Thursday, June 22, 2006

News from the Front

Just came back from a premiere in Westwood. Good show, nice food, tons of people talking to me, at me and over me. My ears are still ringing. I don't normally go out to events like this anymore. When I was an exec there were like 4 a week I had to go to, and I hated that plastered smile, these pumps are killing me, please stop pitching me your stupid idea feeling. This time I went in blue jeans and a black sweater that I later remembered had a huge bleach hole eaten into the cuff.... Hee hee. Of course I didn't remember this until I saw it as I was shaking the hand of someone very high up at the studio that financed the show. Oh well, I'm trying to get jobs writing, not costume designing, right?

Anyway, I thought I'd post about an interesting conversation I had with a woman who runs an A-list (mostly) actor's company. She sold a one-line pitch to a studio I'm very familiar with and can't get them to move on hiring her writer. The hold-up centers around a few things that are happening in the business right now. One of them I mentioned in an earlier post -- studios want to see recent samples. If you are a working writer that means something that is already under contract, and 9 times out of 10 that script is under wraps on pain of death. Now, when I was an exec I got scripts that were under wraps all the time. I read SUPERMAN RETURNS, BATMAN BEGINS, SPIDERMAN, but I didn't tell folks I'd read them. I'd venture to say that I wouldn't have mentioned it to anybody unless I knew they were going to take that information to their grave. The writers on the those projects were sort of screwed, because there were definitely occasions when the head of the studio would hire my writers sight unseen, but on the bigger budget projects (meaning my movies where the writer's fee was going to go over $500,000), I had to have a sample.

Another reason this happens with increasing frequency is a function of the double and triple booking of writers by their reps. If you are lucky enough to have a studio fall in love with you, often your agent will try to force a blind deal or a multi-picture commitment. This sounds like a good thing (and money always has that ring of happiness to it, doesn't it?) but the net effect can be an overworked writer dancing to the off-key story tunes emanating from the head of the studio. It also can lead to a writer secretly taking projects at other studios and double-booking their own double-booked time. Greedy bastards.

So, what does this mean?

It means that even when you are working on a regular basis, you must keep a current sample that is either not under contract or that you are free to send out. And I mean current, current. The writers my producer friend mentioned tonight were all A-list players who'd phoned in one too many drafts and were no longer considered to be reliable writers thus fucking it up for everyone else.

*Sigh* If it ain't one thing it's another.

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