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Andrew Reid

Film writing prompts

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I am finding this incredibly useful at the moment:

https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/

https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/

There's some real amateur talent on these subs, and occasionally an idea surfaces that sparks off all kinds of brilliant writing.

I suggest if you are feeling creative and want to write film ideas, to join in.

I am writing one at the moment, which is partly inspired by Black Mirror: San Junipero.

I found the build up in that episode a bit too cliched, but it turns into an absolutely killer idea by the end. Watch it. Very very moving!

---

Here's my (rather long) film writing prompt if anyone wants to pick up on it...

"DREAMS WE DON'T REMEMBER"

A technology arrives which records our dreams and allows us to interact with our deepest unconscious characters and situations. Jewel, a student, joins a research company’s paid trial. It is disguised in the ads as a drugs trial but turns out to be run by the corporation behind the dream-recording technology. Jewel is invited to test a new version of the technology and after a particularly disturbing dream we don’t know the contents of and Jewel can’t remember, she is forced to reenact it vividly using a new experimental brain-machine interface which accidentally sends her into a coma. In the problematic dream Jewel is being turned from a human into a machine by a primitive 1970's computer engineer who stabs a screwdriver and soldering iron around in her open chest torn apart, her skeleton rearranged into a box-like shape to accommodate a rack of circuit boards and wires.

Now inside the life-threatening coma, Jewel comes to believe she’s truly a computer. She feels the currents running through various wires inside her, her vision feels digital, like a flickering virtual reality headset and when she’s touched by the user, she feels their hands on her, pressing physical buttons and keys, to give her instructions on how to behave. She starts to develop an emotional and physical attachment with her 'owner', the man who is using her as his computer.

She wakes from her coma and unbeknown to the doctors helping her, the corporation has been recording her hallucinations in the coma - all the disturbing details of it. They use the data to reconstruct a virtual version of Jewel in the form of a feminine machine, a cyberpunk replicant, to be used to satisfy the sexual urges of their own computer scientists behind closed doors. After weeks of abuse the replicant escapes into the real world and tracks down Jewel’s home where she’s recovering in the company of her close family and boyfriend.

In front of her family, the replicant tells Jewel everything that happened in the coma and what the company has done to create the ‘virtual’ Jewel. The details of her deepest unconscious thoughts and upsettingly dark hallucinations create serious problems with her family and boyfriend, and it appears for most of the coma she’s fantasising about having passionate sex with her boyfriend's boss. Jewel is embarrassed and distraught, eventually alone and shunned by her family and boyfriend. With suicidal thoughts one evening, she steals the dream-recording machine from a research lab and tries to influence her dreams to repent for the sins in her unconscious.

She fails to have a more positive dream and feels disgusted when watching back the recording, whilst immersed in the futuristic VR brain-machine interface, a tear falls cinematically down her cheek, just as the replicant Jewel puts her hand on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort...

TBC

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12 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

I am finding this incredibly useful at the moment:

https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/

Thanks for sharing. I've only just read the headlines/titles, and I'm already inspired.

12 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

I am writing one at the moment, which is partly inspired by Black Mirror: San Junipero.

I found the build up in that episode a bit too cliched, but it turns into an absolutely killer idea by the end. Watch it. Very very moving!

Think I saw that on Netflix. Will check it.

Your exposé has interesting implications. Dreams, uncontrollable impulses, privacy vs. society. Looks high-budget though. 

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And here I thought this blog was for arguing about skin tone dynamic range crop factor depth of field.

Dense writing there, but fun.  I'ma sucker for Sci-Fi anyway.  That story would be a hugely demanding directoral task.  Intimidating!  But with the right cast, all is possible.  San Junipero was ultimately a very sweet story and the humanity and performances of the story really sold it. Plot is overrated, IMHO.  But that's neither here nor there.

Of course, the main thing is just to write and find a groove.  Good advice.  It's been over a year since my last script; should definitely shake things out again.

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Variation...

The dream recording facility record Jewel's dreams as above. But rather than the (too predictable?) sex based fantasy they find... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Devoid of soul, emotion, thoughts or apparent consciousness whilst asleep. Jewel is fine when awake - she displays the full plethora of human emotions and functions entirely normally. 

But when asleep: nothing. 

Almost as if... (but that's as far as I got...)

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Interesting idea Snowfun, but a bit of a dead-end plot wise? I'd like to build the story out from her inner conscious, where some mysteries are buried, and create the two characters - Jewel and the Replicant, who carry forward the plot till the end of the feature...

Keep the suggests coming!

I have no idea what happens next yet ;)

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11 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

but a bit of a dead-end plot wise? I'd like to build the story out from her inner conscious, where some mysteries are buried

Maybe not a dead end. Imagine if, when asleep "she" (jewel) becomes/inhabits a similarly aged student (who could potentially be M or F) employed by the project team. That student - at night, whilst Jewel is asleep and apparently devoid of being - could "interact" with the boyfriend and reveal a J&H type character. Why does the boyfriend seem to behave so differently? (Do we all have two sides?). Why can't the "real" Jewel express herself when she's awake? 

Indeed, who is the subject of the experiment here - Jewel, the other student or the boyf?

Fun speculating! And a change from my film plots (a somewhat grandiose term in my case) which invariably involve making espresso...

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i feel like the creative writing part of my brain is very much separate from the nuts and bolts production/budget side.... like they need to have a meeting to reconcile

writing something you can produce frugally is extra tough for this reason imo

i feel like: Kaylee, since you dont have the money to produce your feature yet, if youre such a genius why dont you write a little no budget short to get attention?

easier said than done

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1 hour ago, kaylee said:

i feel like the creative writing part of my brain is very much separate from the nuts and bolts production/budget side.... like they need to have a meeting to reconcile

writing something you can produce frugally is extra tough for this reason imo

i feel like: Kaylee, since you dont have the money to produce your feature yet, if youre such a genius why dont you write a little no budget short to get attention?

easier said than done

1 hour ago, kaylee said:

i feel like the creative writing part of my brain is very much separate from the nuts and bolts production/budget side.... like they need to have a meeting to reconcile

writing something you can produce frugally is extra tough for this reason imo

i feel like: Kaylee, since you dont have the money to produce your feature yet, if youre such a genius why dont you write a little no budget short to get attention?

easier said than done

I guess I can't relate to the genius part, but otherwise I know what you mean. Fwiw, a no budget short can get attention. I've seen it happen. Little projects that are very modest by this site's standards getting people signed to CAA, etc. and resulting in seven-figure feature deals almost immediately. 

I've been very interested lately in what online communities in past years have birthed significant mainstream talents. YouTube has launched a host of actors but fewer filmmakers (which makes sense given the platform). Vimeo has launched a few filmmaking careers, but even fewer than it seems. Vimeo is sort of the new festival scene: very cool to be part of and show off on, but deceptively hard to leverage toward getting in somewhere lucrative unless you're already in somewhere lucrative through other means and just need to manufacture visibility.

But with YouTube, by the time you're Markliplier or Pewdiepie, by the time you're being begged to produce your own show you're already making millions a year... and you can get to be those guys organically. 

YouTube is the stronger platform. By far. For in front of the camera talent, not directors, though. :/ Where do directors go to shine?

I haven't seen a lot of new talent emerging from Reduser, etc. though there are some established all stars there already and great discourse. Communities that existed earlier than that are very interesting, though. A lot of directing talent emerged from dvxuser, though many of the users there were behind handles and didn't publicize their success so much once they went mainstream or their connection to that site was since forgotten. But a number of very slick visual filmmakers started there. Not slick by this site's standards, but hey, they were shooting on minidv. Super talented people.

The other community that launched a ton of talent is Channel101. They were big on dvx100s, too, but the production values there are poor by comparison. Intentionally so. But the writing is GREAT on that site. Better than on most commercial content. A lot of incredibly talented writers and comedians started their careers there with content that was messy and cheap but brilliantly written and conceived and with amazing storytelling. Of any community, that was the most impactful.

None of these talents started rich.

What does this say? That if you have all the money in the world it doesn't help unless you can create something great. So if you have a great eye or are a great writer, pretty soon someone with all the money in the world will hire you! It also says that storytelling is the most important talent of all, but technical skill is useful, too. And if you're rich, hire the best of both, collaborate. It's the tried and true method...

Which gets down the bigger point: both of those communities started around narrow goals: make something that looks good or make something that's funny. Commercial content is usually made by people with unbelievably narrow aptitudes. Like, someone who just shades fur but who shades fur REALLY well. Or someone who edits a certain kind of scene in a narrow subset of a genre. A guy who lights cars. But REALLY freaking well. Even the hottest directors are those with known and inimitable styles. And they're all working together in a slow, inefficient, but highly effectively system nonetheless that combines all their talents into something greater than the sum of their parts (ideally). That's why people get signed to CAA for their short films: either they show they can do something no one else can do or that they can mimic what someone else can do that there's a supply for. That's it. Again, narrow skill sets. Used to create a bigger product.

This site doesn't cater to that kind of person. This is a site for people who want to know how to do it all. And do it all for cheap. This site is for punks. For rebels.

And no surprise it's harder to launch a brilliant career on that, even if "that" includes a skill-set encompassing many potentially lucrative careers, if narrowly applied.

So the question is, why do we think this way? Why are we thinking with so many brains when all we need is one good one?

Broad as our interests get, they always begin with one dream. One thing we want to communicate. One idea that would be impossible to realize due to money, due to narrow-minded investors, due to how slowly commercial sets run, due to how big or slow older cameras are or how outmoded productions technique can be. Conventional wisdom says it's impossible. But we're still dead set on learning how to make it possible. So we learn and learn and learn. We post here. Read here. Post elsewhere. Read elsewhere. Absorb tech. Absorb culture. See where they meet. We're the Steve Jobses (or Kanye Wests), seeing where technology and culture are heading and where they intersect and ignite. We see the big picture no one else sees. But we're also very cursed. Cursed because we can only show other people what we see by painting it ourselves.

And yet we're getting caught up squabbling over which brush to use.

This site is where we explore our interests, sure. But it's those interests that brought us here in the first place. They don't emerge from this community. You know what you need to do now because you knew before. That's the problem with resources like this: passions trickle down into tangential debate. That original passion is diverted into tribal politics, when we should just be taking information as information and opinion as opinion.

You like a GH4, I like a C300. Our opinions vary and so do the goals that led us to be so passionate about such silly things as that. We didn't get started because we liked GH4s or C300s. We got started because we had big, brilliant, original goals. And those goals aren't silly. What if Steve Jobs got stuck on a messageboard debating what brand of a certain component to use in the Macintosh instead of making the Macintosh? There are hundreds of thousands of GH4 users out there (I'm guessing). There's only one you. And you picked the camera up because you wanted to do something with it. It's not about the camera. It's about you. 

This website brings people together but it distracts us from what brought us here in the first place. Its strength is the talent and motivation of its members; its weakness is that same passion being wasted on bickering and self-doubt. There's a wealth of information, and we came for that. Let's take it and leave the rest behind. The other brains. The other voices.

In moments like these I think we need to ask ourselves: what, exactly, do you want to do? Why did you get into this field in the first place? What do you need to know in order to do it.

Find out.

Then do it.

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wow... that was really great

 

@HockeyFan12 i want CAA like representation more than anything in the world, its essential to accomplishing my fine art and filmmaking goals. youre telling me that if i made a short that was hot, that could get my foot in the door?

im aware of things like this happening in the abstract, im not questioning your point in any way, im begging for encouragement smh

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Bizarrely, when I wrote the screenplay for the Liz Hurley-vehicle ultra-turkey, Mad Dogs & Englishman, I was offered representation by CAA (or some UK branch of same, I can't quite remember). Unfortunately, mainly on the advice of said turkey's producers, I instead opted to be represented by ex-B movie heartthrob Howard Pays, whose agency CCA was close in abbreviation but in influence, not so much. He was a lovely man, however and very supportive. I expect if the critical reaction to the finished film (as opposed to the final draft screenplay, which garnered a lot of praise) had not been quite so catastrophically bad and its box-office not been quite so execrable, he would have opened any number of doors in the UK industry for me and I wouldn't now be having to spend eight hours a day writing javascript. In fact I remember him, in all seriousness, diffidently suggesting that it might be better to change my name and start again.

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Great post, @HockeyFan12. Like an arrow to the core.

I think we've all gravitated to this site because many of us are in similar boats. We have big, beautiful dreams but on our quest for knowledge we get caught up in the nitty gritty of tech hoping for some panacea (read: magic camera or lens combo) that will solve the heartache of the long and daunting road we have all chosen to stomp along.

It's nice not to be stomping alone, hence why this punk's outpost survives in the wilderness, but it's important we don't lose sight of our goals. And if we don't have a goal it's important, like you said, to spend time working out what that is.

My goal is to get my work on the silver screen. Something I've written that maybe I can direct too. 6 years ago I setup a videography business to take a step towards that inevitability, scraping a living for many years, and I most certainly got swallowed alive by the tangible allure of tech, until I realised 5 years had gone by and I had bought and sold more cameras and lenses than I had written words. I was pissed with myself to say the least. So for the last year I've been working hard on priorities and most importantly of all building a daily habit of writing, akin to a daily habit of exercise and eating well. It's work in progress, as is life, you never really solve it, you just get up each day and continue the fight.

You need laser beam focus and steely determination to achieve your dreams, and as each day passes we have one less day to achieve it.

I feel at peace on the days I have written, and that's all the indication I need that that's where I need to keep my focus.

Of course I have bills to pay too so this is where the 80/20 rules comes in. 80% of time working on your current business and 20% of time working on the business you want to be in.

Great work, Tim. I'm sorry the film was a turkey but that's not your fault. Are you still writing? I hope so.

Thanks for sharing, Andrew.

Right, I've done my 80% (editing bloody weddings!), had my break (EOSHD and a cup of tea), I'm off home to write for 3 hours!

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bah gawd im gonna do it~! and im gonna write shorts the Rebel Without A Crew way (this time) – limiting the zero budget production to stuff i already have

my parents just bought a house in an adorable mountain town, and my visit got me thinking... i should film something there

so im going to, feel free to wish me luck or share stories of how this could get me high level representation

or make suggestions or... whatever

i feel like the best thing to hit up CAA with would be like an episodic series, with short episodes, and maybe theres enough of a flow so you could watch like, six ten minute pieces back to back if u wanted to. throw it up on youtube, see if anyone salutes

seems like thats the hip thing, what do you think guys?

*i understand that what im attempting creatively is very difficult if not impossible, but lets just ignore that for the moment lol

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16 hours ago, kaylee said:

i feel like the creative writing part of my brain is very much separate from the nuts and bolts production/budget side.... like they need to have a meeting to reconcile

writing something you can produce frugally is extra tough for this reason imo

i feel like: Kaylee, since you dont have the money to produce your feature yet, if youre such a genius why dont you write a little no budget short to get attention?

easier said than done

On the advice from the head of my film school I went nuts on my first screenplay: naval battles, pussy grabbing, cock biting, aliens, nuclear war. It ended up being a $10-20 million dollar movie :dizzy:. And then I thought to myself: nobody's gonna be crazy enough to give me $10 million to make a movie (that was before Trump). So then I wrote a prequel with a budget of $100-200 thousand in mind. It was a lot harder to write, but in some ways it's a better film; more character development, deeper meaning etc. The hardest thing for me to write are shorts; I'm not a big fan of shorts, and I tried to avoid making another one for ages, but no awesome short, no money :bawling:. So I finally came up with a short version of the GAMMA prequel that works. Now I just have to shoot the damn thing :persevere: The budget is $3000, but I'm gonna make it look like $30,000.

House in a mountain town is a good start; locations I know often end up as inspiration for my writing. In fact I wrote the GAMMA prequel based on ideas that came from a derelict house I'd been shooting in.

Our first project at film school was to create a narrative with 10 Polaroids. My partner and I were living in a mountain house at the time. I made a 10 frame horror film: stalker outside in the foggy night. girl in the shower. stalker breaks in and stabs the girl in the shower. Everybody was blown away because it looked so damn real. It worked because the location was perfectly creepy and it was a simple idea well executed.

I don't know if you're thinking of doing horror; most horror films are shit, but they're very profitable and can be made well on a small budget, which makes them a good way to break in to the industry. The GAMMA prequel is psychological horror with a kind of a Shining vibe in a post-apocalyptic world.

To date I've worked with a maximum crew of 3 (including me) It just takes a bit more time to get things done. Being writer, director, producer, cinematographer isn't easy, but you can do it if you're fierce. Planning is key; I'm going to light and pre-shoot most of my short with my kids standing in for the actors. Lighting, blocking, framing, and camera movement are crucial story elements.

The biggest limitations are self-imposed.

I'm gonna stop now before this turns into a jcs essay :smirk:

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wow tons of good stuff there thanks @squig!!!

18 minutes ago, squig said:

Our first project at film school was to create a narrative with 10 Polaroids. My partner and I were living in a mountain house at the time. I made a 10 frame horror film: stalker outside in the foggy night. girl in the shower. stalker breaks in and stabs the girl in the shower. Everybody was blown away because it looked so damn real. It worked because the location was perfectly creepy and it was a simple idea well executed

i had a similar experience with a friend in school – he NAILED the horror look/atmosphere in a way that was..... i guess professional is the word id use? looked like something expensive even tho it was $0 budget, everyone was blown away

although ive never been into the horror genre per se (does the shining count? lol), i recognize its popularity, im definitely going with the idea of paranormal/supernatural. people love ghost stories! close enough, right? 😉

basically, @squig, ive done the same thing, i wrote a great feature that i need $250k to produce, which isnt much for a feature, but it might as well be millions to me right now. THIS TIME, im only writing for what i have at my disposal, i swear to god, ive learned my lesson lol *looks up at sky fearfully*

im gonna find local small town actors who wanna be in this (for FREE), and im going to write FOR THEM, not the other way around. im gonna put a flyer up ASAP! 

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54 minutes ago, kaylee said:

wow tons of good stuff there thanks @squig!!!

i had a similar experience with a friend in school – he NAILED the horror look/atmosphere in a way that was..... i guess professional is the word id use? looked like something expensive even tho it was $0 budget, everyone was blown away

although ive never been into the horror genre per se (does the shining count? lol), i recognize its popularity, im definitely going with the idea of paranormal/supernatural. people love ghost stories! close enough, right? 😉

basically, @squig, ive done the same thing, i wrote a great feature that i need $250k to produce, which isnt much for a feature, but it might as well be millions to me right now. THIS TIME, im only writing for what i have at my disposal, i swear to god, ive learned my lesson lol *looks up at sky fearfully*

im gonna find local small town actors who wanna be in this (for FREE), and im going to write FOR THEM, not the other way around. im gonna put a flyer up ASAP! 

Research Dogme 95 and create the rules for your production... for instance maybe only use props that are bought at either a dollar store or a thrift store.

Use lights that are bought at Home Depot or even better use available light and reflectors.

Keep the story duration as short as possible that way you can keep each actor/actress in the same costume for the entire film.

Write the least amount of dialogue as possible... for a show don't tell reason and because free actors/actresses usually suck... so do most low paid ones to be honest... so cast based on their look... but repeatedly tell them how great they are while thinking how you can edit the scene around them.

Make the location a star, with as few stars as possible.

Well... that's all I can think of right now.

One more thing... as conceited as this may sound... you are the star of your film at this level. You have the most to lose. So although film is a collaborative medium, that collaboration is not as important as your vision. Every single person on your set... especially if they're working for free... believe their ideas are great and better than yours. Don't be closed off to good ideas, but don't succumb to any pressure to do a take of every idea thrown out to you. So think of kind ways to make them feel included without jeopardizing your vision.

Feed your cast.

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I'm just finishing up the edit on my 4th no budget film, made with no help.. money isn't the issue, I need people. The other day I was like, "Ooo, what if I had 20 million dollars??" Well.. nothing would be different career-wise.

I love that Channel 101 was brought up here. Seems like the opposite of eoshd. I usually get a response of general disinterest and then, "You need better sound." Coolthanks... I should have written it wih better sound. Less of an issue with those guys.

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34 minutes ago, Liam said:

money isn't the issue, I need people

no shit

when i was in school, i remember asking one time Whats going on with the video village? Seems like a bunch of people standing around doing nothing

now i DREAM of people standing around. smart, talented, informed people... just standing around. standing guard against the chaos of reality

@Liam congratulations on finishing up your edit! whats the latest piece about?

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Thanks, @Jimbo and I agree with the approach you're taking. Wish I had more discipline, myself. The constant behind success seems to be focus. Ideally on the right thing! Which is why I need to figure out what I want in the first place. :/

@kaylee, I’m not signed anywhere for anything so I don’t have a clue. If anything, Tim’s advice (which rings true) is probably the best here. But I have a number of friends and friends of friends signed to major agencies. You need to look at it in terms of supply and demand. Maybe you have the commodity they want, maybe you don’t. If you do, they’ll sign you. It sounds to me like agency connections are the commodity you want, which isn’t necessarily a great start. 

Talent agencies have access to production value. They can put together a feature. What they need is a vision… at least an idea. Maybe it’s visual (say what you will about Michael Bay, but that guy can shoot) or emotional (Spielberg) or conceptual (Dan Harmon or Charlie Kaufman). Maybe you're just a competent director, or writer, or good looking actor. They can use that. They’ll provide the rest. If you're signed on something visionary, they’re basically going to ask you to remake your good idea with good production value. Your first gig after you’re signed will be essentially remaking whatever got you signed–this time with proper production value. It's not for everyone. Most people I know who get signed hate it.

But a lot of what we’re focusing on at this site is how to get that production value without an agency behind us. And we have to ask ourselves why isn’t anyone funding our idea if it’s so great. And we also need to ask ourselves, if our idea is so good, why does it need all that production value just to get noticed. If you can answer this question–and maybe your idea really is legitimately ahead of its time or so personal or crazy you can only express it on your own and you need to make it to even express its potential–then focus on that aspect of it which makes it so good and yet so unfamiliar, exciting (to you), and new. As David Lynch would say:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4468dVu_PaM

The donut, ideally, is what got you into this field in the first place! Anyhow, maybe I’m just writing myself a pep talk. But don’t focus on all the things you know can go wrong (still use your knowledge constructively or you might get in over your head) or all the tangential interests or gear you want to involve unless you’re exploring a new technique relating to certain gear specifically, and if you are, just focus on that one technique. (Like a stunning low light video or hyper lapse or motion control video.) Don’t add technical complications unless they’re crucial to the concept (but, like, get good sound and decent performances). Peter Jackson talks about how he wouldn’t have even made the films he first made if he knew what he knows now about filmmaking. He’d be too worried about what goes wrong (the hole) instead of what he wants to say (the donut). Spielberg seems to direct worse the more closely involved he is as a producer, or the more his financial obligations as a producer escalate. Even those guys don’t need those voices in their head. So get your other voices out of your head. You don’t have to impress every audience. What people on this forum want is not always gonna be what talent agencies want. Pleasing a given audience is a worthy goal. But pleasing every audience is going to put your work in a narrow cross-section or reduce it to lowest common denominator. Maybe it fits. There’s populist stuff that’s amazing. But if your vision is more peculiar maybe choose your audience as narrowly. David Lynch himself doesn't have a big audience relative to his fame, but his fearlessness lends to his cult status within that audience. 

Or if you just want to get signed or get into a festival for the sake of accomplishment or career then watch exactly what they’re producing or accepting and emulate it better and better and network harder and harder every year. This can work. If you're submitting to a festival without attending it first or watching a large portion of its prior programming it's like asking someone out without having a conversation first. Whether you get rejected or not, it's gonna probably end up weird. I don’t think that scene is for me anyway. Too shy. :/

Fwiw I've seen that web series thing work. I think there were four episodes. They were good! Made for pretty cheap, I think. And weird. 

Lastly, I saw a YouTube video where a successful writer mentioned that just because you have one grand idea doesn't mean you need to tell that story first. As much as focus matters, it needn't be on your magnum opus. Even if that opus is your donut of donut, maybe there are some good donut holes (not the figurative hole, but a figurative donut piece carved from the... never mind).

Maybe take some other simpler ideas to start with and just have fun with those first. Plus, Gall's Law and all. Keep it simple to start.

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