your first script that "produced" results . . .



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  • your first script that "produced" results . . .

    also another add on to
    "when you should send your script out".

    For those who, sold, got it read with really good reactions, got an agent and anything pertaining

    the questions:

    what number script was it?

    How did you get it to the person? through your relatives, your girlfriend, the pizza boy, the sparkletts water man

    was it an agent, producer, etc.

    How much background did you have by then, ie. education, years writing, meditating, out in the desert for fourty days, ?

    In the extreme situations, anyone made more than $5000 on their first outing.

    In the end, anyone there anyone who sent it out early and made a sale.

  • #2
    first time

    the questions:

    what number script was it?

    it was the third script I had written.

    How did you get it to the person? through your relatives, your girlfriend, the pizza boy, the sparkletts water man

    I entered the Sundance screenwriting lab and won a fellowship. The people that run the Sundance Lab organized a staged reading of the script for about 400 industry people at the Helms Bakery in Culver city. Seven or eight meetings with producers resulted from that reading. The producers vied for the opportunity to "run" with the script, but no one offered money. the director of the Sundance Lab, along with a working screenwriter (previous Sundance alum) I had befriended called my future agent (a Big 5 partner) and recommended me to him. At the same time, the Lab recommended my script to four other agents at the other major agencies. Three of the five agents expressed interest in representing me within a week. I chose my agent because he also represented my friend, because I liked and trusted him, and because he was comparatively young and hungry (to the other agents I was dealing with, who were bigger players). The agency was also most aggressive in pursuing me, and I was offered two day to day feature agents, and access to TV, book and talent agents. They also offered to give my script to one of their top actors at the time.

    It's worth noting that even with the advantages listed above, I made sure to have all the five or six producers interested in the script/being in business with me call my prospective agent. I had the director of the Sundance Lab and my friend who was repped by the agent going to bat for me. And i asked one of my Sundance advisors, an A list screenwriter, to make a "godfather" call on my behalf, which he did. I've been with the agent and the agency for five years now and I'm very happy with them.

    was it an agent, producer, etc.

    From that point, my agents took over the marketing of the script. they sent it to fifteen producers they hand picked because they thought the material would be a good match. They were mostly classy, indie producers. ALL FIFTEEN PASSED. this is an important point! It's hard to make a deal, man. It's no joke. My career had started though, because eighty percent of the producers that saw the script expressed a strong desire to be in business with me. I met with most of them. Several said "we were so close, I wanted it but my boss was afraid it wasn't commercial enough" etc. I got my first two assignment jobs before my original script was set up.

    Four months later one of my agents sent the Sundance script to an independent financier. The CEO of the company called my agent and said (a direct quote) "I'm making this fvcking movie". At that point my agent negotiated a deal that involved optioning the script to the financier/producer. the deal was a 10K option for nine months. I had unusual creative protections, like he was not alllowed to replace me as the writer, and I got consultation on every key decision (this thanks to my excellent lawyer).
    The deal called for me to receive 2.5 percent of the ultimate budget of the film with a cap of 250K.

    my agency secured their client for the starring role. the financier spent the money. the film was produced - my ultimate take was less than the cap, but still a considerable amount of money. The production of the film gave my career another jumpstart and raised my "quote".

    the fim is called "the prime gig" and you can see it on DVD or video.

    How much background did you have by then, ie. education, years writing, meditating, out in the desert for fourty days, ?

    I had a BFA in dramatic writing and directing for the theater at NYU with a minor in psychology. I had been in Los Angeles for almost six years, working a day job in telephone sales. The topic of the film I ultimately wrote was telephone con men. I had written two feature scripts, collaborated on two TV comedy pilots , and received story credit on an action spec my brother sold to Fox. None of this contributed to Sundance in terms of connections, but it did contribute in terms of osmosis, experience that formed me and yielded the script that helped me break in.

    In the extreme situations, anyone made more than $5000 on their first outing.

    See above for approx. monies gotten from this project. but the project gave ancillary benefits as well, because it led me to have steady employment for five years running as a screenwriter. The casting and production of the movie, as well as the heat of the initial script yielded me "bumps in my quote" (raises in the precedent fee you can charge an employer that wants you as a writer). So the money I received from the script was a minor percentage of the financial gains it was ultimately responsible for.

    In the end, anyone there anyone who sent it out early and made a sale.

    I've never yet in my career had a bidding war for any piece of material, though I have sold two original pitches. The only up close access I've had to a true bidding war was when my brother sold an action spec to Fox (he had a couple others later, but this one i was on hand for). It's probably one of the most exciting things I have ever been around. My brother was broke, his car was booted, he was totally penniless. He had major heat from another script he'd written and his agents at ICM went out with the action script he wrote and we wrote the story for together ( I got 15 percent). The morning of the release we waited for the phone to ring. The night before there had been tremendous activity, his manager had callled him with various rumors and reports (cinergi is coming in strong in the morning, fox is going to the mat for it, etc.). the morning started very quiet. He was extremely depressed because he thought it meant no sale. Soon however, him manager called saying "Get me a cast list!" (he wanted a potential list of names that the execs could use to pitch their bosses as ideas for the lead roles). For two hours the manager called every half hour or so saying 'things are really heating up". then the agent called with the first bid which was Low Six. It was an incredible moment, like winning the lottery (for me too, because I had a small stake in things). At that point, the agent said negotiations were ongoing and he was not closing the deal before getting the other bid.

    Four hours passed. Then in the afternoon, my brother got three phone calls within five minutes. Each one was a report that a bidder had increased the previous bidder by 75K! We were rolling on the floor we were laughing so hard.

    Around six o'clock the agent called my brother to say the bidding war was over and that my brother had sold his script for half a million dollars. it was the beginning of my brother's lucrative and fulfilling career, and a couple years before the start of mine.

    I'll never forget that day. I wish a day like it for each of you!


    • #3
      ironic side note

      The first part of this tale is documented in an article I wrote for script magazine in 1998.


      • #4
        Re: your first script that "produced" results . .

        what number script was it?

        It was my third.

        How did you get it to the person? through your relatives, your girlfriend, the pizza boy, the sparkletts water man was it an agent, producer, etc.

        I came into scripts through the back door. I started in novels. In 1995 I sold film rights to one of my novels, and in 1998 the rights to another were purchased as well. As I have a lit agent in NY, a pair of film agents out here handled the sales on this coast.

        After the first first sale of film rights in 1995, my film agents began 'suggesting' I think about writing scripts. I resisted a bit, wrote a couple, the second being better than the first. It had some 'interest', but nothing solid. Then, in the summer of 2000, I signed on with some managers and began focusing on ideas that I could pitch. With that second script as a writing sample, I sold a pitch to a Sony-based prodco at the end of 2000 and wrote the script.

        That script led to other script deals, four so far.

        How much background did you have by then, ie. education, years writing, meditating, out in the desert for fourty days, ?

        I wrote alot in Jr. High and High School. I studied Engineering in college for a year, then dropped out. After that I worked various jobs, bus driver and plumber among them.

        In the extreme situations, anyone made more than $5000 on their first outing.

        First outing in film rights was seven figures, and all script deals have been mid to high six figures.

        In the end, anyone there anyone who sent it out early and made a sale.

        Of the originals I've pitched, all have been pre-emptive buys, meaning only one party heard the pitch and bought it right away.


        • #5

          Unca Leo

          Do you specialize in any particular genre of story?




          • #6
            Re: genre?

            Pretty much suspense stuff, be it supernatural or more reality based.


            • #7

              Same area I am working in, more on thriller type.

              I had heard you were a prolific writer, quite a profile.

              My respects...Godfather :smokin



              • #8
                Re: thanks

                Many thanks, Fredo. Let's go fishing soon...


                • #9
                  Re: your first script that "produced" results . .

                  Tao, Unca - career info is always inspiring and something we see too little of on DD

                  thanks for sharing


                  • #10
                    Re: your first script that "produced" results . .

                    Hmm... Two pros with number three being the key. I will dive into my third with renewed hope.

                    Thanks to both of you for taking the time to share.



                    • #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)


                      • #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
                        accept it?



                        • #13
                          Re: The First Time I Got Paid for It

                          Doc - you rock, as always.

                          Thanks for the tip. I shall acept your challenge!


                          • #14
                            I thought this thread died . . .

                            Thanks for all the info.


                            • #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 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.