Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chronicles 60 - In the Belly of the Beast

I have about four projects flowing through the pipeline right now. By pipeline I mean that extensible tube that flows through time and is of indeterminate length. Going out with a script as an independent project can be like tossing a stone in the water and watching it disappear without the faintest ripple appearing in the pond. You really have no idea how long it will take for the Courier to transform into Celluloid. What you can guarantee is that it ain't gonna be quick. Still, as an aspiring screenwriter/producer you can't resist donning those rose-tinted glasses and quoffing from the glass that is 'half full'. We fall for it everytime. We think to ourselves, "Maybe this is the one, maybe this is the fast track project". It rarely is.

I've just finished two assignment projects, one based on a true story and the other on a historical figure. The first one has been 'out' to directors for about 8 months now. Out to directors? Out to lunch more like! I got an email one morning that an A-list director was interested and that I needed to go to the post office to mail a Big 3 Agency release form. Wow, exclaims the excited brain. A US Big 3 Agency! And of the three, this one was the most powerful agency on the planet. A-list director who has helmed HUGE movies! One word - Tumbleweeds. That was friggin' months ago - not a whisper. HOWEVER, I bet if I got the same call today I would still rush to the post office in the hope that this could be 'the one'. Directors are hard to nail down, especially if there is no money offer. If they are successful and filming then they're not reading so you wait and months/years go by. Reality check, look at 3-10 years before your project hits the big screen, if at all. That is why you need multiple projects out there.

Now, onto the second assignment. As I mentioned before, the producer was pushing me to finish the second draft before the WGA strike ended, not because it was a WGA project, it wasn't, but so that we could beat the flood of scripts going out to directors, talent etc after the strike.

Now the years have left me a little jaded and cynical and fully aware of the 'hurry up and wait' syndrome. I decided I wasn't going to kill myself just to sit around for another 9 months with no idea if the director will EVER respond. No thanks. I finished the script last week and it went out, again to a Big 3 Agency and to a very well known UK director. So I could be walking around right now, all buzzed up that I have 2 projects in at a Big 3 Agency. Yeah right, one of my earlier posts comes to mind. 'Don't wait, CREATE!' That's the way forward as a writer. Don't sit there watching the projects flowing through the infinitely extensible pipeline. Move on. Of course, it's hard to completly be unaware that you have projects 'out there', although 'out there' can sometimes literally mean 'out there - in no man's land'. Waiting for Godot.

Onto the 3rd project, the rom-com that has been chronicled in some detail in this blog. This is slowly approaching a contractual phase although I am loathe to blog about it until I put pen to paper. Even then, when we tie down a major portion of the finance we have to 'go out to' talent and attach a 'name' to the project. The rest will then be financed with tax credit, gap finance (bank) and pre-sales.

I've co-partnered with a credited, experienced LA producer on the project and if things go well we'll have a movie on our hands, but, who knows, right? Hope springs eternal, blah di blah. So that means, we could very well be going out with a 3rd project to a Big 3 Agency et al in the coming weeks. This would be a little more than a request for read but would be an offer, although pay or play is unlikely. Still, touch wood we will be able to show actual contracts for the finance to the agents instead of letters of intent so hopefully we will be taken a bit more seriously.

And then there's the fourth project. The black comedy-drama. Now the US producer on this is actually represented by a Big 3 Agency and has just put a project together with a stellar cast for an indie film so the hopes are high here. She's reached a point where she can get read by major talent without having to go through all the 'make an offer' thing and it looks like the agency really works for her in putting projects together. She's reading the script this weekend and reckons that if she has any notes they will be minor and we'll be ready to go out to talent soon.

Now, since she's proven very recently that she can get A-list names to work for SAG minimum I have a good feeling on this one, but, you never know. What is it they say about war? The battle-plan goes out of the window as soon as the first shot is fired. She, the director and I feel that we have a good chance of attaching top talent on this one but there's no guarantee, certainly no guarantee we'll get the names we want.

Interesting though, I could very well find myself shortly with 4 different project floating through the belly of the beasts i.e. the top three US agencies. Let's hope the beasts don't digest them all to pieces but manage to excrete some glittering gems. In any case, one doesn't have any control on this stuff. Film is a collaborative medium and that includes not only the shooting but also the initial production work. All the pieces have to slot into place at the right time. THEREFORE, one can only move on and keep writing, because, after all, it's a numbers game. That's why producers have 'slates' of projects, they don't put all their eggs in one basket and writers have to do the same.

I'm now about to sign a contract for my 3rd assignment and I'm due to write another after that. This is good news on one level but on another level I'm getting a bit nervous about chanelling so much of my time in projects with one producer, who, on the surface of things, seems to have the contacts and who seems to be attracting some good directors to his projects, but on the other hand, has no track record. He's putting a big slate together and the question then is, will my projects be one of the ones that go from Courier to Celluloid? Because, you can bet your bottom dollar not all of them are going to go into production. Still, on the other hand, I'd be a bit crazy to turn down assignments at this stage in my 'career' (emphasis on the quotation marks). The downside of course is that the spec projects I have bubbling under the surface are not boiling over and seeing the light of day. Still, maybe it's a good problem to have, I don't know.

NEWSFLASH: I just got an email from the producer regarding the director he wanted me to rush a new draft to. His read of my script is, predictably, on hold since he has to finish a script for Warner Brothers that was postponed because of the strike. Producer's now going out to other names. See? Told ya!

Ciao for now
SWU - swunderwoods[at]yahoo[dot]co[uk]