Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chronicles 55 - Out of the Blue

Just got back after doing the trans-atlantic red-eye from New York. Hardly slept at all. Got a points upgrade on the way there but on the way back had to slog it out in coach. I'm knackered. How do people sleep in that position? I just can't do it so while the passenger next to me was happily sleeping away I'm reading Fade-In and Empire magazine.

New developments - I received an out-of-the-blue email from a Beverly Hills based production/finance company who said they were ready to finance and are interested in financing my rom-com. They then met my co-producer who is based in LA and hooked up a meeting for next week with the decision makers of a big German film fund who are also interested in the project.

The finance also comes with a US domestic distribution deal and a reputable sales agent attached which is potentially great. It means the sales agent is on-board, at least on paper, before offers are sent out to cast.

This could avoid that whole need-cast-for-finance, need-finance-for-cast routine which would (I will use the preface, 'potentially') be great.

Although this is exciting I'm trying to not get too hyped up because it really depends on so many factors especially with SAG striking soon which may it difficult to attach talent. The LA finance source like the New York finance source I was dealing with require a 10-15% equity stake so it's a question of getting that and seeing whether it will work with their funding in terms of recoupment.

So, I will have to see how the meeting in LA goes next week.

In the meantime I had an awesome meeting with my New York indie producer on my other gritty urban black-comedy-thriller project. She absolutly loves the play that I wrote and is totally convinced about my ability to write the film. Okay, so what? I should know that myself right? Well, we writers are an insecure bunch and like actors need a pat on the head (regularly!) and people that believe in us, especially industry people who have credits, good taste and a good reputation. It's tough out there so when you find your champions it's a shot in the arm, it's inspiring and keeps you going.

The producer would like to have a reading in London with named actors next year so I have to get going on the script. The treatment is kinda done so I have a basis to move forward.

I didn't meet my NYC casting director while I was over there. There didn't seem to be much point really. She came on board to attach A list talent and gave the impression that she had 'relationships' with LA agents but it transpires that she doesn't. Reality is that in 12 months she hasn't got one read. It's so easy to get strung along in this business. Still, par for the course, live and learn and all that.

Apart from that have to work on 2-3 scenes in the play so that in December it is ready for rehearsal. The last few weeks have essentially been a workshop period which is great since that means it's already been through a development process.

I'm back in New York in 2 weeks and then possibly Singapore and Oz so I'm basically writing my assignment project in hotels, airport lounges and planes. I've no choice, I have to grab the time wherever I can. Got to produce those pages every day! I'm on a deadline. Forget procrastination, well, okay, a little, maybe. :-)

Back to the keys.

Oh, forgot to mention that I met with a few of my screenwriting buddies in the US. Hi guys! I enjoyed our get-together. See you again soon hopefully!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chronicles 54 - If a tree falls...

So, the multi-tasking continues...

Still haven't locked down the play yet, after workshopping it with the actors who are also rehearsing the piece I still have a few sections to write - additions mainly, still, it's good to go through this process so everyone feels happy that it works before it hits the stage in January.

I'm aiming for 4 pages a day on my historical assignment. The foundation is there, extensive outline and character breakdowns so it's really a question of self-discipline and time management on my part as I squeeze in the script along with my day job. I'm in the thick of project managing a project which I will deliver in the US in 2 weeks.

Finished the 3rd draft of the treatment for my UK director and NYC producer. Hopefully I will meet the latter in the US next week.

The UK producer has asked me to novelise the script I wrote for him but I'm not so sure about this. For one he wants me to do it on spec without a publisher involved and there is also the time issue, there is a big difference between 5 pages a day of screenwriitng and 5 pages a day of novel writing!

The financing for the rom-com has gone into 'dark side of the moon' mode. Neither a yes or a no but what seems like an indefinite decision period. In the meantime the exec producer has applied to another big German fund and the casting director in NYC has submitted it to another funding source. Not much I can do but wait this one out. It's clear that the casting director is not really in a position to get to A list talent without finance being attached, she wants a deal on the table and then to go out with offers. She has put me in touch with a NYC funding source so if her source works out and my source on the UK end delivers the goods I'm home free.

This is possible but means that I can't really be pro-active right now. I have to see how this all plays out. I have a number of finance sources but most of them need cast attached. The Hedge fund doesn't need cast and would provide 30-50% equity which would put me in a very good position but I can't gauge what is going on right now. It really goes back to what I've blogged about before, relax, enjoy, don't sit around waiting for the phone to ring and continue creating and producing material.

Enjoy the creative process for what it is and leave the results to the cosmic flow which, contrary to what our puny little egos think, we don't have any control of. Sure, we can be focused, persistent, productive but film making requires an auspicious, almost serendipitious constellation of time, fate and circumstance to manifest our ethereal ideas into celluloid. Once you accept that then it kinda takes the pressure of, you keep moving but enjoying.

Screenwriting is a very goal orientated occupation and somehow you are always comparing yourself to others. So and so has an agent/manager, has sold a script (to a big Hollywood studio!) or has attached an A list star or is on the front of Variety etc. Still, at the end of the day, life must be enjoyed, if a screenplay doesn't get made does anyone hear it? Ultimately it shouldn't matter, the joy should come from the writing itself and whether it sells or not is the icing on the cake. The trouble is we can get so damn obsessed with that icing, we sit there drooling over it but the birthday cake may never come.

So what am I trying to say here? Well I guess it's that old chestnut again, enjoy the journey, which as writers I believe we do, more or less, even if we have to push and cajole ourselves to sit down and write and sweat away over plot points. Still, when we hit creative pay-dirt it's a buzz, a delight, the moment has its own value, it doesn't need to be externally validated, although, if it is, especially by experienced industry people then, yes, it's a shot in the arm, no doubt.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chronicles 53 - More Multi-tasking

So I've been doing the usual multi-tasking stuff. On top of project managing a training I'm delivering in the US to corporate pre-sales people, (basically all geeky tech IT stuff that pays the rent) I am also:

1) Working with my wife on the translation of the play into German.
2) Waiting for notes back on the second drama assignment
3) Dealing with exec producers in the UK and the US.
4) Started re-writing (one sentence) the treatment of the project which will be produced by the NYC producer. I'll then be submitting the treatment for development funding in the UK.

So, I need to start on point 4) ASAP but it's been tough. Translating a play isn't just about handing it over to a translator, in this case my wife, but I also have to make sure the play works in German. Even with my bad German I know when the flow, rhythm, humour and also the meaning of the dialogue has been 'lost in translation' so I'm sitting together with my wife and going through it line-by-line. After that it also gets workshopped by the actors which result in more changes, cuts etc. So that has taken longer than I thought which has left less time for working on the treatment.

Also point 3) has been a roller-coaster with the NY fund changing the goalposts on the finance side. Before they were talking about token pre-sales but now they are looking to raise 15% of the finance via pre-sales. Not good. Pre-sales means you need cast to get a sales agent and if you go out to cast without being fully financed then it can takes years to attach A list names. A chicken and egg scenario I was hoping to avoid.

Ideal scenario is to have the cash in escrow and then go out with offers. In the meantime I'm waiting back on another funding source which is making great progress. Now it's a question of the big cheese who runs the fund to a) give the okay and b) decide how much they will invest. Watch this space etc...

Ciao for now