Friday, March 14, 2014

The other side of screenwriting.

I usually spend about 4 months of the year actually writing a screenplay, either feature or TV series pilots that get a little interest then get none. Well, one of them came back when a producer asked me to change it to be more like Homeland, the HBO series.

I told him that if I did that, it would be like Homeland.

He said yes, he'd like it to be like Homeland.

Then I said it would be Homeland and why would anyone want 2 Homelands. Didn't the producer thing the audiences would catch on?

Okay, I'm being sarcastic. And then he said he can't pay me for doing it anyways.

Those are the kinds of producers Hollywood is famous for.

But for the rest of the year I am doing presentations, proposals and sample screenplays.  Proposals take a lot of time but after 30 years of doing them, I have three basic proposals;

1. Low budget proposals with budgets under $100,000.
2. Medium budgets under $2 million.
3. Higher budgets around $5 - 10 million.

I have screenplays that could be made for $50-100 million but haven't gotten that far. 

So what goes into a proposal? 

You can find a lot of ideas and proposals on Linkedin, a website that I've often mentioned as "a bunch of wannabees who ask to be "friends" even though I have no idea who they are. It seems to be a version of "Like" in FB.
My proposals have now been pretty smart, having learned from a handful of proposals that producers have used on my projects. Emperor of Mars (EOM), the project I'm resurrecting (again!), was a combination of a $5 million budget and a $15 million budget. 

So what's the budget I am using?

$2.8 million.

What? After all that, I'm making it for 2.8? 

Yes, because of several things; the budget is low enough to let me direct it. I can get an Academy-award winning director to to it, but the budget would go up to over $5 million and we'd probably argue. He was already on board for one of the handful of proposals and is a good guy actually. 

And since I'm good at proposals, I wrote this new version of the EOM proposal. It deals with the history of the screenplay and the marketing. All of which is a best-guess at any time. But a pay-tv channel wants that information so I have to write it.

So what it adds up to over a year is that I spend far more time trying to get my screenplays made than writing them. And I also do something else; as I know how to use Apple's Final Cut Pro editing system, I am cutting trailers from my Ghostkeeper movie to add to the package going to the pay-tv people.

So, being a writer means that most of the writing that you'll do isn't about stories. And it's getting even tougher. The days of just being a writer are beginning to get more difficult.

(More about this Monday)

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