Originally Posted by JeffLowell
Thanks for the kind words.
I'm not going to talk you out of your business plan, but I'll try to make a few points. If DDPro wants to formalize it, that's fine and I'm happy to help, but this seems like a good go-to thread.
The problem with reading fees isn't that agencies that charge them then take a percentage of any resulting sales. The problem is that agencies that charge them usually make all their money from reading fees, and none from selling scripts. All legit agencies, management companies, producers and studios bear their own cost of finding material, as you well know, since you're with one of the best production companies there is.
As I said, for signatory agencies, there's a rule: no paying for access. And yet that's what a lot of coverage services are promising these days - pay us to read your script, and if we like it, we'll make sure it gets read by X. Script Shark, Scriptshadow... it's a growing business. Of course it's not illegal in any way, because the people setting up these systems aren't WGA signatories.
My problem with it is just a general principal I have (and I didn't come up with it): money should flow to the writer.
Obviously it's not a hard and fast rule - I think there are a few worthwhile contests, and let's be honest - those contests are basically doing exactly what I'm complaining about, charging for a chance to get read by legit players (often with the added bonus of winning some cash).
My belief is that if someone writes a great script with a great concept, they'll get reads. They don't have to pay to get noticed. I often use your Black List as an example - there are a lot of new writers who appear on that list. They get in because they wrote something special, and Hollywood is thirsting for new material. Again, I'm telling you something you're already living - how many scripts do you read a week, looking for a writer or a project?
My guess is that you'll find what Amazon Studios found - writing commercial, well executed scripts is tough, and those that stand out find their way into the system through normal channels.
Maybe I'm wrong. And if you manage to start breaking projects left and right, I'll happily eat crow. I've done it before. I may even send a couple of old specs your way.
I'll end with one question: who'd you talk to in the WGAWest?
Jeff, Thank you for the thoughtful response.
First off, no longer with Overbrook Entertainment. Left a couple of weeks ago. There's unfortunate coverage of my exit online that I won't post here.
I agree that great writing can eventually find its way into Hollywood if only because this town and this industry is desperate for great work. As anyone who has worked in the business for any amount of time knows, great screenwriting is rare, which is part of why I'm constantly arguing that writers are grossly undervalued in the marketplace.
Here's the thing though: the process by which that material finds its way into Hollywood is terribly
inefficient, which creates some real negative consequences for writers because of the lopsided power dynamic between writers outside the industry and the industry itself.
This initiative is designed, first and foremost, to address that inefficiency. In so doing, I hope to create a situation where when a good piece of material is identified, its writer has more options (for representation, for selling their script, etc) than they would otherwise.
I feel confident that it's possible, because we've already seen similar things happen with writers on the Black List, as you mentioned. Some were languishing in obscurity, and getting on the list spotlighted their good work, creating greater demand for them and their time (which hopefully, and there's evidence to suggest, granted them greater opportunity and higher pay.)
We're just trying to find good work so that we can tell the world about it and help it live its full potential, because we know how hard it is to find as moviemakers and we know how hard it is to find someone trusted (and fundamentally impartial) to celebrate it when you're the one writing that good work.
Amazon Studios faces different (and frankly more difficult) challenges than we do, because they're producers. They're looking to identify material that was overlooked and then lock it down for themselves, which requires a conscious decision from writers that they'd rather be with Amazon even if they could be elsewhere.
Writers sacrifice nothing - other than a minimum $75 - to submit their script to us, not the rights to choose their own representative, not the rights to their script, not the right to negotiate a fair market price for their work, not even their right to privacy re: the evaluations that they're paying for.
They do, if their script is good, gain the kind of opportunity for access that has never before existed.
Not something that Script Shark or ScriptShadow or any similar service (all of which differ widely from ours in my opinion) can offer, and they offer it for more money (in some cases, a lot more.)
I am confident that this is a tide that can raise all boats, especially writers', and moreover, it was explicitly created to be exactly that. Quibble with our methodology as much as you like, I welcome the opportunity to explain why we've created what we have and why and hear suggestions of serious minded people who might be effected by what we're doing (it's why I'm here). Truth is, we will no doubt incorporate many of these suggestions to improve our product.
Our fundamental goal is to make the market for screenplays more efficient so that a script "finding its way into Hollywood" doesn't take the years that it did before and involve coercing your aunt's husband's brother who works at CAA into looking at your script in the hopes that he'll pass it to someone who might like it, so that it's not necessary to move to Hollywood and network like a banshee so that you can find someone who will read your script.
It's about making the work the focus and creating an infrastructure where the best of it can more quickly rise to the top.
If we're able to do that, and I think we are, $75 (or more) is, I believe, a small price to pay for access to it.
As for my conversations with the Guild, I'd rather not post them in a public forum. Is there I way we can take this conversation off-line.