Angelo Bell: For the Love of English

NOTE FROM LB: Angelo Bell is an indie filmmaker who in the past has contributed several articles to this site. (Past being mostly in 2014. If you’re in the mood and you have time, you should enjoy what you read by searching in the index on the righthand side of this page.

The other day, Angelo wrote me about a GoFundMe campaign he’d started and described the love story that inspired it. I thought he was telling me about his latest project, and I found the story deeply moving, so I said, “Hey, Angelo, write this up for TVWriter™ and we’ll post it and see if we can help you find some investors.”

A few minutes ago, he sent me the post below.  Turns out he’s not trying to get a film going. It’s a real-life story about, well, about a couple he’s half of. This isn’t the kind of thing we’d normally publish here, but it’s wonderfully written and I’m hooked.

I know Angelo won’t mind me sharing this with you; it’s what he asked me to do. So if you’re ready to feel all warm and fuzzy, read on!


by Angelo Bell

I was in third grade when I made the decision to be a writer. I remember that exact moment as if it were carved into the walls of my brain matter. Everything in my life after that point revolved around the education, artistry and creativity of writing. I consider myself a writer in every sense, and as such I enjoy all forms of writing. I firmly believe that one cannot love writing without loving language. I have studied French, Swahili, and Cantonese, and now I am learning Vietnamese.

It is my love of spoken English and all its vast and often contrary nuances that compels me to reach towards perfection in the dialog of the screenplays and novels I’ve written. Sometimes I can be one of those snobs who frown upon the butchering of the English language with misused words whose definitions have been misappropriated for some foolish pop culture lexicon. Incidentally, it was my love of the English language that led me to the next chapter of my discordantly dismal love life. Who would have thought that English is something a man living in the USA would have in common with a woman living in Vietnam, and an unspoken love of English would lead them into love?

When I divorced five years ago I felt that love had disappointed me. I accepted my culpability in the decline of my relationship; I was not a victim. However, there were all these unspoken rules of marriage that seemed to vanish in the face of the selfishness that often evolves in a relationship under stress. Married again? Never. Hell no. To the dating world I was damaged goods with a divorce, four kids and bad credit under my belt.

I focused entirely on my writing after my divorce. I was so narrow-minded in my pursuit that I successfully secured two TV pilot development deals with NBCUniversal, but I also neglected my health. I nearly died and spent 18 days in the heart center including five days in ICU. I often tell people that there is a moment of clarity when death is upon you. There was one particular moment when I was fairly certain I would not wake from sleep so I took the lock off my cell phone. I wanted to make it easier for whomever found my body to locate my family back in New York. I know. How morbid was that?

The combination a nightmarish near-death experience and a dream come true set me on a new path. I began dating again. My dating life was the equivalent of dismal dissonance, like an orchestra out of tune with itself. It was frustrating and only solidified my dark opinion of relationships, especially for the over-forty crowd.

I went on relationship hiatus after I ended a chaotic 18-month relationship with a woman in her early twenties. At the time I surmised, I’m back in the gym, my health has improved, now would be a good time to recommit my focus to my writing. However, in the back of my mind I had started to explore the possibility of a long-term relationship in my future, however distant it might be. Still open but frustrated, I deleted Tinder, OkCupid, Match.Com, and Plenty of Fish dating apps off my phone. I asked my friends and coworkers if they had single and available friends who were interested in dating.

A friend at work introduced me to Nghia. Nghia was happily living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and was studying English. She was working for the supply distribution arm of Adidas and learning English would give her a chance to travel within the company to Europe and other Southeast Asian countries. Nghia had no inclination to come to America. She was happy where she was born, raised, working and going to school. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why my friend would introduce me to someone 14,000 miles away. I thought, what’s the point?

However, Nghia (pronounced Nee – aahh) was taking a Level II English class and it helped to have a native English speaker with whom she could converse. We connected through Facebook and corresponded over text messages. There is a fifteen hour time difference so our communication was spotty. Despite that, I learned Nghia’s goal was to become a “master” at speaking English. I was intrigued and I offered to help. We’d chat casually and then I’d help Nghia with her spelling and grammar. Our text chats became more regular as we developed chemistry through our written words. I think she appreciated my playfulness with American English. I admit, there were times that I certainly did flaunt my writing talents in order to flirt.

Our text messages became WiFi telephone calls. This was essential so I could help Nghia with her pronunciation. Despite the time difference of our busy schedules, our WiFi calls escalated into hour-long video chats. We couldn’t settle for a single chat. We started to have two-a-days. I remember vividly the one day we did not have our regularly scheduled video chat just before Nghia went to sleep. The next day she expressed to me that she didn’t sleep well. I jokingly said, her poor sleep was because she hadn’t spoken to me just before bedtime. After that, we never missed another night.

One of Nghia’s homework assignments required adapting an American short story (circa 1960s) into a play. I’m serious, you cannot make this stuff up. It was serendipity. Throughout the day I’d get regular text messages from Nghia with questions about screenwriting, narration, and dialog. I later learned that she’d shared news of our friendship with her classmates and many of the questions I’d answered had come from them. She made sure to give me the credit for the answers and she even introduced me to her classmates via video chat during the team’s weekly meeting at a local coffee shop In Ho Chi Minh City. Two weeks later her classmates formed a “fan club” for me. They ask Nghia throughout the day to find out what I was doing in America. Silly kids.

Then funny things started to happen. Despite the frequency and extended lengths of our text and video chats, I could not get Nghia out of my mind. Also, when she’d call me on Facebook Messenger I could see her quickly fix her hair and apply lipstick before my video camera came on.  Nghia taught me Vietnamese phrases and we began referring to each other as, anh (me), and em (her), sort of pet names for boyfriend and girlfriend. Nghia would record and send me short videos in English just to say hello. She even recorded a 15-minute video presentation showing me how she made Vietnamese coffee.

One day the L-word slipped out my mouth. Instead of dreadful silence, Nghia quickly responded in the affirmative. We had fallen in love. To this day she accuses me of using “evil magic” to get her to fall in love with me so deeply. A few weeks later I asked Nghia to marry me and she accepted. She agreed to turn her life upside down, leave her parents, her siblings, her niece, her job, her staff, her classmates and friends to come to the USA to have a life with me. In turn I promised to visit Vietnam first to propose appropriately and in person — and to meet for the first time. No more hugging the computer, no more blowing kisses at the screen. We would hug and kiss in person.

This is not a story of two people who met through a dating app. I most definitely do not subscribe to any “Meet Asian Singles” websites.  Now that the word is slowly coming out, my friends have asked me questions about the nature and validity of my relationship. I confidently assure them that there isn’t a question they can ask me that I haven’t already asked myself a million times.  Is this unorthodox? Absolutely. Unusual? Most definitely. But as an old romantic, I know that love follows no guidelines or rules. It is its own thing.  “Anh yeu em.” I love you. It means everything, as it should.

If you’d like to help me get to Nghia to meet for the first time, hug for the first time and kiss for the first time, please see my Go Fund Me page. The proverbial and literal clock is ticking. Wish us well in our journey and thanks for allowing me to share my story.


Angelo Bell’s GoFundMe page is here: https://www.gofundme.com/anh-yeu-em . His very cool blog is here: https://angelobellwrites.wordpress.com/

Screenwriting: Don’t Fight The Feeling

Angelo_Bell_films_Captureby Angelo J. Bell

While testing a new registration service, WriteVault, by Stacy Porter and friends, I inadvertently repurposed my logline, going back in time to the BIG idea I had many moons ago in 2010. Back then, I wanted to write something fun, provocative (taking on the drug industry), sexy (gals with guns) and visually stunning — yeah, kick ass CG for everyone!

But as time progressed, and many rewrites were done to conform to what the industry said it was looking for, I felt as if I’d exorcised the life from the project.

But now, having to write that pain-in-the-ass “summary” as required by many online script services, I felt transported. Loglines are a bitch to write. Great loglines are even greater bitches. However, when you cook down your story to the most basic idea, the BIG IDEA often comes flooding back.That idea, is the very essence of why you starting writing the screenplay in the first place. That idea is the thing the compelled you to write your script in only three days. That idea is the little engine that could, carrying you as you worked your 9-to-5 and chugged away, writing only 500-words a day until your 115-page script was complete.

tentpole

Why fight it? Write what you LOVE to write.  Who cares what others think!  I can write drama and comedy.  I can do an “indie” story too — but I like writing tentpole movies.  Scalable, yes, but still tentpole.

So I went back to the core of a script that was once called Demigod, then it became Medicated for Murder (too Agatha Christie-sounding) and now it’s simply called…BIG BAD WOLFE.

Don’t fight the feeling. Write what YOU love. It shows in the story and the characters.

Angelo Bell: The Chasm Between Professionalism and Ego

Or, to quote an assistant LB once worked with: “We’re all aspiring to be assholes.”

Sigh…

ego_black-2

by Angelo Bell

I’m watching a reality TV show that is a powerful, real-life illustration of the chasm between members of groups/partners with different levels of commitment and professionalism. Some people ‘get’ the entrepreneur factor, they understand the nature of the business. Some just don’t. They get caught up in small details and never understand that it’s dumb to stress over phase 5 when you haven’t gotten to phase 1 yet.

I think, if you find yourself lagging behind and not making headway in your career or profession, it’s time to look inward to identify some problems. There’s a saying that, “Common sense isn’t so common,” and I’ve witnessed big, bold illustrations of it, the impact of such,  floors me.

In a single week I’ve had conversations with a very successful executive producer who, although she was very excited about a project, was very settled and deliberate in her approach to doing business — one step at a time, one hurdle at a time. On the flip side, I almost lost my cool trying to educate someone in the strategy of picking and choosing your battles: when you want something from two behemoth organizations, let them draw swords, fight it out, and come to an agreement. You simply move on after they shake hands and write out a check for you.

People get caught up in name-dropping, and assuming titles that they haven’t earned. People get caught up in declaring self- importance, and assuming they have connections and clout where they have none.

At the end of the day, you can be the artist who has stuck to his guns and now no one has seen his work, or your can be the professional who finds and exploits win/win situations and employs a little give-n-take to get the job done. You don’t have to sell out (as some may call it), if you were enough of a professional  to develop multiple projects to the GO stage, and you weren’t putting all your eggs on one basket, i.e. one film, one script, one pitch, one score, one crowdfunding campaign…

What else have you got? If you’ve heard those words before, hopefully you’ve learned to actually, have something else at the ready. Perhaps it’s another script, short film, or pitch concept. If these words make you shudder, it’s time to put on your big boy/girl shoes and get back to work.

Angelo Bell: How to conduct proper research for your indie film

Good tips from a good guy:

expect-resistance

by Angelo Bell

The trouble with showbiz research is… everyone tosses around that word, “research” but many don’t tell you where to go to conduct that research. Too often I go to websites or read books that say stuff like this:

You must research film festivals that screen films like yours…

You must research what distributors buy you kind of film…

You must research the right acting coach…

You must research what talent agencies are hiring of looking for your type…

Well, sir/madam, the fact is, I was doing research. That’s what led me to your so-called expert website. I put in a few search words in Google and DogPile and found your link. You said you had tips. Now you’re telling me that you actually don’t have the answer. Just vague direction. Even in your blog you seem to be hoarding information from me.

Yes, I get it. There is tremendous value in discovering things for yourself. The journey of discovery often leads to other peripheral tidbits of information that will help one’s quest. But come on! You said you had real information for me, but instead you’re just sending me back into the information jungle, fending for myself against a sea of inaccurate information.

So ladies and gents reading this blog who happen to be interested in showbiz. You are in luck. I am about to share with you my “research tlinks” and books to start you on your way. During my travels many folks have come to ask me “how do I get started [writing, acting, producing,etc].” While many of them were merely trying to get an ‘in’ with me, thinking I was some high-falootin’ producer with money and power (go figure!), many were earnest in their quest for info.

SCRIPTS- Wanna find out who’s selling and buying scripts? Go to http://www.donedealpro.com. It costs $24/year for the info but it is one of the best sites for this info. Often you’ll get the names of the studio/prodco, agencies involved and of course, the writer.

FILM FESTIVALS – there is no better book (I’ve found) then Chris Gore’s “Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide.” Here you’ll learn about Tier 1 and Tier 2 festivals, festival politics, finances, etc. I kick myself in the ass for not buying this book years ago. It is truly invaluable to the filmmaker with a feature (or a short) that’s ready to be seen. Oh, and read the personal interviews with filmmakers!

TV WRITING – wanna be on the boob tube. Then check out TVWriter.com. Managed by the famously infamous Larry Brody (who wrote for the Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy). The site manages three contests including a contest for a TV series proposal and MOW (Movie of the Week). The user bulletin board has tons of answers to your every question. I personally know a woman who won the contest, got an agent and now writes for TV.

AGENTS, MANAGERS & ACTORS – there is none better than IMDB Pro. http://pro.imdb.com. This is the professional version of the fan database IMDB.com. Cost is $100+ per year. I’ve gotten A-list actor’s agents names, their lawyers, publicists, managers, etc. By the way, the gatekeepers (agents) are harder to get through than managers. Always go to the manager first if you’re trying to attach A-list talent to your film. I’ve had their service for five years.

SCREENPLAYS – wanna write one, then you better learn how. You have to learn the rules first, before you decide what rules you can break. Second to none is the foundation of all screenplay books, Syd Field’s “Screenplay” and the introduction of the plot point. Read it. Know it. Live it. Get it on Amazon.com or go to my inks page, http://www.angelobell.com/filmmaking_tools.htm GROUPS – IFP.com and FilmIndependent.com are great groups to join. A membership perk is getting access to low-cost equipment rentals, networking events, free film screenings, seminars, other vital resources– and people! Find actors and crew for your film.

ACTING COACHES – If you’re in LA acting coaches are everywhere. Some better than others, of course. And the well-known ones have waiting lists. What technique works for you? Meisner? Ivana Chubbick? Stanislav? Method?

FILM REVIEWS – need a third-party review for your film? Send it to http://www.filmthreat.com. But be prepared to wait a while. However, if you send a cool little gift with your screener you might get moved to the top of the list Tip: cool and elaborate packaging does wonders!!

INDUSTRY NEWS – http://www.variety.com and http://www.hollywoodreporter.com ‘Nuff said

FREE PRESS RELEASES – http://www.prweb.com. Submit your press release to Yahoo! news, Google and tons of other outlets and local markets…for free. Or pay a small fee and go national.

ScriptPIMP – http://www.scriptpimp.com a writer’s database of people looking for scripts. $99/year

InkTip – a online screenplay warehouse that gives access to professionals looking for scripts. Upload your new script and watch the studios come to you!! http://www.inktip.com

And there’s more coming in a later blog so stay tuned!

Angelo Bell: The Original Ride or Die Chick

Harriet Tubman- ride or die

by Angelo Bell

Harriet Tubman, the original “ride or die” chick, coming to a low-budget film screening near you. Boom!

Harriet is the star of my next micro-budget script

As a screenwriter, the here and now is very important. You have to finish what you started. You must complete the tasks given to you. Deadlines must be met. But the future is equally important. the question, “What else are you working on?” comes to mind.

I try to look ahead to what my next screenwriting projects might be. I have a ton of project concepts that have been developed over the course of  the last two years. Should I write a thriller? Another tentpole project? An action joint? Most importantly is what script will be the best use of my time considering the state of the industry.

So why Harriet Tubman? There’s been some recent controversy over the actresses chosen by “Hollywood” to play the African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Harriet was a dark-skinned woman, yet Hollywood decision-makers have consistently chosen lighter-skinned African-American women to play the role. These actions tend to solidify the pervasive feelings within the African-American community that “Hollywood only tolerated Blacks who are lighter skinned.”  In the absurd film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the woman chosen to play Harriet Tubman has a notably lighter complexion than any known photograph of the actual woman. But that’s not why I chose Harriet Tubman as the center of my next low-budget project.

Actually, in discussing a possible storyline I came up with a brilliant connection to the film, “Glory,” an ugly piece of American history and a piece of Canadian history that isn’t often told. And, in true indie fashion, this film can be told in micro-budget fashion at a low six-figure budget.

So, that’s my new project: a low-budget alternate history tale of Harriet Tubman. Oh, and she kicks ass too.

harriet-tubman