Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chronicles 36 - Hurry up and ... wait

Well, some good news, after deciding to focus on bringing a US casting director on board (several months ago!) to attach talent to my rom-com (instead of dealing with the big 5 US agencies directly) I finally found a 'champion'.

The casting director and her partner love the script and think it's very funny. She is also prepared to back that up and work on spec which is great! She has cast several Sundance winning films and has recently attached A list female stars to projects. She will go out to A list talent after Thanksgiving!

This has taken some time but persistence is omnipotent as they say. This all started out with contacting a number of UK casting directors. A number were either too busy or passed on the script, albeit an older inferior version. This was last year already! God, I'm getting old.

I found one casting director who was 'kind of' on board but wasn't really. It was a case of 'you can use my name'. It wasn't really what I was looking for but it was better than nothing at the time. After dealing with a few UK talent agencies directly I realized that I would be better off with a US casting director. Since I was chasing a mix of UK, US and Australian names anyway then anyone who is anyone was going to be repped by the big 5 - CAA, ICM, WMA, UTA and Endeavor.

Dealing with these agencies as an independent producer with 'chicken/egg' cast contingent finance is very difficult. As a writer-producer it is even more difficult because as a writer there is nothing more lame than proclaiming how 'great your script' is. That's why writers have agents/managers!

The alternative to 'bigging up' your own work is the equally lame 'so and so thinks it's great' rather like the Mrs. Elton character in Jane Austen's Emma: "I do not profess to be an expert in the field of fashion (though my friends say I have quite the eye)...".

So, being currently agentless and not having the backing of a big shot producer the alternative was to secure the services of a casting director in a quasi agent/producer role. Again, this took some time because some passed on the script, some were not willing to work for a deferred fee (fair enough) and some gushed enthusiasm and LA LA land B.S. but then didn't deliver the goods. Hooray for Hollywood.

Since you can of course pay a casting director, if you have enough money, then it doesn't necessarily mean that you have been filtered in the same way as an agent or manager. Therefore it obviously helps to get someone on board that is known to be 'selective' about their projects and has some industry kudos which seems to be the situation in my case. Let's see, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson: Filmaking is the triumph of hope over experience. ;-)

In the meantime I've started working on the drama project (which is a real commission with real money) even though we are still to'ing and fro'ing on the contract. Still, it's been an interesting experience switching from pitching mode to negotiating mode. I've been doing the bulk of the negotiation myself and leaving the lawyer for the finer details to keep his costs down.

Right now I'm burying myself in historical non-fiction and period drama. All my scripts have been heavily researched, especially my first co-written piece which was based around American history and politics. I'm just not comfortable 'winging' the research bit. If I'm to write about a world I have to feel that I can get into the blood of the characters and create authentic dialogue and visuals so I normally research like crazy until I feel that I can really walk in their shoes.

The down side to this is that it can end up being quite time consuming and obsessive. Normally I reach a point where I think, yeah, I've got this. In the early stages my research consists of reading and highlighting. Then I will go through the books, magazines, internet material and copy the highlighted text into the Final Draft document, then, when I'm writing the script I can refer to the notes.

Apart from that it's been business as usual, 'hurry up and wait', time. We submitted our animation treatment and visuals to the UK production company, but, unlike last time where we received a lightning fast and enthusiastic reply, this time the response is sloooow. It seems they're busy with other projects right now. That's the advantage of having multiple projects on the boil, you mark it as inactive then move on otherwise you end up wasting your life waiting - NOT good. As Garth in Wayne's World would say, "Stay in the now, man!".

Post-production has slowed down, (umm, well, it hasn't even started) on the short film. The High-Definition technology we used is so new it's taking some time to source the equipment for the transfer. Hopefully it all works out and we end up with a cool short that we can submit to the Cannes film festival in March.

Otherwise I'm also waiting back on a theatre play concept that we delivered to the artistic director of a local theatre. If we find a theatre and some state funding then our theatre company will put it on next Autumn ... etc... etc ...

So, for now it's back to the books and highlighter pen ...

Ciao for now :-)