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View Full Version : Will my indie feature help or hurt my chances of getting new script read?


Concord
09-03-2012, 05:54 PM
Newbie here, looking for opinions.

The guys who wrote "Writing Movies for Fun and Profit," (http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Movies-Fun-Profit-Billion/dp/1439186758/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346708806&sr=8-1&keywords=writing+movies+for+fun+and+profit) a fun, excellent book, by the way, say the fastest, best way to get agents and managers to read your script is to produce a short film and put it online on Youtube or Funny Or Die. That is, get the attention of agents and managers with a killer short which proves your talent, and they'll be interested in reading your screenplay.

That sounds logical, and these guys have had a helluva lot of success, so who am I to argue?

Here's the thing:

I made a low-budget indie feature about 10 years ago. It did well at regional film festivals, won a couple of Best Screenplays and a Best Film and got strong newspaper reviews ("funny, clever, guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.") It even got a small--very small--DVD release.

BTW, the whole movie, "Working Stiff," is here, online, if you want to watch it:

https://vimeo.com/21706922

My question is this, and I could use your advice/opinions:

Should I use the movie as a way to attract agents, managers and production companies to my new screenplay or should I leave it in the past and produce an entirely new short?

I'm proud of "Working Stiff." It was my first effort as writer/director, the audiences responded very well, it won some awards, got some good writeups, etc. But I also recognize its limitations: it's shot on 16mm film; the lack of money hurt the overall quality; some of the acting is less than professional; too many key people (absolutely including me) lacked experience, etc.

So bottom line, I 'd love to know: I haven't started querying yet. Will my promising but flawed low-budget feature help or hurt the likliehood of agents/managers/prodcos reading my new screenplay?

All opinions welcome.

EscapeFL
09-04-2012, 12:14 PM
i think it's good to mention that you're a produced writer/director. at least you won't come off as a newbie. i'm going to watch it when i have the time. sounds funny.

Vance
09-04-2012, 01:14 PM
You should use this as much as seems prudent to you. It's not going to mean much to some people (probably more at the production/studio level) but a lot of agents and managers, assuming they think the writing is to their level and aren't turned off by the production values/acting, might see that as a great calling card.

And yes, some will judge you based on the less stellar stuff*, even if it's the things you have no control over. I've gotten nasty emails over location scouting gigs where the self-producing director didn't have much to pay. A lot of people suck, end of discussion.

At the best, what this will say to the representation you're seeking is that you're willing to put your own blood, sweat, and tears into your career, and that's really quite a lot of what they want to represent; somebody who is going to be working consistently on their own career. This might be a plus to agents and managers who won't even bother watching the thing.

Just think about what the person you're approaching wants to see out of you and use this as a tool when you think it'll help.


*I haven't watched your film, so that's not to say it's less than stellar.

Concord
09-04-2012, 05:00 PM
i think it's good to mention that you're a produced writer/director. at least you won't come off as a newbie. i'm going to watch it when i have the time. sounds funny.

Thanks, EscapeFL. Hope you enjoy it.

Watching a feature-length (94 minutes) movie is still not an ideal experience on a computer, so if you have a way to patch it to your TV, I recommend that.

Concord
09-04-2012, 05:06 PM
At the best, what this will say to the representation you're seeking is that you're willing to put your own blood, sweat, and tears into your career, and that's really quite a lot of what they want to represent; somebody who is going to be working consistently on their own career. This might be a plus to agents and managers who won't even bother watching the thing.


I think that's a good point, which I hadn't fully considered. In addition to the blood/sweat/tears, I also ended up losing 12 pounds on the initial shoot. Making a low-budget indie is awesome for weight loss.

Thanks for your input, Vance.

DavidK
09-04-2012, 06:08 PM
I made a low-budget indie feature about 10 years ago. It did well at regional film festivals, won a couple of Best Screenplays and a Best Film and got strong newspaper reviews ("funny, clever, guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.") It even got a small--very small--DVD release.

Should I use the movie as a way to attract agents, managers and production companies to my new screenplay or should I leave it in the past and produce an entirely new short?

Sure, it should count for something but what have you done since? The two key issues arising from the above are:
(a) why didn't it attract any interest from agents/managers/prodcos at the time; and,
(b) that was ten years ago, which means ... well, it means that was ten years ago and what are you doing now?

Concord
09-05-2012, 10:45 PM
Sure, it should count for something but what have you done since? The two key issues arising from the above are:
(a) why didn't it attract any interest from agents/managers/prodcos at the time; and,
(b) that was ten years ago, which means ... well, it means that was ten years ago and what are you doing now?

Thanks for your response, DavidK. To answer:

a) My best guess? I think the movie was more a "Brothers MacMullen"-style indie and the buyers wanted more T & A.

b) I focused more on my 9-to-5 world the past ten years, but that has actually morphed into my current video production company.

Looks like it's time to test the advice from the "Writing Movies for Fun and Profit" guys (Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon), produce some brand new film shorts, and see if the Web notices!

nmstevens
09-06-2012, 10:35 AM
Newbie here, looking for opinions.

The guys who wrote "Writing Movies for Fun and Profit," (http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Movies-Fun-Profit-Billion/dp/1439186758/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346708806&sr=8-1&keywords=writing+movies+for+fun+and+profit) a fun, excellent book, by the way, say the fastest, best way to get agents and managers to read your script is to produce a short film and put it online on Youtube or Funny Or Die. That is, get the attention of agents and managers with a killer short which proves your talent, and they'll be interested in reading your screenplay.

That sounds logical, and these guys have had a helluva lot of success, so who am I to argue?

Here's the thing:

I made a low-budget indie feature about 10 years ago. It did well at regional film festivals, won a couple of Best Screenplays and a Best Film and got strong newspaper reviews ("funny, clever, guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.") It even got a small--very small--DVD release.

BTW, the whole movie, "Working Stiff," is here, online, if you want to watch it:

https://vimeo.com/21706922

My question is this, and I could use your advice/opinions:

Should I use the movie as a way to attract agents, managers and production companies to my new screenplay or should I leave it in the past and produce an entirely new short?

I'm proud of "Working Stiff." It was my first effort as writer/director, the audiences responded very well, it won some awards, got some good writeups, etc. But I also recognize its limitations: it's shot on 16mm film; the lack of money hurt the overall quality; some of the acting is less than professional; too many key people (absolutely including me) lacked experience, etc.

So bottom line, I 'd love to know: I haven't started querying yet. Will my promising but flawed low-budget feature help or hurt the likliehood of agents/managers/prodcos reading my new screenplay?

All opinions welcome.


Here's the deal, unfair though it may be.

In this business, ten years ago is a million years ago. If someone says that they directed a feature ten years ago, people want to know why you haven't directed since then.

The question that everyone asks is, "What was the last thing you did?" What they want to know is when it was, who bought it, how much you got paid for it.

Because that's a measure of your currency -- of your value, and by extension, the value of whatever it is that you're offering to sell.

So do yourself a favor and don't sell yourself now on the basis of something that you did ten years ago. If you've done a short more recently, that's much more significant, even if it's only a short.

NMS

Taormina
09-06-2012, 12:08 PM
True story:

I'm a twice produced writer director. First movie, I wrote and directed (and most everything else), and it got worldwide distro and sold very well even though it wasn't that great of a movie.

Second movie kicked off because of the first. It was a bigger budgeted feature that was picked up by Universal, and sold over 200,000 DVDs in the USA alone. Also, it was the best selling movie of all time for this particular DVD star action hero. Got me a multi picture deal at another studio. On Netflix, it has a 3.5 rating out of 5 stars, with 200,000 votes. 200,000 people can't be wrong -- right?

So based on all the above, I pitch all this to a manager, one who is on this board. Send me your last movie says he, even though I only want to be repped lit. I've never had managerial representation, mainly because I never sought it. Now, I want to be repped lit because I have some great scripts I want to sell that I cannot shoot myself since they are outside of the realm of my deal (read: too big).

So said manager watches my movie, and passes on me for lit rep. I know, a little disconnect there. What my last movie has to do with lit rep I'm not sure. Yes, I did write it, but it was a low budget (4M) Direct to dvd movie that was heavily guided by the studio. There were things in there they wanted. Said manager did not read any of my material.

So I hate to burst your bubble, but If I can't get repped lit based on the track record of massive sales of my pictures, I don't know who can. My last movie was #10 in sales in the whole USA for one month last year. It only barely got beaten by SOURCE CODE, a massive studio pic.

And I still can't get repped. Oh well, at least I can keep making movies. **** 'em.

Juno Styles
09-08-2012, 12:02 PM
Got me a multi picture deal at another studio.

Hey Taromina - just curious, but did the studio contact you after you did that $4M movie about the studio deal or did you use the movie to leverage the deal yourself with projects you want to film?

Just trying to figure out how those types of things work out. Last time I was at AFM a few guys I was talking to in the lobby mentioned they had 2 and 3 picture deals at studios despite having any theatrical releases, etc.

Taormina
09-08-2012, 10:16 PM
Hey Taromina - just curious, but did the studio contact you after you did that $4M movie about the studio deal or did you use the movie to leverage the deal yourself with projects you want to film?

Just trying to figure out how those types of things work out. Last time I was at AFM a few guys I was talking to in the lobby mentioned they had 2 and 3 picture deals at studios despite having any theatrical releases, etc.

I contacted them, showed them what I had done. The word had already spread about my picture and it was a slam dunk. These are DTV pictures, no bones about them. We all have to start somewhere.

But I have noticed that some managers and agents in the mainstream film industry don't care much about these sorts of achievements. So I have to use the studio as a steppingstone to something greater.

In the meantime, these managers/agents are missing out on the commissions because of their lack of ambition. The last script I sold (for my $4M film) was sold to the prodco for $100K. Maybe they don't feel like they need a piece of that, but that's not too shabby for a direct to video 97 page actioner.

Oh well.

michaelb
09-09-2012, 12:15 AM
I contacted them, showed them what I had done. The word had already spread about my picture and it was a slam dunk. These are DTV pictures, no bones about them. We all have to start somewhere.

But I have noticed that some managers and agents in the mainstream film industry don't care much about these sorts of achievements. So I have to use the studio as a steppingstone to something greater.

In the meantime, these managers/agents are missing out on the commissions because of their lack of ambition. The last script I sold (for my $4M film) was sold to the prodco for $100K. Maybe they don't feel like they need a piece of that, but that's not too shabby for a direct to video 97 page actioner.

Oh well.

I think you may be confusing "lack of ambition" for what it really comes down to, pride in ones work and reputation.

I'm not going to speak for agents as they are a different bread, but I will for managers (real managers that keep a concise and targeted client list of talent they believe in).

In my career, several times now, I have passed on writers and/or directors who have come to me with deals on the table. Twice have been with high budget scale deals, and twice have been for low six figure deals. Yes, I could easily have said I'll represent them to pocket a couple of quick bucks, but then, given my high level of morals, I'd have actually had to service that clients career. I would have had to send out their material saying "Yes, this has my name on it, it has my stamp of approval, and I believe in it" when in fact, I did not feel it was good enough to warrant that. So, in all four cases, I passed, as I did not believe in the material.

We are sent material daily from people who are at all different levels of their careers. Young hot writers/directors, established constantly working writers/directors, and more seasoned guys that are possibly trying to revive their career. It will always come down to the fact of if we believe in talent of the individual and the material they create. Often it just comes down to what we personally respond to.

Best,

Michael

Taormina
09-09-2012, 10:34 AM
I think you may be confusing "lack of ambition" for what it really comes down to, pride in ones work and reputation.

I'm not going to speak for agents as they are a different bread, but I will for managers (real managers that keep a concise and targeted client list of talent they believe in).

In my career, several times now, I have passed on writers and/or directors who have come to me with deals on the table. Twice have been with high budget scale deals, and twice have been for low six figure deals. Yes, I could easily have said I'll represent them to pocket a couple of quick bucks, but then, given my high level of morals, I'd have actually had to service that clients career. I would have had to send out their material saying "Yes, this has my name on it, it has my stamp of approval, and I believe in it" when in fact, I did not feel it was good enough to warrant that. So, in all four cases, I passed, as I did not believe in the material.

We are sent material daily from people who are at all different levels of their careers. Young hot writers/directors, established constantly working writers/directors, and more seasoned guys that are possibly trying to revive their career. It will always come down to the fact of if we believe in talent of the individual and the material they create. Often it just comes down to what we personally respond to.

Best,

Michael

Sure, but when passing on "people with deals on the table" as you've stated, you're going against the grain a little bit, aren't you?. The ultimate test of survivability in Hollywood is bankability. I don't care how talented you are or what a creative genius you might be. If you can't SELL something or GET PAID to do something, I don't see what sort of interest managers or agents could possibly have in you.

So when a person comes to you with a six figure deal, he or she has been previously validated by an authority MUCH higher than you. You have your OPINION, he or she has a six figure CHECK in his or her hand. Who's right?

Also, doesn't the fact that the person has obtained this deal without YOUR help bode well for the future, whether you necessarily believe in the work or not?

Are you there to believe in people, or make money? Do your morals pay the bills there?

There are lots of rhetorical questions here Michael and I don't expect you to answer all or any of them. The point I am making here is that managers and agents make precarious gut decisions based on very little information, decisions that have long term ramifications. Bit of a gamble.

emily blake
09-09-2012, 11:02 AM
I'd a thousand times rather work with a rep who likes my material and believes in investing in my long term potential than one who lusts after a portion of my immediate paycheck.

michaelb
09-09-2012, 02:42 PM
Sure, but when passing on "people with deals on the table" as you've stated, you're going against the grain a little bit, aren't you?. The ultimate test of survivability in Hollywood is bankability. I don't care how talented you are or what a creative genius you might be. If you can't SELL something or GET PAID to do something, I don't see what sort of interest managers or agents could possibly have in you.



I'm not going against the grain, I am sticking the what I hold most dear, the reputation of my taste. You are correct, it does not matter how great you are if you cannot sell anything or get paid, but if you are truly great, that usually isn't a problem. At the same time, you do not want to be some bottom feeder, being associated with sub par material.


So when a person comes to you with a six figure deal, he or she has been previously validated by an authority MUCH higher than you. You have your OPINION, he or she has a six figure CHECK in his or her hand. Who's right?



Not really. Most financiers end up losing money because they make bad investments. Coming to a rep with a deal based on some sub par material does not equal an authority much higher than the rep. And we make our business off of our opinion, our taste. There are reps that are known for throwing things against the wall hoping things stick, and others that are known for always repping ultra talented individuals. Again, to each their own, but we all have our own way of doing things.



Also, doesn't the fact that the person has obtained this deal without YOUR help bode well for the future, whether you necessarily believe in the work or not?

Are you there to believe in people, or make money? Do your morals pay the bills there?



It could, but it really just depends on the deal and the material. I've signed several writers right after they just sold a script to a studio. I've also passed on guys that have made a career out of directing 5 or 6 direct to DVD sequels. Again, it comes down to the material.

I am here to make money with the people I believe in. It is a symbiotic relationship. My morals help me to be known for having good taste, which in turn helps those clients I do sign, so the executives/producers I send material to read it/watch it, opposed to those that send **** against the wall hoping it sticks.


There are lots of rhetorical questions here Michael and I don't expect you to answer all or any of them. The point I am making here is that managers and agents make precarious gut decisions based on very little information, decisions that have long term ramifications. Bit of a gamble.

Absolutely, but we have to trust our instincts and taste.

Best,

Michael

michaelb
09-09-2012, 03:14 PM
By the way, I should add, just because I pass on something doesn't mean it's bad, or even that I think it's bad. It means I do not love it. I have to love something to put in the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, that go into giving someone the proper representation I think every client deserves.

Best,

Michael

ATB
09-09-2012, 03:22 PM
Man, I am so glad you're my rep. Awesome posts.

Taormina, would you really want a rep who doesn't love your work?

Juno Styles
09-09-2012, 03:33 PM
This is a good thread. That's all I have to add. Ok bye.

Taormina
09-09-2012, 04:37 PM
Taormina, would you really want a rep who doesn't love your work?

Well if you put it that way, no. Still I have nothing to compare it to. No one has ever helped me forward in this industry. I have done everything myself. If I had to pick who my biggest benefactors are, they would be the two studios who believed in me and continue to do so.

Do they love my work? Probably not. But they love that I make them money.

To be honest, I'm probably better off being unrepped, but that is a discussion for another thread.

Taormina
09-09-2012, 04:37 PM
By the way, I should add, just because I pass on something doesn't mean it's bad, or even that I think it's bad. It means I do not love it. I have to love something to put in the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, that go into giving someone the proper representation I think every client deserves.

Best,

Michael

Makes sense.