|06-01-2003, 12:21 PM||#11|
My First Time....
My first produced script.... or my first script that sold to a Hollywood producer... or my first script that sold to a Hollywood producer that was actually produced?
I tell the funny version in public, here's the stripped -down unfunny version:
My first produced script was NINJA BUSTERS back in 1979 - made in my home town (and environs). A drive in kung fu movie. The director (Paul) went to the same community college as I did, liked my student film, liked my script, gave me a job working on the set of his next film WEAPONS OF DEATH. I cracked jokes on the set, some of my lines ended up on screen. A year later Paul was hired to direct another kung fu movie for the drive in circuit - that had a bad script. If I could do a page one rewrite (new *plot*) before they started filming, and my script was better than the one they already had - they'd shoot mine. They had already cast the film and secured locations - so I had 2 weeks to write a script with these actors and these locations that they could jump in and film without further rewrites. I did that and they made the film... it premiered at my local drive in on $2 a carload night.
I was 21 years old and had written 9 feature scripts already. I made $6k for the whole script - film budget was $200k. Oh, and I worked on the film as a laborer, too!
The first sale to a Hollywood producer was a decade later (I worked full time in a warehouse) - I sold COURTING DEATH to a company on the Paramount lot. It was my 24th script, but I had written almost 40 scripts by that time - and had rewritten CD I have no idea how many times.
I had given that script to a completely unknown actress who was in a film Paul directed called CRAZED COP. I had a crush on her, gave her a copy of the script and said "There's a part in here that would be perfect for you." Later she was in a low budget horror film where she took off her top and was killed by the maniac - I don't think her character even had a name. She gave the script to the line producer (set manager). He read it, liked it, gave it to his best connection... who liked it and gave it to his connection.... who read it and... Cut to almost 2 years later when I'm getting ready to go to work and get a call from this guy who works for Taylor Hackford's company who wants to buy my script. I think it's a joke. He tells me who gave him the script - I've never heard of this person before in my life. But they fly me to LA and buy my script. The film was never made... I was paid around $65k - twice what I made in a year at the warehouse. I quit my job and moved to LA.
First produced in Hollywood? TREACHEROUS maybe 3 years later (script #34). Was first set up at Hemdale with Mickey Rourke and Brian Dennehy... then they went bankrupt. Then it went to Universal... where our exec died in a plane wreck... so it ended up at 20th C Fox Home Video where it was made with Tia Carrere, Adam Baldwin, C. Thomas... and Premiered on Cinemax as one of their first "Originals" on Thursday night, 8pm. I hate this film.
Education? Um, a couple of years of community college - no degree. But I made a bunch of short films - even won an award. Mostly - a lot of writing. Self-taught (this was years before Syd Field's book came out and my film appreciation course at community college was mostly watching films and writing reports on them).
The first script I ever wrote sucks... in fact, probably the first 10 scripts I wrote sucked (including NINJA BUSTERS).
According to a WGA survey a while back, the average writer wrore 9 before being paid.... so I'm either average - or way the hell behind.
- Bill (almost to #80)
|06-01-2003, 02:21 PM||#12|
The First Time I Got Paid for It
I had written four or five scripts when I read a book of
interviews with filmmakers. The author lived in my town,
a suburb of LA, and voila, his number was in the white
pages. I was too timid to call so I wrote a fan letter.
The author called me up and invited me to a book signing.
We met, clicked, and over the next couple of months
we'd have lunch while he pursue work as a filmmaker himself.
He had just made a documentary that was creating a lot
of heat. Later, I showed him one of my scripts and while
he didn't want to pursue it, he did offer to collaborate on
an adaptation of a book he did not yet own the rights
to. So, on spec, I drafted treatments then my new buddy's
documentary started winning awards. Next, a very famous
producer called him and pitched an idea to him. My
friend had just set up a script for his first narrative film
and was in preproduction so he didn't have time to write
this Famous Producer's film...
But I had time.
So, my friend tells me the idea, I and another writer conjure
a take. The other writer lived in NYC so I had to go in (with
my friend) and pitch our take to Famous Producer (who
had just published his Hollywood memoir). As soon as I
finished talking, the producer says, "I want to go with
this." A few days later, I read my name in the trades and
see the producer on Entertainment Tonight talking about
our project. What a rush!
Alas, the project never got made and since it was co-
written, it didn't necessarily do me any good (the other
writer was the scribe of my friend's first narrative film). So
I spent the next four years at an Ivy League college with
a stopover at Oxbridge.
How I sold my first spec is another story but my entree
into the business gives credence to UCLA film professor
Richard Walter's promise that writing fans letters to
up-and-coming writers and directors will get you in the
door. Walter says to target TV writers (the least
appreciated). Find one who has written something
you like and write a detailed letter on what you enjoyed
or have questions about. Richard Walter absolutely
guarantees you'll get a response. But don't ask for
help, just knowledge. Eventually, the pro will become
your champion because you will have become his
pupil (neo protege). Send your correspondence to the
WGA and they'll get it to the writer. Promise.
To prevent damnation to D-hell, all writers should scribble
fan letters to up and coming directors. See a music
video or TV spot you enjoy? Write the helmer a fan
letter. Write several directors. When they start winning
awards and get the call for features, you'll be in the
driver's seat -- even your shopped and unsold scripts
will take on a new shine with a director attached. Send
your fawning superlatives to the director in c/o Directors
Guild of America.
Now, you have a mission. Do you have the guts to
|06-02-2003, 06:43 AM||#15|
Re: I thought this thread died . . .
Great thread. Thanks to all the pros. Great advice Doc. In fact my writing partner emailed a big producer who she had a VERY loose connection too...like Doc suggested she didn't ASK FOR ANYTHING. In fact she said to the producer "I want to talk about YOUR career" and made it clear she didn't want the producer to read her scripts, get her a job etc. Did it work? They're meeting Thursday.