Write, Teach, Laugh

Alameda Writers Group: Pursuit, Pitfalls and Prizes

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

posterAlameda Writers Group (AWG) Co-Presidents Scott and Gail Moss are stalkers. After viewing the filmTouching Home at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival in Florida, they were so impressed that they hunted down the twin brothers who wrote and directed the film, until they were able to meet them. Friendship ensued.

Now, six years and a second film (Sweetwater) later, the brothers Logan and Noah Miller were interviewed by the Mosses at the September 6, 2014, AWG meeting in Glendale, California.

Gail Moss asked the brothers about how they got started.

The brother’s first career choice, major league baseball, had struck out. A friend offered them a place to stay in Hollywood and they got the idea of writing a screenplay about them and their father. The brothers shared that it took them eight years to go from first draft of their screenplay to seeing it on the screen.

“When we started,” Logan said, “we wrote on notepads. Everyday we’d go out to a park and write there because it was too hot in our apartment.”

Noah explained how they progressed. “A buddy of ours was working at a post-production house. He would sneak us in at midnight and we’d stay till 8 in the morning using their computers. It took us a week to type up the screenplay for Touching Home.”

Noah and Logan Miller

Noah and Logan Miller

But that was not the end of the writing. Noah explained, “During those eight years we’d write every single day. We kept going back to that original screenplay, because you learn when you do that.”

Scott Moss asked at what point they felt that the production of the film was really going to happen.

Logan said, “The moment I felt it was real is when the money showed up in the escrow account.”

Subsequent to the production of their first film, the brothers wrote a book, Either You’re In or You’re In the Way, about the experience.

Scott Moss inquired about their writing process. “Do you fight?” he asked.

Noah replied, “Oh, all the time. We say terrible things to each other.”

Logan smiled. “But mostly we try to help,” he said

Noah explained: “We don’t divide things up. We both write everything. We both write it all. It works because we’re twins. I can’t even hold conversations if he’s not around.”

Gail Moss asked if there were lessons they learned that they wanted to share.

Noah said that they had signed terrible contracts and had gotten ripped off.

Logan added, “Never sign a contract without reading it and having an attorney look at it.”

Logan also cautioned about writing for free. “Not to make it sound too mercenary,” he said, “but people will ask you to do an outline or write a treatment and all of a sudden you’ve put in a tremendous amount of time on a project and there’s no money. If were going to be writing for free it will be for us.”

“What about notes?” Gail Moss asked.

Noah said, “Only incorporate someone else’s note or suggestion if you feel it makes it better. Sometimes you’re in a meeting with people who are on salary and they want to go to their boss and say, ‘Look at all the notes I gave him’. You have to be happy with what you’re writing.”

Logan added, “But also you do want to be open to people you trust; people who understand you.”

Scott asked why they had never done any short films.

Noah explained, “We didn’t make any shorts because were opposed to it, we just never considered it. We are writers and it’s the ultimate experience to write the screenplay and then direct it.”

Logan said, “Produce your own stuff. Not producing your own stuff is like giving your kids off to foster care to raise.”

Noah chimed in: “We’ve produced two films and a book. We used the same template we had for baseball and we applied it to writing. We just started writing every day.”

Logan said, “Sometimes it gets daunting and depressing but you can’t let that stop you. Just submit your work and continue.”

Saturn Award

AWG guest Veronica Rivas holds Saturn Award won by former AWG President Marc Cushman

Also at the September meeting, former AWG President Marc Cushman shared a success story. He won a 2014 Saturn Award for his series of books on Star Trek: These are the Voyages. Cushman, who also wrote a history of the Robert Culp and Bill Cosby TV hit, I Spy, has written scripts forStar Trek: The Next Generation, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, and Diagnosis Murder.

The Saturn Awards are presented by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Normally the Saturns go to movies, TV shows and performances. The presentation of a Saturn to Cushman was only the second time in the award’s 42 year history that a book received the prize.

The next general meeting of the Alameda Writers group will be Saturday, October 4, at 10:00 am in the Glendale Library and feature a discussion of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat by Synder’s “right-hand man”, Jose Silerio.

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