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Balls of Steel™: Community Service for Screenwriters

Waiting for your scripts to get produced is grueling. Why not use your talents to help local theaters do fundraising...and get produced at the same time?

We writers squirrel away in our caves, writing 100-page scripts and spending years trying to sell them. Each script is merely a lottery ticket. Seriously. You probably have a better chance at winning Mega Millions than of seeing your feature-length script on screen with A-list actors.

You need a more instant gratification while you wait for that magic day.

I’ve spoken before about the benefits of freelance writing and of producing your own short films, but I’d like to toss out another idea that not only will satisfy your need to create, but will also serve your immediate community.

Write and produce fund-raising commercials for your local theaters.

Are you aware all theaters not having digital equipment by the end of 2013 will close down? The industry switch from 35 mm to digital is happening, forcing small town theaters to either shut their doors or raise approximately $250,000.


As reported on CBS, “A film industry program can refund up to 80 percent of the cost to theater owners, but the payments are made gradually through fees based on the number of movies shown. To qualify for the help, theaters must have certain profit levels and show a minimum number of films, leaving many small operators without help.”

Never underestimate the power of your roll in your community. You can be the help these theaters need.

This past weekend David Newhoff and I teamed up with The Chatham Film Club to create commercials to help raise funds for The Crandell Theatre’s needed equipment. The commercials will debut at Film Columbia’sfilm festival this month in Chatham, NY.

Newhoff’s creative talents were used in the last round of fundraising when Film Columbia was collecting donations to buy the little family-owned theater. His series of “popcorn commercials” had the audiences giggling and opening their wallets to help. He brilliantly used recognizable locals in the ad, keeping costs low and community involvement high.

Having worked with Newhoff on his short film gone Elvis, we brainstormed new ideas. Writing a commercial is vastly different than writing a feature film, but when you can see it come to life just weeks later, and know you are helping your own neighborhood by doing so, the rewards are just as wonderful as seeing your film on screen. Well, maybe that would be a bit more fun, but you know what I mean.


In fact, the way I see it, the more screenwriters and indie filmmakers help their small town theaters stay alive, the more shot they have at getting their own films out to a wider audience.

Nothing serves your career and your karma better than paying it forward. But my motivations were also personal – I had my very first date at The Crandell Theatre to see Young Frankenstein in 1974. The theater looks the same as it did then: Bright marquise, red velvet curtains, balcony and the simplest snack stand around. There’s no way I’m letting this baby, or my memories, die.

I challenge you to approach your local theater and offer your help. After all, if theaters die, so do our dreams.

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