THE TERRIBLE JOB OF PRODUCER

Someone who uses various names and claims to be from various places asks more than once:

What does Hollywood really think of companies that offer services like InkTip?

The best answer to that is to explain how producers find material. One critical task of the producer is to find or develop quality producible screenplays. This is an extremely difficult and costly job and one that will make or break a company. Keep in mind the following formula:

# of screenplays offered to each producer = Infinite
% of screenplays that are unproducible = 99.9%
Labor required to evaluate each screenplay = 3 hours
Cost of labor = $75+ per screenplay plus executive time
Cost of finding a producible screenplay = substantial

As that formula sinks in, you can see that the job of finding material is a job of carefully using resources. If a producer were to simply evaluate every script that was offered, most producers would go broke before ever finding a quality script. Producers overcome this obvious problem by using filters.

The most recognizable filters are agents and managers. The agents and managers have presumably already filtered out many of the garbage scripts. Therefore, if a producer limits its consideration to scripts that come from an agent or manager, the chances of finding a quality script are higher. However, the agent game is a challenge for the producer, too. First, most agents and managers are not very good filters. They often push inferior material. Second, the agents and managers who are good filters carefully mete out material and usually submit quality scripts simultaneously to multiple producers. The result is that producers often compete for the few strong pieces of material in the market. Well-funded producers have the ability to compete effectively in this environment, but most producers do not.

Other common filters are personal relationships. Producers and their executives develop personal relationships with reliable screenplay sources, whether they be directly with a small number of writers or with a select circle of agents and managers who will pass on quality material prior to submitting it in the open market. This, too, increases the odds of finding quality material with the least amount of resources and this is the most common way material is acquired in Hollywood.

Another potential filter, and the one being urged by services such as InkTip, is the Internet. Some producers have decided for one reason or another that looking through lists of log lines from completely unknown writers for hours is somehow cost effective. The characteristics of material on a service like InkTip are that a higher percentage of it is unproducible (as in almost all of it), but a higher percentage of it is also unknown and, therefore, not subject to market competition. In other words, InkTip is a place where a producer might find that very rare diamond-in-the-rough no one else has spotted. However, once a producer selects your log line hoping to find the diamond-in-the-rough, the producer still has to expend considerable resources to read your script – or at least a small portion of your script – to evaluate it. This substantially limits the value of InkTip to most producers.

The reasons why a producer might actually spend resources evaluating log-lines in a computer database like InkTip are: (1) the producer is looking for specific content; (2) the producer does not like to read screenplays; (3) the producer has no real resources, e.g. no paid readers to read tons of scripts, (4) the producer lacks resources to compete on the open market, or (5) the producer has so many resources that spending some of it on the very unlikely chance of finding a producible script on InkTip or other services is worth the expense. A review of the “success stories” on InkTip’s website suggests that most of the producers who acquire material through InkTip fall into categories 2,3 and 4.

Accordingly, services like InkTip do have a small place in the market. However, keeping in mind that the number of screenplays registered with InkTip or any similar service is likely enormous, the likelihood of your screenplay being randomly selected by a producer who actually has the ability to pay you money for the script and/or get your script turned into a movie is about as high as the likelihood of a producer actually finding a producible script on such a service. It is an extreme, extreme long-shot.

The other issue to consider with a service like InkTip is that it’s philosophy runs counter to conventional wisdom – at least an agent’s conventional wisdom – which is that access to your writing (especially if you can actually write a professional quality script) should be highly controlled so that it is a desired commodity. Once your script is on InkTip, it is not controlled at all. Anyone who meets a few basic criteria has access to it. This tends to devalue it. However, for emerging writers who have no access to producers in the first place, especially out-of-town writers, this is not a controlling issue.

So what does all this mean? Should you or should you not use a service like InkTip? I don’t know. Now that you can make an informed decision, that’s pretty much up to you.


Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted September 2, 2006 by TW in category The Business

60 thoughts on “THE TERRIBLE JOB OF PRODUCER

  1. George L

    Scriptwriting is like credit: you have to have a good debt record to borrow money. It’s a Catch 22. You need a good agent to get major studio reads, but agents only want moneymakers. So, for the breakout writer, any and all connections in film are important–if nothing else, to get good, honest industry perspective on what you’re writing. Even with a complex script, it seems the old military adage applies: KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Make sure anyone can understand your script on the main level, even if you build in deeper levels of meaning that some viewers might miss. I’m just getting started on shopping a script around, and I think the discussion on this board is very helpful. It’s great to be able to sit in on the experience of so many people–especially if they’re honest.

  2. Nora

    This is Awesomo! I was looking for the tribe of Wannabe Screenwriters and Vidiots, and here you all are!
    Hollywood is not an evil place, nor is it a ghost town, but it is a big bad city of Pimps and Whores, and don’t get sucked in. I went to Hollywood once and instead of becoming a star, I became a black hole in space.
    There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
    You will attract the attention of some high=powered Entertainment Attorney from Beverly Hills and you will
    eventually get paid.
    I know. I’m writing a script about it, called Rock of Vampyre.

  3. Les Brennan

    I have been writing high concept spec scripts for 10 years and live near L.A…. Know producer’s, prod-co’s, A list actors etc. been in pre-production, have had many different agents both west and east. Plus, nepotism furns high in L.A….conclusion: move on to something worth while and enjoy your life or write for a local theatrical company, you’ll be more satisfied or join a community writer’s circle which is what sci- fi writer Ray Bradbury did. I have extensive writing credential’s in classical literature. A director/producer once told me, it’s not who you know but does the who you know like you. Most produced scripts are geared in violence and horror towards young people and border on mental illness rather than good creative writing scripts.

  4. Julian

    If your formula were remotely true, I wouldn’t have a career. There is no way you’ve ever worked in development at a studio or a small indi production company. Low level interns and employees do first-run coverage. Then maybe a “Head of Development” looks at it (note: a HOD is generally a glorified term for a development ASSISTANT underneath actual executives and/or producers, and they rarely get paid more than 30 bucks an hour).

    So by the time 80+% of the fodder gets sifted out, the company has spent about $30 per script that DOES make it through (most readers stop after page 10 if it’s horrible, which cuts a lot of time).

    PROOF: If the cost was that substantial then companies like Grindstone wouldn’t have enough content to distribute.

    This is a very negative article and just isn’t that true.

  5. Patricia Poulos

    Dear all,

    I am a writer from OZ.

    I have written a number of scripts and posted them on Inktip and entered a number of Festivals in which I have received nominations. I do not have an agent or manager and am not sure how to go about getting one as it is nearly impossible from down-under to physically attend all the festivals in which I have received my nominations.

    I would appreciate any assistance.

    Thank you.

  6. tpb

    One of the most lucrative businesses women will go into could be the creation of accessories.
    A very convenient method to search for things about the web
    is to merely speak your research term. The vulnerability has apparently been
    fixed because the interview with Russo came about, and usernames are again safe
    and secure.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>