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Lucha Scribre
12-10-2010, 11:16 AM
Don't let so many comments deter or discourage you in writing your next 100+M budget film. People love them. People want them. Just saying.

SuperScribe
12-10-2010, 11:26 AM
My manager is actually encouraging me to write one of these -- to think bigger than I have been. Much bigger. Especially since big budget action-thrillers with franchise potential are the types of screenplays that are selling right now -- and probably will be for some time to come.

From what I'm hearing, if you can write the next SALT/BOURNE, you're in good shape.

Lucha Scribre
12-10-2010, 11:44 AM
Writing/Thinking Big not only can impress the right people, but also demonstrate how well the writer can produce a "studio concept".

SALT/BOURNE, minus the whole CIA angle. Most people cringe if I mention CIA in a pitch (which I don't really do, except to say that mine is NOT a CIA flick).

SoCalScribe
12-10-2010, 11:48 AM
Don't let so many comments deter or discourage you in writing your next 100+M budget film. People love them. People want them. Just saying.

If big budget movies are the kind you love to write, go for it. Just as long as you're being realistic about where you send them. There's a market for all kinds of scripts. Are big budget movies harder to sell than low budget movies? Sure. Because there are less of them out there, fewer companies who make them, and the jobs are higher paying and more actively sought out by accomplished writers. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't write them if that's what you love to write.

People do love big budget tentpoles (including me). If that's what floats your boat, go for it. :)

Lucha Scribre
12-10-2010, 12:04 PM
I do write them, but I prefer a balance between the big stuff and smaller indie stuff. I only posted this topic to encourage writers who want to write big, not to be afraid of giving it a try. :)

Rantanplan
12-10-2010, 02:31 PM
It's not impossible but it's definitely harder, since the hugely expensive films hardly ever come from original specs but rather from novels, comic books and other IPs. Not as much with action thrillers, as SS said up-thread, but certainly with action adventure fantasies (LOTR, Harry Potter, Narnia, all the superheroes) --those flicks have HUGE built-in audiences before they even go into production.

I just had a guy at Warner Bros tell me my tentpole was the right place to start conceptually and that he was in fact seriously looking for that kind of material, but then my story specifically was not what he wanted. BUMMER.

jboffer
12-10-2010, 03:12 PM
Agreed.

Sometimes I get the advice "just write it low budget to improve your odds."

Hell no. I'll write the movie that needs to be written. Not big budget for the sake of being big budget and not low budget because I'm scared of finding someone to like it. It just is what it is. No sacrifices. Not when I'm writing on spec just trying to impress people.

Rantanplan
12-10-2010, 03:22 PM
Did he like the script?
Was it Warners directly, or a company with a studio deal?

There are many ways you can use the "not specifically for me" for referrals elsewhere.

He was at Warners and he made those comments based on the log and synopsis, he didn't read the script, which of course would have been great and could have generated some discussion between us (or not). I don't want to go into what my basic conceptual departure was, which he liked (a lot to mined there), but what I ended up writing was a four quadrant piece and he seemed to be looking for darker material.

TheCleaner
12-10-2010, 03:39 PM
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emily blake
12-10-2010, 03:57 PM
I think it's also a good idea to have another script that's in a more reasonable budget. That way if someone reads your tentpole and likes your writing, you've got something else to show them that might be more affordable to make.

seh
12-10-2010, 04:46 PM
I think it's also a good idea to have another script that's in a more reasonable budget. That way if someone reads your tentpole and likes your writing, you've got something else to show them that might be more affordable to make.

Agree with Ms. Blake. For sure you'll get more reads if you're looking for representation with a more modestly budgeted project.

Knaight
12-10-2010, 05:55 PM
Writing/Thinking Big not only can impress the right people, but also demonstrate how well the writer can produce a "studio concept".

SALT/BOURNE, minus the whole CIA angle. Most people cringe if I mention CIA in a pitch (which I don't really do, except to say that mine is NOT a CIA flick).

I recommend the CIAA angle.

BurOak
12-13-2010, 02:13 PM
I recommend the CIAA angle.

Or CAA. :bounce:

Knaight
12-13-2010, 06:01 PM
Or CAA. :bounce:

CIAA.

I don't make typos.

Terrance Mulloy
12-13-2010, 06:10 PM
Don't let so many comments deter or discourage you in writing your next 100+M budget film. People love them. People want them. Just saying.

A-Fvcking-Men, brotha!!!!

That said, for those looking to land a rep, it might be an idea to also write something a little more budget conscious. Buyers love clean hooks and high concept, but they also love scripts that are cheap to make. At least that's my theory on the whole game. And I'm sure you also know that I'm not suggesting you go out and write another contained thriller inside a box, ala Buried. ;)

EDIT: Sorry, some people already suggested that advice.

Knaight
12-13-2010, 06:12 PM
A-Fvcking-Men, brotha!!!!

Terrance is a true tentpole writer. Notice how he edits his curse words.

Terrance Mulloy
12-13-2010, 06:22 PM
Terrance is a true tentpole writer. Notice how he edits his curse words.

Sh!t, y34h!!!

wcmartell
12-13-2010, 09:32 PM
You mean $250 million.

$100 million gets you a rom-com.

Thing to remember: the cost of making the film must be much much less than the returns - so your best bet is a big film that doesn't have a big cost. A script where the *concept* is what's cool, not all of the trappings. MATRIX (the first one) is my usual example. Cool idea, but doesn't need the helicopter crash to work. Compare that to either of the sequels which had not much in the way of new ideas - but lots of expensive eye candy.

- Bill

Lucha Scribre
12-13-2010, 10:33 PM
A-Fvcking-Men, brotha!!!!

That said, for those looking to land a rep, it might be an idea to also write something a little more budget conscious. Buyers love clean hooks and high concept, but they also love scripts that are cheap to make. At least that's my theory on the whole game. And I'm sure you also know that I'm not suggesting you go out and write another contained thriller inside a box, ala Buried. ;)

EDIT: Sorry, some people already suggested that advice.

I've always been a firm believer of "Write what YOU want and write it well", rather than "write what you know" or "write what they want". But I've seen people neglect big budget projects because they fear rejection. Or when they are rejected, blame it solely on the "big budget" aspect of their script.

I was discovered on a contained thriller. I've been propelled by having a big budget sample. So it's a mixed bag for me, but I encourage people to have more courage in their writing, especially if they want to write something big.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 08:50 AM
Also, it's hard to know how much something really would cost. I have a lot of CGI in my tentpole, but then again so do a lot of TV commercials. LOTR cost less than 100 M per film.

But based on budgets of similar films, yes, I would say mine would probably be a 200 M flick.

I can understand why it might be incredibly risky to spend that much cash on a script that doesn't have a built-in audience. However, what I never understood, is what difference it makes whether a writer is well known or not. If the script is brilliant, who cares?

"Studios won't take chances on an unknown, they need to know he's proven himself and can write this big material."

I see this time and time again and never understand it. Um, the proof is right there, in the script, duh. You get what you pay for up-front. It's NOT the same thing as spending a fortune on a young director without really knowing if he'll be able to do the job and deliver the film on time and on budget. For the writer, the evidence is already there, it's on the page. The quality of the writing and concept is right there, the investment is in plain view. Whether the film then scores or tanks will have nothing to do with whether or not the writer was fresh out of film school or a 50 year old triple oscar winner. It will have to do with whether the director, crew and actors do a magniificent job on the script that everybody loved, and whether the audience will show up in droves.

catcon
12-14-2010, 09:59 AM
Also, it's hard to know how much something really would cost. I have a lot of CGI in my tentpole, but then again so do a lot of TV commercials. LOTR cost less than 100 M per film.

But based on budgets of similar films, yes, I would say mine would probably be a 200 M flick.

I can understand why it might be incredibly risky to spend that much cash on a script that doesn't have a built-in audience. However, what I never understood, is what difference it makes whether a writer is well known or not. If the script is brilliant, who cares?

"Studios won't take chances on an unknown, they need to know he's proven himself and can write this big material."

I see this time and time again and never understand it. Um, the proof is right there, in the script, duh. You get what you pay for up-front. It's NOT the same thing as spending a fortune on a young director without really knowing if he'll be able to do the job and deliver the film on time and on budget. For the writer, the evidence is already there, it's on the page. The quality of the writing and concept is right there, the investment is in plain view. Whether the film then scores or tanks will have nothing to do with whether or not the writer was fresh out of film school or a 50 year old triple oscar winner. It will have to do with whether the director, crew and actors do a magniificent job on the script that everybody loved, and whether the audience will show up in droves.

I'm with you. There aren't (m)any writers (as opposed to writer-directors, etc.) whose names can sell movies to the public, like actors or directors can, regardless of there being a built-in brand or audience. Leaving aside assignments, for the moment, in comparing one spec script to another, it just comes down to the quality of the story and the hopefully fine job everybody else (actors, director, etc.) does with it.

Of course, this doesn't address our big problem: A proven past, or a big name rep, is usually what's usually required to get the prodco to look at our spec script in the first place. Same thing with a tentpole assignment.

That's our tale of woe, where our big tentpoles are just Maseratis sitting in our driveways until we get that "proven history", or a big-name rep, or maybe a big-name producer's BMW stalls in front of our house and s/he asks to use the plumbing -- at the very moment we're washing our Maserati in our driveway!

TheCleaner
12-14-2010, 10:52 AM
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Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 11:00 AM
This statement has less to do about the writer than the studio execs’ overpowering loss aversion.

When I look at what drives a person to make this or that decision, the first question I ask is "what will get them fired?" with a distant second, "what will get them promoted." Just look at this new game show where the cash drops through the floor. People will do almost anything to hold on to what they have rather than take risk the big gain. Only in this case, studio execs are not playing with house money.

So, when presented with any project there is direct relationship between the size of the budget and the decisionmaker's desire for principal preservation. So much so that when presented with the best script ever written, a studio exec will still look for safety. And when it comes to the writer, there's safety in a big name, because if it fails that exec can turn to his/her boss and say "hey, it's someone else's fault." But if they take a chance on a noob, then they assume greater responsibility. And Hollywood survives on dispersed responsibility.

But then there's the plain "WTF? Is this for real?" factor. Kind of like what would happen if a gazelle just strolled through a lounging pride of lions.

Now, I'm a "go big or go home" type of writer. But even though I've encountered a tremendous lack of imagination by reps, the more freeing aspect of writing the big budget spec has led to smaller gigs from prodco's who see the promise in the work. So I'm going to ride this until she bucks me.

Well thanks for your take on it, finally an explanation that makes sense! But it's still retarded imho, because again, the script is there, black on white, everybody who works on the project can see for themselves, and why in the world would a studio head grenlight a 200 M film if he/she never read the script and agreed that it seemed like a good bet?

JeffLowell
12-14-2010, 11:21 AM
Scripts are never greenlit. Packages are greenlit. If a hundred million dollar movie written by a newcomer has meaningful stars and/or a director attached, it will get made.

This year, Gary Whitta's Book Of Eli came out. It cost 80 to shoot, probably another 40 or 50 to market... 125 million dollars invested in a new writer's script.

NikeeGoddess
12-14-2010, 11:44 AM
I think it's also a good idea to have another script that's in a more reasonable budget. That way if someone reads your tentpole and likes your writing, you've got something else to show them that might be more affordable to make.in this case it's more about marketing. do your research and try and sell you script to the right buyers. if you have an agent then let her or him do that for you.
I've always been a firm believer of "Write what YOU want and write it well", rather than "write what you know" or "write what they want".
i believe that what you want to write should be what you know... and that if they pay me... i'll write what they want.

Tochirta
12-14-2010, 12:31 PM
I don't mean to hijack the discussion, but I'm vibing off Jeff's comment about packages, specifically in the big budget tentpole realm.

If packages are greenlit as opposed to scripts, then it means that films without bankable stars and directors will never get made.

Bankable stars and directors in big budget tentpoles are mostly White males. Even the younger stars (e.g. Chris Pine) fall into this category.

So where does that leave female and other minority writers who want to bring new protagonists/ideas to the game?

Have you or any other pro writers come across this issue? You don't have to name names but I'm just curious. Let's say you read a great script (from a story perspective) from X minority writer but you know it's pretty much unfilmable because it's not easily bankable. Does it still benefit the writer in terms of getting contacts/assignments (even if the work is not optioned/bought) or do people say, "well, that's unfilmable right now so it doesn't matter. Come back when you write something filmable and we may consider you a decent writer at that point."

What are your experiences with this? Thanks in advance.

TheCleaner
12-14-2010, 01:14 PM
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catcon
12-14-2010, 01:18 PM
...So where does that leave female and other minority writers who want to bring new protagonists/ideas to the game?...

Similarly,

how about my latest, "The Ugly Dude", where the protag is "unattractive" by design and for a purpose. Well, if the actor they recruit is just "ruggedly handsome" that'll do just fine by me, but if they're pondering casting decisions before they even read the script, that would partly explain the lukewarm response to "Dude", which has an otherwise commercial premise.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 01:53 PM
@The Cleaner: I think it's fairly common practice for some writers, including big guns, to work on a script and not get credit for it (probably depending on what percentage of the script they changed). An addendum to my TOOTSIE thread a while back: Elaine May was credited with some major changes. She's the one who wrote in the Bill Murray character and the Terri Gar character, two essential ingredients in the film and responsible for some classic scenes and lines. But she's not listed in the credits.

-@Torchita re. bankable stars: a lot of massive action adventure fantasies star young actors who were previously unknown (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.), so I think the main thing, if you don't have a huge IP to draw from, is to be able to say: From the DIRECTOR of.... then the trailer shows a bunch of kick ass CGI and cool visual set pieces and action sequences. Visual Effects are also stars in their own right, I think people will go see a flick just because it looks cool, even it's not based on a book, comic book, video game etc. Certainly a large part of the box office revenue for these tentpoles comes from people who never read or saw the original IP and go see the films anyway, even when they don't have big names attached to them. The other thing is that these types of films tend to have some major actors in smaller roles, so you can end up having a pretty cool cast even if your leads are unknowns. You book a couple of OSCAR WINNING WHITE MALES OR FEMALES in a few scenes, boom, problem solved, and it didn't cost very much :) I mean, how much did they pay Liam for bellowing "Release the Kraken!!!"

JeffLowell
12-14-2010, 02:12 PM
I don't mean to hijack the discussion, but I'm vibing off Jeff's comment about packages, specifically in the big budget tentpole realm.

If packages are greenlit as opposed to scripts, then it means that films without bankable stars and directors will never get made.

Bankable stars and directors in big budget tentpoles are mostly White males. Even the younger stars (e.g. Chris Pine) fall into this category.

So where does that leave female and other minority writers who want to bring new protagonists/ideas to the game?

I think you answered your own question - it's tougher to get tentpoles made with female and minority stars, because there are fewer of them. But huge budget movies are only a small percentage of movies made. There are quite a few stars that aren't white men that are meaningful that can get smaller budget movies made.

And if you have a director with enough juice to get a movie made, he has a lot more latitude in casting. Snyder has a big budget movie coming out called Sucker Punch. Take a lot at the cast list on that.

TheCleaner: Most people get rewritten for a variety of reasons. Even the big names who sell a project.

catcon: There are no shortage of not classically handsome bankable male stars. Most of them do comedy, but the big stars cross over. It's box office draw, not how they look.

catcon
12-14-2010, 03:18 PM
...catcon: There are no shortage of not classically handsome bankable male stars. Most of them do comedy, but the big stars cross over. It's box office draw, not how they look...

I am sure there are plenty out there. It may be more of a challenge to think a "tough looking" star, say, a young Charles Bronson, would appear in a film called "The Ugly Dude" because these people are known for egos, after all! "Call me 'ugly' and I'll bash you!" :bounce:

Anyway, I shall persist! :)

wcmartell
12-14-2010, 03:31 PM
Even the younger stars (e.g. Chris Pine) fall into this category.

TWILIGHT.

But as a writer I have nothing to do with casting, just the story. If I write the next MATRIX I have no idea who plays the lead... it will be whatever star signs on. Stars are interchangeable - when Tom Cruise left SALT they hired Angelina Jolie. I never write "fat white guy" as my leads, I just write the lead who fits my big tentpole concept - either someone who can kick ass or someone who can not kick ass but must do it anyway (different for comedies). In my little movies they cast whatever star they can get - so my leads have ended up African American and Asian American and Pretty Boy White Guys, etc. Somehow, I have *not* worked with Lou Diamond Philips, yet. But he could have been the test pilot called back to duty to retrieve the ultimate stealth fighter plane before terrorists use against us. Why not?

The change will be gradual, but with a growing Latino population, there will be stars coming up to appeal to them. Or they will clone Banderas.

PS: Ugly Latinos! MACHETE may be the thing that changes the face of Hollywood - if you look at the big change with African Americans it came after the success of Blaxploitation films. They were popular with audiences of all colors and that created some Black stars and also made those white guys in the suits realize they needed to hire some of those stars. So - more Latinosploitation films!

- Bill

Tochirta
12-14-2010, 04:27 PM
Thanks Bill, Jeff and Ranta

The thing about the Matrix is that it's a raceless and pretty much genderless film. Anyone could have been anyone in that movie, with maybe the exception of Trinity having to be female for love interest purposes. The conflict is man vs machine.

In the script I'm about to start, I'm thinking about using a Black protag who's working class. Race doesn't matter in the story at all (working class is the truly important part), but I figure that statistically/percentage-wise, there are more poor ethnic Americans than not. Besides, I'm Black.

So there's a fear (perhaps baseless) that someone might read the script and think: 'well, you have a Black protag between 20-30 and there's nobody bankable we'd risk money on to make that movie.' I can't think offhead of Black female and male actors between the ages of 20-30 who have some sort of viable acting career (other than the girl from Precious).

And as writers, we're encouraged to write with a star in mind. It helps visualize the film, acting mannerisms, etc

Anyway, I guess your overall point is just write the best script you can because you won't have a hand in casting anyway. Let the studio figure out who will play the leads. and chances are if the studio like the script in any way, they'll do the rewrites where they feel necessary.

catcon
12-14-2010, 04:47 PM
...Anyway, I guess your overall point is just write the best script you can because you won't have a hand in casting anyway. Let the studio figure out who will play the leads. and chances are if the studio like the script in any way, they'll do the rewrites where they feel necessary.

Your final paragraph says it all. They'll do what they want.

I've had criticism about how specific I am in my race/gender/age identification in my scripts.

What the heck!?

Even where it's not critically important, it paints the picture for the reader! However, once they've paid me for the thing, they can flip genders, change races, age or de-age, add or remove profanity, whatever. Till there's $$$, for transferable characteristics such as these, I paint the picture I want to.

By the way, I'm a white-a$$ed male, but in my 12 screenplays I've had two Black leads, 7 female leads, and somewhat fewer appearances by Middle Eastern, Asian, Latino, etc., though all in non-stereotypic roles.

Oh, and one specifically-described "ugly" dude lead; race not important.

I'd like to think my repeat readers come to expect such diversity from me now.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 05:02 PM
Thanks Bill, Jeff and Ranta

The thing about the Matrix is that it's a raceless and pretty much genderless film.

That's one of the things I really like about sci-fi, you can invent a future where race and gender are non issues.

I say write your script the way you want it and see what happens. If someone buys it and produces it and turns all the black characters into white characters, that will be a bummer, but on the other hand you'll be on your way to fame and fortune :)

Plus, maybe the next time around, once you have a bit more market value and clout, your own vision will have more weight. You can throw tantrums, act like a diva, hold the script hostage, insist on directing or whatever :)

sc111
12-14-2010, 06:26 PM
So... if my big budget script has a female lead who is not easily interchangeable with a male playing the part -- I'm - um - screwed?

CthulhuRises
12-14-2010, 09:15 PM
Thanks Bill, Jeff and Ranta

The thing about the Matrix is that it's a raceless and pretty much genderless film. Anyone could have been anyone in that movie, with maybe the exception of Trinity having to be female for love interest purposes. The conflict is man vs machine.

In the script I'm about to start, I'm thinking about using a Black protag who's working class. Race doesn't matter in the story at all (working class is the truly important part), but I figure that statistically/percentage-wise, there are more poor ethnic Americans than not. Besides, I'm Black.

So there's a fear (perhaps baseless) that someone might read the script and think: 'well, you have a Black protag between 20-30 and there's nobody bankable we'd risk money on to make that movie.' I can't think offhead of Black female and male actors between the ages of 20-30 who have some sort of viable acting career (other than the girl from Precious).

And as writers, we're encouraged to write with a star in mind. It helps visualize the film, acting mannerisms, etc

Anyway, I guess your overall point is just write the best script you can because you won't have a hand in casting anyway. Let the studio figure out who will play the leads. and chances are if the studio like the script in any way, they'll do the rewrites where they feel necessary.


Will Smith was originally wanted for the part of Neo. He turned it down for "The Wild, Wild West". Fun tidbit.

As for black female actresses between 20-30, Zoe Saldana says hi. Star Trek, Avatar, The Losers. I'd say she's having a pretty damn viable acting career.

Not disagreeing with your overall point, just throwing that out there.

CthulhuRises
12-14-2010, 09:17 PM
So... if my big budget script has a female lead who is not easily interchangeable with a male playing the part -- I'm - um - screwed?

I'd say they're always fairly interchangeable in big budget films (especially action...which most tentpoles are). SALT was supposed to be played by Tom Cruise. Now it's Angelina Jolie.

Knaight
12-14-2010, 09:21 PM
I'd say they're always fairly interchangeable in big budget films (especially action...which most tentpoles are). SALT was supposed to be played by Tom Cruise. Now it's Angelina Jolie.

Interchangeable? No. But if there was ever a time to be marketing a female-driven action film, it's now.

CthulhuRises
12-14-2010, 09:25 PM
Interchangeable? No. But if there was ever a time to be marketing a female-driven action film, it's now.

Well, in the example I just cited you...the role absolutely was interchangeable.

"In 2007, Tom Cruise had been approached by Noyce to play Edwin A. Salt from the script written by Kurt Wimmer. Cruise was unable to commit to the script because of other commitments to projects and feared that the character was too close to his Mission Impossible character Ethan Hunt."

The script was written with a male lead. They ended up using a female lead. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_%282010_film%29#cite_note-director_interview-6)

Knaight
12-14-2010, 09:28 PM
Well, in the example I just cited you...the role absolutely was interchangeable.

"In 2007, Tom Cruise had been approached by Noyce to play Edwin A. Salt from the script written by Kurt Wimmer. Cruise was unable to commit to the script because of other commitments to projects and feared that the character was too close to his Mission Impossible character Ethan Hunt."

The script was written with a male lead. They ended up using a female lead. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_%282010_film%29#cite_note-director_interview-6)

I hear you. I'm not talking about story roles, though. I'm talking about bankable stars. There are very few female action stars that can fill a theater on their own. Believe me, I of all people would love to see that change. I've got a female-driven action comedy that I'm going to be sending to anyone and everyone over the next couple months.

CthulhuRises
12-14-2010, 09:33 PM
I hear you. I'm not talking about story roles, though. I'm talking about bankable stars. There are very few female action stars that can fill a theater on their own. Believe me, I of all people would love to see that change. I've got a female-driven action comedy that I'm going to be sending to anyone and everyone over the next couple months.

Ah, I see. I agree with that. There is definitely a paucity of bankable female stars (as a lead), let alone action stars.

emily blake
12-14-2010, 10:18 PM
I remember when I first started talking about my projects with other writers and EVERYBODY told me nobody wanted a female-driven action film and that I should only write male leads.

I ignored them because f*ck that.

Knaight
12-14-2010, 10:20 PM
I ignored them because f*ck that.

This is exactly the attitude I'm taking with everyone who's trying to tell me not to put a picture in my screenplay.

JeffLowell
12-14-2010, 10:27 PM
A small percentage of specs are bought and made. No one said that the female lead action movie can't lead to assignment work.

emily blake
12-14-2010, 10:32 PM
A small percentage of specs are bought and made. No one said that the female lead action movie can't lead to assignment work.

You may not have said that, but trust me, people said that. I was told by many people that I was wasting my time.

Knaight
12-14-2010, 10:33 PM
A small percentage of specs are bought and made. No one said that the female lead action movie can't lead to assignment work.

That's kind of what I'm going for, anyway. I can't see the spec I was just talking about being made for less than $60M. Obviously, I'd love to sell it, but more than anything I just want it to tell people that I can write solid action. If this spec gets me other work, that'll be amazing.

Tochirta
12-14-2010, 10:36 PM
Will Smith was originally wanted for the part of Neo. He turned it down for "The Wild, Wild West". Fun tidbit.

As for black female actresses between 20-30, Zoe Saldana says hi. Star Trek, Avatar, The Losers. I'd say she's having a pretty damn viable acting career.

Not disagreeing with your overall point, just throwing that out there.

yeah, the 'turning down Matrix for Wild Wild West' tidbit is very well known.

and Saldana's 32. :)

Lucha Scribre
12-14-2010, 10:38 PM
It all goes to that "nobody knows anything". Young dev execs have became drones to current trends and data, and try to replicate the previous year's success with the same stuff the following year. Rather take a risk in a new action tentpole, they'll sequel TRANSFORMERS. It just takes time to find that one who is looking for that breath of fresh air. They're out there.

If your script is great, it will lead to something more, no matter what it is about.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 10:44 PM
A small percentage of specs are bought and made. No one said that the female lead action movie can't lead to assignment work.

But most reps these days, in this economy, and from what I've been told, are looking for hot specs to take out, are they not? Most specs will fail, yes, but then the writer has at least been introduced to the market place and is then in a position to maybe perhaps possibly compete for assignments, if he/she has garnered good buzz with the spec that went out.

So if a writer has a script that is well written and compelling but for one reason or another (too big, too small, too drama, too period, too femme driven, too ethnic driven, etc), is not deemed commercially viable, there's a chance that writer will never be introduced to the industry via that spec and thus gain opportunities to work for hire. Yes, no?

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 10:54 PM
Re. Angelina, she no longer even qualifies as a female lead. She has reached a different stratosphere entirely. She stands at the top of the mountain and there is not a single replacement in sight.

That would be like saying, because Oprah is the wealthiest and most recognized celebrity in the world, a lot of black women will be given tons of opportunity. Not.

But because Angelina is in fact a woman, hopefully the industry will be more open to big films with women in the lead.

Tochirta
12-14-2010, 10:55 PM
So if a writer has a script that is well written and compelling but for one reason or another (too big, too small, too drama, too period, too femme driven, too ethnic driven, etc), is not deemed commercially viable, there's a chance that writer will never be introduced to the industry via that spec and thus gain opportunities to work for hire. Yes, no?

that's what I want to know.

I'm guessing that a great spec is a great spec is a great spec, so it won't matter.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 11:02 PM
It just takes time to find that one who is looking for that breath of fresh air. They're out there.

Trolling the pitch websites is a good way to find out who's actively looking for what. Whether you subscribe to the service or manage to successfully contact these people on your own, it's a more targeted approach. The fact that these people are not the top dogs at the companies should not be a deterrent. Chances are they would be the gatekeepers anyway, even if you submitted via a rep. If your script is read by a hungry, ambitious, junior staff person at a major company (and these sites do have major players on them), that's probably not a bad thing. If they like it, they'll take it up to the next level.

Rantanplan
12-14-2010, 11:09 PM
that's what I want to know.

I'm guessing that a great spec is a great spec is a great spec, so it won't matter.

Unless a rep is like a lawyer, and ultimately, whether they like it or not is almost irrelevant: the question is whether they can sell it.

I think, and if I were a rep, I would probably agree with this, to take something to market you have to either:

a) think it's a guaranteed commercial hit (even though you might think artistically the script is lacking)

b) be absolutely head over heels in love with it (even though you know it's going to be a tough sell due to lack of commercial viability)

CthulhuRises
12-14-2010, 11:39 PM
yeah, the 'turning down Matrix for Wild Wild West' tidbit is very well known.

and Saldana's 32. :)

And Rachel McAdams was really 16 in Mean Girls. ;)

Point is, obviously Zoe can/does/will continue for a good while to play the 20-30 range.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 12:28 AM
So if a writer has a script that is well written and compelling but for one reason or another (too big, too small, too drama, too period, too femme driven, too ethnic driven, etc), is not deemed commercially viable, there's a chance that writer will never be introduced to the industry via that spec and thus gain opportunities to work for hire. Yes, no?

Well written and compelling scripts are rare. I've seen a lot of non-commercial scripts launch careers.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 12:42 AM
Well written and compelling scripts are rare. I've seen a lot of non-commercial scripts launch careers.

Well, first of all, I would like to hope they're not THAT rare, and second, of course I would like to think they can launch careers :)

But certain genres, no matter how brilliant you may or may not be as a writer, are simply just a lot harder to push through if you're an unknown writer --or even if you're a known writer.

I mean really, all you have to do is a search by genre and spec on DD to figure out that certain types of scripts stand a better chance and that others stand literally no chance in hell. It becomes obvious pretty quickly.

But I still think that writers should always write what their Muse guides them to write.

ETA: Jeff, my point was also, if a writer signs with a rep who DOESN'T take his/her script out, isn't it harder for that writer to gain attention? I.e., most of what I see on DD, writers get repped, the script goes out, no sale, but because the script went out, the writer may now get meetings. Whereas a writer signed just because the rep sees "promise", but doesn't take the script out, isn't that writer less likely to attract the attention necessary to compete for assignments?

NikeeGoddess
12-15-2010, 07:07 AM
You may not have said that, but trust me, people said that. I was told by many people that I was wasting my time.now you're on a quest to find those people who will not say that. we wish there were more progressive power players like tarantino who's not afraid to shy away from women and action. he deserves more respect for that fact alone.
check out his list of power women (uma thurman, daryl hannah, lucy lui, vivica fox, pam grier, rosario dawson, rose mcgowen, zoe bell, syndey poitier)

and now he's working on kill bill 3

he got rodriguez on board with jessica alba and michelle rodriguez and all of his kid-friendly flicks have girl power equal to the boy power

and with the recent success of kathy bigelow i would guess that there are a few women directors and producers who should be looking in that direction. we just got to find out who they are. ;)

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 07:57 AM
now you're on a quest to find those people who will not say that. we wish there were more progressive power players like tarantino who's not afraid to shy away from women and action. he deserves more respect for that fact alone.
check out his list of power women (uma thurman, daryl hannah, lucy lui, vivica fox, pam grier, rosario dawson, rose mcgowen, zoe bell, syndey poitier)

and now he's working on kill bill 3

he got rodriguez on board with jessica alba and michelle rodriguez and all of his kid-friendly flicks have girl power equal to the boy power

and with the recent success of kathy bigelow i would guess that there are a few women directors and producers who should be looking in that direction. we just got to find out who they are. ;)

Don't forget Cameron, the biggest alpha male director with the coolest, most kick-ass female characters of all time! Too bad both he and Tarantino write their own material.

Bigelow may be a woman but she directs male driven action films, so I'm not sure her success will have any bearing on the proliferation of women in lead roles.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 08:32 AM
FYI, here is the breakdown by spec and genre from DDP since 1997. Keep in mind that the search engine finds all hybrids of a genre, so for instance drama includes action drama, comedy drama, crime drama, etc. So a lot of script sales show up in 2 or more categories (e.g. action adventure comedy would show up in 3 categories).

Comedy: 549
Thriller: 209
Drama: 172
Action: 151
Rom Com: 105
Horror: 51
Adventure: 39
Sci-fi: 37
Fantasy: 18
Romance: 12 (does not include Romantic Comedy)
Urban: 4
Western: 3
Period: 0

sc111
12-15-2010, 08:57 AM
I'd say they're always fairly interchangeable in big budget films (especially action...which most tentpoles are). SALT was supposed to be played by Tom Cruise. Now it's Angelina Jolie.


Lately, I have no idea what's action, or an action hybrid, or thriller with elements of action. A lot of these genres are bleeding into each other. I don't think my concept qualifies as a tentpole. But it may be pricey production wise. Some scenes require the look of flooding, others require futuristic elements. But my female lead is definitely not interchangeable with a male. Back story is rooted to her gender as is a major act 3 plot point. But I did add a male co-lead, hopefully that helps.

Is Minority Report considered pure action?

NikeeGoddess
12-15-2010, 09:40 AM
Is Minority Report considered pure action?i'm pretty sure it would be considered a sci fi hybrid since it was set in the future.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 09:48 AM
Well, first of all, I would like to hope they're not THAT rare, and second, of course I would like to think they can launch careers :)

Ask the readers who work here how many "recommends" they've issued in their careers while working for studios, agencies, etc. I don't ever think I've heard one in the double digits.

But certain genres, no matter how brilliant you may or may not be as a writer, are simply just a lot harder to push through if you're an unknown writer --or even if you're a known writer.

I mean really, all you have to do is a search by genre and spec on DD to figure out that certain types of scripts stand a better chance and that others stand literally no chance in hell. It becomes obvious pretty quickly.

I think you have to treat the business like a business, at least a little bit. I get passion and muses and all of that, but why insist on writing something that has "literally no chance in hell?" Write something that has a chance in hell. Like female leads? Write a comedy, where they sell. (I've sold several female lead comedies.) Can't write comedy? Write a two hander action movie with a male and female lead, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Knight and Day, or The Killers.

ETA: Jeff, my point was also, if a writer signs with a rep who DOESN'T take his/her script out, isn't it harder for that writer to gain attention?

Of course.

I.e., most of what I see on DD, writers get repped, the script goes out, no sale, but because the script went out, the writer may now get meetings. Whereas a writer signed just because the rep sees "promise", but doesn't take the script out, isn't that writer less likely to attract the attention necessary to compete for assignments?

Yes, but it's apples and oranges. If you write a script that an agent can't put down and can't wait to get everyone to read, it's going to go out to everyone. No matter what genre, no matter who the lead is written for. If you get signed because the agent thinks you have promise, it means that he thinks you're a good writer but the script he signed you off of isn't the one.

I think I remember what project you're talking about. (You sent me a treatment on it?) There is nothing about the subject matter that will keep it from being read, if it's great. A movie in the same world came out this year and did big business; they're doing a sequel. A top 5 writer broke in with a spec set in that world.

I know it's been a few years, but I broke in with a black comedy set in Hollywood. My agents knew that it would never get made. (Or if it did get made, it would would be a tiny budget indie, like Swimming With Sharks.) It didn't stop them from sending it to everyone on earth, and it got me dozens of meetings. It led to me selling a more conventional pitch to Disney, and being hired to punch up a kids movie.

I know the business is tighter, but that hasn't changed. There's a hunger for great writing.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 09:58 AM
Lately, I have no idea what's action, or an action hybrid, or thriller with elements of action. A lot of these genres are bleeding into each other.

Is Minority Report considered pure action?

I think Bill wrote a whole list somewhere of the different types of action.

BOURNE would be a good example of an action thriller, COMMANDO of pure action, INDIE JONES as action adventure, LOTR of Action adventure fantasy, and yes, I agree with Nikee, MINORITY REPORT would def go under sci-fi.

NikeeGoddess
12-15-2010, 10:13 AM
I think Bill wrote a whole list somewhere of the different types of action.

BOURNE would be a good example of an action thriller, COMMANDO of pure action, INDIE JONES as action adventure, LOTR of Action adventure fantasy, and yes, I agree with Nikee, MINORITY REPORT would def go under sci-fi.don't forget ChickFlick Action - lol!

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 10:29 AM
I think I remember what project you're talking about. (You sent me a treatment on it?) There is nothing about the subject matter that will keep it from being read, if it's great. A movie in the same world came out this year and did big business; they're doing a sequel. A top 5 writer broke in with a spec set in that world.

I know the business is tighter, but that hasn't changed. There's a hunger for great writing.

Yes it's the script you're thinking of and it's getting some attention, so fingers crossed :) But I have definitely noticed that this genre is not the type to generate the most reads, that's for sure. I think (well, I know), there are reps who won't even look at this kind of material because it's not their thing. It's just not everybody's cup of tea, including most of my friends, LOL. Add to that the fact that, again, films like this hardly ever come from original specs, well to me that is reasonable cause.

Not sure what movie and script you're talking about. Was the movie a remake and/or made from a book? Do you know if the spec sale you're talking about is listed on DD? I'm probably aware of it, I usually keep track of this stuff...

As for the hunger for great writing in HW, I'm sure you're right but the writing still has to correspond to someone's need or else it's just pretty words on a page. For instance, I struck up a bit of a relationship with a DOD at a major indie prodco. She kept agreeing to read scripts I sent her because she really digs my writing and we both kept hoping that one of them would be a good fit. Unfortunately, her boss was looking for very specific kind of material which did not correspond to any of what I sent her. But I asked her to keep me in mind for assignments, rewrites, whatever, and I've made a good contact there, so you never know what can happen down the line. The point is, no matter how much she loved my style, if it was female driven and her boss was looking for male driven, or if it was too indie and her boss was looking for more commercial, nothing was going to happen.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 10:45 AM
And the spec was Troy.

As for the hunger for great writing in HW, I'm sure you're right but the writing still has to correspond to someone's need or else it's just pretty words on a page. For instance, I struck up a bit of a relationship with a DOD at a major indie prodco. She kept agreeing to read scripts I sent her because she really digs my writing and we both kept hoping that one of them would be a good fit. Unfortunately, her boss was looking for very specific kind of material which did not correspond to any of what I sent her. But I asked her to keep me in mind for assignments, rewrites, whatever, and I've made a good contact there, so you never know what can happen down the line. The point is, no matter how much she loved my style, if it was female driven and her boss was looking for male driven, or if it was too indie and her boss was looking for more commercial, nothing was going to happen.

Yes, specs are hard to sell. Even if they're looking for a male driven movie, they still buy one out of a thousand that come to them. But the vast majority of the income made by writers is assignments, not spec sales. Your well written spec has you up for assignments. That's its job. Anything else is gravy.

Lucha Scribre
12-15-2010, 10:59 AM
As for the hunger for great writing in HW, I'm sure you're right but the writing still has to correspond to someone's need or else it's just pretty words on a page.

Wrong. If you write well and have people become fans of your writing, they'll request anything that you write. Even if it doesn't fit their needs. Yu need more faith in your writing and not think of excuses of why it won't be a successful script.

Incognito
12-15-2010, 11:04 AM
I think you have to treat the business like a business, at least a little bit. I get passion and muses and all of that, but why insist on writing something that has "literally no chance in hell?" Write something that has a chance in hell.

.

Can't agree more.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 11:16 AM
And the spec was Troy.
.

Oh OK, I thought you were talking recently, TROY was 9 years ago...

Looks like he had a busy week back in October 2001:

-On Oct 19 his supernatural thriller spec sells for 1.8 M.
-FIVE days later, he pitches TROY for what I'm guessing is a pretty nice chunk of cash.

Damn does that make a writer fantasize, holy crap.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 11:24 AM
Yu need more faith in your writing and not think of excuses of why it won't be a successful script.

I have plenty of faith in my writing. I also know some genres / budgets are harder to sell and that not every rep is going to read a script in a hard to sell category just to see if the writer is good enough for the rep to consider sending out for assignments.

Lucha Scribre
12-15-2010, 11:36 AM
A Horror SPEC is hard to sell. An Action SPEC is hard to sell. A Comedy SPEC is hard to sell. A Drama SPEC is hard to sell. A SPEC is hard to sell.

Incognito
12-15-2010, 11:55 AM
A Horror SPEC is hard to sell. An Action SPEC is hard to sell. A Comedy SPEC is hard to sell. A Drama SPEC is hard to sell. A SPEC is hard to sell.


Specs in certain genre's sell more often than than specs in other genre's. It's not all equal.

dworhach
12-15-2010, 11:59 AM
According to movie exhibitors:

The biggest box office star of 2008? Will Smith.
The biggest box office star of 2009? Sandra Bullock.

Wonder if Bullock would consider taking on another action flick, like Speed, if she's offered the right script?

Lucha Scribre
12-15-2010, 12:05 PM
Specs in certain genre's sell more often than than specs in other genre's. It's not all equal.

Has anyone, ever, in the whole universe of screenwriting, sat down and said "Hey... No wonder all these scripts in ________ genre sell... because MORE PEOPLE WRITE IN THE _______ GENRE".

If 1,000 drama specs are wrote in 2011 and 10 sell.
If 500 comedy specs are wrote in 2011 and 5 sell.
If 100 sci-fi specs are wrote in 2011 and 1 sells.

Same odds. Same rate of sale.

Obviously it is unknown to what writers around the world write in which genre, but definitely more write in the Comedy (people think they are funny), thriller (ghost stories are told all the time), and Drama (people think others will be compelled about their sad story).

Incognito
12-15-2010, 12:09 PM
Has anyone, ever, in the whole universe of screenwriting, sat down and said "Hey... No wonder all these scripts in ________ genre sell... because MORE PEOPLE WRITE IN THE _______ GENRE".

If 1,000 drama specs are wrote in 2011 and 10 sell.
If 500 comedy specs are wrote in 2011 and 5 sell.
If 100 sci-fi specs are wrote in 2011 and 1 sells.

Same odds. Same rate of sale.

Obviously it is unknown to what writers around the world write in which genre, but definitely more write in the Comedy (people think they are funny), thriller (ghost stories are told all the time), and Drama (people think others will be compelled about their sad story).



You can drag a horse to water...

Lucha Scribre
12-15-2010, 12:14 PM
You can drag a horse to water...

I can stand on my head and it'll look like I'm walking on the moon too.

If you're looking to break it down beyond excuses, marketing, and "that rep won't read my script because it's _______", great screenwriting gets noticed, no matter what genre. :) :)

jcgary
12-15-2010, 03:02 PM
Ask the readers who work here how many "recommends" they've issued in their careers while working for studios, agencies, etc. I don't ever think I've heard one in the double digits.

Out of between 750 and 900 scripts a year, I recommended probably 10, although I was an agency reader, so that's quite different from a studio reader who's looking for scripts to go into production. I was looking at stuff at all levels, from specs to material in development and even pre-production, and my reason for recommending could be "Hey, this is a great script!" or "Hey, this part is perfect for Jack Black!" or "Wow, I'll bet this is better than most crap Vin Diesel gets offered!" At an agency, a recommend might not necessarily mean that the script is great -- it just means that the project works for the agency and it's client.

But let's be clear -- Jeff's original point, that well-written and compelling scripts are rare, is horribly, awfully true. Not just rare. Never seen. Almost a snipe hunt.

And to bring it back to the topic at hand, yes, if you write an amazing script, you will get noticed. The awful truth is that if you haven't been noticed, you did not write an amazing script. Better luck next time.

Johnny Boy
12-15-2010, 03:11 PM
The awful truth is that if you haven't been noticed, you did not write an amazing script. Better luck next time.


This could be the answer to 98% of the questions on this board.

catcon
12-15-2010, 03:19 PM
...The awful truth is that if you haven't been noticed, you did not write an amazing script. Better luck next time.

Readers (agency and studio) operate at different levels of expertise, not just different levels of judging criteria (as you mention). We've certainly seen the latter in the world of "contest judges".

So nobody should give up after one "no", even from a bigshot. But after 5 passes? 10? On the same version script? Probably, then. But there are enough examples of passed scripts succeeding somewhere else for us to not give up easily on our precious babies, just because some reader says... :eek:

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 03:55 PM
So nobody should give up after one "no", even from a bigshot. But after 5 passes? 10? On the same version script? Probably, then. But there are enough examples of passed scripts succeeding somewhere else for us to not give up easily on our precious babies, just because some reader says... :eek:

Well Joe9 said that before he got repped he used to send out 1000 queries for each script. So that's how long it can take.

catcon
12-15-2010, 04:12 PM
Well Joe9 said that before he got repped he used to send out 1000 queries for each script. So that's how long it can take.

Well, I'm at ... exactly (checking database)... 1503 on 9 scripts I'm querying on... still a ways to go.

jcgary
12-15-2010, 04:35 PM
So nobody should give up after one "no", even from a bigshot. But after 5 passes? 10? On the same version script? Probably, then. But there are enough examples of passed scripts succeeding somewhere else for us to not give up easily on our precious babies, just because some reader says... :eek:

I'm going to rephrase my earlier statement:

They are trained to look for amazing. They thirst for amazing. They yearn for amazing. They beg and plead for amazing. All they want is to find the most amazing script ever.

If lots of people in town don't like your script, it isn't amazing.

ETA: Plenty of screenwriters build careers off of scripts that are not amazing. Plenty of professional screenwriters never ever write an amazing script. Like I said: snipe rare.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 06:40 PM
If lots of people in town don't like your script, it isn't amazing.
.

After you've been at it for a while, you should be able to evaluate the quality of your writing based on the reactions it gets. If you're doing well in contests, getting positive feedback from readers, reps and producers, etc., then you can at least figure that you're doing something right.

Beyond that, I think you need the right script at the right time on the right desk to really get ahead in the game.

Specs get taken out wide all the time by top agencies and get snatched up by alpha producers who take them to their studios, and the whole town is all abuzz, and yet the spec doesn't sell. Does that mean the script wasn't amazing? That's probably not what it means. It probably means that due to some X, Y, Z factor, the studio decided not to go for it. Now if you're the writer of that spec, hopefully it means that you'll be up for assignments and on your way out of the studio apartment, the day job and the ramen noodles diet. But as far as I can tell, there are tons of writers here at DD who've had specs go wide and still aren't making their living via writing assignments. I know it doesn't mean they are bad writers, I think it just goes to show once again, that it's tough even when you have talent and even after you've been "noticed."

But we all knew it was tough going in, so we just keep plugging along and we write the best we can, hopefully with the market in mind at least a bit, and we work our butts off to get the material out there and we hope that one day, all the elements that need to come together will in fact come together.

This thread was about big budget tentpoles. The fact that they are harder to sell as original specs is not really debatable, especially in certain genres. All anyone has to do to realize that is to look at the big expensive films and research where the scripts came from. This is not conjecture, this is fact.

Personally, I'm not that bright, and I did NOT in fact know that before I wrote my 150 M script.... :) But I had a lot of fun with it and I sure as hell don't regret it. I'm even thinking about the sequel.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 07:37 PM
Personally, I'm not that bright

Don't be so hard on yourself - no one's saying that.

I'm even thinking about the sequel.

Whoops. Never mind. ;)

(I'm just kidding.)

After you've been at it for a while, you should be able to evaluate the quality of your writing based on the reactions it gets. If you're doing well in contests, getting positive feedback from readers, reps and producers, etc., then you can at least figure that you're doing something right.

There's a difference between positive feedback and getting the feeling that you're doing something right, and a script that blows the doors off of the town. It happens. It's insane when it does. Producers and execs pass it to each other, they talk about it on tracking boards, your reps are fielding calls from people asking to meet you...

corduroy
12-15-2010, 08:04 PM
Man. "The Suit of Cheese" is a pretty fantastic title. No wonder it lit peoples' hair on fire.

ChipC
12-15-2010, 10:10 PM
Don't let so many comments deter or discourage you in writing your next 100+M budget film. People love them. People want them. Just saying.

What if you are an unrepresented, unsold, unbuncha other stuff? Good or bad idea to include big budget scripts when marketing one's self?

Paul Striver
12-15-2010, 10:37 PM
Specs get taken out wide all the time by top agencies and get snatched up by alpha producers who take them to their studios, and the whole town is all abuzz, and yet the spec doesn't sell. Does that mean the script wasn't amazing? That's probably not what it means.

Actually, that's probably exactly what it means. Sure, there are some amazing scripts that don't sell. But most of the scripts that go wide, whether they sell or not, simply aren't amazing.

I've read pretty much every script that's gone wide in the past two years. Very, very few of them are what I'd call amazing. Perhaps 5% of them qualified as excellent IMO, and I can't think of any of those that didn't sell (though I'm probably forgetting one or two).

The fact is, most of the scripts that go wide, including some that sell, are kind of meh stories and meh writing. I can tell that they're professional -- i.e., they're competently written and reading them doesn't sap my will to live -- but they're not amazing, not buzz-worthy. (What's even more astonishing to me than the rarity of amazing screenplays is how few -- a few hundred a year at most -- even rise to the level of meh, even reach the bar of mere competence.)

Scripts that actually do have "the whole town abuzz" are rare, and they almost always sell. With the caveat that some amazing scripts don't even go wide, because everyone recognizes that they're not likely to sell or be produced, despite how amazing they are -- but those scripts do start and/or turbocharge careers.

Is there any such thing as a truly amazing script that doesn't sell and/or significantly enhance a writer's career? I doubt it. It's well-nigh inconceivable (if that word means what I think it means...)

.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 10:52 PM
Well Jeff that's a lovely story, thank you :)

Anyway, according to my research, it would take a miracle for an unknown writer to sell a 150 M original spec in the action adventure fantasy genre.

As far as I can tell, it's never happened before. If it has, I would certainly love to hear about it.

Knaight
12-15-2010, 10:54 PM
Well Jeff that's a lovely story, thank you :)

Anyway, according to my research, it would take a miracle for an unknown writer to sell a 150 M original spec in the action adventure fantasy genre.

As far as I can tell, it's never happened before. If it has, I would certainly love to hear about it.

GALAHAD.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 11:09 PM
Anyway, according to my research, it would take a miracle for an unknown writer to sell a 150 M original spec in the action adventure fantasy genre.

Most big budget action adventure fantasies aren't spec scripts sales, whether from newcomer or a-list writer. The risk is so high that they want an established audience, which is why they're usually book or comic book adaptations, sequels, remakes, etc, etc...

Can you name a few of those that came from specs? I can't think of any.

Again, I don't think it's a newbie vs established question.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 11:10 PM
Actually, that's probably exactly what it means. Sure, there are some amazing scripts that don't sell. But most of the scripts that go wide, whether they sell or not, simply aren't amazing.

I've read pretty much every script that's gone wide in the past two years. Very, very few of them are what I'd call amazing. Perhaps 5% of them qualified as excellent IMO, and I can't think of any of those that didn't sell (though I'm probably forgetting one or two).

The fact is, most of the scripts that go wide, including some that sell, are kind of meh stories and meh writing. I can tell that they're professional -- i.e., they're competently written and reading them doesn't sap my will to live -- but they're not amazing, not buzz-worthy. (What's even more astonishing to me than the rarity of amazing screenplays is how few -- a few hundred a year at most -- even rise to the level of meh, even reach the bar of mere competence.)

Scripts that actually do have "the whole town abuzz" are rare, and they almost always sell. With the caveat that some amazing scripts don't even go wide, because everyone recognizes that they're not likely to sell or be produced, despite how amazing they are -- but those scripts do start and/or turbocharge careers.

Is there any such thing as a truly amazing script that doesn't sell and/or significantly enhance a writer's career? I doubt it. It's well-nigh inconceivable (if that word means what I think it means...)

.

That seems like a whole other discussion.... and personally, I would ask, why aren't there more amazing scripts that blow the whole town away? Forget about the new writer trying to break in, what about all the working pros? Why aren't they writing more amazing scripts? Surely if they are making millions of dollars per script that means they must have talent. But does the current system stifle creativity and encourage formulaic fare? Are writers too restricted by their reps and the studios from writing what they truly want to write? Or are most of the wealthiest and most talented writers too busy writing franchise material to pen great original specs?

I'm not being sarcastic, I'm genuinely curious...

MrEarbrass
12-15-2010, 11:11 PM
Anyway, according to my research, it would take a miracle for an unknown writer to sell a 150 M original spec in the action adventure fantasy genre.

As far as I can tell, it's never happened before. If it has, I would certainly love to hear about it.

If you're just determined to have an excuse, go for it. Me... I think it's empowering to realize that the reason you aren't getting attention is because your stuff isn't good enough yet. It puts your future back in your hands and relieves you of the pressure of worrying about what Hollywood does or doesn't want.

And yes, being strategic about what you write probably increases your odds--especially if you write a merely professional script rather than something truly distinctive. But don't gloss over the key point that several pros have made in this thread: people are always looking for a great script in ANY genre. Unfortunately, great doesn't mean that your mother likes it or your writing group likes it or it did well in some contest. Great means that it can compete with the best stuff being written today--and in my experience deceiving yourself about the height of that bar only leads to bitterness and frustration.

MrEarbrass
12-15-2010, 11:13 PM
That seems like a whole other discussion.... and personally, I would ask, why aren't there more amazing scripts that blow the whole town away?

Because writing is fvcking hard.

Rantanplan
12-15-2010, 11:19 PM
Most big budget action adventure fantasies aren't spec scripts sales, whether from newcomer or a-list writer. The risk is so high that they want an established audience, which is why they're usually book or comic book adaptations, sequels, remakes, etc, etc...

Can you name a few of those that came from specs? I can't think of any.

Again, I don't think it's a newbie vs established question.

Out of the list of 150 M + films, not taking into consideration animation, the only ones I could find that come from original material were a few comedies (but comedies are often original, so not unusual), and of course AVATAR and INCEPTION. MATRIX and HANCOCK would also be on the list as original material, and then the Emmerich disaster flicks. Of course most of these are director driven, so hardly the same sandbox as the new writer, but at least it's original material (whether specs or not I'm not sure). There's also one of the MUMMY flicks, not sure if it's original material or not.

But yeah, otherwise it's basically your hobbits, your superheroes, your pirates, boy magicians, your talking lions and what not.

Anyway, I'm sort of in awe of the list. And altogether, it's only a handful of directors if you really think about it. It's the ultimate alpha male club. Damn it must be sweet.

ETA: and you're right, I think even known writers would have a tough time selling that genre with that price tag. But the known writer would probably have easier access than the new writer.

JeffLowell
12-15-2010, 11:40 PM
ETA: and you're right, I think even known writers would have a tough time selling that genre with that price tag. But the known writer would probably have easier access than the new writer.

This is really the crux of it. You're absolutely right. If Scott Frank wrote a 150 million dollar script, he would have an easier time getting it read than you.

But isn't that fair? He wrote great scripts, worked his way up the ladder, had stuff produced, his projects made money... He had to prove himself to get to the point he's at. No one handed it to him. He didn't complain that his first spec didn't get read as easily as William Goldman's scripts.

As you've pointed out, there are a bunch of people on DD who've gone wide with scripts recently. They got their writing to a place where an agent was willing to sign them and take them out. They climbed on the same ladder that Frank did - it's still there.

I guess I'm at a loss to understand the inequity of a system that favors people with track records and experience.

Rantanplan
12-16-2010, 09:24 AM
This is really the crux of it. You're absolutely right. If Scott Frank wrote a 150 million dollar script, he would have an easier time getting it read than you.

But isn't that fair?
.

Of course it's fair :) Did I ever say it wasn't? I was stating some of the facts, which I personally find fascinating and which I didn't really know about until recently --and which lead me to believe that scripts that are impossible to sell are less likely to get read, especially if written by unknowns. Clearly others in the thread disagree, but I would still suggest for anybody writing certain big budget genres to do a bit of research before you get started. It's good to know what the track record is on such specs and what you're up against.

catcon
12-16-2010, 10:04 AM
Great thread, but I think debating who should be able to write tentpoles, or indies or anything else, is actually a euphemism for our complaints about "access".

We have the right to our opinions about the quality or type of scripts being produced, and who should get to write the tentpoles, but judging whether or not one gets made just isn't our call. If I were running the business, I'm sure I'd pick and choose exactly as the present operators do. It's the safe bet with my own or investors' money.

On the other hand... I'd always be paranoid about missing out on that "next big trend".

Comparing this to my day job (computers) I do find R&D in the movie industry is vastly underfunded and undervalued. The bit about one company's development budget going from a million a year to $50K is a little crazy.

In the computer biz, nobody who wants to survive scrimps on R&D. But in the movies, when development funds run out, meaning there isn't sufficient development on "new material" for the next "season", isn't it obvious they're going to turn to simple, sure-thing remakes and sequels? To disguise the fact they've run out of ideas, they choose the tentpoles, or star-driven vehicles.

I won't even try to suggest any cures for what ails this biz.

Rantanplan
12-16-2010, 10:17 AM
Mine is under 150, around a 100, but I came SO FREAKING CLOSE to selling with two different studios. And one was initially a dead end, until a producer that really loved it went to an exec higher on the food chain. I'm redeveloping with the producer now and they're planning to make attachments and go back out with it. If I can come that close, anyone can with enough hard work and tenacity. And my holiday wish for all you guys is that you find great success in the new year. :)

That's awesome Gravitas, fingers crossed for you! Keep us posted.

SuperScribe
12-16-2010, 10:53 AM
There's a subtext* I get from a lot of Lowell's posts about this topic (as well as Earbrass's posts, mrjonesprods's posts, and posts by others who've had some measure of success), and I agree with it (even though I don't always heed it; but that's due to my own neuroses). It goes something like this:

"Stop wasting so much time trying to figure this industry out. Doing so expends energy that you'll never get back -- energy you could be using to write. Instead of endlessly debating with yourself and others about what you should be writing or how you should approach breaking in when all of the doors seem to be closed, write a script. And then another. And then another. Test the waters by showing your work to people in the industry. If you're getting positive feedback but nobody is going out of his way to push your stuff through the aforementioned doors, then go back to work. Write another script. And another. Focus on the writing. ALWAYS the writing."

I remember reading a review of a documentary about Jerry Seinfeld. The critic (Ebert, perhaps?) talked about a sequence that showed the contrast between Jerry's approach and that of an unsuccessful comedian friend of his. Jerry was constantly working on his material, constantly brainstorming, constantly testing his jokes on other people, and constantly thinking in terms of what was funny. His friend, on the other hand, was constantly talking about making it big, constantly talking about what he'd do when he did, and constantly brainstorming ways to make himself a product, but in a way that had nothing to do with his material. As such, he'd been "struggling to break in" for years. Though I've never seen the documentary, just hearing about the contrast between the two fascinated me. And it's something Terry Rossio has discussed before.

That said, I know Rantanplan. And I know her major focus is always on the writing. She's got a lot of Seinfeld in her, in more ways than one. And she IS doing all the stuff she needs to be doing.

*ETA: Okay, okay, the advice is usually overt rather than subtextual. Earbrass, Lowell and mrjonesprods don't tend to mince words.

catcon
12-16-2010, 11:45 AM
There's a subtext* I get from a lot of Lowell's posts about this topic ...

re: the entire post... :bounce: (we need a thumb's up smilie)

TheCleaner
12-16-2010, 11:45 AM
-

Rantanplan
12-16-2010, 11:57 AM
To paraphrase one of my favorite flicks:

Jeff: Why are you wasting time trying to figure this industry out?
Rantaplan: Dude, I never walk into a place I don't know how to walk out of.
Jeff: Then why are you gettin' into that van?
Rantaplan: You know the reason.

I'm giving up on this thread :)

Good luck to all my fellow 150 M tentpole writers !

SuperScribe
12-16-2010, 12:52 PM
That was a dumb post on my part. I wasn't reacting to your exchange with Jeff; I was just thinking about the topic in general and, in a way, reminding myself of something by posting about it. Mea culpa, Rant.

Rantanplan
12-16-2010, 01:21 PM
That was a dumb post on my part. I wasn't reacting to your exchange with Jeff; I was just thinking about the topic in general and, in a way, reminding myself of something by posting about it. Mea culpa, Rant.

Don't fret my pet.

Actually the stuff that Jeff is saying is exactly the stuff I was saying up-thread, i.e. certain types of films don't come from specs, etc etc etc.

And now if you'll excuse me, I am going to fax a query to a production company that makes big fat movies that rake in the bucks at the B.O.

Lucha Scribre
12-16-2010, 01:24 PM
Faxing a query now? One day before everyone jets if they haven't jetted already? That might be bad timing.

Rantanplan
12-16-2010, 04:36 PM
Where's everybody going? Do people take off from now until the New Year, is that the deal?

ETA: Just saw the other thread. This means that the people who are reading our scripts can take their time and relax with them over a nice glass of eggnog, so it's all good :)

Anyway, I didn't fax it, there was a big typo right in the title.

catcon
12-16-2010, 04:45 PM
Where's everybody going? Do people take off from now until the New Year, is that the deal?

See other thread, Holiday Schedule (http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/boards/showthread.php?t=59282)

I wasn't convinced about the 2-week shutdown. They wish! So I went back to my email out-box from last year and see that I wasn't even querying back then. However, I do have three responses to emails on or around the 22nd of Dec. and 28th, on legal rep matters, so if the lawyers are paying attention, the others may be too, (a bit).

At the very least, it means we can finish off that draft we've been putting off. And a break is always a good way of refreshing your brain and reframing your strategies.