Saturday, June 23, 2007

Chronicles 46 - It's about the WORDS stupid!

This is just a quickie update since I'm in the usual post-Cannes limbo/radio silence right now - as per usual I haven't heard back from most of the people I sent my script/follow-up emails to post-Cannes. This is normal, as I've said before in previous Cannes chronicles. Some of these people will NEVER get back to me. It's just the way the mop flops.

On the other hand, if things work out with the US producers who have ACTUALLY got back to me then it doesn't really matter.

Reality is - I need to switch out of chasing mode - I have 3 scripts to write:

1) A play - the space is fixed - we have a slot for January, so, no excuses there!
2) My second paid assignment for a UK producer - the research is coming to an end so I need to start signing contracts and get to work.
3) The feature based around the short that one US producer is VERY interested in. Thing is even if it doesn't work out with her I still need to write it!

Bottom line, as I've said before, is that chasing and marketing can also be a big excuse for procrastination. The only real power a writer has is his pen. No-one can stop you writing and the fat lady don't sing until those words hit the page. The illusion is that 'opportunity' is generated through marketing, chasing, networking etc the REALITY is that as a writer you generate opportunity by FIRST geting the ink on the page.

That project you've been pushing for years MAY never work out, it MAY never get made but the one on the end of your pen may very well be THE ONE.

I was waiting back on some potentially big news on Friday. I phoned in, expecting either a YES or at least a NO. My call was expected, what happened? Nothing. The PA tells me my 'conduit to the stars' (double meaning intended) has gone home. WTF! Okay, I thought to myself, time out - here we go again - been here a million times - waiting for that A list star to say yes and launch my project into the stratosphere - then - nothing. This time it was regarding finance, same difference right? All that excited expectation, then, zilch. Do I buy into it every time? Duh! I'm stupid, I'm human, what do you think?

As a writer I don't really need to buy into this stuff because ultimately the very act of creation, the Zen-like moment where the writing flows is enough, (or at least it should be!), it's the now, the present, the rest is well... the future, a bubble of possibilities, a virtual universe that may or may not manifest - in truth - ILLUSION, or, as they say in Indian philosophy, MAYA. It is said that we are born in illusion (maya) and the Goddess of illusion, MAHA MAYA, (the great illusion) has created a universe so thick with illusion that she is able to fool even the greatest of Gods. Mmmh...

Time to shut down and shut out and get back to the page a.k.a. THE NOW! The rest will happen if it happens...

Ciao for now

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chronicles 45 - Lucky number seven?

So, this year was my seventh Cannes film festival. It's official - I'm getting older and the entropy of the universe has increased somewhat since I took those first steps down the Croisette! Pre and post-Cannes has been hectic so I'm afraid my trusty blog was the first to suffer but now that I've finally had time to sit down and post here's the jist of what went down.

As usual it was a hit-the-ground-running affair. My director and musician friends were delayed flying in from London and since we were sharing the rental car I had to wait for them. The clock was ticking because I'd set a meeting assuming we'd all arrive there on time!

We raced from Nice airport into Cannes with just enough time for me to jump out, grab my badge/cell phone and arrive sweating like a pig into my first meeting - a Sundance winning producer who has worked with my casting director. This was the first of about 35 meetings that I would have over a 6 day period. I had even more booked but a few cancelled on me. That happens, but the pay-off is that the 'cancellers' usually feel a bit guilty and are happy to follow up later either face-to-face or on the phone which is what I've been up to this last week.

Some days were very busy. On one day I had 9 meetings in a row and the last 3 meetings were 30 minues apart which is not a huge problem if they're all at the same venue, but, if not it gets very tight. At 5 p.m. I had a meeting at the Grand and at 5:30 p.m. a meeting on a yacht on the far side of the Croisette! This involved condensing the essential elemements of the pitch down to a 15 min conversation, retiring gracefully (so that I didn't give the impression that I was blowing off my pitchee), racing off at the speed of light and then ducking and diving through the crowds who'd been camped out all day for a glimpse of Leonardo.

The next thing, hey presto, I'm sitting on a yacht sipping Evian regurgitating my well worn phrases and mantras - key pieces of info that will hopefully stir up serious interest in the pitchees - which by this time were coming out rapid-fire by rote. By the end of the week I was sick of the sound of my own voice. Luckily, this time my director friend was with me and pitched our feature enabling me to take a bit of a break and enjoy the view.

Now apart from having people asking me how I managed to get so many meetings down there some people also thought I was friggin' out of my mind to schedule so many meetings in such a short space of time! Well, there are different reasons for this:

1) It's a numbers game - In Cannes you can never really pre-judge a meeting - a meeting that you think will be fruitful fades into nothing, a meeting that you were almost not going to take turns out to be the best meeting you ever took. You never really know how things are going to play out, but, and there's the rub, MOST of the meetings will yield nothing and a minority will pay-off.

If you could predict the 'golden meets' then you could just fly out for a couple of days, have a few meetings, enjoy the sun, hit a party or two and be on your merry way. Bottom line, it's selling, you arrive with your case full of brushes and you hit those numbers. You just don't know who the buyers will be.

2) Cannes is one of the, if not THE biggest film festivals in the world. It's CARPE DIEM time. In the space of 2 weeks film biz people from all the world congregate in one relatively small area. There are people there that you probably would either a) never find or b) never be able to get to c) or never think of approaching. It's a great opportunity. Period.

3) Dosh - it costs money and time so instead of staying for the whole 2 weeks or for only a few days I try and cram ca. 40+ meetings in a 6 day period. A sort of maximum impact, minimum cost approach.

My last Cannes led to my getting 2 paid assignments and a UK co-producer for the short film which went into production last year. This Cannes was focused on promoting the feature using the short as a teaser/directorial showreel and finding a credited producer to team up on my rom-com plus finance for both projects.

Fingers crossed, and I hope I don't jinx this by blogging about it! Things went very well!

I met an LA-based producer who has set up some big Hollywood movies with huge stars and directors. I'd forgotten that he'd requested the script beforehand. Mainly because the people who request material NEVER read the scripts before the festival and always tell you that they 'didn't get the chance to read the script', so, being on auto-pilot by that time I just launched into the pitch.

He stopped me and told me that he'd read it, loved it and wanted to do it! I kind of thought to myself, 'Did I hear that right? He wants to do it?' Anyway, we continued the conversation and then I came back to him later. 'So, did say you want to do it? Are you serious?' He told me he wouldn't say it if he wasn't. S%*t! I've come to Cannes and actually made a friggin' deal IN Cannes! Any deals I've made happened months after the festival. Of course this was all grist to the mill as far as the project was concerned and I was then able to capitalize on this and generate even more interest in my next meetings.

Essentially we will be producing the project together. In the meantime the producer has spoken with the director and it's all looking really positive. He gets it and wants to do it. Period. The US producer is also interested in the assignment script that I wrote and I've hooked up the UK producer wth the US producer. I knocked out another revision of the assignment last week and the US producer is now reading that too.

We also got some great feedback on our short film which is mine and the director's first short film. We met a Hollywood producer who's also set up loads of films, one recently with very big names. He watched it in his hotel room in Cannes and we bumped into him again by chance. He really praised the piece and is very interested in the feature script. We also met another NYC producer who we met and got on really well with, she has also worked with some serious talent and she recently emailed us saying she 'loved it' and wants to talk next week re. the feature and meet up in London.

I even have a producer interested in our feature anmation project, who funnily enough, cancelled me in Cannes but I followed up with him later on a conference call. Again, leave no stone left unturned, if they scheduled a meeting in the first place they will either be willing to meet with you again or talk to you on the phone.

Apart from that, I went to a couple of cool parties. One was a beach party where our short was being promoted on various plasma screens and another, a first for me, was on a yacht out in the ocean. You get shuttled out there and arrive on this beautiful 20 million dollar old-style wooden yacht. An insight into how the truly rich live.

There are a whole number of other possibilities with regards to finance, representation, sales agents etc 'in the air' post-Cannes and I've been busy following up via email this last week so we'll have to see how the cards fall after all the dust is settled. As one producer once told me, 'I'll believe it when I'm eating the popcorn'. :-)

Ciao for now