Monday, January 12, 2015

I wrote the damn thing so how can I sell it?

Okay, got your attention.

Didn't watch the Golden Globe awards, don't really care for most of the movies and haven't seen any of the TV series that won. I think Nightcrawlers is the best film this year.

 The previous blog talked about working for free and where does it get you, more or less. The cold, hard facts are these;

There are fewer agents than when I arrived here in LA in 1995. This is due to a bunch of the big boys like Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris/Endeavor, United Talent Agency, International Artists Managementy (ICM) and arguably Paradigm.

What did they do?

They began gobbling up the smaller agencies, taking the best talent and throwing out any agents and or talent (I hate that term) that wasn't making money. Big money. There were a lot of agents out on the street besides talent, some became managers and others just disappeared.

Where does the writer come in?

Like everything now, you have to be established before you can get some attention.

But you might ask, how can I get established if I don't have any credits?

Answer: Sell a screenplay for half a million dollars.

Well, that's the easy way but it's not going to help the hungry person who just graduated from some film courses like UCLA, USC, NYU and AFI and a whole bunch of other universities that seem to be growing with film courses. 

And if you think that's a head start, it really isn't. Unless you already have contacts. But that goes back to how I get contacts and credits if I don't know anybody. I know several people who went to USC among others who still haven't been able to find an agent or a manager or, for that matter, anyone who would read it.

It was a lot easier in some ways for me twenty-five years ago coming to LA. I even had an agent BEFORE I arrived. But I was coming from a couple of movies in Canada and even that didn't carry much weight.

This business is always hard, no matter how long you stay in it. A director friend complains about how bad the new writers are and how the kids now don't know a good film from a bad film.

I disagree with that, there were a lot of bad movies from the very beginning. The only difference now is that those bad films cost a lot more than the old bad films.

So how can you break in?

Here's an excerpt from my book "Working Writer's Screenplay" from the best way down to the only way left:

1. Have someone famous recommend you. Even semi-famous works. It would be great if they were directors, producers and/or actors but sometimes a grip or even a day player or an assistant camera person might know a reasonably famous movie person. I got in through a director who know a writer friend of mine who recommended me. Unlike most writers my friend shared the director who led to my first agent.

2. Have someone you know who works at an agency. If not someone who knows someone that works at an agency.

3. Win a Nichols award run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the Oscar people). They probably get a few thousand entries. Yes, a few thousand. 

4. If you didn't win or even get entered into the Nichols, then enter as many screenwriting competitions as you can afford. Most of these competitions are just scams to get money from aspiring writers but, if you win even a small award, it will help.

5. And finally, the hardest way. This means emailing, calling, texting, doing anything to try to get someone to read your screenplay. And this would include anyone who's not famous but has connections.

Finally, never give up. Ever. Someone will be out there waiting to read your screenplay, you just have to find them. One writer I knew had never sold his screenplay and was waiting for that big break anyday. He refused to give it to low-level producers instead he was waiting for Paramount or Fox to call.

He's still waiting. 

Never wait for someone to call. Even if they have your script, the only time you don't show it, is when someone puts some money down.

And most of the time, when you get someone to read your screenplay, the second thing they will say are five famous words --

"What else have you got?"

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