the Apollo workshop

the Apollo workshop

howdy hi frienderinos!

it’s been a pretty full and busy last couple months. I finished up working on THE LAND BEFORE TIME XIV and started working on a new show, HARMON QUEST. off work hours I finished the poetry book, The First Year, and my film TIME TO EAT. the last project I had in post, my animated short HAWKWARD only needs titles. oye. hopefully with the deck a bit more clear I’ll be able to get some more writing in.

and speaking of… (segue man!) a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Apollo Writing Workshop put on by the Taliesin Nexus. My good friend, Fawaz turned me on to the group who has a mandate to promote liberty through the narrative arts. they were accepting proposals for short film projects with themes of liberty so I applied. while I didn’t get a grant, I did get an offer to attend the workshop.

at the start of the group, Patrick Reasonover told us more about the mission of Tal-Nexus. a couple moments really resonated with me, the first being the idea of narrative and analytic truth. analytic truth is something like 2 + 2 = 4, or a scientific theory like gravity. narrative truth is a bit more ephemeral. storytelling is as old as civilization, and there’s a reason why it has lasted. there’s something inside of us that just connects with narrative. we can recognize the truth of human experience in stories – even if they are tales entirely outside of our own experiences. I don’t need to be a soldier to feel emotion for a lost brother in arms, I don’t need to be an 18th Century washerwoman to understand first love, and I don’t have to be moisture farmer on a desert planet to know the desire to be a part of something bigger.

the shared experience of films isn’t limited just to the darkened auditorium of the cinema. no, this experience has a greater – and perhaps even spiritual connection in us all. I don’t mean that it is a religious experience (although it can be), rather that it is something that touches a deep, central part of our humanity. stories have power. and through stories, we have the opportunity to shape culture, and as culture changes – so does policy.

those are pretty big ideas, and I know I’m just barely scraping the surface on them… but I think they are good reminders that “entertainment” can be so much more than just entertaining.

the workshop was broken into a series of panels. there would be a group of industry professionals that would speak about their area of expertise, then we would have breakout groups where the panelists came to our tables. then we would discuss and pitch ideas.

there was a LOT of information coming at us and a lot of different topics. by the end of the weekend my brain was definitely swimming. some of the topics we talked about included distribution, breaking concepts, and new media – but what really stuck in my head were the notes about pitching and selling projects. how to get people on board with a new idea… and hopefully give you money to take it to the next step.

these notes were taken from a variety of panels, and I’ve tried to organize them in to a general flow.

• what’s the tagline?
– give them a short snippet of what the film is about

• what is the trailer?
– describe the trailer. this is important because the trailer is how THEY will sell the movie. they need to be able to visualize this.

• another alternate idea is to start with a moral dilemma or question.
– what would you do if ____?”

• you need to know your “space”.
– what other films or projects are in the same genre?
– what did they cost?
– what did they make?

• set up the mythology of your world.
– e.g. “it’s a place where up is down and down is up!” or “a world where vampires roam the Earth” or whatever.
– what makes your project SPECIAL and UNIQUE?
– be prepared to defend how your genre film isn’t ripping off previous films

• who is your protagonist? and why should they care about them?
– an audience will care more about the story if they care about the character
– what is special or unique about your protagonist?

• if you have an anti-hero, or a big change is going to happen – make sure to mention it early. or at least hint at it.
– this will let them know it’s OK to root for the hero (who may be a bad person at beginning).

• don’t gloss over main plot
– comedy, horror, action movie would have 3 set piece examples.
– play one of them out. show them how cool, funny, scary the film will be.

• what is the MONEY scene?
– what is the one audience will remember? help them visualize the scene that will make your film memorable.

• watch the room. you can see when people tune out.
– if they do, cut your pitch short – or ask them a question. bring them back in.

like I said, those are just a few of the MANY things we talked about. it was great to hear similar things from multiple people. and hopefully I’ll get to put those theories in to practice soon!

I’m curious what stood out to my Tal-Nexus alum. any particular nuggets from your notes? drop them in the comments!


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