I’ve been writing for Script Magazine for two years now. It’s been a great pleasure to meet some of the people who write for the magazine as well as editor par excellance Jeanne Bowerman. Jeanne curates some mean content at Script Mag. In case you don’t visit that site and are interested in screenwriting, we’ll sample some of it today. Reading about the biz is an education for sure. I hope it helps you on your Quixote quest toward “making it” in this biz. Here we go…
- HBO INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS SALVATTERA
When I met Jeanne in Chicago this May at the DePaul screenwriting event she told me about the interview she had just done with Chris Salvattera, a producer known for Hidalgo, Good Night, and Good Luck, and The Visitor who is now an HBO Miniseries executive. It’s an eye opening behind-the-scenes look at the showbiz industry. Check out the full article here. Here’s a taste:
“One thing all successful people have in common is a thirst for knowledge and a desire to improve. As I talked with Chris, it felt like he was the kind of the guy who wouldn’t be put under anesthesia during a surgery but instead would choose to watch it live on a TV screen, still able to talk with the surgeon, wanting to know how it all worked. So when the executive who had been handing him all those scripts to read moved on to be a creative exec at a studio, Chris knew that was a job he wanted someday and reached out for advice.
“[The executive] had worked with a woman who just left Disney and was going to Universal. It was sort of kismet. I called her and was essentially hired as a junior executive at Universal. That was my official transition out of writing.”
As writers, we pitch executives all the time, but finding one who relates to our challenges is rare and refreshing.
“Having that experience of writing is invaluable in my job. I’m able to understand implicitly the process and journey of writing. I don’t miss writing if I feel like I can be creative and the facilitator of storytelling. Those aspects of the job satisfy that part of me.””
- NEGOTIATING THE CONTRACT
Wonderful article here from Barri Evans on the fine points of contract negotiations. It’s actually a two-parter with the first article here, the second article here. Some great free advice for novice screenwriters. Here’s a piece of the first article:
“At its absolutely most basic, a letter agreement between a producer and a writer to option material should define The Rights Period, the Extension to The Rights Period, Post Term Rights, and an Exit Agreement. If it’s a paid option, Fees are spelled out.
I’ve found that when you treat people with respect, and make a deal that reasonably protects everyone, you set the tone for a productive working relationship.
That’s the true art of negotiation.
Admittedly, the “Free Option” can be a tough decision for a writer. You’re eager to break in, but you envisioned money on the table.
Weigh your options, and decide when it’s worth taking the leap to tie up your script in exchange for the expertise and access you gain when partnering with a strong producer. If the company is enthusiastic about your writing and your potential, they might recommend you to an agent or manager. If they make a good match, it’s a win-win-win for everyone involved – the agent or manager, the executive and you.
My advice: Be bold and bring it up when the relationship is solidified and the timing is right. This is one way a Free Option can help launch your career.
And when the draft is ready to go out to the town, you have a respected producer introducing your work to executives at director and actor-driven companies for packaging, if appropriate, and to studio execs. Even if they pass on this project, if they responded to your idea and your execution, they may want to meet with you in the hopes of building a relationship and getting a look at your next project.”
- MAX LANDIS DISPENSES SOME WISDOM
Here’s a headline for you, ready?
“Netflix Closes $90 Million Deal for Will Smith, Joel Edgerton Cop Thriller ‘Bright’
“David Ayer is directing from a script by his fellow producer Max Landis, who will receive $3 million for his spec…”
So, it does still happen. The famous seven-figure deals of legend. Shane Black feeding frenzies. I’d make a winning-the-lottery reference but that would be disingenuous. Waaaay too much work involved, not to mention the outright genius it takes to write a concept that made Studios bid a spec thriller into a 3-mil payoff. How many 3-million dollars deals for a spec script have there been… ever?
All this as prelude to say that Zach Gutin published an interview with Max Landis, 6 tips to help your writing. Essential reading. You can find the interview here. A piece here:
“Maximizing Your Writing
Landis has had some funny incidents along the way, which helped him learn that his creative process is the right one for him and that yours is the right one for you. “Never use someone else’s process word for word. It’s your process; it’s what’s in you! ‘Follow this guy’s process and use this colored paper’—never do that! Never take advice that sounds like instructions. If you want to do that, buy a coloring book. Be your own creative.” That said, here are Landis’ tips:
Tip 1. Finish your scripts! If a script is taking you more than six months, finish it. Have all of your ideas before you start on the first page. Know all the answers. You’re God. Don’t tell me you’re not sure how to crack the story—you made it up! It’s you talking to yourself with sock puppets! You are God, you can finish.
Tip 2. Can you sell? Maybe, but that’s not about you as a god, it’s about you as a person. A screenwriter is a false god in his own world and has to be a compelling prophet in the real world. You gotta be able to talk to people, you gotta be [where the business is], and you gotta be able to take criticism. If you can’t take criticism, put down this magazine right now.”
A great podcast from Landis talking about his recent feature Mr. Right is also found here on Script Mag.
- STUDIO SCRIPT NOTES: TITANIC
Gotta gotta post one more of these from Brian Caldirola. I posted his Chinatown notes– or anti-notes– earlier. This is a mock-up of what Studio notes of Titanic might have looked like had it been handed in by someone other than James Cameron. All inane mediocrity on display. I’ll post a jpg of it but you really should check out Brian’s post, here: