Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

The Duke City Shootout

Posted by middlerage on April 30, 2010

So there’s a film contest waayyy out West, in Albuquerque NM, known as the Duke City Shootout. A good friend of mine is actually a past winner of this contest. How cool is that?

A brief aside is required to explain the name – Duke is a common enough name to inspire confusion, and might probably make most people think of a tobacco fortune, or maybe a basketball powerhouse.  It turns out that Albuquerque is known as the “Duke City,” in the same way Paris is the City of Light, Prague is the city of 1000 spires, or Peoria is the place where stuff won’t play. I guess(?) “Duke” is in reference to an eponymous dukedom in Spain. [Updated 04-30-2010 to add: “Or Prague, the City of 1000 Spires”].

The Duke City shootout is a film festival that brags about going from script to screen in one week. They supply film crews, cameras, mentoring, and a one week – go for bust – all out – movie rodeo. It is designed to train the next generation of New Mexican film labor (thus promoting NM as a good place to have your big budget, sprawling, Hollywood epic made), and to inspire budding writers who want to compete and get their very own 8 1/2 onto the silver screen (thus promoting NM as a …blah blah blah).

So, inspired by my friend (not because he is a winner, but because he likes to encourage people to be writers – he’s good that way) I decided to try my hand, and submitted a short film screenplay. My very first one. It is called Saint Revenge. Cue ominous music.

It’s not likely to win – winning consists of being one of several scripts chosen to actually make your film. You make it and then there is an end-o-week juried prize, a celebration, a party-o-viewing, awarding of the Palm du Grease, and an awarding of an alternate audience favorite. Or so I understand.

Like I say, it’s not likely to win. I have a peculiar sense of what constitutes a good story, and what seems like Fellini in my mind never seems to impress others. Cue weeping violin music. But I really like the story, and when/if I don’t get a slot, I’ll turn the script into a blog post for all to see.

It turns out that approximately a page of script translates into about a minute of film time. The maximum page limit for the contest is 12. Like I say, it is a short film contest. I squeezed my lemon as hard as I could and managed to poop out 7 pages. Yikes! a seven minute film (fellini’s 7 1/2?). That’s short. Among other things, I think my spare writing is likely to sink me. I am too spare. Too artsy. (Some of my beloved readers are scratching their heads, and thinking, “You subject us to these long, boring blog posts that make my eyes glaze over and you couldn’t get 12 pages?!?!”).

Entering is also problematic. For one thing, they use a general script submitting service that serves different venues with different purposes. So you’re filling out several pages of stuff, that doesn’t always relate to Duke City Shootout. It isn’t until the end that you run into a “So we need $35, what credit card would you like to use?” …Well..my my… It isn’t a stupendous fee, and of course they should charge a fee to keep out the riff-raff, keep out the under 18 crowd, and help cover costs. It’s a perfectly fair and reasonable thing, it’s just – this is the first time I’ve heard of it?!?! I really think that should’ve been on page one, and on the Duke CIty Shootout’s homepage. Just be honest with people – they don’t mind.

Then there was the section to, “Give us a pitch for you screenplay. Be brief. Keep it under 125 words MAX!” Again, I run into the problem with being a spare writer. Hemingway’s a piker when it comes to succinct. I have a fun, weeeell not twist, not surprise, but a cat I don’t want to let out of the bag until they read the whole damn thing. So I wrote a 20 word pitch and moved on, meanwhile asking same friend “how does one write a pitch?” By the time he was able to respond that I had it all wrong – let the damn cat out! I had submitted. No problem, it’s a days and days before the final, for sure, late entries deadline, I’ll just go in and edit my submission. But nope. You can’t. How dumb is that? I’ve been on job application websites that allow me to go back and fine tune my application all the way until midnight of the deadline. Sheeesh.

So here I am, hoping they are very lenient on amateur submissions. But I’m sure they’ve seen it all before…including that sentiment.

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4 Responses to “The Duke City Shootout”

  1. Jerry said

    The good news is that spare is not only good, it’s golden. A lot of amateur scripts suffer from what’s called ‘directing from the script’, or providing way too much detail that will become instantly irrelevant the moment production starts. Unlike a short story or novel, a script is not a finished piece but a template to guide the filmmaking process. Scripts filled with lush scenery and fancy camera shots will make the director, prouducer, art director, and so forth say “don’t tell me my job!” Just putting in a couple of key details that set the tone and character are all that’s required.

    If a film is supposed to be 7.5 minutes long, then adding more isn’t going to improve your chances of winning. A shorter script might even be beneficial; there will be no question in the judge’s mind that you can do a good job shooting it in three days and editing in four. Try to stretch it out and you lose your edge (see Simpsons: The Movie).

    So I’d say that what you thought of as weaknesses may actually play out as strengths. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

    The electronic thing might have been a pain, but it’s better than sending the thing FedEx from Prague. Speaking of the City of One Hundred Spires, I’m pretty sure fuego is part of the initial screening team for submissions. He might have read your screenplay already!

    In any case, good luck, dude! I’m pulling for you. If you do win and you want my help, I can come be a gopher for the week, (if I wouldn’t be underfoot).

    • middlerage said

      Fuego is a screener? No shit? He should probably recuse himself.
      Gopher? Pah, how would you like to be director? I’ve already booked a week at the beach during the same time. I wasn’t real good at juggling dates in my head, when applying for this. Or maybe my subconcious said, Come on you ain’t gonna win. Sweetness would NOT be happy if I won.

      And when are we gonna see Moonlight Sonata?

    • Mark Leisher said

      I had never heard of this event and I’m ex-Burque. I hope you included the best parts of your anti-bike rant as dialog or gedankenexperiment 🙂 I’ll hoist one to your screenplay getting in. Oh, and provide us with random words from the screenplay with line and word numbers so we can play lottery too.

  2. Valdez said

    I wish you much luck bro, the event is a big deal in the arts community, but I’ve never attended (shame on me), I hope you get in, maybe find a second career, when I retire I can be your spokesman, or part of your posse

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