Monday, June 08, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 75 - Option and Conference Call

It never ceases to amaze me how rapidly modern transportation can shoot someone around the world. I woke up in Spain on Thursday morning, and within 12 hours of take off from the Pablo Picasso Airport in Malaga, I was downing beers with most of the League down on the Bowery. But I wasn’t just coming back for beer (they have that in Spain, I’d have stayed abroad if that was the only reason). No, as good as beer is, I had another reason. I had managed to pop onto my email a few times while overseas, and did two key things: I accepted the revised option agreement from a producer who wants my post-Apocalyptic spec, and I set a call for Friday evening with the producer and her manager.

Friday night, after two 16 ounce coffees and a few cans of soda (jetlag was beginning to set in with a vengeance), I sat down for my preset call. At just past 8pm EST, the phone rang. On the other end: producer Gretchen Somerfeld and manager Kevin Donahue. With the option agreement in the mail, it was time to get down to business. The point of the call was script notes, and we got down to business with little chit chat beforehand.

All in all, the notes were very easy to stomach. I’d gotten a lot of positive feedback from professional readers (at management companies and prod cos) who had seen the script, and had been told more than once that the draft I had was pretty solid, especially for a newbie’s spec. Nonetheless, no one had picked it up yet, so there was undoubtedly work to be done. Basically, I managed to write something that most creative execs and managers have told me would cost between $70 and $100 million to make. Not a small sum, especially for an unproduced writer. While the script is strong, it is not perfect, and in order for a studio to cough up that sum, it needs to be.

One of the issues with the script as is is that it builds slowly. I don’t mean to imply that it takes a long time to get into the script – hell, it starts with a body falling off a roof – but for a high budget action, it opens small. The producer and manager want to see it open with a bang, a chase or fight, something that gets the heart pumping 30 seconds in while also establishing the world. Whereas Gladiator opens with a battle, I opened my script with the aftermath. So, one major change will be a reworking of the first ten pages.

Next, I also have to focus a lot on long scenes, especially long because of dialogue, and make sure that the action remains throughout. I tend to overwrite dialogue for two reasons: I love writing it and I’m never sure if the reader gets what I want them to from the scene. However, as any screenwriter knows, dialogue can be a good script’s enemy. Though I will do my best to focus on the dialogue and cutting the script down where I can, Gretchen will also be working with me on it.

The notes kept coming, but for the most part, I was able to almost instantly get on board with them. I really think that they’ll help sell the script. That does not necessarily mean that they are working toward my original vision for the script. However, Hollywood is a game, and the one I’m playing now requires me to write the most saleable script, even if it’s a bit more mindless than what I originally intended. I will probably have to cut some of the layers that I was hoping to include, but can already admit that they weren’t working. With any luck, though, if the script sells and a director is attached, I’ll be able to work with him or her to get some of my ideas reincorporated. Right now, though, I’m doing everything I can to turn it into a payday.

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