a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, December 04, 2006


So I haven't posted much about writing recently, because I haven't been doing much writing.

Call it the post-Nicholl crash.

A few months ago, I was riding high. I had a script that made the semifinals in the Nicholl Fellowship, for which I got about a dozen requests from managers. I didn't even send it to them all -- I was being picky.

I had also given the script to some connections in the business (mostly development people that I work for) who had expressed interest in reading it, so that they could pass it on to people (agents/managers) they know. One got me a meeting with a manager, which went really well; the manager said he was a big fan, he said his boss would read it within a week, he said there'd be a followup meeting with him and the boss.

They seemed like the perfect company for me -- they are growing, they are more interested in developing writers than glomming onto projects as producers, they seemed to want to work with me.

I thought I had it made. I thought I was on my way to representation. I had two pretty good scripts, a supernatural thriller I was finishing, and someone's else's script that I'd done a low budget rewrite on that actually wound up with my name on it too, and which is also out there.

While I waited, I did another pass on my supernatural thriller, got notes, polished it up, got more notes, polished it up again.

And waited.


Oh, not entirely nothing. The manager I met with vaguely touches base from time to time; I sent him the supernatural thriller. His boss hasn't read my Nicholl script yet.

The development people I work for keep promising to read my script someday.

The other managers? Black hole.

Plus it's winter, so the business is in its yearly lull. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas, and then Sundance. Things aren't going to really pick up for about 9 weeks.

In Hollywood, two months of nothing happening is nothing. But then again, two months is everything.

Lessons I have learned:

-- If you are an unproduced writer, don't assume anything. Or get too picky.

-- Just because people ask for your script, doesn't mean they will actually read it. Which, you know, sucks. I'd rather have someone tell me up front that they don't have time, rather than request it and ignore it (and apologies to anyone whose script I've ever requested and then ignored).

-- I suck at marketing myself. Really. The idea of cold-calling a million agencies and trying to get one to agree to read my script makes my skin crawl. Especially since now I fear that the scripts will just disappear into the same black hole they did at the management companies that wanted to read it.

-- If you are an unproduced writer, you need a script that is either jaw-droppingly amazing or which is so commercial that it will probably sell. Otherwise it will be met with an apathetic yawn.

Plus, the funk has soured me on both my scripts. If I thought the supernatural thriller was a home run, I'd be out there pushing it, but now I'm just tired of it, and can't conceive of anyone actually paying me for it. Which is also feeding my enormous reluctance to jump onto the whole call-a-million-agencies treadmill.

I just want to write. Dealing with people is not my skillset. So you, I know, I'm screwed. Unless it's a skillset I develop.

Right now I'm in too much of a funk to do any skillset developing.

So things percolate along. There are a dozen or so copies of Nicholl script floating around out there somewhere. A half-dozen copies of my supernatural thriller are in the hands of people in which something could happen with it.

Unfortunately, they are all Christmas shopping, or preparing to ski in Aspen.

Meanwhile? Aside from making a living, I'm trying to dive back into writing. I'm currently choosing between finishing the comedy I started 2 months ago (I plotted it out, wrote the first 16 pages, then got sucked back into my supernatural thriller rewrite), or pounding out a draft of an old idea that I've been re-brainstorming over the last few days. It's sort of a (vague, I know) cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a Charlie Kaufman movie. If I can figure out the right tone, I might write it, because I think it'll be fun to write.

And hopefully it'll help me escape the funk. Because in the end, it's all about the writing.


At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in the same boat. Made the finals of a major contest. Got lots of requests. Sent out lots of scripts. The response?


No biggie. Keep writing.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Optimistic_Reader said...

Getting stuck into a new project is the best way to get out of your funk. Take advantage of the quiet period and by the time things pick up again, maybe you'll have a something new to send out to the development people, and hopefully a renewed enthusiasm for the other two projects. Good luck with it!

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous ELM said...


At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you never know who will pick up your script and like it...

- Allen

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Blair said...

Well, you know where I stand... one bit of interest that might be a bust because of the warning against free rewrites (not just on WP but from the manager I was talking to), a good handful of "nos" from those that did get the script and read, and the only really promising bit of representative interest coming from a friend-of-a-friend who isn't even all that familiar with Nicholl (or doesn't care, I couldn't tell which).

So yeah... waiting here too, and trying to figure out what to do next -- outline rewrite for free (ugh), polish a horror screenplay, rewrite the same screenplay with a different setting, or continue to work on the new thing that I planned to write before I went out to L.A.

Waiting. And I'm not even out there.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Peter said...

I have my own funk-a-loompah, except, without the Nicholl semi's badge of distinction.

Won a contest with a script that Scott gave notes on but no one's beating down the door.

Last year won another contest with another script - almost made a sale without representation. Almost. Almost still doesn't make it. Producer still wants to produce but needs money. Don't we all.

Get a sale - get reprentation. It would be nice if it were reversed - sometimes it is, but not so far with me.

Scott, you voiced what has been on my lips and on my finger tips. The only solace we can take is that it happens to just about everyone and we have to accept this, no matter the uncomfort factor. How many time have we all heard persistence. So we just have to suck it up and forage on. For Scott, and the rest of the Nicholl semis and quarters and finalists, it is just that much harder.

The best antidote - keep writing and charge into that next script like it will be the one. No, not the one. THE ONE.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I hate the funk. It's hit me a few times this year.

I hate this time of year, too. Nobody in Hollywood does much of anything until Feb.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

What makes it so much more depressing is the shit that gets made. Nacho Libre and Waiting and upcoming, sure-to-blow garbage like Blades of Glory.

If only writing is what it was all about.

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quit being such a girl.

lt (a fellow girl)

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Jay Simpson said...


We don't know each other very well so you will just have to trust me when I say: I've been where you are and I know what you are feeling. It might be hard to believe now, but it does get better. Trust me, it gets better.

FYI: I was talking to an exec at big Sony and he said they, and everyone else, are hungry for supernatural thrillers.

Get writing.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, it's funny -- I placed in a couple of contests (including Nicoll) in the past and got zip, just like you. But through a complicated series of events, a recent script of mine ended up in the hands of an assistant at a prodco who loved my past work. He loved this one enough to give it to a manager, who loved it and signed me and got me an agent; they sent it out wide, and even though it didn't sell, I've now got a dozen meetings lined up in the next two weeks. You never know where -- or how -- the big break might come. Like everyone's saying, just keep writing and you'll get your shot. And if you miss, there's always the next one. Seriously -- if there's one thing I've learned in 9 years of trying, there's ALWAYS the next one if you're willing to gut it out...

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Shawn said...

I'm with anonymous here - there's no telling who will like your script, and there's no one sure way to get in. You placed well in Nicholl - that's good for the resume. But in the long run, it’s the not the end-all, be-all of your career. I'm in the same boat with ABC/Disney - made the semis, but was stopped cold when they requested a second sample. I sent a script I thought was better than the one that got me to that point, but they didn't think so. On the other hand, that same script is grabbing interest from managers who've been reading my work through a referral. They've requested other samples and I’ve got a potential meet-and-greet coming up (depending on whether or not they like my pilot pitch).

It's all a crapshoot, dude - and contests, as prestigious as some may be, are not always the best way. Personal referrals and a consistent marketing approach will win the day more surely than a contest win (though you did make the mistake of not following through on all the requests for your script - can't be picky in the beginning).

Just keep plugging away - be persistent, not pesky, and you'll get there.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been prepping my application for the FI Independent Director's Lab, and one of the segments of the cover letter is intended to be a statment defining attachments to my script. But I don't have any attachments.

While I've spent the entire year lobbing my revised project (you read it last spring) across the doorsteps of prod co's and agents - it seems to have fallen out of the air for lack of something (despite great reviews on

I had a producer submit this thing to a producer's lab a couple months ago, and her opinion of attachments was very cautious. And I followed her lead.

But now I've changed my mind.

I am now working to attach a French-Algerian actress. I've looked at some boilerplate contracts. They're eloquently non-binding. And may provide that breath of life that makes this thing sit up and lurch down the halls - towards production.

Try and finagle one. My approach is to not cast the lead, but to help define the catalyst for the action and put a face to that character.

Like a rat in a maze, I'm trying a different approach.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Helena Handbasket said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. You hear it, but you don't believe it...until it happens to you. I have been paid money to write stuff. I've had a lot of it produced too. Last year I made more money from writing than I ever made from anything else in my life. And then nothing. This has been the driest most barren 12 months of my writing career. I remember after my first break--a staff job on television. I thought I had it made too. It was all supposed to fall into place now. My hard work was done. I did well too--the network and producers loved my work. But the phone didn't ring. The show was obscure and wasn't renewed. Like you, I'm terrible at self-marketing. I'm a writer not a publicist. I'm often uncomfortable around people. But the thing to remember is your work is never done. And just as one success usually doesn't make your career (an Oscar might mind you), one setback doesn't end your career either. If you can sit back and see the big picture of your career--the entire span of your writing/creative life, you will see the ups and downs that are just part of your evolution. One door closes and another opens. I think writers hope the "hard work" will be over. The agonizing self-doubts will vanish and we will be universally praised for our brilliance. It won't happen--not least because very few people who read scripts would recognize brilliance anyhow. It takes talent to spot talent. You have to keep going. Keep writing. The fact you have written something good means that you have yet to write something better. Unless you are telling yourself, and us, that the script you completed is the best you will ever write in your life... You and I know, however, that as good as it may be, you have better yet in you. And as a writer you must continue to write regardless. The path to "success" is not a straight one, trust me!

At 4:59 PM, Blogger The Film Diva said...

I say drink a pint. Wallow. Then, crack the laptop and do what you know how to do best: write.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous merrymary said...

Even when you're in a funk you're still helping everybody else. If there's anything I can do, just ask. Except introduce you to anybody or give you articulate notes, or help in any way with the writing process. :)

But if you need Korean BBQ or Mimi's Eggs Benedict or El Pollo Loco, I'm your girl. I know my food.

I think we all go through this, especially when we have something that's almost there and need to jump over an obstacle. I'm still waiting to hear back on a read too and I'm just gonna forget about it until January. Won't happen anytime soon.

Just keep reaching out. Someone will grab hold eventually.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Word Demon said...

Don't be too hard on yourself

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Scribe LA said...

Cheer up Scott! Just get right back on the horse and ride into the writing sunset:-)
As for getting out of a funk, maybe think about improv. There are great open nights at Second City (on Melrose and the training center in Hollywood) and ImprovOlympic (also in Hollywood, right near Musso & Frank's). You can get on stage and do games and crack into your creativity. I would start with those two programs, too, if you were thinking of taking classes.
Be well and think happy thoughts, because no matter where you are going, this is the journey.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger citygirl said...

I empathize with your self-marketing angst. I have the same problem. And actually, I'm no good at mingling, meeting people or keeping in touch with industry folks either. It all feels so fake. They know I only really want access to their contacts and clout; it's not really about them. Or me for that matter

Just thinking about this is putting me in a funk, so now I'm stopping.


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