Saturday, August 19, 2006


Three weeks ago Joe Dante's Renfield Productions requested my script without representation. After I pissed my pants, I sent it in with a very professional and short "thank you". If you were in my shoes, how would you proceed? Would you follow up after a period of time or just be patient for a response? I've heard all the customary suggestions, but I'm curious, with your savvy and knowledge, how you would handle the situation?

Follow-up is imperative. It’s important to give you peace of mind, but it’s also important to let those to whom you submitted the script know you’re serious and expect some sort of response. With all the submissions agencies and prodcos receive, scripts will fall by the wayside, get lost or discarded, so it’s reasonable to call or drop an e-mail to check on the status of the script. After (about) a month and a half of waiting, a polite follow-up is perfectly acceptable, then follow-up at two-three week intervals. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Personally speaking, follow-up calls and e-mails help to keep me organized and remind me what I need to respond to. Following up is especially important when you’re a gnat on the producer's radar and your project is at the very bottom of the pile.


I realize that Hollywood is a youth driven culture. But does this apply to writers as well? Will agents/managers be willing to work with someone over 45 or 50 if they are trying to break in as writers?

Hollywood is definitely youth-oriented for those trying to break into the business. Agents and managers will make their own decisions on who they want to represent and why. Ultimately, they are looking for talent that understands the marketplace and can sustain a career. I suspect if a fifty-year-old pitched SNAKES ON A PLANE, he might have landed a deal regardless of his age. But how many fifty-year-olds want to write SNAKES ON A PLANE? I think it comes down to “voice” rather than appearance. If the writer’s voice is one that resonates with what agents and managers think they can sell, age is not much of an obstacle.


My writing partner and I (both Canadians living up in British Columbia) have had a small agent in LA for the past several years. The last script we wrote was a comedy/fantasy called "Honeymoon Falls". In it, the protaganist uses a certain device (I don't know how specific you want me to get, but it was a magic remote-control) to transport her into the "real" world of her favourite soap opera which is just about the be cancelled. My partner and I just saw Adam Sandlar's "Click" the other night - in it, he uses a magic remote-control to control time. When our agent shopped "Honeymoon Falls" around a year or so ago, we got some very positive comments (even creating a little bit of a buzz on some of the tracking boards), but alas, no option/sale. My question is - based on the success of "Click", should we try (for lack of a better word) "re-pitching" Honeymoon Falls, this time focusing on the similarities to "Click" - even though the similarities begin and end with the "plot device" of the magic remote control. I'm familiar with the Hollywood mantra of "Give me the same thing, but different!" In this case, we DO have the "same thing", and it IS different!

If you read the last blog entry, you’ll note a list of loglines all revolving around a similar concept, so the obstacle may not be the gimmick of a remote control – especially since CLICK earned over 130 million at the domestic box-office. However, the real obstacle to marketing the script could be the fact that it’s already made the rounds and ended up homeless. However, you and your rep can discuss new strategies to send out the script and try to use the success of CLICK to your advantage. “HONEYMOON FALLS is like CLICK meets SOAPDISH” (or whatever). You may need to do a rewrite or polish and even consider changing the title to give it a whole new look.


I'm hoping you can help with advice/referral. I've got a very solid thriller screenplay that Andre Royo (an actor on HBO's 'The Wire') wants to produce. He's taking it to his contacts like Andrew Lauren, Carl Franklin, Peter Medak and others. I'm wondering what I can do to capitalize on these connections and this whole process. Even if the script doesn't sell, how can leverage this exposure? Also, with this script and the short film I recently wrote/directed, I think I'm a viable candidate for assignment work. Is there anyone you know of looking for new talent? I'm finishing up a really strong script about an FBI agent who goes undercover in a corrupt prison to hunt a serial killer.

Almost every writer at any given time has his script somewhere with someone who’s “interested.” I never hear a writer say, “No one is interested in my script.” Even though that’s more than likely the realistic scenario for most writers in town. The business is about buzz and hype. (I love the likes of, ‘Ron Howard has my script,’ which really means it’s in the readers' pool. There’s nothing wrong with the reader’s pool, by the way. I just appreciate the spin.) Recently, I spoke to a writer who told me his script was with so-and-so producer and how he loved it and was taking it to the studio. I ended up having lunch with that producer and in small talk I mentioned the writer and the script. The producer didn’t read the script but did review the coverage, which gave the project a lukewarm reception. It seemed unlikely he would be taking it to the studio. Whether the producer was blowing heaven up the writer’s ass or the writer was blowing it up my ass remains to be seen, but the point is that there’s all sorts of fairy tales being spun in town. (The successful players in show biz detect bullshit - while their own bullshit goes undetected.) With everyone knee-high in “spin,” it takes some very serious buzz to excite an agent, manager or executive. Is your news enough to create interest and excitement in your talent? Probably not. The best way to leverage this opportunity is through the people that read the script (the Carl Franklins and Peter Medaks). Hopefully, the script will open some doors, which will lead to other doors. Writing UTA a query letter informing them that Carl Franklin is reading your script means nothing, but getting Carl Franklin to make a call to UTA on your behalf means a lot. And the truth is if the material is that good, he very well may. If it isn’t as good as you believe it to be, then you’ll know soon enough. Everyone is looking for new talent. But there are more people looking for talent than there is talent. The fact that you’ve written a screenplay or directed a (short) movie doesn’t mean you’ve written a screenplay or directed a movie – which is why most cannot get much farther than the query letter stage. Use the opportunities available to you first. Learn to exploit those and then allow that momentum to carry you onward.


Your recent post of Halle's and Mona's got me thinking some more about something that continuously gets thrown my way. In the meetings I've managed to garner (living in Vancouver...yet to break South down the I-5), I have done decently well at gaining some working relationships, some interest and a job or two. But this is what is so often said to me: "We really like your style and think your dialogue is great, but we'd like you to work on some different projects with us." And then we move along to either them pitching me a comedy, family movie, etc., while the majority of my samples are psychological thrillers and/or sci-fi. I realize the task is to be able to apply myself to any form I can manage and do it to the best of my abilities, but to take a selfish tone for a minute I can't help but wish to be asked to continue work on a sci-fi or something more “me.” Without pitching my specs your way, would you think this was a result of throwing them a Jocelyn? Is it a genre thing? I noticed in your post (and countless others that report sales) that my preferred genres aren't in the highest of demand, so is it the concepts aren't high concept enough or is it that (assuming a script is written well) one can struggle trying to show off a Mona, and not a Halle?

Most writers earn a living on work-for-hires, so the fact that producers want to hire you to write a project for them instead of buying your script is status quo. It is a bit odd that they want to hire you for genres that you’ve shown no interest or proficiency. It’s impossible for me to guess what they’re thinking. It is entirely possible that you written a Mona and not a Halle, which would turn them on to your writing – but not necessarily the script (which could be a tough sell for them). I find it hard to believe that a producer would want to hire you based on a bad script – though it certainly happens. But I don’t think it really matters. If a producer wants to pay you to write a screenplay, you have succeeded (even if it’s in a small way). I think the “Halle/Jocelyn/Mona” philosophy needs to be carefully considered if there is a profound lack of interest in your projects. That hardly seems to be your situation. If what they pitch fails to interest you, you have the power to “pass” on the project.


In your blog title "Hallewood" you say, "My wife, on occasion, will ask the dreaded question, 'Honey, am I as good looking as Halle Berry.' My reply is, 'If you were, we wouldn't be on opposite ends of the couch.'" I don't know what your wife looks like but she might be better off at the other end of the couch since you're no George Clooney!

George Goony would be more appropriate. I've always likened myself to the "Scarecrow" in THE WIZARD OF OZ - only he's a better dresser. You'll be happy to know that I ran the quote by my wife before publishing it. She has an excellent sense of humor (a must to exchange vows with me) and gave me her blessings.

Send questions to

Any mail received to this account - including query letters and solicitations from Nigerian barristers - may be used for publication on this blog.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Blog Counter