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jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 06:49 AM
Where your reps call you, tell you the studio likes you for an idea they've generated, a fairly general idea, and they tell you up front they are bringing in five other writers and/or writing teams before deciding whom to take to their boss at said studio. I always fear they're just pumping me for ideas to hand to whomever they eventually hire and/or have no idea what they want so they have you throw darts at a swinging invisible dart board and maybe say "Bingo!" if you hit it.

ihavebiglips
04-08-2011, 07:01 AM
Where your reps call you, tell you the studio likes you for an idea they've generated, a fairly general idea, and they tell you up front they are bringing in five other writers and/or writing teams before deciding whom to take to their boss at said studio. I always fear they're just pumping me for ideas to hand to whomever they eventually hire and/or have no idea what they want so they have you throw darts at a swinging invisible dart board and maybe say "Bingo!" if you hit it.

What's your alternative? Let fear and paranoia govern your decision making?

This is what the OWA game is all about... it's you against other writers. Sure, an idea you had might show up in the other guy's pitch or the finished product - but that's not to say you were the only one who generated that idea (especially if five writers are working the same concept).

Your job is to give due diligence, put the work in, come up with a take ONLY YOU could come up with, and prove to the studio that you can do the job. Even if they are effectively playing dartboard "bingo" - would you prefer no opportunity? We've pitched on **** that went to another writer but it opened up doors on other projects - and after that guy's draft we might have a shot at the project again.

You never know, development can run a project in circles, and they might remember your take if they hire a guy and aren't satisfied with his drafts. If you're THAT scared about it, feel free to have your rep forward the opportunity to my rep and I'll take a shot at it!

It's all about pokers in the fire, son!

catcon
04-08-2011, 07:05 AM
If I had the time I'd like the opportunity, sure.

Never mind the fact you could get lucky (they might want to save money on you, a newer writer, or hey, you might just come up with the best idea), it's a good experience.

You might even be able to craft it as a resume statement somehow. You know how it is: If you enter a contest and manage to get into their second round before being dropped, and then later strike it big, the darned contest guys still manage to plaster their literature with "so and so, who placed in our contest in 20??, got $? option from Warner/Universal/Disney etc. today" !!! :bounce:

So, no matter what, it's good for the experience, that's all, and you never know what contacts or fine impression you might leave for another day.

Scriptonian
04-08-2011, 08:10 AM
A 'bum's rush' is to hurry one along or out of a place, and incorrectly used here.

Jane got the bum's rush in the restaurant because she was loud and uncouth.

I was given a bum's rush at the boutique until I pulled out a wad of bills.

Your reps don't appear to be trying to get rid of you. On the contrary....

LIMAMA
04-08-2011, 08:32 AM
Where your reps call you, tell you the studio likes you for an idea they've generated, a fairly general idea, and they tell you up front they are bringing in five other writers and/or writing teams before deciding whom to take to their boss at said studio. I always fear they're just pumping me for ideas to hand to whomever they eventually hire and/or have no idea what they want so they have you throw darts at a swinging invisible dart board and maybe say "Bingo!" if you hit it.

Isn't this what they call "sweepstakes pitching"?

BattleDolphinZero
04-08-2011, 08:55 AM
When the studio says "five writers" they mean 10 with more coming.

Cattle calls are almost always a waste of time. If you have something you're working on, something that is truly viable in the spec market...I'd focus on that.

In fact I do. Every blue moon I get caught up and toss my hat in one of these things and it's always terrible.

They will sap you. You'll have to put together a detailed take. Do notes. More notes. Wait. All the while you're other work is on 'hold' becuase you're hoping this pans out...

jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 09:12 AM
When the studio says "five writers" they mean 10 with more coming.

Cattle calls are almost always a waste of time. If you have something you're working on, something that is truly viable in the spec market...I'd focus on that.

In fact I do. Every blue moon I get caught up and toss my hat in one of these things and it's always terrible.

They will sap you. You'll have to put together a detailed take. Do notes. More notes. Wait. All the while you're other work is on 'hold' becuase you're hoping this pans out...

While I agree with your thought process, I think IHAVEBIGLIPS is correct. You have to be in it to win it.

In this market, unless your name is Zallian, Benioff, or Goldsman, you have to cast as many pieces of bread of water upon the water as possible. And BTW, I still work on specs all the time. I don't know about the rest of you, but if I'm not writing, the fears and doubts start creeping in- idle hands are indeed the devil's work shop.

ihavebiglips
04-08-2011, 09:13 AM
I guess it depends on how long it takes you to put together a take and what stage of your career you are at.

My bro and I can put together a viable take in a week or two, while still working on our own spec. If you're a beginner it can be good practice just to work out treatments, learn to develop a story in a constrained amount of time, respond to notes and feedback, and get in the room to cut your teeth pitching - with lower stakes than something you are on the short list for or are really passionate about.

If you are a tyro scribe your quote will be lower than any writers with credits partaking in the cattle call - so you may get some consideration on that front, all other things being equal.

But, I will agree that holding out hope you will be "the guy" can be dangerous. If you partake in something like this, I most definitely wouldn't bank on getting the gig no matter how laudatory the studio peeps seem. Take it all with a grain of salt - and be prepared for it to take excruciatingly long or fizzle out altogether.

Again, it depends on what stage you're at and how long it takes you to come up with a take on the material (having a simpatico writing partner to bounce ideas back and forth definitely seems to help quicken our pace and ability to multitask).

jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 09:33 AM
I guess it depends on how long it takes you to put together a take and what stage of your career you are at.

My bro and I can put together a viable take in a week or two, while still working on our own spec. If you're a beginner it can be good practice just to work out treatments, learn to develop a story in a constrained amount of time, respond to notes and feedback, and get in the room to cut your teeth pitching - with lower stakes than something you are on the short list for or are really passionate about.

If you are a tyro scribe your quote will be lower than any writers with credits partaking in the cattle call - so you may get some consideration on that front, all other things being equal.

But, I will agree that holding out hope you will be "the guy" can be dangerous. If you partake in something like this, I most definitely wouldn't bank on getting the gig no matter how laudatory the studio peeps seem. Take it all with a grain of salt - and be prepared for it to take excruciatingly long or fizzle out altogether.

Again, it depends on what stage you're at and how long it takes you to come up with a take on the material (having a simpatico writing partner to bounce ideas back and forth definitely seems to help quicken our pace and ability to multitask).

I've been around, done studio gigs, created a TV show. I can work up a take in a week no problem on my own. The issue I find is giving them enough that they see the movie but not so much detail that they harp on what color the girlfriend's eyes are or what kind of car your protag drives- can't give 'em stuff to nitpick your take to death with- it's tricky.

Oh, and I take everything with a BOULDER of salt. I don't think a job is going to happen till I get the commencement money in my bank account.

Derek Haas
04-08-2011, 09:53 AM
This is how the business has worked since I started. You go in and compete for a job. It's a lot of work but the pay-off is worth it if you win the job. It's no different than having a bunch of architects come to your house and bid on a remodel. When I worked in advertising, we had to put campaigns together to try to win accounts. It's just part of the game and in no way unusual.

emily blake
04-08-2011, 10:04 AM
A 'bum's rush' is to hurry one along or out of a place, and incorrectly used here.

Jane got the bum's rush in the restaurant because she was loud and uncouth.

I was given a bum's rush at the boutique until I pulled out a wad of bills.

Your reps don't appear to be trying to get rid of you. On the contrary....

That's a "bum's rush" which is an older almost forgotten phrase. OP said "bum rush" which is to run full force into something.

jkk808
04-08-2011, 10:07 AM
A 'bum's rush' is to hurry one along or out of a place, and incorrectly used here.

Jane got the bum's rush in the restaurant because she was loud and uncouth.

I was given a bum's rush at the boutique until I pulled out a wad of bills.

Your reps don't appear to be trying to get rid of you. On the contrary....

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20000713

corduroy
04-08-2011, 10:09 AM
I would love to be in a sweepstakes with just five other people.

jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 10:09 AM
This is how the business has worked since I started. You go in and compete for a job. It's a lot of work but the pay-off is worth it if you win the job. It's no different than having a bunch of architects come to your house and bid on a remodel. When I worked in advertising, we had to put campaigns together to try to win accounts. It's just part of the game and in no way unusual.

I guess I was just comiserating online- or, as my wife likes to put it, whining. Yes, the practice has gone on forever, but I've found it's gotten so much meaner since the strike. It's like the studios know they can make us eat sh*t, so they do. I don't mind numerous calls, or working up takes- it's when they start calling for detailed outlines (for free, of course) that I feel they're abusing the process. And then my reps remind me if I'm not willing to do it, then the other writers will. It's Catch-22. Has anyone else found it's gotten worse post-strike?

jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 10:13 AM
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20000713

My (ill-worded) meaning was in the hip-hop sense of "bum-rushing" an object, like:

GANGSTA #1
We'll never get out- there's too many damn cops.

GANGSTA #2
No choice- we'll just bum rush the door, hope for the best.

GANGSTA #1
Word.

I know. It's lousy dialogue- just illustrating a point.

ihavebiglips
04-08-2011, 10:24 AM
Sweet... now there are three posts in this thread that do nothing to move the conversation forward. Thanks, Scriptonian!

Anyway, jetmet... well, damn... you're ahead of me in this racket so what can I say? I do agree that the question of just how fully fleshed out your pitch should be has always been our problem as well. My bro and I are not YET at the stage you are, but it always comes down to the details, doesn't it?

Give them just enough to get them asking the right questions, not so much that you risk turning them off with superfluous details that your story doesn't hinge on in the first place.

We had a VERY hard time wrapping our minds around the "broad strokes" aspect of pitching (still wrestling with it). It's counter-intuitive; as writers we know the devil is in the details, and our execution and voice are dependent on what details we choose to bring to the forefront and exploit.

Guess it comes to down to macro and micro. I think it was Chris Lockhart who wrote some essays on pitching back in the day, explaining the process as a series of boxes within boxes (think the russian egg):

Your first box is broad strokes. Hit them with your main characters, the beginning, middle, and end. Maybe a couple primo set pieces, get the juices flowing.

Open that box, discard it.

More details in the inner box, hopefully spurned on by the folks you're pitching to asking the "right" questions. And so on and so on until you are done, they say "Love it! We'll be in touch." or the guy starts yawning and checking at his iPhone (oops... too much?! lol)

So, I guess the thing is we need to be authorities going in the room. Like Derek says, it's a lot of work... we should be authorities on our hypothetical movie walking in the door, while they should "see" the movie and be turned on by it when we leave the room - but not bogged down in details. Focus is key. We are authorities in the sense that we can answer all or most of their questions (or come up with answers on the fly), but not an authority in the sense that you bog the pitch down with boorish details. Keep them wanting more and all that jazz.

Easier said than done, as you know, but that's the racket right? As you surely already know all of this, I was saying it merely to... well, procrastinate on my own work for one thing... and illuminate the process for all those folks who haven't been called upon to pitch a take on a property yet.

Jeff Lowell and BDZ were awesome enough to give me some advice on the broad strokes of pitching as well before we first entered the lion's den.

jetmetfan
04-08-2011, 10:36 AM
Sweet... now there are three posts in this thread that do nothing to move the conversation forward. Thanks, Scriptonian!

Anyway, jetmet... well, damn... you're ahead of me in this racket so what can I say? I do agree that the question of just how fully fleshed out your pitch should be has always been our problem as well. My bro and I are not YET at the stage you are, but it always comes down to the details, doesn't it?

Give them just enough to get them asking the right questions, not so much that you risk turning them off with superfluous details that your story doesn't hinge on in the first place.

We had a VERY hard time wrapping our minds around the "broad strokes" aspect of pitching (still wrestling with it). It's counter-intuitive; as writers we know the devil is in the details, and our execution and voice are dependent on what details we choose to bring to the forefront and exploit.

Guess it comes to down to macro and micro. I think it was Chris Lockhart who wrote some essays on pitching back in the day, explaining the process as a series of boxes within boxes (think the russian egg):

Your first box is broad strokes. Hit them with your main characters, the beginning, middle, and end. Maybe a couple primo set pieces, get the juices flowing.

Open that box, discard it.

More details in the inner box, hopefully spurned on by the folks you're pitching to asking the "right" questions. And so on and so on until you are done, they say "Love it! We'll be in touch." or the guy starts yawning and checking at his iPhone (oops... too much?! lol)

So, I guess the thing is we need to be authorities going in the room. Like Derek says, it's a lot of work... we should be authorities on our hypothetical movie walking in the door, while they should "see" the movie and be turned on by it when we leave the room - but not bogged down in details. Focus is key. We are authorities in the sense that we can answer all or most of their questions (or come up with answers on the fly), but not an authority in the sense that you bog the pitch down with boorish details. keep them wanting more and all that jazz.

Easier said than done, as you know, but that's the racket right? As you surely already know all of this, I was saying it merely to... well, procrastinate on my own work for one thing... and illuminate the process for all those folks who haven't been called upon to pitch a take on a property yet.

Jeff Lowell and BDZ were awesome enough to give me some advice on the broad strokes of pitching as well before we first entered the lion's den.

My thoughts (for what they're worth) are this: show enthusiasm without being a toady. They want to hear a tone in your voice that says "This will be a very cool movie." Also, don't poke around trying to guess what they want to hear- have a definite point of view and stick to it, but remain flexible and collaborative. My way or the highway won't cut it. If you can, be funny. Chat. Execs are people- they watch hoops, the news, etc. And finally, your take has to be something they can remember when they go upstairs to tell their boss, so keep it as short as possible. If they like it, they start asking questions. If they don't, it'll be so damn quiet you'll practically hear crickets chirping in the b.g. ;) Just my two cents- take it for what it's worth.

ihavebiglips
04-08-2011, 10:48 AM
My thoughts (for what they're worth) are this: show enthusiasm without being a toady. They want to hear a tone in your voice that says "This will be a very cool movie." Also, don't poke around trying to guess what they want to hear- have a definite point of view and stick to it, but remain flexible and collaborative. My way or the highway won't cut it. If you can, be funny. Chat. Execs are people- they watch hoops, the news, etc. And finally, your take has to be something they can remember when they go upstairs to tell their boss, so keep it as short as possible. If they like it, they start asking questions. If they don't, it'll be so damn quiet you'll practically hear crickets chirping in the b.g. ;) Just my two cents- take it for what it's worth.

Sounds about right. Always good to reiterate this sort of **** - keep it to fifteen minutes or less if at all possible and remember you're pitching YOURSELF as much as your movie. Our first pitch ran long... and it hurt, lol.

It's like the opposite of ****ing... you start out by going for too long as opposed to busting your teenage nut too quick, and as you get better you shorten it up as opposed to luxuriously drawing it out.

Okay, back to work!

Manchester
04-08-2011, 10:55 AM
When I worked in advertising, we had to put campaigns together to try to win accounts. It's just part of the game and in no way unusual.
Interesting comparison. I have worked with both industries but have worked in neither. Would you say in advertising the odds are comparable (whether high/low/in-between) that a prospective client might purposefully take your ideas (in part, anyway) but give the job to someone else?

BattleDolphinZero
04-08-2011, 11:07 AM
Jetmet,

Derek,

There is a dance. It's not as simple as take all shots. You can lose a lot of time doing it. To me, when your reps are ambivolent (sp?) it's a huge red flag.

So so often this stuff leads no where. And usually when it's lower level writers, it extra special sauce goes no where. There are a few projects like Warner's "Bullit" remake that have drained hundreds of takes from writers and never moved forward.

They're not gonna call Derek into that one because it's such bullsh!t it'd be bad politics.

For sure any job is gonna be competitive, especially nowadays. But guys like me and Todd Karate get warnings like, "look, it's a long shot. you can do it if you want but..."

And once you decide to dip a foot in, it's near impossible to pull out as you develop and develop and wait and wait.

Also, for me, being on hold when I'm up for a gig takes up creative real-estate in my brain organ.

So, just saying...nothing. Nothing matters.

Derek Haas
04-08-2011, 11:27 AM
I've always found value in the jobs we didn't get. We used the same set-piece in four different pitches. We kept honing it until it sung. We learned a great deal from the questions that were asked after pitching. And when we finally broke through, we realized what we had done well. I think there's a lot of value to it... but I didn't have the same problem of having one pitch **** up my creative output.

As far as similarities with advertising, I think they take ideas from pitches all the time in both businesses. I've never really worried about it though.

BattleDolphinZero
04-08-2011, 12:53 PM
You sicken me.

Ronaldinho
04-08-2011, 02:17 PM
To me, it starts with a simple question to my agent:

"Do I really have a shot at this job?"

Sometimes, my agent can look at who else is pitching and say, "No." As a baby writer, you'll get this a lot. They may want you to come in, get a sense of how you think, but they're going to go with someone more established.

That doesn't mean the pitch is valueless - more on that in a moment. But it does mean that I'm going to go in knowing that it's more about getting to know each other than it is for me to get the job.

And in those circumstances, well, I look at the opportunity cost. What am I doing over the next two weeks instead?

A lot of times companies have "open writing assignments" which aren't very active. They've been sitting there for a while, and the company hasn't moved on them. Sometimes this is because nobody's impressed them with a take on the material. Sometimes it's because they're not actually that interested in the material anymore. The trick is to see if you agent can figure out which ones are in the first category, and get a chance to pitch on those.

But there are some development execs who'd rather get to know you based on a pitch and the generic meet-and-greet, and so sometimes it's worth taking pitches that you know you're not going to get if its a company you want to work with, and you feel you can say something interesting in the pitch - and the opportunity cost isn't too high.

sc111
04-09-2011, 09:12 AM
As far as similarities with advertising, I think they take ideas from pitches all the time in both businesses. I've never really worried about it though.


There are similarities with ad agencies to a point. IMO it would serve screenwriters to think more like ad agencies.

Ad agencies approach clients in this way: "We are offering you a unique service based on our particular skills which you won't get from anyone else. Here's the idea, here's why it works, here's why it will appeal to the market." If you feel like you're competing against other agencies it's not as effective.

You're really competing against the client's ignorance on some level.

But in this sweepstakes thing screenwriters are likely to lose that edge, lose that mindset. And get pushed into the "please like me and not those other guys" position.

Years ago, the agencies got smart -- the "heavy hitters" now charge the prospective client for a pitch. Because clients were taking advantage of the pitch process and - yes - stealing ideas. Blatantly.

If you're willing to throw your ideas around for free you are an active participant in confirming the client's belief ideas aren't worth much. The creative process isn't worth much.

Still, agencies are invited to pitch based on their expertise, ideas can always change along the way in the creative process, the trick in a pitch is to raise the client's comfort level with you. They need you.

At most, there are three or four competing agencies. Never 10 or 20 agencies giving full pitches. Even the clients know it's ridiculous to hear pitches from 20 agencies. After a while concepts blur together and the real test is full execution.

Which equates with developing an entire script, over months, through fade out, for free.

I have a hunch this sweepstakes thing will slowly go in this direction. It's the logical progression.

At some point, a newbie writer or team will walk into a pitch with a full first draft. It's bound to happen. This may set a new criteria -- pitch us with a full draft.

I know I have zero experience in the film industry and it's easy to disregard the above points, but I do know this:

When you sell creativity as a product you risk it all if you allow (enable) the client to think what you do is "easy," ideas are "a dime a dozen," and one creative person is interchangeable with another.

Once that idea takes root in the buyer's mind, it's downhill from there.

jetmetfan
04-10-2011, 12:33 PM
There are similarities with ad agencies to a point. IMO it would serve screenwriters to think more like ad agencies.

Ad agencies approach clients in this way: "We are offering you a unique service based on our particular skills which you won't get from anyone else. Here's the idea, here's why it works, here's why it will appeal to the market." If you feel like you're competing against other agencies it's not as effective.

You're really competing against the client's ignorance on some level.

But in this sweepstakes thing screenwriters are likely to lose that edge, lose that mindset. And get pushed into the "please like me and not those other guys" position.

Years ago, the agencies got smart -- the "heavy hitters" now charge the prospective client for a pitch. Because clients were taking advantage of the pitch process and - yes - stealing ideas. Blatantly.

If you're willing to throw your ideas around for free you are an active participant in confirming the client's belief ideas aren't worth much. The creative process isn't worth much.

Still, agencies are invited to pitch based on their expertise, ideas can always change along the way in the creative process, the trick in a pitch is to raise the client's comfort level with you. They need you.

At most, there are three or four competing agencies. Never 10 or 20 agencies giving full pitches. Even the clients know it's ridiculous to hear pitches from 20 agencies. After a while concepts blur together and the real test is full execution.

Which equates with developing an entire script, over months, through fade out, for free.

I have a hunch this sweepstakes thing will slowly go in this direction. It's the logical progression.

At some point, a newbie writer or team will walk into a pitch with a full first draft. It's bound to happen. This may set a new criteria -- pitch us with a full draft.

I know I have zero experience in the film industry and it's easy to disregard the above points, but I do know this:

When you sell creativity as a product you risk it all if you allow (enable) the client to think what you do is "easy," ideas are "a dime a dozen," and one creative person is interchangeable with another.

Once that idea takes root in the buyer's mind, it's downhill from there.

It's already gone that way. At New Regency last summer they were looking for writers for a remake of CAPRICORN ONE and hired a guy who did a forty page "treatment"- without being asked to write a word. Forty pages is not a treatment- it's a script without dialogue.

sc111
04-11-2011, 11:16 AM
It's already gone that way. At New Regency last summer they were looking for writers for a remake of CAPRICORN ONE and hired a guy who did a forty page "treatment"- without being asked to write a word. Forty pages is not a treatment- it's a script without dialogue.


See? Again, I have no film industry experience, but I am an independent freelance copywriter and have seen this slow glide to the bottom happen in my industry, and it's getting worse right now.

Clients exploit the fact that there's less work going around. Exploit the fact even experienced people with impressive projects under their belts are feeling the pinch.

Someone panics breaks the seal & drops their rates, clients start squeezing everyone at the same level of experience to drop their rates.

For experienced freelance ad writers there was an unspoken rule: no spec work. Let less experienced copywriters do spec work to build their portfolios. It makes sense for them.

Economy constricts even more. A couple of experienced writers panic and do spec work to help a marketing group land a new client with only promises to get the work if the client signs (yeah - sure).

Suddenly all these marketing groups -- who used to pay freelance creatives -- are asking everyone to do spec work. It's now the norm.

I have a hunch some writing team, in an attempt to get on the short list of an open assignment, will knock out a script in two weeks and LAND the gig. And it will set the new precendent in a further glide to the bottom.

Laura Reyna
04-11-2011, 12:51 PM
Aren't writers writing whole scripts on spec already? ALL YOU NEED IS KILL... or whatever that was called.

From what I understand, the writer wrote a script based on pre-existing material that was controlled by a producer. That's assignment work done for FREE. He wasn't paid until the script sold.

And apparently, this is done frequently.

Archduke
04-11-2011, 02:26 PM
Aren't writers writing whole scripts on spec already? ALL YOU NEED IS KILL... or whatever that was called.

From what I understand, the writer wrote a script based on pre-existing material that was controlled by a producer. That's assignment work done for FREE. He wasn't paid until the script sold.

And apparently, this is done frequently.

Yeah but he wasn't competing against any other writers. If a respectable producer asked me soely to adapt an existing property on spec I would do that at the drop of a hat. Look how it worked out for that All You Need Is Kill Guy.

Ronaldinho
04-11-2011, 02:53 PM
Yeah but he wasn't competing against any other writers. If a respectable producer asked me soely to adapt an existing property on spec I would do that at the drop of a hat. Look how it worked out for that All You Need Is Kill Guy.

Yeah. This is a thing that I think is pretty common for baby writers. A producer has an idea, you spec it up for him, he attaches talent and tries to sell it.

That's a different situation because, in theory at least, you have an exclusive on it. ALthough the downside is that you're not very protected if, when you're 3/4 of the way through a draft, the producer decides to go in a different direction, or if he doesn't like what you give him and wants to give somebody else a shot at it.

elevenbulls
04-13-2011, 09:08 AM
This is exactly where I'm at - my next spec will be developed with a producer. After a round of meetings, I've got a half-dozen options. Some based on source material, some just ideas.

Any advice about moving ahead on a few at once? I figure I may as well keep ideas flowing on the ones that interest me and see which one moves the fastest, while being transparent and not making promises I don't intend to deliver.

There are some my manger feels are the most viable, some I'm more interested in writing (of course, they're not always the same). But everything is so ephemeral I'd like to keep options open should my top priorities stall.