Friday, July 04, 2008

Chronicles 64 - Jumping through Hoops


Writing, or at least the manifestation of writing into some sort of form - book, film or play - is all about jumping through hoops.

The very first hoop you encounter is the 'do I actually have any talent?' hoop. After sending your work out you hopefully get the feedback that, yes, there is something there, don't give up the day job but do keep on writing.

Well, I think I can safely say that I've jumped over that hoop. I'm now working with producers, who themselves have worked with some of the biggest names in the business, who have faith in my work and who believe that it is worth investing their time and money into transforming the ink on my pages into on-screen celluloid. So, have I 'arrived'? No. I've just jumped through more hoops than the guy/gal who is now putting pen to paper with the belief that they 'have what it takes'.

In the film world, writing isn't just about writing. It's also about marketing and networking and getting your 'product' out there in a highly competetive 'space'. As chronicled in this blog I decided to go down the writer/producer route rather than pursue the 'querying agents' route after being unsuccessful with the latter. Now, whether I would have been better off just staying at home churning out spec after spec and writing emails to agents/managers instead of investing time flying to film festivals and tracking down producers and financiers I will never know. What's done is done, and anyway, sod it, as for flying to LA, NYC and Cannes, hey, it's been a blast. All about the journey, right?

Anyway, I digress, back to jumping through hoops. So I've jumped a few already, I've attached track record producers, directors and finance to my projects, and significantly, I've reached the point where I'm getting paid, alebit not that much, but I am getting paid to write screenplays. I'm a professional screenwriter, in no position to give up the day job, but, hey, progress is progress.

Sounds great, right? Well, yes it is, until one looks at the hoops on the road ahead. A lot of pieces still have to fall into place until I get to see my words on the silver screen.

I am currently negotiating various contractual hoops regarding my romantic comedy and the outcome as yet, is uncertain, even the financiers are quiet new at this, nice guys, but one hopes they can pull off what they promise. At this stage, there are no guarantees, and in any case, the finance can drop out at any time, even in the middle of production! Witness what has happened to the latest David O. Russel project, he has had to stop shooting for the second time now due to Capitol Films' cash flow problems.

My black comedy script has been signed off by the other US producer and she is currently in discussions with a UK sales/production outfit who are already working with her on another project. She's optimisitc that this is the right home for my project but there are some issues with her other project that need ironing out first, which, is short for, we, the director and I, just have to sit tight and wait. There's nothing we can do right now although we are both extremely eager to move forward. So, two projects with two accomplished producers on board but, as yet, there are still many hoops to jump through. A major one, of course, will be attaching cast. That'll be fun. Watch this space.

I hear about script writers getting excited when they bag an agent or manager and that is how it should be, it's well deserved, but, getting representation is one hoop, then the script has to find a producer/buyer and even then, if it is sold as a spec there is no guarantee that the film will actually get made. Directors can come and go and the next thing, wham, you're in development hell.

My first script assignment is out to a major director via CAA. I got an email from the producer that the agent had told him that the director would be reading it by July 4th. Guess what today's date is? Mmmh...

This producer recently had some announcements in Variety and Screen International so he seems to be jumping through some hoops himself but as far as I know although he's attached some good directors to his other projects I don't think he's attached any cast as yet. Still, in a way, his progress is my progress. The 2nd script is also out to directors and when we met in Cannes he said that one UK director was interested after reading the script BUT he's currently on 2 other films. R...i..ght, so was that good news or...? Is he going to make the movie or not? Did he say he wanted to direct the movie? Huh? Anything? Something? A morsel...please. Nope, that was it, some expression of interest to be discussed at some point in the future. Great - NOT!

The danger in this game is that you are in a perpetual state of expectation, waiting for that email to come in that says enthusiastically and without reservation YES, YES, YES! But usually it's more a case of, 'So did he actually read the script?' 'Did he/she like it?' 'Do they want to direct, invest, produce, attach?'...etc... etc...and there you are again, grasping away at invisible straws.

As for Cannes 2008, although I am waiting back on feedback on our animation projects from 3 companies and a producer who mentioned he might be interested in me adapting a book, as predicted, some of the contacts have either fizzled into radio silence and not responded at all to my follow-up emails and others have passed on my scripts. So, as yet, the world of exciting possibilities that was Cannes hasn't crystallized into anything substantial, BUT, and here speaketh the eternal optimist within, it can take 2-6 months before anything concrete manifests after the festival.

The film business rarely does quick, it's a journey and invariably a long one, there is no instant gratification so better to lay back, enjoy the ride and raise your glass to the little succeses along the way. Another day, another hoop!

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

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