Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Specs, Specs, Specs and more Specs

It's summer, folks. Town is officially on vacation. There are still folks doing business here and there, movies are still coming out and all that, but the hardcore work of purchasing and developing movies has slowed waaaaaaay down. This means you need to be writing your ass off and getting your spec polished up for the first weekend after Labor Day which is one of the best spec weeks of the year. Folks are eager to read, they know they are going to get some time off for the Jewish High Holidays in the fall, and they need to justify their existence.

I am getting my producing projects ready for financiers. My plan is to submit to casting directors this month, get a good cast list together, visit agents starting in August (folks are bored and more prone to speculation), and then send the script in for attachments and start doing the rounds of financiers and distributors by September with my little package. I'm out to a casting director right now, but since I know I'm not ready to send it out anywhere I haven't pushed yet.

The important thing to remember during this packaging process is that "Town" is a moving target. I want the best actor for the piece who also isn't in actor-jail. Meaning, I don't need to get Johnny Depp to sign on to raise the $6-8 million I need for my film, but if I sign on Skeet Ulrich I probably will have to make the movie for $500,000. If you chase after someone just because you imagine (or are told) that a particular studio has them at the top of their casting "wish list" than you will end up making somebody else's movie and not your own. There is a time to draw the line, but short of someone who hasn't made a decent movie in 2 decades, or who audiences actively shy away from, a solid actor in a part that works for them is the best of all worlds.

I'm going to be doing some advance work with execs at distributors like Fox Searchlight and Warner Independent and Focus, introducing them to the work of my filmmaker (the short I blogged about last week). I call this "seeding" and do it no more than 3 months in advance of submitting. I like to give people at least 8 weeks to read and 4-6 weeks to watch something. As an exec, I aspired to get my turnaround down to 3 weeks, but reality and exhausation would push low-priority stuff to the back of the pile. The good thing is that there are two piles: one for tapes/dvds and one for scripts. I'd usually watch a short or two and read my scripts, then once or twice a week I'd watch an indie feature at least through the end of the first act. I also had a roomie who was a VP at another studio and a close friend who was a VP at a third studio and the average between the three of us was about 3 months to completely put a submission to bed.

Keep pushing. If you have a spec that's nearing the end of its life and you aren't hip deep in the next project you are behind the curve. If you are producing a spec that's going out, make sure you've got 18 months worth of savings or a good day job cuz you probably won't get paid before then in the best case scenario, if you are directing and you are attached to a spec that's about to go out be as social as possible, and if you have an actor attached to the project chat them and be friendly -- the strength of that relationship is what will get you through the making of the film.

In more personal news, I painted my bathroom this weekend and am going to paint the guest room today. I know, I should have finished the rewrite on my short script so I could send it out.... *Sigh* I ordered the Final Draft 7.1.2 udpate for myself and they had to mail it to me, and I couldn't find my latest copy of my script, and the formatting EXPLODED and I had to retype the damn thing and my dog HAD to go to the dog park, and...and...and.... Not buying it either, huh? OK, my new thing is to set a page amount per day for myself, no more Mrs. Nice Guy! Happy writing every body. If anyone wants to send a word of encouragement my way, or just one swift kick, it would be welcome!


Anonymous said...

Get busy writing cuz I want to hear about your project. If it's as cool to read as your blog then you've definitely got something good going.

By the way, whatever happened to Skeet Ulrich? He seemed poised for the A list after Scream. Why do some actors who seem to be on the verge of a big breakthrough not break through?

Anonymous said...

Skeet Ulrich: He moved with his wife to a 500 acre farm in Virginia, where they got married and had a set of twins, a boy and a girl. They are both 5 now. He voluntarily stepped away, prefering parenthood and the good life. He did appear in a few things, Miracles, the AWESOME tv show that ABC morons, I mean execs, cancelled before it even aired six episodes. Luckily you can get it on DVD, and it really is awesome -- okay, I'm more a fan of Miracles than Ulrich, but he was cool in it. Annnnyyyywaaaay, he will be back to the small screen in JERICHO, on CBS in September. I hope it is as good as Miracles, I loved that show.

P.S., he looks about as much like Johnny Depp now as Ernest Borgnine does.

Peace out!!!

writergurl said...

Oh, I hope my renovation project isn't what spurred on the sudden need to paint!

You know, you CAN hire painters... to paint. You CAN"T hire anyone to write your script but you... so get cracking!


The Film Diva said...

Funny you should say that -- I use to hire people to do everything for me, now I want to do everything myself (well, not my taxes). Besides I have this elaborate Frank Lloyd Wright stenciling idea for the border....