Friday, April 16, 2010

BREAKING INTO HOLLYWOOD PT 1: SAMPLES

I'm deep into the novel right now. The TV pilot I wrote last fall is out to producers and I'm getting some positive and some not-so-positive-but-don't-stop-writing-just-maybe-do-another-draft types of comments back. It's hard not to stop and go back to the pilot, but until I get answers back from the three big production companies that I'm most interested in, I've vowed to work on the book.

Hard to sit on my hands and not second-guess this plan, but it's important to stick with the plan, at least until it's clear that a course correction is necessary... which is what led me to this blog post.

What does it take to get some attention in this town?

I've blogged about this before (here, here, and a couple other places I'm too lazy to find. LOL) but now I'm going to get back into the nitty gritty of what types of samples, the numbers, the quality, the subject matter, all the good stuff that we, as writers, fumble around trying to figure out... sometimes for years. **Le Sigh**

Samples:

You need 'em. Don't disillusion yourself into thinking you can move out here with a hope and a pitch.

NOBODY IS BUYING PITCHES.

Those pitches you read about in the trades, or hear about on some blog somewhere, those pitches aren't real. They don't exist. They are FANTASY PITCHES. In today's marketplace, there may well be an idea or two IN A GIVEN YEAR that sells based entirely on its "hotness", but the vast majority of buyers are holding out for a package, an engine, something they can put their money on and defend around that long table, or maybe just to their boss, or their boss's boss. This means that even though a writer may not have a completed script, the pitches that are being purchased nowadays are essentially ready to go to script once the deal is inked. Sure, there might be some perfunctory passing around of outlines, etc. once the ball is rolling, but for the most part, buyers are demanding, and getting, fully worked out stories. This means a LOT of work has been put in before feet hit pavement.

It wasn't always like this, and for certain market segments there is some leeway, but for you, the novice writer, or maybe mid-career writer who is changing formats (TV to Film) or genres, the pitch without a celebrity attachment is basically just another way to work on spec 3-6 months and then face outlining on spec for 3 more months if people are interested, and THEN finally getting paid to draft... at which point you've listened to a lot of cooks tell you how to make the soup. Unappetizing if you ask me.

All of this assumes, of course, that you have at least ONE high-quality sample -- preferably one that's been purchased and/or produced -- but a well-liked spec can get you in the door for the meeting that leads to the opportunity to pitch -- again, more free work you are giving away but some folks like to do that....

There are a lot of fair to middling folks out there in development land. They will believe that your sample is the second coming. DO NOT TRUST THEM. You're sample may well BE the second coming, trumpets, horseman, many-headed beasts, the whole nine, KEEP WRITING. As writers, we have the unique advantage of being able to make more acreage. If you have a sample that gets a strong response, great, it will make selling your next script easier. A writer's power lies in the ability to generate and execute story. At some point, a buyer will realize that you are an endless supply of ideas that have been committed to paper in script form, and will reward you with a wonderful overhead deal like the ones enjoyed by the big A-List writers (who are coincidentally all White men, but that's a post for another day...). Until that deal is signed, KEEP WRITING.

I know I sound like a broken record here, but, seriously, KEEP WRITING. Write script after script. When your newly acquired agents call you to pitch job opportunities, imagine their delight when you tell them you have another script that will be ready soon. Trust me, they will piss themselves with delight. As will your producer friends who have just found a nice foreign financier and need something to wrap a check around.

WHAT SHOULD YOU BE WRITING?

Hmm... it's pretty late and I have a chapter to finish, so I'm going to leave off here and write a lengthier post after I talk to a few folks. Remember: KEEP WRITING.

3 comments:

Prometheus said...

Hey Film Diva,

I was checking out your blog after randomly finding it when looking up sample Query letters (also, related to that, i'm in NJ and am half terrified of cold calling - i write, but my people-skills blow! Any ideas?)

You're much further along the pipeline than I am, but I recognize the excitement and frustrations that you've gone through, and hopefully I'll learn something from
you along the way.

Good luck with the novel! You seem like you've been consistently working hard for a long time. Keep at it! And thanks for sharing!

Thomas Rufer said...

So, where do you stand now? Any news?

The Film Diva said...

I haven't been checking the blog for a very long time, for which, I apologize.

@Prometheus -- I would work on your cold-calling skills since you are on the other side of the country, but if your sample is strong enough that will come along as people contact you.

@Thomas -- I'm out with a few pitches now, the pilot I was out with last spring is still circling and bringing back queries and an almost gig (waiting for a rights deal to close so I can get hired to work on an adaptation).

I'll post a longer blog soon, but I have to get this chapter done. The book got some very strong feedback from an editor this fall, but I have to re-work the end.... As always... still writing. LOL.