Friday, January 23, 2009

The First Big Pass

Yesterday, I found out that the production company my manager gave an exclusive early look at my script to passed. This company (which shall remain nameless) has a first look deal at one of the big studios (Warner, Fox, Universal, etc.). I don’t know whether it acted on their first look option – i.e. whether they took it to the studio. If they didn’t, then the pass came from this smaller company and not the big studio (which would be better for me). Either way, working with that production company – for the time being – is closed.

Some people would think that this pass would come as a crushing blow. Honestly, it didn’t. For one, I have to remind myself that I’ve managed to achieve something good in attaining a manager – that alone should keep my spirits up. (My buddies here at League HQ know that has been somewhat frustrating, since as someone whose patience levels could be a lot higher, I now wait second hand. Instead of finding out directly if someone passes, I wait while my manager waits, then wait for him to get back to me.) My manager’s enthusiasm about the script is another support. Sure, we got passed on by one company (and its A list actor), but I wasn’t sure that the actor we were targeting was best for the script anyway. I wouldn’t have said no to him, but if I could cast whoever I wanted, I don’t think he’d wind up at the top of the list.

In a business where money = king, getting rejected by the company that had an exclusive does another thing; it opens up the possibility of much more money. It’s like eBay – if only one person bids or there’s a buy now option, the seller only makes so much and doesn’t have the option to make more. If, however, the item (or script in this analogy) becomes hot, then you get yourself a bidding war, and might wind up making much more than you thought (or maybe deserve).

As much as I’d have liked to be able to put in my two weeks’ notice at my job today and have A-list talent attached to my first spec, I’m not bummed it didn’t happen. The future is wide with possibilities, and I have a call set for Monday with my manager to find out more. Have you gotten passed on by companies before? How’d you take it?


Onyx said...

In "reality" I haven't gotten far enough yet to be passed on by a production company. But in my fantasy life my action/horror spec was passed on by big shot producer Oslo McGreggor, and on top of that he said I'd never amount to anything. Good thing my blue collar manager Mitch Moore stuck with me, and we ended up selling the script and winning an oscar. Now I've got deals lined up. Just stick with it Cake Man. You'll get there.

OutOfContext said...

I got a pass from Showtime on a spec pilot I have under option. I did a phone pitch with the producers in NY, me in OH and the Showtime exec in LA. The pitch went great and I got read, and a pass--not twisted enough for Showtime. Apparently my writing was passable enough that the producer, knowing I had another spec pilot already written, asked if we could submit something else and got the okay. That's been about two months, so I'm guessing that was a pass as well.
At my age (I'm in my 40's) and living in the midwest, I'm just thrilled to have gotten to pitch and been optioned. You have the advantage of youth--just add work and patience and I'm sure you'll be just fine.

Cake Man said...

Thanks, guys. You're both right. As Onyx said, a pass can lead to something much better. It's what I'm hoping for.

OOC, thanks for the advice. I'm really impressed by the pitch call. That's something that none of us have had to do here yet, and is one of the elements of making a spec (or any) sale that still gets me on edge a bit. To think that you could make or break your chance to get your baby produced based off of ten minute call... I don't know. I'm glad to hear it went really well for you, since it's something that unsettles me. I think I'd need to go into that with A TON of practice.

Onyx said...

I totally agree about the pitching. I've only had one real pitch experience, and a home run would have landed me a job in the video game industry right out of school. This would have been perfect for me to do along with screenwriting. I didn't do so well on the pitch and I didn't get the job. The more I think about pitching the more it seems like an art that all writers should be practicing.

PJ McIlvaine said...

I'm on LI, just found your blog. Hey, rejection is part of the game, and it always hurts, but each no is one step closer to a yes.

OutOfContext said...

Cake Man,
I was nervous as hell for the first 60 seconds, but Randy, the exec, had a voice that sounded exactly like a real nice guy I knew as a kid, so that, and the fact that I was at home with my cat on my lap, calmed me down a lot. On the phone, I could imagine a very pleasant scene on the other end of the line. I'm sure I would have been more nervous in an office.

Zombie said...

Welcome, PJ! And good to hear from you as always, OOC.

I've never been in a REAL pitching situation, but there was one moment that came close. Last year at San Diego Comic Con I got a chance to talk with a writer I've really admired for a long time over a drink after the convention had closed. We got into the subject of my most recent spec, and he asked me to pitch it to him. I did. His first words once I'd wrapped up:

"Your pitch sucks."

He was right, I'm sure. I was nervous, on the spot, but I doubt I'll ever be any more comfortable than I would be pitching in a bar to someone I'd spoken to before.

That was six months ago and I'm still wracking my brain about how I'd pitch that script if I get another chance elsewhere. But at least now I'll have be prepared - where before I really hadn't been thinking about the pitch at all.

Cake Man said...

Thanks for the encouragement, PJ! Happy to have you.

OutOfContext, it sounds like you definitely had a more calm inducing experience than Onyx or Zombie mentioned. It's funny how nervious we can get as writers when talking about a project that we're not only familiar with but created. Even in informal sessions closer to what Zombie descirbed, I find that that I can get tongue tied or nervous when "pitching" my baby. I guess at the end of the day, it's important to keep in mind that everyone involved just wants to make movies (or TV).