Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…
From Jake Weisman, Chicago, IL:
My name is Jake Weisman and -- aside from family -- my whole world is film and the cinema. Right now my world is suffocating in mediocrity -- built-in audiences, every genre packed to the brim with action, and a swath of producers who have never heard the word "arc" except in association with the Indiana Jones Trilogy.
If you'll indulge me...
At around 10 years old, my friends and I began making little animations and silent shorts edited in-camera. In middle school I wrote reviews for the school paper. At age 16, I became the weekly in-house film critic at the Burlington Free Press, a large newspaper in Vermont, for two years. I also wrote two feature length screenplays in high school as well as attended a two year film & video technical course.
At 18, I left Vermont to attend college in Chicago -- Columbia College's Film & Video program, where I continued to uncover my passion for screenwriting. I wrote several scripts in school with lukewarm reception -- rather no real reception at all, good or bad. I'm sure you know, it's hard to get many people to care enough to read a hundred page script and analyze for half way decent notes. Plus, my peers at school have a hard time paying attention to anything unless there are zombies or superheros littering the pages. Notes from teachers are tenuous -- these folks are failures but they're not failures -- if that makes any sense.
At 20, I moved to Los Angeles to be a screenwriter. The less said about this, the better. I interned at a major production company at Paramount where I read three scripts a week and wrote three coverage packets a week. I read an incredible amount to learn what they liked -- I soon realized we didn't share the same taste in any way, shape or form. I would never be successful writing in Hollywood -- I can't stand Save The Cat and I can't stand producers with no taste telling me how it should be. Then my writing partner went completely crazy (clinically unstable, real crazy-crazy) and I moved out of LA, distraught. I moved back to Vermont for a spell and wrote a couple more feature scripts.
Now I'm back in Chicago, trying to make a life. I write like a maniac but walk dogs to support myself. I continue to watch bad movie after bad movie and I'm getting frustrated. I don't like what's coming out in theatres and -- after working at Paramount -- I know there isn't much coming out very soon. I'm going insane myself, feeling there's no creative outlet for me. I can write and write and write but I need an audience.
I watched "Leaves of Grass" and was so impressed. I loved it so much -- a film with everything I want to see. A clear, beautiful theme, terrific characters and simple things I've never seen before in a flick (like Richard Dreyfuss' character). Lots of care and love was brought to the film. And if there's anything I can take from the flick (and there's a lot to take) it's life keeps going and you can't let the drama keep you from doing what you know deep down is right.
I've written a screenplay called "Jubilation" and I think it's worth a read. It's hard to get anyone to read it (it's the first script of mine I've let my parents read and they still haven't yet) and I can't get solid feedback from the people who have read it. I truly think you'll enjoy it and it would mean the entire world to me if you would give it a sneaky peek.
All I want to do is write and make films. Easier said than done. But the simple act of sending an email to you makes me feel that much closer to my dream and for that I can thank you right now. Because whether you read it or not, I'll know I sent my work to a man I admire and if that's the very least that happens- I'm thrilled.
Ebert: As a long-standing policy, I don't read screenplays. A film critic should avoid being involved at that stage with a film he may be reviewing. But you make a heartfelt appeal, and perhaps someone reading this would want to consider your screenplay. They can write you at: email@example.com
Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.
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