Monday, May 21, 2012

Scriptshadow in LA - Packaging Material

So because I’m in LA this week running around like a crazy person, there won’t be any reviews.  Well, maybe I’ll have an Amateur Friday review but it’ll depend on time.  I’ll try to post bite-sized chunks of content in the mean time and I’ll start with a little background detailing The Disciple Program sale.

On that crazy first day two months ago when Tyler and I first went out with the script, within about 4 hours, the script had attached an A-List producer and an A-List actor and was being brought in to one of the major studios.  Within about 5 hours, some very big numbers were being discussed.  But here’s the thing.  The A-List actor hadn’t read the script yet.  Or at least, we didn’t know if he had.  He was off shooting a movie in another part of the world.  We knew someone close to him had read the script and was confident the actor would want to do it.  But we didn’t know if he had personally read it.

And this was where I experienced first hand one of those weird confusing things about Hollywood. Sometimes actors will attach themselves to projects without reading the script.  The thing is, I guess, that an actor attaching himself to something doesn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things.  He’s not signing any official contract.  He’s just saying he’s interested in the project enough to put his name on it.  So he’s not really risking anything if he attaches himself.  Still, as far as the studio is concerned, just his name can be enough to pull the trigger on the sale. They like the script anyway.  But now they have an actor who can open a movie.  Kaboom!

But here’s what you have to keep in mind.  If an actor hasn’t read a script before he’s attached himself to it, you’re taking a risk.  Because what if he reads it later on and doesn’t like it?  Then the package the studio bought is no longer in place and that big splashy sale you made is in danger of becoming like 90% of all script sales – another screenplay that never makes it to the big screen. 

So Tyler and his agents decided to pull back and package the project more securely. That meant getting an actor that they knew was going to make the movie, as well as a director.  The thing with directors is that it’s very hard to get a good one attached to a script.  Remember, unlike actors, who can make 3 movies a year, directors take years to make a movie.  So they’re much pickier.  Getting anyone of significance can be extremely challenging. 

So now you have a great script, an actor who’s telling the studio he definitely wants to make the movie, and a director.  It’s basically like the movie’s being handed to the studio.  They can see it.  They don’t have to do anything.  That’s appealing.  And it’s better for the writer when that happens too.  As coveted a prize as making that big spec sale is to a screenwriter, the people on the other side of the fence look at it much differently.  They see spec sales all the time, shrug their shoulders indifferently, and say, “It’ll never get made.”  And they’re usually right. 

The only thing anyone really cares about or puts any stock in is GETTING THE MOVIE MADE.   That’s the true finish line.  That’s when you get all the respect, all the accolades.  And the reason why is because it’s really f*cking hard to do.  Which is why having produced credits on your resume ups your profile so much.  So in a lot of ways, carefully stepping back and packaging The Disciple Program was important for Tyler’s career.  Because if Disciple gets made, he’s officially in the mix.  His profile shoots up and his quote shoots up as well.  A produced screenwriter is a BIG deal because that writer’s proven that his words get movies made.   Since that’s all anyone wants to do, everyone in the business is seeking THOSE screenwriters out first.

Still, I keep thinking back to that day when we sent the script out and think, “If Tyler would’ve sold it that day, it would’ve been a HUGE story that people would’ve been talking about for years.”  I mean, nothing like that had ever happened before.  There were so many weird variables to selling that script– and in that amount of time (5 hours??).  With no reps.  With a first time writer that no one had even heard of 3 hours ago?  It would’ve raised Tyler’s profile in a completely different way.  Because going through that packaging process took so much time, a lot of that had been forgotten, and the buzz wasn’t as high.  There was definitely a trade-off to going that route.

I think when I first started all this, I thought the process was a lot simpler.  You send a script out and people either buy it or they don’t.  But there’s a lot of planning – a lot of strategy that goes into it.  Do you go out to actors first?  Try to get a director?  Who do you go out to?  Who do you avoid?   Do you prep everyone?  Or do you spring it on them out of nowhere, like we did? That approach was what got the project so much buzz in the first place because everyone was trying so hard to figure out what Disciple Program was and where it came from that they were calling everyone else.

I think the route Tyler ended up taking was the better one for his career.  But I’m not going to lie and say I don’t think about what would’ve happened had it sold that day.  It would’ve been mayhem.  Not even Deadline would’ve been able to ignore the Scriptshadow factor if that had happened.  J  What do you guys think?