This has been quite the writing year - both productive and educational. My post-Apocalyptc spec, which ended 2009 in the hands of a creative executive at a production company in Hollywood, evolved over the course of another three drafts (and many smaller revisions) since then. In May, the independent producer who optioned it a year and a half ago (Gretchen) and the creative exec agreed that the then-current incarnation of the script was just about industry ready. In June, I renewed my option with Gretchen, a move that really protects her as much as if not more than it served me at that point. Finally, after agreeing that the script was just about all there in May, we spent a week doing final proofreading and minor problem-solving in August, having subjected it to another few months of filling in gaps and making tweaks. Toward the end of the summer, not long before Labor Day, the script went out to agents and was slipped to a lawyer.
We got positive responses from a few of the agents, namely at UTA and WME. While waiting to see if either interested agent was keen enough to meet with me and possibly take me on as a client, and while waiting to hear back from the lawyer who the creative exec had given the script to, I dove into a new project. My firefighter script, a fun, semi-absurd action spec, took about a month to write, after outlining and character sketching was through. During that month, my manager gave me confirmation that someone at UTA was indeed very interested and had a strong working relationship with both the lawyer (who by that point had read and liked the script a lot) and the creative exec still working with us.
With the interest from those parties secured, my manager set up meetings for me. I flew out to LA in mid-October, three days after finishing the first draft of my firefighter spec. My manager and I met that weekend to prepare for the upcoming meetings and to discuss the draft of the firefighter script. While he liked it, we both acknowledged that there was a tone issue that warranted addressing before the script went out anywhere. That Monday, I had successful meetings at UTA and at the law firm. A lunch with the creative exec revealed that the production company she works for would not stay on as a partner on the script, either officially or unofficially. However, she was still devoted to the project, and secured the ability to remain on board, independently, developing the material with us on the side, apart from the production company. Both reps I met took me on as a client, and I was back to NYC with a promise to deliver two specs a year.
Not long after returning from LA, I was bound for the Middle East for vacation. It was a great trip, but also served as a two-week break from all things writing. My return to the States preceded Thanksgiving and year-end madness by just a few days. In the time since, I came up with a handful of other ideas for potential scripts, some more plausible than others. I've now settled on three that I'd like to pursue, though one of them might be less marketable than the others. My charge now is to dive fully into one to have it ready to begin working on and talking about soon into the New Year. And, finally, as 2010 wraps up, my reps and I are awaiting news from a read we are getting at a studio over the holiday, and regarding interest we have from another producer who read and really liked it. With Hollywood effectively closed until January 3, there's little for the post-Apocalyptic spec any of us an do for the next week, other than wait. Still, it could be a result very much worth waiting for.
One thing that's captured my attention regarding this whole process, is how a writer's script's future is completely out of their hands at a certain point. (I'm talking mostly about unproduced or emerging writers like myself here.) I spent nearly three years writing the post-Apocalyptic spec, yet at this point, I am making very few decisions regarding it. My representatives and independent producers keep me in the loop regarding everything, but the ball is very much not in my court. Sure, I can weigh in, and they're all great to deal with - this is in no way a knock against any of them; I couldn't have lucked out more in terms of the type of people I'm dealing with. Still, when all is said and done, while I think about the script a lot, it can be weeks between phone calls or emails about it. To have gone from so much time with it and being the only person involved in its development, to the one discussing it the least and the last to be responsible for mapping its future is just a very strange feeling, one I've come to terms with, but which still seems odd when I think about it.
It fails to elude me, either as I write this now or when I frequently think about it, that my experiences in the industry - or at least on its periphery - have all been due to one script. The representation I've secured, the lunches and coffee meetings, the development calls and countless rewrites, all of it has been due to one project, for one project. Naturally, this begs the obvious question (while I'm sure my reps are thinking it, I'm the one who has so far vocalized it) - will there be another script? Will I take meetings and lunches and generals and calls for another project that people are interested in?
The honest answer, is that there's no guarantee. Certainly, I hope there will be. The agent and lawyer and manager who have invested time and energy in me definitely hope so. I am working to make a viable follow up script a reality (and soon, I hope). But, as with so many other things in this industry, there is no absolute affirmation. No guarantee. The thing is, though, I don't think that should be a grim revelation. My work is cut out for me, as I love to recall my agent's words; it is both "very easy and very difficult, [I] just have to keep writing." So there it is, my mission for 2011: more writing. If this, my career trajectory, is a script, I like to imagine that I've come to the end of Act One; 2010 (and some major events in the two years preceding it) set up a possible outcome for my venture into screenwriting. As we turn the page into 2011, the difficulties of a self-sustaining second act become readily apparent, and despite the obstacles, highs, and lows I might encounter in the coming years, my directive is to continue writing throughout, and to do it better than I have in the past. I feel ready for the challenge. Onward, into 2011.