OK, one last time to the well with the Script Magazine archives. Hopefully the previous samplings helped you. I’ve given this info before, but here is the full list of contributor blogs, a wealth of knowledge to be found. My own blog for them is here.
- THE PITCH DECK
Shoot me, but I never heard of a “pitch deck” before reading this fine article by Martin Shapiro. Yeah yeah I know, you can’t even get “into the room” to pitch, so why should you worry? Because, Good Reader, there WILL come a day when you need to pitch. So, you’ll need this skill at some point. I actually like the notion of putting together a presentation like this as a primer to writing the thing. The better you see it, the better you write and pitch it. This article should help. Here’s a piece:
“How do startup Internet companies in Silicon Valley convince venture capitalists (VCs) to give them millions in seed capital?
It usually starts with a pitch deck, which is basically a PowerPoint presentation. Pitch decks are essential fundraising tools for startup companies today, whether a founder is after $500,000 or $20 million. Most of the big-name web apps like Mint and Foursquare started out small with a bright, young founder who put together a PowerPoint slideshow to explain their product and business model, and then showed it to VCs and angel investors.
Since each movie project you create is essentially a new product that requires substantial financing to develop and manufacture, I say why not utilize the same powerful sales tool that entrepreneurs in other industries use and adapt it to raising money for your movie or television production.”
- NO FREE OPTIONS!
Fuck no, I’m not giving it away! Stop tap dancing, Mr. Producer… stop giving me 10 reasons why it’s better if you run with my script than not. Explain why it is you’re not paying me for the ten months of work I put into writing it.
One of the few memories that remain from my days at William Morris is the image of my agent Bill Contardi negotiating an option agreement with a prospective producer. The producer came at us with a lowball figure and Bill told him, “it speaks to your level of commitment to the project.” If you feel passionate about my script, fucking show me. Money talks. What’s it say about my value to you when you ask me to sign a one-dollar option?
Don’t believe me? Try this ass-kicking article from Bill Boyles on the subject. Here’s a sample:
“Often the producer will attempt to get himself entwined into the very fabric of the screenplay. They make suggestions of changes in the script. They offer a line or two of dialogue, whatever. Now, even after the option has expired, they can have an effect on your script’s chain of title. They can attempt to lay partial claim to the script, and even if their claim is relatively weak, no production company wants to enter into a option/purchase on a script that does not maintain a clean chain of title.
You must realize that there is a perishable value to your screenplay that is partially protected by a fair option fee. The older the script gets, and the more submissions it has, the less salable it becomes.
The producer is not just optioning your screenplay, they are consuming years of its life expectancy and that alone is worth compensation.”
- PRODUCERS, A TO Z
While we’re talking about producers, here’s a basic A to Z list of producer titles and responsibilities. If you missed film school, this is a must-read from Christopher Schiller. Here’s a sample:
“As writers, you will eventually meet and need to deal with Producers. (You may even become one yourself.) Just who are these people, what are their responsibilities, how much power do they really wield, and how should you treat them and be treated by them? The answer to those questions, as with nearly everything else dealt with in these columns, is “It depends…”
Producers can come in many different shapes and sizes, many levels of power and notoriety. Telling the big wigs from the wanna-bes and the pretenders from the powerful takes practice, a little knowledge and observation. Titles and how they are defined and interpreted vary substantially. A particular producer’s responsibilities and prestige are not always apparent on first blush. Getting and maintaining a clear understanding of just who is positioned where in the production hierarchy will help settle the confusion that often accompanies a writer’s dealings with producers of all ilk.
In most instances a title used in this industry clearly identifies the job of the person holding it. The Camera Operator operates the camera. Make-up people are in charge of make-up. The prop master controls the props. But there are some titles that defy easy application. That’s a case with the title producer and all its variations. In one sense a producer produces. But what does producing really mean? There are nearly as many applicable definitions as there are people claiming the title.
The word “producer” or some variant appears in a huge diversity of forms in the industry, most of which have some association with a production job that could be at least loosely tied to what we could call “producing.” They range from the straight forward to hopelessly vague and touch on every base in-between. A wholly inadequate list starts with just plain Producers, Executive Producers, Assistant Producers, Associate Producers, Co-Producers, Line Producers, Unit Producers, Production Coordinators, Assistant to the Producers, and on and on.”
- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: WRITER’S PROGRAM PROJECT TO RECORD BREAKING FILM
I thought this flick would be Marvel Universe fluff. What a revelation, I liked a movie that grossed close to 800 million. Very interested to hear the genesis of how this happened and–ask and ye shall receive–here’s a Script Magazine interview with the writer Nicole Perlman. What would that be like, to have a written a flick that might make Broadway and a theme park ride? Find out here.
A sample: “Let’s talk about the now defunct Marvel Studios writers program. How was the program set up and what was your experience there like?
Perlman: Well, within the writers program at Marvel they had half a dozen properties that were by no means guaranteed that they were going to make it into a movie, but they were considering them. So they brought in five writers to be on campus. We each had an office and we were allowed to choose what projects we wanted, and even though they knew that science was my bent, I think there was a little bit of surprise when I chose Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such an unheard of property, and also because there were other titles on that sheet that were more family-friendly. So I was like no, I’m going for the one with Rocket Raccoon. That was how that came to be.
Why did the program shut down?
Perlman: I think the reason behind that is because they’re already making two movies a year right now and they’ll be making three eventually. They just don’t have a lot of room for some of these lesser-known properties. I think they’ll definitely start exploring those as time goes by, but having five scripts a year, projects that they’re really not going to have time to develop, I think they realized that they had too much to work with.
Let’s jump into Guardians of the Galaxy. You chose this property to work on. It was something that was completely unfamiliar to you. Did you have any knowledge of any of the Marvel Comics characters before going into this?
Perlman: I wasn’t really familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any of the comic books. So I was coming to it very fresh, which, in a way, I think I underestimated when I first started working there. I underestimated how much you really need to start developing in order to understand the history of all these characters. The first eight weeks I was there, all I was doing was reading comic books and binders and binders of color printouts that I was taking home and leafing through and reading. I had a lot of catching up to do because the stories have a huge history and all these characters have been around for decades. So it was important to get to know where they were coming from. Even though I did end up rebooting Peter Quill’s backstory a fair amount, it was good to know the original origin story for him.