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August 27, 2008

Getting the Mail

I've always loved getting the mail. I think this reveals the optimist that I truly am. Because as often as it's filled with bills and other junk... I always know that there could be this total and complete gem that I need to mine for. I know it's only a matter of time, but I will get it!

So it's not a real exaggeration to say that one of the most difficult things about being away for so long is not getting mail for more than a month. It's emotionally painful. But in some ways that suffering was redeemed because today I got to go through a huge backlog of mail.

Oh, and the gems that I found!

First and foremost, the most prestigious screenwriting competition in the world - the Nicholls Fellowship - had sent out their decisions in late July. I had heard from friends in California that they had gotten their notices, but I merely had to wait to find out what my status was, because nothing was posted online. It was all done through postal mail. If you have any idea how curious I am, you'll know how much this was killing me.

Now I believe in maximizing my chances, and I also cannot choose between my scripts any more than I can choose between my children. (OK, that's not completely true, two of the scripts I've written I've basically disowned!)

I tell you this to explain why I submitted 5 scripts to the competition. Yes, 5. That might seem like overkill, but you never know which script will resonate with a reader.

So I found 5 envelopes from Nicholls, each holding the sealed fate of a different screenplay. They are all thin. That can't be good!

This is perhaps a good time to explain that even though I'm early in my writing career, I have already developed the skill to keep my expectations low. Even when you're good, even if you're a genius,. you'll get rejected far more than you get accepted. So I fully expected each of these envelopes to politely thank me for entering and encourage me to keep writing while informing me that the competition was especially good this year and unfortunately I didn't make the cut. How does that mix with me being an optimist? It just does. I know that sometime in the future something awesome will happen, but for each specific moment or opportunity I do my very best to keep expectations way low.

The first four envelopes were exactly in line with my expectations. Retro Bank, The Black Death, Well Adjusted Boy, Black Family Singers... all thrown by the wayside unceremoniously. Well, I think... I'll show them, some day!

But then the last envelope, not unlike a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I rip it open and... the writing is different. I notice this before I even notice what it says. The letter looks different. And in fact, my Harriet Tubman epic sweeping historical script (It's titled Her 14th Mission)... it was plucked from more 5,224 screenplays as one of the 261 screenplays to make the Quarterfinal Round!

Yippee, but it doesn't end there! As I continue to make my way through the heap of mail, I find one more letter sent from my good friend Nicholl. This one informs me that I made it to the next round, the round of 114, the Semifinal Round. The last round before the actual 10 Finalists!

This is officially a BIG DEAL. This is the most respected competition around, and producers and agents care very much about the writers that place. I'm still amazed to find out so late that I'm in that group! I had basically assumed that because I hadn't heard from an agent or producer yet that I didn't make it, but come to find out Nicholl doesn't distribute the list of winners until October.

OK, so yes that's amazing of course. But that's not all.

I also found a letter from the company that I do consulting services through telling me I had a $1K paycheck that I never cashed, and would I like them to send me a new one? Well, yes sir!

And the US Government told me that I never cashed a tax refund in the amount of $6K, and sent me that check again. (I somehow must have huge problems cashing checks... and this $6K one really has thrown me, but I called and verified it and it's for real.)

And I found out that Her 14th Mission and another script of mine, The Black Death, both made it into the second round of the Austin Film Festival, which meant they were in the top 10% of the 4000 scripts submitted to that competition.

SO yes, of course I got all the bills and maybe even a random Disconnect Notice... but the good very much outweighed the bad!

I don't know how I forgot to include this, probably the best thing to come in the mail out of everything!


Posted by jason on August 27, 2008 01:17 PM


Jase--that is AWESOME!!!!

I get happy when I find a $10 bill on the ground but this--well, this is WAY better!

Good news just keeps coming, and really makes all the disappointments between worth it!

Posted by: jessica on August 27, 2008 01:54 PM

Jason i am SOOO excited for you!! You better have that toby pic framed and hung up on the wall! I am so jealous you have that but happy for you at the same time......kinda.

Posted by: Jenna on August 27, 2008 03:27 PM

Congrats....it's all starting to come together..but then your fans back home never had a doubt!!!! You rock!

P.S...I'll take those uncashed checks....straight to my bank :)

Posted by: Heidi on August 27, 2008 04:04 PM

Hahahaha. Awesome.

Posted by: Jessica on August 27, 2008 04:16 PM

Oh, Jase......what a wonderful day you are having!!!! I'm so excited! And let's not forget that this movie script was Rebekah's idea! Congratulations!!!!!

And those uncashed checks! Maybe you left some treasure at our house too that you don't remember :) I'm going to start looking right now!

Posted by: Mom on August 27, 2008 04:47 PM

Whoa...the final goal in the final soccor game, you get to see Darby, and now all this fantastic news! Well, sir, looks like the Man Upstairs is throwing you a few blessings. I am totally, totally delighted for you! You Go, Jase!

Posted by: Pop on August 27, 2008 07:20 PM

Jase!! That is SO AMAZING!! Congratulations! Yay, God!!

Posted by: kathiek on August 27, 2008 09:03 PM

WOW, not a bad homecoming!

Posted by: Jonathan on August 27, 2008 11:50 PM

yeah, maybe God likes me or something...

Posted by: jason on August 28, 2008 01:43 AM

nice homecoming. what did you do for Tobey Maguire?

Posted by: jason chu on August 28, 2008 02:22 AM

I interned at his production company... it was a great experience.

Posted by: jason on August 28, 2008 02:33 AM

Q. Who reads in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds?

A. Selected industry professionals read the scripts that make the quarterfinal round, two reads by two different judges for each script. Academy members read the scripts that make the semifinal round.

Q. Are those Academy members producers, actors and writers?

A. Producers, actors, writers and other motion picture professionals. Judges are drawn from a number of Academy branches, covering all aspects of the creative and production process.

Wow, man, that is awesome! Congrats!

Posted by: SnakeMan on August 28, 2008 08:08 AM

Why did Tobey Maguire send you a sign photo?

and congratsblahblah.....

Posted by: paul on August 29, 2008 03:13 AM

jase just said a few comments up--he interned at his production company, Maguire:-)

Posted by: Anonymous on August 29, 2008 05:03 AM

Jason, you are hilarious. That is awesome news all around. Can't wait until October!

Posted by: Chris on August 29, 2008 07:11 AM

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