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Old 05-17-2018, 02:36 PM   #1
Cokeyskunk
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Default Weird situation - advice?

Okay, folks. Follow along with me, here:

I've been a professional writer for 20+ years, mostly for corporations, radio, and I have a novel published. Always had a passion for screenwriting, though.

So, I took the classes, bought Final Draft, and waited for inspiration. Late last year, it hit me.

I discovered an established film franchise is hoping to make a new prequel film within the next 3-5 years, and I came up with a great idea for it.

I resisted writing it at first, as I know writing for an established franchise limits you to ONE producer/rights holder. And if they say "no," that's it. But the story kept growing and growing in my head. I had to get it out.

I wrote out notes, then into a rough synopsis, and then I fell into a lot of extra downtime. So-- I wrote the whole script. And, quite honestly, I think it turned out pretty great.

I researched (it's a period piece) and re-wrote and polished until I was very happy with the end result. I then asked some acquaintances who are "experts" of the franchise to read it, and they raved about it and told me I had to pursue it.

SO -- I reached out to the production company and spoke with one of the producers' assistants.

She said they'd love to read it, but it has to be presented to them by an agent, manager, or attorney. Otherwise, they can't touch it. But she did say they will read it if I could do it that way.

Also, there's currently a rights lawsuit that's been going on for the last few years with the franchise. She did mention that nothing can be done at least until that's settled. So that gives me some time.

So now, I'm not sure whether to approach a script agent, manager, or entertainment lawyer with it. I do realize if they agree to represent myself and the script, we'll have to sit on it until the lawsuit's resolved. But it seems to be smarter to have everything established and ready to go when the lawsuit ends for quick submission, rather than starting the process then (and perhaps getting beaten to the punch by another writer.)

Any thoughts on what my next step should be?

Thanks in advance.
- Skunk
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:26 PM   #2
TravisPickle
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

What surprises me is this:

“I discovered an established film franchise is hoping to make a new prequel film within the next 3-5 years, and I came up with a great idea for it.”

Do you know if the rights holders (presumably a studio) have commissioned a writer/writers to write a draft for any of the prequels?

And if so, what is the temperature on those scripts ? Were they duds?

Here’s the bottom line (IMHO).

It’s extremely unlikely for a studio to acquire a script based on one of their pre-existing properties. They will hire their own writers, if they truly believe in the property’s value. Those writers might poop the bed and turn in a donkey (think Prometheus) or actually prove the studio right (think the new Blade Runner or Star Wars written by the original screenwriters)

Is it worth trying to get it to the people involved? Absolutely. Any of those options (agent manager or lawyer) works. Might be good to find an agent that has a rapport with the company by looking at writers who have written movies for the company and then retroactively finding out who reps them.

Worst case scenario ? you’ve written a strong sample and people will ask to read more

However given the legal entanglements and the fact that the company has not produced a draft, I would keep your expectations incredibly low and work on other things
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Old 05-17-2018, 03:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

Most of what you described was my story. The main difference was that I was a new writer; whereas you're an experienced writer (novel, etc.).

Starting back in 2008, I endured two years of the same with three long, pretty good "12 Monkeys" sequels.

The process concluded all the predictable and frustrating contacts with Mosaic/Atlas, various lawyers, NBC/Universal, etc. etc. etc.; that is, the steps you've followed, and then some. I even remember a guy named "Franklin Leonard" (yes, that one) who invited me, from his office at the time with Universal, to "have my lawyer submit the request to us".

However, timelines and cross-efforts got all mixed up, and once I got the "final" cranky word from Universal, ie. cease and desist, I was lucky enough to have decided to let my "inner writer" flourish and I'd begun to write my own stories.

Anyway, the great lesson I am thankful to the exercise for is that my extreme enthusiasm for the project (sounds like you have the same) kept me writing through the early tough times of learning how to write screenplays (formatting, active tense, brevity, etc.) and a bit on how the biz sort-of-works.

The tough lessons are numerous and obvious, but were still valuable. They included: Don't write off of somebody else's work (and especially something that's under litigation), unless it's an invitation to do so (ie. what they call Open Writing Assignments or "OWA" by the rights-holders), don't expect things to happen quickly, don't depend on "encouragement" by assistants no matter whom they work for, except someone in-the-know with the rights-holding company (search the chain of title with the copyright office), and always, always, always, get on to writing something new. That last one's the big one.

I recall, in my journeys, a fellow who had quite a fan-fiction following for a fairly sophisticated Part IV to The Matrix that he'd written. "The SuperMatrix", I think it was called at that point. And he was an experienced writer before he wrote that.

But after his initial pursuits with it, which were unsuccessful, I believe he came to terms with it and simply posted the thing on-line (it's still around, I think) as merely fan fiction, something that inevitably keeps the fan base excited for the "real thing" if it were ever to happen.

For me, the sequels I wrote to the Atlas Entertainment masterpiece taught me so much I can always be thankful, but I don't even count those epics among my output, anymore. Yes, I do remember the initial gut-wrenching, virtually visceral adrenaline rush as I wrote those first stories. I rarely approach that level of excitement now, but even in little "doses" it's still pretty great, and it's now eight years (and 50 original screenplays) later.

And of course I'm still waiting for my breakthrough deal; ever-optimistic on that front.

In summary, I'd go with the attorney (I still use the same one I scrounged up for my sequels pursuits) to keep it all legit, and leave it at that. The managers/agents will not likely take the endeavor very seriously, and the former may even encourage you to do "more" work on the thing, in spite of its unlikelihood at ever coming to fruition any time soon, if at all.

There's nothing you can do to speed up the other process, but there's nothing to be embarrassed about, either.

With your writing experience, and now that you've endured the agony of learning how to write in the screenplay format, why not use that knowledge to work on your next story?

Options? Do the lawyer thing and wait, or change the story and names and adapt it to your own story (can work out okay), or do something stupid like post the thing as it is now, on-line, to try to kick-start the rights-holders (it won't work).

Or get yourself onto another passion project. The time will fly by so quickly.

Last thing: We all have sequels/prequels/knock-offs we'd like to write. There's a long thread on this board, on that very topic ("What adaptation would you like to write?"). I've never even looked at that thread, because my adaptation (ie. sequel, etc.) days are over, and I have way too many of my own stories to sell - which is the main reason why I'm still trying to break in, I'll admit. If I did ever get talked into it (an "OWA") I'd aim for the 28 Days/Weeks later franchise - which, incidentally, is tied up in legal limbo right now, and w/should be up to about part six if that weren't the case.

So good luck. This is not a disaster, unless you try to push it. My notion is, since you WILL have to wait, prove yourself on a new project.

PS. Here's an unsolicited bit of advice, if your novel still excites you, maybe you could write the screenplay adaptation of that, now that you know how. What d'ya think of them apples?
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Old 05-17-2018, 05:53 PM   #4
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

the odds of the prod co actually moving forward with you (unknown, unproduced, first-time writer with no authorized interest in their IP) are, for better or worse, dim at best. i'd go so far as to say non-existent but . . . who knows. never say 100% never.

you had a good time writing a thing that will likely never get made. there's some value in that. almost everything a screenwriter writes will probably never get made, statistically. at least you enjoyed the process and finished it. nothing wrong with that.

i'd just take what you learned from this script and move onto the next (original) thing you can write. if lightning strikes in the future and that lawsuit gets resolved, and you get a rep, and that rep submits this script to the prod co, more power to you.

but i wouldn't sit around waiting for that to happen, any more than a writer at any level should sit around waiting for inspiration instead of actually writing.

(and nothing about the situation strikes me as "weird." the response from the assistant feels like their standard soft pass spiel, knowing that no manager, agent, or attorney is likely to rep a spec for existing IP the writer has no ownership of)
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Old 05-17-2018, 07:38 PM   #5
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

No one involved in the franchise will want to touch your script for fear of being sued. Say they hire a top writer to write it and there's one element that you both have in your scripts, you then sue them because this assistant read your script. People try this all the time, only once have I ever heard a version of it work and that was a Wonder Woman script that was bought and plundered for a couple of decent set pieces as I recall. Don't think the writer ever made another sale or got work off it.
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Old 05-17-2018, 09:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

I'm not sure I agree that you have no shot here. Studios/prodcos hear pitches for movies derived from their IP all the time and show no fear of being sued.

What makes your situation tricky is that, unless your novel was a huge success, no one in Hollywood has heard of you.

So my advice is this: write another script, get noticed for that, get agents, etc., get a meeting at the relevant studio, then PITCH your idea for the prequel to the rights holder (don't even tell them you wrote the script).

That's far, far easier said than done, of course, but if you can write, it's definitely possible. Good luck!
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:59 AM   #7
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisPickle View Post
Do you know if the rights holders (presumably a studio) have commissioned a writer/writers to write a draft for any of the prequels?
I do know they have not. Historically, they have accepted (and rejected) scripts submitted by several writers. Only once in the franchise history have they had the same writer write for more than one film.

I also have a little bit of an "in": I do know an entertainment lawyer who has a relationship with the EP/rights holder.

My thought is to polish the hell out of the screenplay, reach out to my lawyer contact, ask him to read it, and -- if he gives it his blessing -- see if he feels as though he might be able to get it into the right hands.

The old "I know a guy" routine.

Aside from all this, I'm with the rest of the statements here. The chances of this actually happening -- while not impossible -- are infinitesimal, at best. Which gives me about a 98% chance of a big, fat "no," or maybe even a lovely C&D letter, such as catcon received.

This is the way I'm going into it: expecting to fail. I started it that way, and I'm still that way. But I have to get to that point before I admit defeat. It very likely is forthcoming, but it will hurt worse in the long run if I trash it or, worse yet, just put it online -- and wonder "what if?" the rest of my days. At least this way, I'll know "what if?"
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Old 05-18-2018, 11:41 AM   #8
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

If you're in the same city, I'd suggest having a drink with that assistant and pitching the idea. If it's killer, the assistant can look good to her boss by going in and saying she heard a cool take on the property, and there's a script already. Then the boss can ask to read it the actual script or not. The agent/lawyer thing is a guideline they use to A) protect themselves, or B) blow off writers who want to send them unsolicited scripts - but it's not a rule set in stone. If a producer is genuinely interested in your take, they may break their own rule. Depends on the person. But if they're sticklers to that rule, you might be out of luck.
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProfessorChomp View Post
If you're in the same city, I'd suggest having a drink with that assistant and pitching the idea. If it's killer, the assistant can look good to her boss by going in and saying she heard a cool take on the property, and there's a script already. Then the boss can ask to read it the actual script or not. The agent/lawyer thing is a guideline they use to A) protect themselves, or B) blow off writers who want to send them unsolicited scripts - but it's not a rule set in stone. If a producer is genuinely interested in your take, they may break their own rule. Depends on the person. But if they're sticklers to that rule, you might be out of luck.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd, suppose I'm actually more like, ohhh, 1,500 miles away? What then?
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Weird situation - advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cokeyskunk View Post
SO -- I reached out to the production company and spoke with one of the producers' assistants.

She said they'd love to read it, but it has to be presented to them by an agent, manager, or attorney. Otherwise, they can't touch it. But she did say they will read it if I could do it that way.
Understand that this is - almost certainly - a way of saying "sorry, we can't read it." If she says no to you, you can argue with her. If she cites a policy and sets a hurdle, it doesn't matter. It's a way for her to get off the phone.

It's the, "I'd love to go to that movie with you on Friday but I have to wash my hair," of query responses.
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