordano about the movie as well as the TSA.
Who is Bob Giordano and how did you get interested in screenwriting?
BOB GIORDANO: Like most filmmakers, I have always been a fan of movies. But earlier in my life, my creativity was expressed through the visual arts…drawing, painting, and the like. However, a couple of years after I moved to Nashville, I was invited by a friend to attend the TSA. I quickly felt an affinity for the screenwriting process, and I’ve been immersed in it ever since. I’ve attended seminars, conferences, and classes. I’ve read dozens of books about screenwriting and hundreds of screenplays. And I’ve analyzed a multitude of pitches, synopses, and script pages through attending the TSA.
About 10 years after I’d gotten involved in screenwriting, I’d won and placed in several prestigious competitions and had begun working with Hollywood producers and professional writers, bolstering my credibility. I have a friend who was teaching a screenwriting class at Watkins, but something came up and he had to drop out. He asked if I would be willing to take over — I said I would, the director of the program at Watkins approved it, and I’ve been teaching there ever since.
THIS JUST IN…
The Odds has picked up distribution deals in the U.S., Japan, Australia, the UK, Scandinavia, and Brazil
After several years of teaching about screenwriting and writing scripts, what prompted you to helm your own movie?
BOB: Most aspiring writers know that getting a script sold is a tough task, especially if you don’t live in Hollywood. I had written several micro-budget scripts over the years, but finding people with the money to buy those was as tough as selling them to Hollywood. It seemed to make sense that if I could find an interested investor, I might as well direct a project myself. Writer-director hyphenates get a decent amount of respect in the industry, so it was an enticing move. Of course, directing a film requires a lot of different skills than writing, so I engaged in a course of study about that particular job, absorbing everything I could, including directing my own short films as well as helping friends with theirs.
The Odds, has had quite a run on the film festival circuit this summer, winning a number of awards and finishing up as the closing night film of the Raindance Film Festival in London. As this is your first feature film, what has this level of accomplishment meant to you?
BOB: There is nothing that satisfies you creatively in the same way as when a group of people who don’t know you, and who don’t owe you a damn thing, watch your film and appreciate it. When you’ve created something that appeals to people in different countries and cultures, you’ve made a connection that surpasses any hopes you had when you were sitting in front of a monitor attempting to write dialog that doesn’t suck.
What are you most proud of? The script or the film?
BOB: The two are inseparable to me. That being said, the purpose of a script is to become a film, so if the film works, it is the highest presentation of the story.
What challenges did each present to you and how did you overcome those challenges?
BOB: The script challenges were mostly due to self-imposed restrictions. I wanted a single location, two main actors, and limited effects. Also, the plot was about two strangers, so how do you make that relationship have depth and meaning? I developed a plot that would basically work (usually the easiest part), but the real difficulty is in developing characters that seem realistic and about whom the audience will care. I often will look at emotional arcs and conditions that people encounter in different situations in real life and see if I can use them as a foundation for character development. Once I considered the notion of a woman’s journey through an abusive relationship, it became the invisible thread that held the emotional storyline together.
The film’s challenges were about what you’d expect: how do you make it interesting to watch a film that takes place mostly in one room with two main characters doing a lot of talking? When I began to approach the film directorially, I began to think about the story much more visually than I had as a writer. I read a lot of books that analyzed different directors’ styles, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos about directing, prompting me to create a list of techniques that I could utilize in my film.
Storyboarding was an immense help, as it forced me to really look at how each scene would appear on screen. As a result of that process, I altered some of the elements of certain scenes so that they would be more dramatic on screen. I also made a conscious effort to change the blocking of the characters in ways that would accentuate the emotional tone of each scene. One of the most common mistakes I think beginning directors make is that they have their actors go through a scene, and the director shoots it as though it were a play. I made sure that we shot every scene from all reasonable angles so that the audience would feel like they’re in a 3-dimensional space. Also, we shot a ton of coverage; I had a rule in the edit room that we would never use the exact same shot more than two times in a row, and we mostly followed that.
Filmmaking is about collaboration. Who were your collaborators that helped make The Odds possible?
BOB: Everyone was a collaborator, and all were valuable. While I was writing the script, I had friends read it and give me feedback. I presented some of it in the TSA for feedback. I knew that the actors would be instrumental in making the characters come to life, so I wanted them to have input in their actions and dialog. I listened to everyone from the wardrobe person (Dina D’Argo) to the music (Leonard Wolf) and sound (Rob Wenner) people. That being said, the three most indispensable people were my friends and producers, Tom Steinmann, Alan McKenna, and Kelly Frey. They all had suggestions, but even when I didn’t do what they wanted, they had the (somewhat insane) faith in my “vision” to sit back and let me see the thing through.
What’s going on with The Odds now?
BOB: We have a great sales agent working for us, and she’s already secured both potential and real deals for the distribution of The Odds. There are some more possible fests in the future, but I can’t talk about those yet. I also have written a higher budget sequel, as well as a lower budget one in development.
What lessons have you learned with The Odds that can help you next time out?
BOB: Address problems right away. If you wait for them to work themselves out, you’ll be waiting a long time. Also, be careful when and how you take suggestions: it can be perceived that you don’t have an actual opinion.
You’re already at work on your next film. What can you tell us about it?
BOB: It’s more of a traditional horror film than The Odds — it’s called Gates, and it’s also a single-location film. However, this time we had a bigger budget to work with and a slightly larger cast (six people!). We’ve already shot it, and I’m working with my editor from the last film (Pete Kremer) who already gets my approach to this stuff. It has spooky stuff like demon possession and the end of the world. Very uplifting!
As a screenwriting instructor with Watkins, you bring vast experience and knowledge to the TSA that you use to help others in the development of their craft. How has the TSA been helpful to you?
BOB: The TSA is a fantastic sounding board for ideas at any stage of development. The members are all people who love film and are interested in the artistic side of the process. But unlike most groups, they also stay grounded in the notion that there is a practical side to filmmaking; whether you go the independent or Hollywood route, there are considerations that creators need to be reminded of as they forge a path into the world of screenwriting.
And when it comes down to it, screenwriting is about communicating ideas in the form of a story. The best writers have a group of trusted readers that will help ensure that their ideas are being communicated in the way they intended. The TSA is great at holding up the mirror to your script and reflecting what is working and what can be improved. Their feedback is honest, polite, and objective, but is never insulting or demeaning. Each member wants each writer to succeed.
I have brought (and continue to bring) my concepts and scripts into the meetings for feedback. We had a member about a year ago who I didn’t really get along with, personally. But he gave me feedback on a project that was absolutely valid, and that helped me make changes to improve my project. Good advice can come from anyone, and I am open to it, despite the messenger.
One last thing — listening to other people’s ideas and stories and analyzing them is a great way to bolster the objectivity you need to effectively write your own script. Any time I notice a problem in someone’s story, the first question I ask myself is: “Uh-oh… did I do that in MY script?”
Why should someone interested in screenwriting come to the TSA?
BOB: The TSA uses industry standards to inform its processes of analysis, which is crucial for a filmmaker’s success. They are also a friendly bunch of folks who will absolutely be the most forgiving and indulgent room you could ever hope to pitch an idea to. If you are serious about breaking into the screenwriting business, you will need to be able to discuss writing in general and your writing in particular, and the TSA is a great, safe place to begin that journey.
The Tennessee Screenwriting Association is overseen by a board of directors, who are elected each December. A president, vice president, treasurer and secretary are then elected from among the board. Three provisional members are also elected.
2021 TSA Board of Directors
President: Jeff Chase
Vice President: Irish Johnston
Treasurer: Dave Deverell
Secretary: Paula Phelps-Weaver
Provisional board members (will have the power to vote at board meetings should a regular board member be unable to attend):
Webmaster (non-board member):
Jeffrey Alan Chase – President
Jeff Chase moved to Nashville from Mesa, Ariz., to hone his talents as a songwriter and screenwriter after several careers, including advertising executive and commercial Real Estate broker. As a songwriter, he’s amassed a catalog of over 600 songs, many of which have been cut by country and pop artists and include songs licensed in movies and TV.
As a screenwriter, Jeff has multiple full-length feature screenplays and numerous short scripts under his belt. Two scripts were quarter-finalists in the prestigious Nicholl competition. His romantic comedy Grinder’s Switch took second place in the Tennessee Screenplay Contest. Country Songwriters won the LA Screenwriting Competition for Comedy Short.
Jeff is a SAG actor who has appeared in numerous commercials, videos and industrial films. He has appeared in numerous films including, Ernest Goes to Jail and When the Eagle Cries and co-starred with Robert Carradine and Chris Mitchum in the thriller Lycanthrope. He worked alongside Kathy Bates and Alfree Woodard in Tyler Perry’s hit movie, The Family that Preys.
He has been a board member and past president of Film Nashville, board member, past president and vice president of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, board member and past vice president of Nashville Publishers Network. He is president of Chase Internet an IT consulting and web design company and president of Blue Drops Publishing Co. (ASCAP).
His interests include hiking, sailing, golf and rebuilding 1960s English sports cars. He’s a licensed pro and amateur boxing referee. He lives on a farm outside of Dickson, Tennessee with his wife and their dogs, cats and assorted chickens.
Irish Johnston – Vice President
Writer, actor, producer Irish (Burch) Johnston began as an actress in Los Angeles and Nashville. She currently spends most of her time writing screenplays, three of which have been finalists or won awards: Redhanded, Scents, and The Hole Truth, in several film festival competitions. Being a native Nashvillian, with a piano, she has finally surrendered to the siren call of song writing as well. She loves every aspect of the film industry, from writing and composing to acting, to her latest challenge, producing.
David Deverell – Treasurer
David Deverell is a Nashville screenwriter. He received his degree in Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University, and after graduating, wrote, produced and directed an award-winning 30- minute drama for Encylcopaedia Britannica’s Short Story Showcase Series, “The Hunt,” an adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” David went on to have a long career in the advertising industry and retired eight years ago.
In retirement, David returned to writing and has since written four feature-length screenplays. His first, The Shoe Box, won first place at the 10th Annual Tennessee Screenwriting Association Screenplay Competition in 2010, when he became a member. His other screenplays have been finalists in other competitions, including The Page Awards, Table Read My Screenplay, Emerging Screenwriters and Access Screenplays.
In 2015, David relocated to Nashville from Los Angeles and is actively involved in helping the Nashville Film Community develop a robust industry.
Paula Phelps-Weaver – Secretary
Paula Phelps-Weaver is a relative newcomer to the world of screenwriting. After a career as an internal medicine physician and then some years as a stay at home parent, she is finally pursuing her love of writing.
Though her academic background is in science, she has attended several writing courses and workshops, and will begin submitting her work to contests in 2019. She is currently working on a dramedy TV pilot.
Her interests include horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, soccer, jazz, and growing things. She lives on a farm with her husband of thirty-nine years, her horses, and her dog.
Bob Giordano is a principal of Uproar Pictures, based in Nashville, TN. He is the 2017 Grand Prize Winner of “The Poe Contest” for his script, The Odds, and the director of The Odds feature. He has been a quarterfinalist, a semifinalist, a finalist, and/or won several of Hollywood’s most prestigious screenplay contests, including The Southern California Screenplay Competition (The Odds), Nicholl Fellowship (Sicko), Fade-In (Uprise), The Writer’s Network contest (Resistance), the Hollywood Symposium (Grendel) and Script Open Door.
Over many years, Bob has worked on numerous short films and independent features as a writer, director, assistant director, camera operator, and editor. Since coming to Nashville in the1980s, he has continuously taught screenwriting and filmmaking to adults, teens and children, including his ongoing screenwriting courses at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. He is also a past president and current officer of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association. As a prolific writer of dozens of completed scripts, he often says, “Daylight’s burning.”
Elvis Wilson was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and grew up in Cleveland, Tenn., where he was raised on a healthy dose of TV like The Twilight Zone, Gilligan’s Island and his favorite TV show, Space 1999.Like most folks his age, Star Wars rocked his world in 1977.
Inspired by a steady dose of Coen Brother’s films and Monty Python reruns over the last three decades, he has written over ten screenplays, produced four short films, and directed scores of music videos and industrial films. In 2008, he and his wife produced an award-winning feature documentary, Being Lincoln: Men With Hats (which had a two-year run on the now defunct Documentary Channel and also aired on Showtime). In 2015, he started principle photography of his self-produced, award-winning feature FOGG. FOGG had a great festival run and was picked up by RedBox.
Elvis is currently working on FOGG 2 with Executive Producer Kelly Frey. He’s also written a TV pilot called Strawberry Plains, which was in the top 30 scripts in the prestigious AMC’s Drama Pilot category at the 2018 Austin Film Festival (over 10,500 scripts were entered). While still not able to quit his day job, Elvis writes almost every day and is happy to hang with his brothers and sisters of the TSA.
While working in Nashville’s TV and film production industry in the 90’s, Mark Naccarato‘s first TV spec script caught the attention of producers at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and he was invited to pitch to the hit series. Even though he didn’t make a sale, the first story Mark pitched to them was nearly identical to a story that was already in production.
Encouraged by that experience and then by a near-sale on Star Trek: Voyager, Mark decided to make his first “real” film. The Crusader, a superhero movie disguised as a true-crime reality show was a cult hit at comic conventions across the South and punched above its weight with a budget of less than $3,000 using a cast and crew of over a hundred volunteers. Mark’s current short film, The Romulan War, puts a spin on the sci-fi effects movie by using a documentary format and “found footage” from an interstellar war in the 22nd century.
Mark’s pilot script The Exodusters – an historical drama set during the Kansas Exodus of the 1870’s – has landed a finalist slot in the Nashville Film Festival and he’s a co-producer on several independent films, including Potter’s Ground and Gates of Flesh – both of which were filmed in Tennessee.
Pam Tate grew up in Indiana, took a bus to Greenwich Village, sang in bands, acted in shows, wrote songs, paid standing room for Broadway, got a tan on her roof, released 3 CDs, gigged in famous clubs, drank espresso, and raised two kids who love Shakespeare. She played around with writing and ended up with a degree in film studies and screenwriting. Was Associate Director of The International Cabaret Conference at Yale – instructor, performer, producer.
Pam writes historical dramas about women who make waves, especially during times of social change, full-length plays and screenplays, numerous shorts of both. She won a national women’s playwriting contest for her play about Leni Riefenstahl. Pam writes a monthly column about innovative women in film, for Reel Lumiere, a magazine focused on women’s filmmaking.
Pam loves to act and teach acting. Favorite roles: Zelda Fitzgerald in The Last Flapper, hard-boiled Lorraine in Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind, pill-popping Violet in August Osage County, and sweet, kooky Mary in A.R. Gurney’s Crazy Mary. (typecast as unstable women?) Among others, she’s been in the musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, twice.
Nashville was an unexpected detour five years ago. Bought a house on a hill, started co-writing, performing, made a CD with her band, Pam Tate & Her Men In Blues. Pam joined Nashville Women in Film & Television and serves on the Board of Directors. She’s proud to be a new Board Member of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association.
For fun, she watches any historical drama she can find, often over and over, she takes pictures, makes videos, hangs out with grandkids, is a great cook when she feels like it, gardens when she feels like it, throws the ball for Piper, her terrier, and takes drives with Harvey, her husband.
Proud member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA, The Dramatists Guild, and BMI. Her music is in all the usual places – Spotify, Amazon, Apple. http://www.pamtate.com.
Gary Frazier – Webmaster
Writer Gary Frazier, who writes as G. Robert Frazier, spent most of his career as an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, routinely covering local government, politics, business, crime, and education in Tennessee. When the newspaper industry imploded, he found a new outlet for his creative pursuits as an author and screenwriter.
His script, “ZARS – Zombie Apprehension & Relocation Serivce,” was a top three finalist in the 2019 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition in the Scripted Digital Series category and is ranked No. 1 on Coverfly’s Red List for Horror Web Series. His latest script, “Bill Fisher’s Trading Post,” is a semifinalist in the 2020 Nashville Film Festival screenwriting competition. “Kings of Mississippi,” which he co-wrote with TSA member Jay Wright, is a semifinalist in The Script Lab’s 2020 free screenwriting contest and was a semifinalist, placing in the top five scripts overall, in the 2019 Nashville Film Fest contest.
His short fiction has appeared in two volumes of Our Voices: Williamson County Literary Review. He also wrote a flash-fiction piece, “The Twister,” which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s November 2015 issue. But his true passion is screenwriting, which he finds as a much more fun medium.
He has served as a script competition reader for two prestigious competitions, having read and rated more than 750 scripts.
When he’s not writing, he’s reading. He frequently writes book reviews for Bookpage,Killer Nashville, and Chapter 16, the website for Tennessee Humanities, and has previously written book reviews for Blogging for Books and US Review of Books. He has interviewed several authors for The Big Thrill, the online magazine of the International Thriller Writers.
Looking for words of wisdom or inspiration to finish your script? Look no further. We’ve found some gems and listed them below. If you’re ever stuck or feeling depressed about the process, come back again for a quick pick-me-up. We’ll occasionally add more quotes to live by to this list.
“A screenwriter’s currency is a finished script. Not an outline, a take, a beat sheet, a rough draft. A finished script.” – F. Scott Frazier
“Bad exposition is like bad lighting. It exposes more than it illuminates.” – Josh Friedman
“I was by no means the best writer in my class in college. I’m just the one still writing.” – Akiva Goldsman
“Too many creatives looking to runbefore they can walk. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Dig in, be a sponge, know the business, cut out the negativity, be selfless… Win the $!&$@!day…every day.” – Richard RB Botto
“If you write, if you create content that is interesting, and you upload it, and it’s good, it can find an audience. You don’t have to get on a bus from Iowa to Hollywood to makeit.” – F.J. Pratt
“What has always been at the heart of film making was the value of a script. It was really thewriter who could make or break a film.”
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
“To me, writing is fun. It doesn’t matter what you are writing,as long as you can tell a story.” – Stan Lee
“It’s important to stay in the world of the characters. Once you enter that space, you gotta just stay in it.” – Barry Jenkins
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them.” – Orson Scott Card
“Writing requires talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong.” – Jeffrey Carver
“A writer can always write. That’s one of the great luxuries we have: Words are cheap.” – John August
“As an artist I feel that we must try different things—but above all we must dare to fail.” – John Cassavetes
Ethan Canin: “Don’t write about a character. Become that character, and then write your story.”
No matter what stage of your writing career you are in, there are ample articles to help you in everything from Fade In to Fade Out. We’ve listed a few standout articles here to refer to as needed, whether you need advice on coming up with your idea to writing a logline to building character arcs. We’ll add more as we come across them.
One of the best ways to learn how to write a screenplay is by reading screenplays. Before long, you’ll learn formatting tricks, dialogue techniques, and more. There are ample places on the internet to find scripts. Many screenwriting contests also seek readers to help evaluate their entries.
Join us for our annual Tennessee Screenwriting Association holiday party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 8 at TSA member David Deverell’s house, 1418 Huffine St., Nashville. There is ample parking on the either shoulder of the street. See you there!
Nashville Women in Film & Television will also hold their holiday bash from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 8. Their party will be held at Nashville Film Institute, 191 Polk Ave, in Nashville. Admission is a $5 donation.
Don’t forget the TSA’s short screenplay holiday challenge coming to the Dec. 12 meeting at Watkins. Write a short screenplay up to five pages with a holiday theme and bring copies to be read. We’ll have holiday treats!
Competitions in all categories for the 26thAnnual Austin Film Festival open Dec. 5. Austin’s screenwriting competition is often cited as one of the top five screenwriting competitions, so sharpen up those scripts and submit. Also, if you entered this past year’s competition, look for feedback from your reader coming in the next week.
To celebrate National Screenwriters Day on Jan. 5, the folks over at Thirty Day Screenplay have issued a challenge to write a screenplay in a month. There’s no entry fee and no pressure, just a supportive community to help you see your screenplay from Fade In to Fade Out. Check out their site for more information.
ScreenwritingU Magazine has thrown down the gauntlet to read a screenplay a day leading up to National Screenwriters Day on Jan. 5. Reading screenplays is one of the best ways to learn how to write screenplays, so give it a shot. Follow Screenwriting Magazine on Twitter @WritingMag or Facebook for more info.
Got news to share? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll pass it along.
Our Halloween horror short script contest went so well, we’ve decided to have a Holiday Short Script challenge. Write a five-page or less family-themed script to celebrate the holidays. Scripts can be funny (think “Vacation”), dramatic, action-oriented (Is “Diehard” a Christmas movie?), or anything your imagination can come up with. The important thing is to write and to have fun. Bring copies of your script to our Dec. 12 meeting at Watkins where we’ll read them aloud. See you there!
NOTE:TSA meetings open to all. Contest open to paid TSA members only. Update your membership here.