Monday, June 29, 2015

Who wants your screenplay part 3

I think this is the first 3-part blog I've done, with the exception of the TV series that took about a dozen or more posts. It's a good read by the way. 

So, who wants what kind of scripts are "they" looking for these days. I've already told you how impossible it is to get a screenplay but those of you who don't listen will probably find a way.

One of the biggest obstacles is that nobody knows you (at least most of you) and while that wasn't a deterrent in the "old days", it sure the hell is for today. Unless you just won the Oscar or the Nichol's Award, you are nothing in an agent's eye. It's really unfair but now they want hot writers rather than unknowns. 

In other words, they want you to be already famous.

This is the market for what I see as what you should be writing for and if you have no agent. And I repeat again, try to find a partner, either a writing partner or someone who wants to be a director or better, wants to be a producer.

1. An indie film screenplay with no name actors. It should be a small film in many ways, we're talking four people in a car or four people in a house. If there's action, make it really small i.e. he hits his fist on his car. How about four people locked in a school. Lots of story there.

2. An indie film with a semi-name that will sell the movie. This brings you a budget as low as $500,000. Maybe even lower. The semi-name could be an actor who's not as big as he/she used to be. You can get pretty good names for $1000/day. Write the semi-name character in for 2 days and you've got a star and a screenplay and it's a go.

3. A Hallmark movie. I've talked a lot about this because it's the biggest market for movies under $1 million although the can go higher but that comes from name writers or writers they know. Hallmark is best explained like this; if you're writing a screenplay it should have this element; A person could walk into a living room when a Hallmark movie is on and they won't feel embarrassed or awkward. 

Yeah, I know it ain't Tarentino. But you're not him either. You can get away with a good script if you watch a few Hallmarks. Naturally the big gorilla is Christmas movies, I think there's probably a thousand or more Christmas movies. But they keep coming.

There's also Lifetime which is like Hallmark in terms of melodrama and very big on bad things happening to teens and women. 

4. Writing a script like The Theory of Everything would get you into the big dramatic feature film and it's possible, highly unlikely but possible. You also have to be a hell of a good writer and most likely English. I have a screenplay called Secrets of The Salmon, a heavy drama that Jody Foster's company liked and was late optioned by ABC. The title refers to a woman coming back to her home town and the family she ran away from.

And you really have to know someone big in the industry.

5. TV series. This is an up and down job. Right now everyone from HBO to NBC to Netflix are looking for the next Orange is The New Black, and so they are looking for anyone who has been a showrunner on any past series. In other words they don't want to look at or listen to anyone who's never done series. 

TV especially is built for partners. Remember my last blog? You can get by without a partner in film but in TV you need someone who's really got more experience than you. 

6. The Big Movies; Those are pretty much taken up by studio regulars and if a neophyte gets in it's either they have a friend in the business or they have photos of an executive doing something horrible. And this is the place where more than one writer gets a job, I've heard of one screenplay that was re-written by 23 writers. 

Yes, 23 writers.

And of course, WGA permits only three names on a credit.

And if you can't get your script to anyone of these... go back to #1, your Canon 5D and some friends.  

Remember The Blair Witch Project. And if you've never heard of this movie -- see it.  Or you can get a job as a p/a and listen and make friends. I actually did that at the age of 33 and a year later I wrote and directed Ghostkeeper, my first feature. 

The list above is mostly for U.S.A. and Canada, also Great Britain, but the business is the same when it comes to screenplays and if you can't get anyone to read your screenplay, find someone who can push it.

Like my friend says, "All you need is a guy with a rolodex and a pocket full of quarters." It's dated but it's meaning still comes through.

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