Thursday, May 01, 2008

With Reservations

My first internship with a major player in the film industry was at the now defunct New Line Cinema. I spent a great two semesters there, learning a lot (and watching a ton of films during the Tribeca Film Festival). Recently, I opened an issue of Creative Screenwriting and saw, under the Sundance coverage, that one of the very first scripts I wrote coverage on, FROZEN RIVER, premiered at the festival this year. I had passed on the script, “with reservations.” I liked it, but just didn’t see the potential for huge earnings and did not recognize it as different enough from other independents to stand out on the marquee, shelf, or online queues.

Seeing the (brief) mention and praise that the film got started me thinking. This was something I had hesitatingly passed on, yet it got made. Obviously, the filmmaker was dedicated to her idea, which is commendable. But was I right to pass on it, or, in lieu of the fact that it was produced, should I have been one of the first to say, “someone make this”? I like to think I have a good eye for potential, so now I ask myself, what does this film being made mean?

I should tell you that New Line didn’t wind up producing the film (Sony Picture Classics wound up being the distributor, I think). Of course, that decision not to go with it had very little to do with the coverage I wrote as an intern. Still, here’s a project that, if I was in charge of, I would have said no to. Someone else saw merit in it, and will be distributing it. Granted, a lot of movies get picked up and distributed that don’t deserve it or that have been passed by other companies, and I guess the “rightness” or “wrongness” of my decision will really only be apparent after the release, based on the numbers. But this whole situation just got me thinking about how hard it can be to sell your film, no matter how committed you might be to it, no matter how good it might be. Someone will pass it, someone will scoop it up, and someone might roll in money because of it. You just never know.


Joe said...

While I agree with a lot of what you're saying, one thing you don't know is whether or not the version of the script that was eventually recommended until it was purchased was the same version of the script you read. Who knows? Maybe the agent got some useful feedback from some producers and the writer took another stab at it. Otherwise, I agree that it's all a matter of taste. I know when I interned at Revolution, there were projects I passed on that were eventually read by assistants anyway because they saw something in my coverage that, while I felt it was detracting, INTERESTED them. Crapshoot indeed.

Cake Man said...

You're right. I have no idea what the finished product is like, but unless it was changed drastically, ala from a low-budget personal drama to a big-budget monster invasion, the basics are probably still the same. I'm not saying there wasn't anythign of worth in it. If I had to choose just one movie to have made that year, this wouldn't have been it, is all.