View Full Version : attached to direct your own screenplay???

Mister Rainwater
05-31-2004, 04:21 PM
I am currently writing my first feature-length screenplay, which is a high concept sci-fi drama. My only problem is that I’m 22 years-old and considered to be just a child in this business. My real passion is directing and I am determined to stay attached as director to this script, since I believe it will launch my career as a serious filmmaker.

I have been developing this sci-fi story for 7 years now and have just finalized it to my liking. I’m also creating concept art for the project so I can show its potential.

Considering the genre, the budget would most likely exceed $70 million. The story is very original and has a twist ending that can compete with the original Planet of the Apes. But if an A-list director became interested, what would be the odds of this 22 year-old first time writer-director landing the job?

This is a project that is very dear to me, but I am really concerned about being overlooked because of my age. Producers may think that I'm in way over my head, but I just can’t help my mentality, which is to "think big." I don’t have an agent nor a lawyer, but I will be needing one soon.

Should I come back to earth on this one or do I actually have a chance?

To see my credentials, you can visit my website: www.meetervision.com (http://www.meetervision.com)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


05-31-2004, 04:42 PM
I'm not saying it can't happen but it probably

Although it seems you have some cute (but
hardly impressive) credits, a 70 million dollar
budget is a lot of cash to put into the hands
of a first time director. Why should anyone
invest their money in you? (Hollywood has
proven countless times that someone other
than the writer can turn the script into a
great film.)

Your attachment as a director will hinder
the project the whole way. For instance,
most agents won't go near the script if
you're attached. They know they won't
be able to sell it, so they won't waste
their time.

You have to pay your dues. Build your
resume. Go direct music videos for a few
years. Or sell the script, let it be a block-
buster, write a few more and THEN direct.

Scott Frank has been struggling to direct
his script THE LOOKOUT, and the studio has
been an obstacle the whole time. (Fincher
recently dropped out, so it could happen.)

I have seen HUNDREDS of potential sales
die because of stubborn writers.

Don't alienate yourself over the project.
Tell people that you would like to direct
the script but don't make it a deal

Otherwise, it will be very difficult to
launch your career (on top of the difficulty
that already exists).

Good luck.


Mike Samonek
05-31-2004, 05:38 PM
Age isn't the issue. It's experience. There are 22 y.o's who are more qualified from a technical standpoint than a 35 y.o. but neither one of them is likely to get attached to their first script without - as CE said - some real industry experience or a hit under their belt.

And in the grand scheme of things, your youth is an asset, not a liability.

05-31-2004, 05:39 PM
Even Mel Gibson didn't start directing from "Braveheart'. He first made a small movie "Man Without A Face". Actually, the movie is good but not everybody heard of it.

Find a work of a director's assistant and go through the production. Find a small budget movie you could direct yourself. Or do music videos or commercials. Those will be the real credits.
Good luck and have fun. :D

Mister Rainwater
05-31-2004, 06:45 PM
Thanks. Those are some very good points. I do lack experience, but I was just curious to know what the odds would be if it were a strong script. I have a couple of short film scripts that I am planning to shoot soon and a small budget feature. As for this sci-fi script, I think I’ll hold out on it until I've established a decent career. Thanks again for the advice.

05-31-2004, 07:55 PM
Actually it's the insurance. No company will insure a budget of that size without credits.

05-31-2004, 08:13 PM
I think the odds of you being attached are WORSE if it's a great script. If the studio sees a killer script, they're going to want to invest in the best, most experienced director they can to guarantee a hit and protect their money. Especially if you're dealing with big budget stuff. If you wrote are really incredible, low budget script--you have a better chance of getting attached. Especially if it was indie stuff with unknown actors. But even then it's incredibly difficult. But big budget? Forget it.

So go ahead and hang on to it until you're deep in your career. But if this script is that good, I say to hell with directing it. If you ever have a script that can break you into this biz then go for it. It's worth the sacrifice.

You could take my approach to getting into directing: Write more. I was heavily into directing in college and still consider myself to be a director. But I wouldn't call myself that in L.A. I am selling myself as a writer. And after a few sales (which could take the next 20 years), and hopefully with one of them being made into a hit film (that could take another 20 years), I'll be in a position to negotiate a deal to direct. Many screenwriters make the transition to director after only 1 or 2 produced films--some which were only mediocre in ticket sales. But you're building a reputation as a creator of stories--and that, aside from the visual, is one half of directing. So you aren't such a risk at that point. So that is a realistic way to get into directing.

You mentioned you had a couple of shorts and a low budget feature you want to shoot. This is also a great way in. First you'll have to sell yourself as a director. You have to be the guy who loves nothing more than that nasty smell when you open a new can of 35mm film. Focus you're career on the visual. Pitch yourself that way. Sometimes wearing too many hats can be a problem. And here's some more of my advice--it's quality, not quanitity. There are a bunch of directors who got their first gig because they made a great, award winning short. Their professional quality is one of the things that got them noticed. The number of films doesn't prove jack. It's what's in them that counts. You should find the one story or project that will grab people (and one that is within your means to direct and produce) and focus on that. Short or feature--doesn't matter. But it needs to kill.

Hope some of this helps. Just what I picked up from wandering around the biz the last few years.


05-31-2004, 08:20 PM
Just to echo what creativexec and others have said, it's not impossible but very unlikely, especially with a $70 million price tag. Take a look at most of the current A-List directors; they all started with something small. From Spielberg who started on t.v. then directed Duel and Sugarland Express before going on to Jaws, to Cameron who directed Piranha 2 and wrote a draft of Rambo II while developing the first Terminator which was a small budget film. Even the Wachowski Brothers had to show they could direct with Bound before they moved onto The Matrix.

Honestly, you don't have to have a TON of experience to get into the director's chair but you have to have something to hang your hat on. You need a pedigree and you seem to be headed into the right direction. You might want to look into applying to a filmmaker's lab of sorts, just to prove yourself.

The Fox Searchlab might be of interest to you: www.foxsearchlight.com/lab/index.html (http://www.foxsearchlight.com/lab/index.html)

I'd also like to pose a question to creativexec. I read the logline to Scott Frank's The Lookout. I was wondering if you knew where the budget would be, or what kind of other obstacles (i.e. actors' attachments, etc.) are in the way of Frank because it doesn't sound like the kind of film that a studio wouldn't give a writer of his credits a chance to helm.

Also you mentioned that you've seen hundreds of deals fall apart because of stubborn writers. Could you elaborate a little more on some of the factors that killed these deals? Did it tend to be writers wanting to direct huge tentpole-type films or were they smaller films without much commercial appeal? At what point is a studio comfortable pulling the trigger on a first-time director who may not have anything more than a short film and a great script; such as a young John Singelton, Richard Kelly, etc.?

05-31-2004, 10:18 PM
How did you come up with 70 mil?

05-31-2004, 11:36 PM
The One New Guy Rule: one new guy in an important position is the max on any film. So if you're an established screenwriter, you may be able to turn that into a chance to direct. If you are an established actor, you may be able to turn that into directing a film.

But if you're new as a writer and new as a director - that's one new guy too many.

Now... all of this changes if you find the money and/or fund the film yourself. Then you get into that Golden Rule - they guy with the gold rules. The way guys like Kevin Smith get to be writer *and* director is to also fund the film.

The good news is - you can shoot digital cheap enough to actually fund the film yourself. My friend just made his first feature with a Panasonic 24P high def camera for pocket change.

- Bill

05-31-2004, 11:49 PM
"The good news is - you can shoot digital cheap enough to actually fund the film yourself. My friend just made his first feature with a Panasonic 24P high def camera for pocket change."

Then the challenge here is finding a distributor. Which may or may not happen. I know a guy who made his on movie. He was the screenwriter, director/producer, and actor. Now he's struggling to have it distributed. (he's all but given up on the US market and is aiming at European markets)

Mike Samonek
05-31-2004, 11:57 PM
The good news is - you can shoot digital cheap enough to actually fund the film yourself. My friend just made his first feature with a Panasonic 24P high def camera for pocket change.

He said it's a 70 million dollar film. Unless 69.999 mill of that estimated budget is for film stock, I really don't know how much savings shooting digital is gonna kick him back. :lol

06-01-2004, 12:23 AM

Leo DiCaprio was attached as the lead and
I believe he did not want to work with a
first time director, leaving Scott Frank in
the cold. When David Fincher fell out of
the picture, I think Leo also folded (or put
himself on the fence).

I know the studio is going to other directors
first. If their wish list doesn't pan out, Frank
may very well get the gig. But there has
been a lot of campaigning from his team.
The estimated budget is about 20 mil. Tom
Hanks, Brad Pitt and Sam Mendes (to direct)
were all attached at one time.

Most of it is politics - which is the biggest
factor in why projects get made and who
helms/writes/and stars.

I have seen projects come into the agency
with a no-credit writer/director attached. As
the project paints the town and gets lots
of passes, new strategies must be plotted -
like unattaching the writer/director. Many
times the writer refuses, and the agency
dumps the project. To this day, I have
never seen hide nor hair of any of those
guys again. In almost all of the cases,
the projects were small films (not boasting
a 70 million dollar budget).

John Singleton was a prodigy at USC and
got good reps at CAA. But the budget
on his film was probably around five or
six mil. However, that was ten years ago.

Recently Jon Chu was plucked from
obscurity (USC, I think). He got the gig
to direct the feature remake of BYE BYE
BIRDIE, but that project has floundered -
along with another musical called MOXIE.
His story made great press but hasn't
quite panned out yet. This is more
typical of the town.

Singleton (and others) is an exception
rather than the rule (unless, as Martell
states, you finance your film yourself).


06-01-2004, 12:31 AM
"Singleton (and others) is an exception
rather than the rule (unless, as Martell
states, you finance your film yourself).

Unless he has access to tens of millions of dollars (and if he did why would he be here), this isn't going to happen. He needs a 70 million dollar butget. It's not like he is doing a comedy or a drama.

Also, it may not be a good idea to spend massive amounts of money on filming something unless you know you have a distribution deal of sorts. You could be out of money on a film that no one will ever see.

I think you should unattach yourself as a director and simply send the script out.

06-01-2004, 12:39 AM
Singleton (and others) is an exception
rather than the rule (unless, as Martell
states, you finance your film yourself).

I didn't think he had 70 million dollars. I
was being facetious, Justino.

Hugh Jardon
06-01-2004, 12:52 PM
The producers on my current project were
impressed with my ability to write visually,
and one of the first questions they asked
was "Were you interested in directing this
yourself?" It was a test of sorts. Knowing
this was probably a $40 - $60 million budget,
and knowing they had ABSOLUTELY NO
INTENTION of allowing me to attach myself
as director, I replied, "I'm interested in directing
some day, but this story would be better
served in the hands of an experienced director."
(or something to that effect...)

Not only did they appreciate this, they immediately
requested I consider writing a low budget thriller
for my next project, one that they would finance,
and I would direct. I believe the exact words were:
"Something we could shoot for $1 - $3 Million and
get into Sundance, to launch your directing career.
You really should be directing."

If you're a writer first, concentrate on writing. When
you've developed to the point where directing is a
viable career path, others will recognize that talent.
Alternately, do what others have suggested, and
raise the funds to shoot your own low budget films.

06-01-2004, 02:54 PM
The one time when intending to direct your own writing *might* work in your favor, even though you don't end up doing so: if you have an amazingly brilliant, kicka$$ script that a studio wants very much for a particular talent -- if your reps let them know the writer is attached to direct, they *might* pay you an additional fee to walk away from helming it.

That seems to happen less these days, but I remember a few instances...

However, that said, you'd need to have some directorial track-record or even big writing sales to back up your seeming intention to direct.

06-01-2004, 07:21 PM
Put the expensive script you adore in a drawer and write something cheap to make. Direct that (probably on your own dime), do well in some significant festivals (I'm lapsing into IdealWorld now), start a career, and when all Hollywood is slavering to work with you, drag that dream script out of the drawer.

Seriously. Writing more is an absolute essential, whatever happens. You might even decide the script you love is not so loveable. In the mean time, workshop it, and enter it in some contests to see how it stacks up.


06-01-2004, 08:07 PM
Paul Hernandez is directing his first script - sole director and writer credit.

It's a 'visual effects laden comedy', as IMDB put it - called INSTANT KARMA.

It would be nice to know how somebody with no produced credits managed that.

06-01-2004, 09:40 PM
Hernandez didn't come out of nowhere.

He was a PA for DREAMWORKS and a
fellow in the in-house Disney writing
program for a couple of years.

He has several projects in development,
including the big screen remake of THE

Hernandez sold INSTANT KARMA back in
2000. I don't believe he attached as
director until last year.

Although this will be his directorial debut
(with a big budget), he has several other
projects in the works.

In other words, he didn't just step in off
the street, sell his script and get a
directing gig.

He was on the inside, won friends and
influenced people.


06-01-2004, 11:14 PM
an on a rare, but crucial occasion, might have blown someone.


06-02-2004, 12:48 AM
"an on a rare, but crucial occasion, might have blown someone."

Are you saying that I think you just said?:eek

06-02-2004, 01:57 AM
Well, I think the key is to have the script all of those distribs wanted to buy, and to make *that* yourself.

I have three friends who have each just finished a digital feature. Two made horror movies - one is a straight slasher movie, the other has a ton of digital FX (ghosts, demons, monsters - almost as much digital danger as VAN HELSING). The third made an autobiographical drama. Well, guess which ones have distribs calling them every day?

SLAUGHTERHOUSE has almost a dozen distribs waiting for the final cut - they became interested when they heard the story, more interested when they saw a cut together trailer... and now they want to see the finished film.

The other guy made a deal on his horror film before he got to final cut.

If nobody wants to buy the script, nobody will want to buy a film made from that script.

- Bill

Mike Samonek
06-02-2004, 01:58 AM
as i understand it, Hernandez was working with Elliot and Rossio, and pitched them "Instant Karma" which they offered to buy on the spot.

Hugh Jardon
06-02-2004, 06:47 AM
yes, it's all detailed on their website.

donald gregory
06-02-2004, 01:30 PM
"what would be the odds of this 22 year-old first time writer-director landing the job?"

ZERO, but you said you were planning on directing a low budget film first, so your chances just improved to:

Mary Swanson: Not good.
Lloyd Christmas: Not good like one in a hundred?
Mary Swanson: I'd say more like one in a million.
Lloyd Christmas: So you're telling me there's a chance?

The Other Steve
06-02-2004, 05:03 PM
Hernandez was working with Elliot and Rossio, and pitched them "Instant Karma" which they offered to buy on the spot.
www.wordplayer.com/column...er.Me.html (http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp39.Cover.Me.html)

06-02-2004, 05:17 PM
I know noone wants to hear negative comments but believe me I hear ya. I am a writer Actress with connections for where i work and I'm fighting to just stay attached as the actress in the film with my Production company co producing. I too have been deveolping this project for three years. And even with my contacts with big names interested, I will still not be able to have my cowriter direct and he has three credits, I may lose producing credits for the acting role etc.. The point is, You will not be able to direct this movie, A break is a break if yo want to make it you have to be willing to be flexible if not your not going anywhere. Be willing to sell it for a pretty penny to get a serious writing credit, then your next movie you can do alittle more. Serioulsly it will not happen, and any studio with that much cash is going to want their money back and won't take a chance with an unproved director. My advice write a small independant film first and direct that so you have a project under your belt, then take the scifi film to them later. I have a big budget female superhero film I want to do as well but I'm waiting till I get this Vampire one off the ground first.

Mister Rainwater
06-02-2004, 08:44 PM
The Fox Searchlab has really caught my attention and I’ll most likely give that a shot since my main interest is in directing. But after reading all of the posts, I think it’s clear that I make a few quality small budget features before approaching anyone with this sci-fi script. Thank you for sharing your advice everyone.

BTW - the 70 mil was just a random number.

06-03-2004, 01:00 AM
i thought so - lol.

good luck to you =)