Monday, June 22, 2015

Who wants your screenplay?

 I often get someone who wants to know where they can send their screenplays. The movie world is divided in three, TV movies, indie movies like The Theory of Everything and feature movies that are divided by blockbuster movies like Star Trek and Marvel heroes.

What I'm going to talk about first are the TV movies.

Right now I'm working on a handful of ideas for a producer who deals with Hallmark. Hallmark for at least 80% of you, probably means nothing as you live in different countries.

Unless you mail or get greeting cards. Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Father's Day, etc.

Hallmark is the biggest greeting company in the world. At least I think so. A long time ago they also got into the movie business with a handful of movies that were somewhere between an indie movie and a feature film. It was on a Sunday night and was called "The Hallmark Hall of Fame."

The movies were pretty good, lots of money spent on them. I used to attend their premieres where they held a screening for industry people and afterwards a fantastic meal which often was in the tone of the movie. A southern movie would have southern food to go with the movie. They had an appropriate musical band and a spread of food that was great.

But around 2005, they began to cut back as people began to send email cards. Some writers and producers started a "Death of the TV Movie" parties of which we attended for two years. Of these TV movies, Hallmark still managed to make their movies.

The budgets were smaller and they rarely made their own movies, rather they would get someone else to make them, like Hallmark who just licenced them. They would pay $500,000 for a movie that cost $1.5 million. 

You can see the math immediately. Where does the outside producer get their $1 million? That's when they needed sales from any possible buyer, be it in USA or Canada or anywhere that they could sell an English-speaking movie.

That's where one particular producer figured out how to make a movie cheap. His name was Larry Levinson and he made movies just around $1 million and after Hallmark's sale, he could sell it to a number of other foreign countries.

And then Canada entered. They could make Hallmark movies even cheaper. My Christmas movie, The Town Christmas Forgot was made for under $1 million. My director friend Paul Lynch made a Christmas movie last year for $750,000.

So why did the old movies cost so much?

Basically, film was slower and more expensive. Digital filming took over because it was faster and easier. You can have a main street with period cars for nothing, CGI can create it for far less than having to find real cars. 

My Christmas movie was set in winter with snow-capped mountains. But it was filmed outside of Toronto in August. Lots fake snow made it look real.

So this is how it works for TV in terms of movies. There are a handful of buyers now, cable networks like Lifetime (My second feature, Betrayal of Silence, was sold to Lifetime back around 1988). 

Then when the trending became the coolest thing, and Netflex changed the industry, there suddenly is a huge market for Hallmark-style movies. Recently a former Gospel cable network joined in as UPTV. Sci-Fi Channel also kicked in a batch of TV movies.

And so the TV market seemed to come back after around 10 years and with new markets increasing all the time.

Right now I have three ideas hanging around the Hallmark office, taken to them by a producer who's done about 40 of them. I also have two new ideas that I want to take to other producers.

I can say it would be easier for me to get their attention, but not always. For the movie stories I mentioned earlier, I know several producers who like my work. But right now, as I wait for Hallmark's decision, they could kill all three ideas.

But there is UPTV but the gospel hasn't left them, your story has to be "Uplifting." But new companies are being created all the time and they need content and movies fill in that niche, with documentaries a solid favorite.

So this is a basic look at one aspect of movies. Lifetime usually does movies based on books and is a little tougher, they have murders and stories about women in jeopardy. Netflix will take almost anything, I still don't understand their buying methods.

Some people look down on Hallmark movies, as they're pretty tame and no real violence although they're having a mystery series where you almost see a dead body. Almost. But a movie is a movie, doesn't matter who made it or why, someone will see it and like it and someone won't like it.

And if it's Writers Guild it's even better.

But in this new low budget approach a new writer like yourself can probably get your screenplay made if you work non-union. There's a lot of producers who don't or won't pay WGA or WGC fees which can be as much as $44,000 for a million dollar movie. 

So you may not get union rates, but you get a movie made and recognition on and it'll be a little easier next time. That time when you hear a producer's words :

"So what else do ya got."

More Friday

No comments:

Post a Comment