Here’s What Happens When Your Dream Filmmaking Job Ends Up Being a Nightmare

Know that writing/producing gig you’ve been dreaming about since you were kid? That perfect job you still may be dreaming about? Some people really get them. Only to discover they’ve made a deal with the devil in the process:

by Scott Beggs

Max La Bella has the same story that most aspiring filmmakers have. He grew up loving movies and building worlds out of LEGOs before realizing that he could be the one to make cinematic universes for others to play in, eventually cruising off to film school to chase his dream job.

“I was obsessed with anything that let me leave my own world,” he recently told Indiewire. La Bella speaks with the triple espresso shot enthusiasm that belies a dash of nervous energy when confronting the topic at hand. That topic, put bluntly, is the failure of success.

During film school, La Bella got a zombie TV show pilot into the hands of indie director Steven C. Miller (“Silent Night,” “Extraction”), who put him in contact with James Wan, just as the new horror icon was a few years from transitioning firmly from “Saw” to “Insidious” in the late 2000s. Wan liked La Bella’s work, and La Bella dropped his entire life in Orlando to move to Los Angeles with $2,500. “I threw away everything I owned. In retrospect, it was the dumbest idea ever. The money was half gone by the time I got there, obviously,” La Bella said.

This is still the same story that belongs to several aspiring filmmakers. The fortunate ones, at least. They get someone established to believe in them, they score a mentor and sincerely underestimate the cost of rent in L.A. Most learn that last lesson before they ever call for a U-Haul, but La Bella had a leg up. A working filmmaker who’d built a bloody mint was on his side, and the man who re-popularized creepy puppets soon had an idea that he wanted La Bella to write. It involved a cop, a psychologist and a group of people murdered while trying to summon spirits from beyond.

“So, he sent me the synopsis to ‘Demonic,’” La Bella remembered. “At the time, I was working as a PA on ‘Criss Angel Mindfreak,’ James asked how much I got paid a week, and I told him. He said, ‘I’ll pay you to quit your job if you want to write this movie.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ It’s the best thing that’s ever happened. What he did for me. He gave me such a chance.”

Wan was prepping to show ‘Insidious’ at Toronto, so La Bella cranked out a draft of “Demonic” in two weeks to give them the option to sell it at the festival, and everything got real, really fast.

“I didn’t have reps or a manager, and I was clueless,” La Bella said. “The movie was announced in a Variety article, and my name made the front page, and as soon as my name was on the cover, there were 7 managers that reached out to me the next day.”

It was all happening. The thing that every aspiring writer spends time dreaming about (when they should be writing) was coming true. That’s when everything started falling apart.

More than five years later, “Demonic” hasn’t hit theaters. La Bella recently posted a lengthy blog entry titled “The Downside of Up,” chronicling the aggravating ups and downs of the project — including two false starts, losing a director the day before shooting was supposed to commence, an abandoned release date plan meant to avoid a larger film (that ironically ended up not being released either) and a final kiss of domestic death in the form of a foreign release that got “Demonic” onto pirating sites within hours. It became an extended lesson in the high price of staying excited about what you love to do.

Filmmakers rarely talk about their failures, which is largely why La Bella’s screed is so fascinating. It’s also what makes it such a valuable lesson to those aspiring screenwriters and directors who think of getting an agent as crossing the finish line, the blissful delusion that getting past the gatekeepers is the ultimate goal. It’s important that La Bella shared a common story that isn’t commonly shared — his dream job didn’t morph into a nightmare so much as it got replaced by the day-to-day standard operating procedure of mini- and major studio filmmaking.

The Magic in Creating: Character Creation & Propinquity

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by Mie Presence

I woke in the middle of the night to write this. That’s the funny thing about creativity and inspiration – you could be waiting all day for a tiny glimpse of it. And then suddenly, it strikes you mid-dream and you bet your bottom dollar that if you don’t release it in that moment, you will wake in the morning with the taste of regret in your mouth.

I’ve been deep diving into my characters lately and realised I was missing some key elements. My early attempts didn’t see them come to life as their own people. They were “cleaned up” versions, behaving how I think people should behave in certain situations as opposed to how they actually would. At the time I created them, I guess I was trying to “clean myself up”, “sort my life out” and create an “idealised” version of my self and my life. Well, good thing that’s over.

So I’ve spent weeks teasing out their back stories, their wounds, their dreams, even creating vision boards for them. It’s never as simple as setting out a couple of personality traits and running with it. You will find loose ends, holes and things just simply won’t match up. So yes, I quit my job to make cut-outs of my characters and their lives.

After allowing the characters to form and take shape, I swear to you – some days I am living the writers’ dream. These characters are taking Rolling Beyond and writing the episodes for me. It’s your classic #WhatWouldJesusDo….

Read the big finish at Mie Presence’s blog

The CARGO 3120 Newsletter is Here

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. We think this project and its creators have great potential. If you’re an aficionado of s-f action this one, as Stan Lee used to say, is for you, pilgrim.

Oh, and CARGO and its creator-writers Aaron Walker Sr. and Daymond Roman came thisclose to being winners in the People’s Pilot Contest 2013:

You can see a clickable version HERE
You can see a clickable version HERE

Diana Vacc Sees “Outlander” Episode 9 “Je Suis Prest”

by Diana Vaccarelli

04outlander2-master768This recent episode of Outlander titled “Je Suis Prest” follows Jamie (Sam Heughan)training his men to be soldiers and fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie, while Claire (Caitriona Balfe) tries to deal with a dramatic event from her past. (I mean her future. I mean the future but still her past…oh well, if  you’re a fan you know the premise, right?)

To Those Who Haven’t Viewed This Episode: Be warned. This review may contain spoilers.


  • The writing of the episode by Matt B. Roberts brings us both humor and drama. The delves into post traumatic stress with Claire having to deal with her time as a combat Nurse during WW II. The humor comes from bringing back our favorite duo of Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) and Angus (Stephen Walters). How these two are written brings back the old days of Laurel and Hardy. The humor in this episode breaks up the seriousness of preparing for impending war. There is one scene with Jamie and Claire when he comes back from a mission and tells her he was on a commando raid. It made me giggle.
  • Caitriona Balfe gives her all with this performance as we witness Claire deal with PTSD. She gives everything in this episode and you feel as if you are going through it yourself. Sam Heughan delivers perfectly as Jamie. You’d want to go to war for him.


  • There is not one thing I didn’t like about this episode. It made me laugh and tear up all at the same time.

Outlander is amazing! It should be on everyone’s must watch list!

Happy TV Watching!

Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

7 Effective Proofreading Tips for TV Writers

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Not the kind of proof reading we’re talking about here!

by Joan Selby

If you are a TV writer, you probably don’t need to worry about getting the grammar perfectly right, because most often than not, you will be required to write dialogue spoken by people using jargon or street lingo, which needs to be more believable and close to the way we speak in real life. You think David Simon obsessed over grammar when he wrote Homicide: Life on the Streets or The Wire? Surely not.

But still, you will have your work cut out for you, because you need to get all the nuances, punctuation, spelling, and the style just right, especially if your TV show is dialogue-oriented, otherwise it’s just going to sound wrong. This also means that using grammar-checking apps is out of the question, because they still aren’t on the level where they are able to emulate actual human speech.

Hiring an editor is great, but expensive, which means the only viable option is for you to all the proofreading and editing yourself. For that reason, we suggest you try out the following 7 tips.

1. Give Yourself and Your Writing Some Breathing Room

As a writer, you probably hate this stage where you have to edit your work, which is why most of us are tempted to get it over with as soon as possible. Sure, you can do that, but it might not be the best solution in terms of quality. It is not about getting it done faster, it is about winding up with a better script. You shouldn’t rush these things, especially if you have time. Now, we’re not suggesting that you start acting like Hank Moody from Californication, but you should step away from your work for a while, and then come back to it later, when your mind is fresh and full of new ideas.

2. Read Your Script Out Loud

TV writers should rely on this more than other writers, because their work will actually be read out loud on television by professional actors. Yes, those dialogs might look great on paper, but you can’t know for sure how they will sound until you can actually hear them. When you are going over your script, read it out loud, or better yet, get some of your actor friends to do a rehearsal. That way, you will be able to actually hear what you’ve written, and determine if there is anything that needs to be removed, fixed, expanded, or added to your script. Some of the witty and quirky dialogues on Boston Legal or Scrubs only start to make sense when they are acted out.

3. Start with the Ending

When you start to edit and proofread any kind of work, you will lose focus and concentration over time, which means you will dedicate more time and effort to the beginning and the middle of your script, and gloss over the ending, which would be a huge mistake, because in the land of TV, the ending is often the most crucial bit of the script, because it might contain numerous twists or cliffhangers, which needs to be logical, and you can’t afford to simply rush through them. Editing your work backwards is a great way of making sure that every single section of your script is top-notch.

4. Double-Check Your Script

Now that you’ve gone over your script and done your initial proofreading and editing, it’s time to do it all over again. Yes, it sounds like a nightmare, but the worst thing any writer can do is to fall in love with their own work, thinking it’s pretty much perfect the way it is. It’s one of the ways we flatter ourselves as writers. If we get it right the first time around, we are better writers. Wrong. It’s about getting it right, period. It doesn’t matter how many drafts you need to go through, because nobody is going to know, except you.

5. Read Only What’s There

Since you are the one writing your script, you will probably have the whole thing worked out in your head already, but you need to focus on what’s on the page, because that’s what will be read by the actors, and you can’t afford to make any mistakes there. Forget about what should be there, forget about what’s inside your head, and just read what’s written down, word for word. That way, you will be able to spot more errors, and prevent your mind from convincing that something is there, when it actually isn’t.

6. Check for the Mistakes You Make Regularly

Every TV writer has a few of those. Some writers tend to be sloppy with their punctuation, or they misspell certain words, or they forget to write them altogether. Whatever the case, it pays to be aware of them, and double-check your script in order to see if any of the common mistakes you are known to make have found their way into your writing.

7. Get Help

Two heads are better than one, so if you know a fellow writer whose opinion you value, have them go over your script and spot potential mistakes, as well as provide suggestions on how you can make your script even better. Just by reading your writing in front of someone can help you realize which elements work and which don’t, and which lines of dialogue you need to change, because they don’t sound natural, or appropriate for the universe which your characters inhabit. You wouldn’t want the lead character of your new legal drama to speak as if he is on Game of Thrones, would you now?


Getting your script filmed is fantastic, and if it proves to be a hit with the viewers and the critics, that’s even better, but in order to get there, you need to put in lots of time and hard work, and that includes endless edits and proofreading. We have these tips will help focus your efforts and make your proofreading process a lot more efficient. Good luck!

Joan Selby is a blogger  and a content marketer at which provides online assistance to students and supports them. Former CalArts graduate and fancy shoelover. A writer by day and reader by night. Giving creative touch to everything. Find her on Twitter and Facebook