I have a screenplay that I am currently peddling and want to know what the ramifications of putting the finished SP on my web / blog. I am not overly worried about somebody stealing it but I don’t think many prospective prodcos would be happy at the thought of the script being out in the public forum.
Your instincts are correct, Gary. There is no good reason to post your screenplay on your weblog while you are marketing it to mainstream Hollywood. If the script is exceptionally good, it will circulate quickly anyway through the industry by being shared with, demanded by, slipped to and stolen for everyone who can get his or her hands on it. Good screenplays get around fast – whether they sell or not. Having people ask for your script is always good for you. Industry insiders are much more likely to remember writers whose scripts they have requested than those whose they are forced to read.
Even if it does not get that kind of reaction, you want to control access to your writing – at least while you’re breaking in. If you want someone to read it – you need to send it to her (provided she has agreed to accept it). If she won’t read it that way, she certainly will not read it on your weblog. In addition, posting your script will make you look like a complete amateur.
The last thing to say about this is, with all the rules, there really are no rules. While I think you are enormously more likely to damage the prospect of a sale by posting your script, at least a sale to mainstream Hollywood, you could be the first one to make a sale because of it. Your script might ignite an immediate buzz – your blog could get a million hits a day – and the phone could start ringing off the hook. Extremely, extremely unlikely – but weirder things have happened.
If you don’t yet have an agent or manager, here’s a quick list of some things you need to know.
1. Many writers get their first breaks without an agent or manager, but having the right agent and/or manager sure helps.
2. The best and only way to find the right agent and/or manager is to write very well. Good writing always attracts attention. Attention gets you to a good agent and/or manager. If you don’t know how that works, you probably haven’t been writing enough yet.
3. The best way to submit material to an agent or manager is through a referral. The best way to get a referral is to write well. (See previous item.)
4. Real agents don’t charge to read your material. Run away from the ones who do.
5. In Hollywood, agents are regulated by law and union agreement. They charge a 10% commission to shop your scripts. You only pay if the script sells.
6. Managers are different than agents. Managers are not regulated by law or union contract. Their fees vary, but real managers also only get paid if the script sells.
7. Technically, managers are not allowed to solicit employment for you, but they manage your career. In practice, managers always solicit employment for you.
8. Like a good agent, a good manager is a great ally, but anyone can call him or herself a manager. Make sure the manager has clients who sell scripts or get writing assignments on a regular basis.
9. Real managers also do not charge fees to read your material. Run away from ones who do.
Don’t freak on the agent/manager thing. Just work on the writing. The agent/manager will come.
How do you feel choice of subject matter influences commercial success. Do you think Hollywood is more interested in another LETHAL WEAPON or SCREAM 3 rather than another AMERICAN BEAUTY?
If you were starting out–what genre would you write for spec?
That’s really three separate questions, so here are three answers:
How does choice of subject matter influence commercial success?
Subject matter per se has little to do with commercial success. Unlikely subjects often turn into successful movies. E.G. “Shindler’s List” (Holocaust), “A Beautiful Mind” (life of an obscure – at least to the public – economist), “Sideways” (wine tasting). The real question for the spec writer (and probably any writer) is whether you can make the subject accessible to your audience. If you desire to write for mainstream Hollywood, then you want the subject to be accessible to mainstream audiences. At the risk of getting a parade of horrible subject matters, I can say that there is almost no subject that, with the right story treatment, cannot be used to create a marketable spec screenplay.
That having been said, the more uncomfortable the subject matter, the more difficult you may find it to create the right story treatment. You will walk a fine line between honoring the subject matter and telling an accessible story.
Do you think Hollywood is more interested in another LETHAL WEAPON or SCREAM 3 rather than another AMERICAN BEAUTY? Continue reading “WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE?”
In commenting on another post, Mark (last name unknown) shared with us that he is eight years out of a UCLA MFA in screenwriting, has a large body of scripts and has four of them currently in the market. He expressed his frustration at being a starving artist, but says:
“I wrote because I’m a writer, and to get good at it…you gotta write.
I wish more so called writers realized this, but they don’t.
Sad thing…some of those that don’t are selling scripts and writing in Hollywood now, and are part of the reason there’s so much junk being made.”
First, hats off for hanging in, Mark. A lot of aspiring writers are envious of your degree and your ability to focus on your writing. Good luck with the scripts currently out in the market. I picked out your comment because it fits in exactly with the post I’ve been working on and helped me a great deal to focus it.
As a pre-amble, I want to say for serious writers who have been at it awhile and are looking for a break, the answer is frequently to bring the writing up a notch. Keep in mind, I’m not saying Mark needs to do this. I haven’t read his writing. Hopefully, we’ll read about him in the trades next week with three out of the four scripts having been picked up in huge sales. What I am saying is that, if you work hard at your writing, you circulate it regularly in the mainstream Hollywood community, and still it’s not somehow getting real attention (e.g. sales, options, significant mainstream attachments of producers or other real objective elements that establish some degree of acceptance – and don’t fool yourself, you know the difference between real attachments and fluff), then you should consider what you need to do to the writing to get to the next level in your career.
No surprise, I have a suggestion on where you might turn for an answer. Read (or reread, as the case may be) Terry Rossio’s brilliant columns at Wordplayer. Not just a few of them, but all of them. Terry Rossio and his partner Ted Elliott are two prolific screenwriters at the top of their game. They’ve done it all and love to share, in eloquent and extremely helpful terms, the secrets to their success. To me, these columns are particularly useful to writers who’ve already been at it a while, writers who have a solid appreciation for the challenges of writing and a burning desire to get better. Consider the columns an advanced course for turning good writers into great writers.
But enough kissing up to Terry. That’s not really the purpose of this post. Rather, the purpose is to talk about junk screenplays. Mark expressed a frustration that is common, and understandable, among writers at Mark’s level. Namely, that crappy writers seem to get breaks when serious writers work for years without them. There is no question that every producer in town is inundated with total garbage scripts. They clog the system and make it hard to get any script even looked at.
But that’s the business –
and that’s not who we’re competing with. Continue reading “COMPETING WITH JUNK”
I would add that one of the many reasons “separated rights” are important for emerging writers is that, in addition to WGA minimum requirements, many negotiated terms of the writer’s contract are sometimes keyed to a determination of “separated rights.” For example, the amount of contingent compensation (money you get if the film is actually made), amount of and/or right to pay for sequels (even if you don’t write them), and amount of and/or right to pay for television series based on the movie are often impacted by whether you have separated rights.
Who determines which writer has separated rights? The WGA.
What does that mean, “Is it a movie?” We hear it in pitch meetings, from producers and agents, really all over the place. It is a Sword of Damocles used to fend of approaching concepts. The question isn’t really even a question. It is the listener’s assertion that your idea/script/pitch is not worthy of a 60 million dollar investment from the listener’s studio or from anyone else’s. It is a pronouncement that your idea fails to contain some basic element contained in every movie that should ever have been made and every movie that should ever be made in the future. The very question itself suggests that your concept should be taken out with the trash. When you hear, “But is it a movie?”, pack your bags, make nice for the next time, and get on the bus home.
But what is missing from your idea/pitch/spec that makes it not “a movie”?
This criticism is a particularly tough one. First, any joe can use it and mean anything he or she wants. Sometimes, it’s used just to avoid telling you the hard truth about your script, pitch or idea. Remember, producers aren’t out there to train you. They want to find the next picture and get it made. Second, to a large degree, execs who use this do so specifically to avoid thinking in terms of specific analysis. Something like, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. That’s all I can tell you.”
So what do you do if you begin to get this response? Look at your story. Is it clear enough, compelling enough? Is your presentation being understood? Why? Because maybe, just maybe, the exec is right about your pitch. It isn’t yet a movie.
Good discussion over at johnaugust.com right now on when to turn down rewrite work….