Thursday, May 03, 2007

Maybe Your Screenplay Simply Blows

It's tough. How do we sell these damn things? Maybe we can't write.

Contests? God damn things. Yeah, I still enter them, not as many or as often as I once did. Because in the long run, I truly feel 99.9% of them WILL NOT GET YOU ANYWHERE.

I visited a message board recently, with screenwriters talking about all the contests they've won, and they are NOWHERE. And they had some decent placements in some good contests. I keep seeing the same names pop up as winners of various contests, with the same script, all the time. After winning these contests, they haven't gone anywhere? What the fuck?

Okay, you'll see a news blurb once in a blue fucking moon about a writer who sold their screenplay after it placed in a contest, I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but they may have had something in the works before the contest.

Think about it, did a bunch of do-gooders just wake up one morning and say - I want to help no-name writers!!! No, they didn't. They said - I want to make some fucking money!

Query letters? Useless. I tried that road before, and it's a sucky road. I hate that road. 99.9% of query letters will end up in the trash, or if you're lucky they'll wipe their ass with it (Hey, at least they were holding something written by you before they cleaned off their stink star).

Do you make it yourself with local actors? You can, and if you're actually talented, you might make something worth while. Or if you at least havea budget to work with so it doesn't end up looking like cable access quality. I went this route, makde some shorts, made 3 features, and they all went....nowhere. Sure, we had some local screenings and all, and our family and friends thought they were amazing! But they weren't amazing, they were low-budget crap. Don't get me wrong, I loved the process and I worked with some incredible cast & crew, but I wasted their time, too.

Or, maybe our stuff just isn't good enough. Maybe we're not inspired enough. Maybe we're too wordy, or maybe we put screen direction in our scripts (I NEVER do the last one by the way, it'll get you nowhere and fast). Maybe we do need to live in LaLa Land. But maybe there's too many damn writers there already.

Friend of mine won best Noir at Fade In a few years back. Script went nowhere, but it picked up a few more wins here and there. Still, nowhere. He ended up sending it to a company where you send them a ton of $$ and they'll guarantee you a read & detailed critique/meeting with a producer. And guess what, so far, it's worked. He hasn't sold it yet, but it is out to several agents, and the producer himself is putting himself behind it, so we'll see. But who has that kind of $$? Of course, it may have all been in vain.

You can also try the Inktips & Moviebytes websites. What I find funny is someone will request your script, and then they'll say it's "not for them." Hey cockdog - You knew what the fucking story was when you read the logline & synopsis. Don't make me go through the bullshit of sending it out if you're not gonna consider it anyway. Fucking idiots, man. I had someone request a script (HEADSHOT) back in March. Still haven't sent it to them. My main reason was that I wanted to tweak it a bit, but my inspiration simply wasn't there.

It's times like these where I get a bit annoyed (can't you tell) with this whole screenwriting thing. I haven't written much in the past 2 months (few tweaks here and there, nothing major).

I came up with a new idea for a script this week that I really like and will run with it. My other partially-begun scripts (there are about 40 of them) will just have to wait.

I'm not giving up. Fuck that shit. But I gotta figure out a better way. There's got to be a better fucking way. I mean, not all my stuff can be bad, can it?

How do you guys handle it?


Anonymous said...

" about a writer who sold their screenplay after it placed in a contest" how true, I peruse the Sold sites daily and rarely see anyone break out of contests, and even the Nicholl. In all the years they hold it, a few come to mind only.

It's all luck from now on, right script at the rigth time in the right place read by the right person

deepstructure said...

funny, i was thinking about this today - how aleatory the whole process seems to be. and if that's the case, how do you keep at it knowing that the whole thing is blind luck? i guess you keep doing it as best you can and hope you get struck by lightning.

it can be very frustrating. we're dealing with something similar with the festival process right now. seems no one wants our film. but i just figure you keep slamming away at every angle and something will eventually give.

at least, if you have talent and your work is good.

although obviously if it isn't you might still get somewhere judging by a lot of the shite out there!

so just keep at it. what else can you do?

Fun Joel said...

Hey buddy. I hate to say it, but yes, being in LA is a HUGE part of it. It is all about meeting people and networking. Then people read your scripts for free, and sometimes you might get some traction. At least, that's my opinion. It is not exclusively about who you know, but that sure is a HUGE part of it.

Keep your chin up, brother.

Hollywood Hack said...

Mostly I survive by hiring myself out as a sex slave. The money is good and there's a side benefit of being with an actor who can get the script read and then ultimately sold/made...

The screenwriting game is tough, sometimes you make it when you're younger(er) or sometimes success comes later. Getting down is part of the game, giving up is not.

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up. Fuck that noise. I'm here for the long haul.

FunJoel, I agree, it'd be nice to be out there, to shoot over to a pitch meeting or whatever if necessary, but just not a logical move at this point for us.

Thomas Crymes said...

I think *some* writers who have success with a script, try to ride it, and think that it is their one shot.

I've heard that if you win or place, you'd better have some other stories in the pipeline. If it's one thing you have Pat, it's a pipeline.

There is obviously a lot of luck involved. And if you sit back and take in the entire scope of what has to happen for you to succeed, one might decide to just pack it all up and start making Popsicle-stick houses instead of screenplays.

Joe Valdez said...

Doing the same thing as 250,000 other hopefuls and praying for a miracle - entering contests, query letters, etc. - is probably a lost cause.

I think that one of the reasons so many college kids get careers so fast is that they know professors, alumni, other students, who in turn know lots of other people looking for anything resembling new talent. Whether they're good writers is open to debate, but those are the people we end up reading a lot about in the trades.

You need an advocate, someone other people know and trust who can champion your writing. No one is going to want to read what you wrote, however, they love having somebody they know give them their opinion.

Keep writing, buddy, and somewhere along the line, you'll inherit your advocate who will tell everyone else what to think.

The Sujewa said...

there is a variation on the filming your script yourself that you can do: hire (or talk them into it) a talented director to direct one of your most awesome screenplays. perhaps a good director who has not made a feature yet but has done some amazing shorts would be up for the task. you can also work with a producer & publicist (would be pros who are talented & driven enough at the moment to get the jobs done & can be pros after they work on your feature).

also, study up on starting a DVD distribution biz for your feature, in case all other distribution options fail to materialize & the film is good/would be enjoyed by an audience. if you work at it for a while, making a film available on DVD for interested customers is not very difficult.

anyway, i think going with a comedy/romantic comedy for that route (hiring a director) is a good idea. well made, a film in that genre can work without stars. and many a indie director (who then went on to indiewood & hollywood stuff) got there start throgh making such a film.

of course moving to LA or NYC or Austin & making the right friends might also do the trick :)

good luck, keep at it, try to make it fun, blah, blah, blah :)

- sujewa

Patrick J. Rodio said...

I used to love making popsicle houses.

The Sujewa,

Good ideas, and if you make something really different like a Blair Witch you might have a chance if you're working with no-budget.

The Sujewa said...

I think on the no budget front you definitely have to be into self-distribution in order to make some money at this point in time since distributors don't buy them like they used to in the early 90's. Lance Weiler (Head Trauma), Gene Cajayon (The Debut), Greg Pak (Robot Stories) & a few other filmmakers have done well (Weiler very well with The Last Broadcast - over 4 million $s gross as of '06) with self-distribution on projects that are low budget on the indie scale. Some recent low/no-budget digital stuff like Four Eyed Monsters & Joe Swanberg's stuff (Kissing On The Mouth) is said to be doing well on DVD.

But that's all along the totally indie/DIY/self-distribution filmmaker front.
As a screenwriter I think you are more interested in having your script bought by a studio.

But if you decide to produce one of your own scripts, you could collaborate with an ultra-indie filmmaker who is into self-distribution. Just an idea.

It is, however, a ton of work, just the production alone, as you probably know since you said you made 3 movies. And then self-distribution is as much work if you want to do theatrical & DVD & other markets.

I am having a pretty good time self-distributing my feature Date Number One ( Takes a while, but it is getting done. Better than frustration :)

- Sujewa

William said...

Oh Patrick, I so fucking hear you.

It can get so exhausting at times but as you know it comes with the territory. The contests for the most part are a long shot and really don't give you what you need, a break. Even the winners of Nicholl. You have no control over them, only the quality of your writing. That is what you have to keep in mind. What you can control.

As far as getting it out there...cut yourself a break. Start attending some film events in the city. Like festivals. Make it a point to make some time and rub elbows. There is a new one downtown in the Wall Street area called the ACE Film Festival. These things are a good chance to hook up with fellow filmmakers, get your face seen. Pass a card around, talk shop.

It's a bitch and can be frustrating but sometimes you need to put it down and come back fresh. Making your own opportunities is your only answer.

You know blah, blah, blah....just don't forget to come up for air.

alan smitty said...

Where you at, yo?

Write a play, a thirty minute one act. Find a festival or theatre troupe or something. Get it cast and produced and watch the way the actors handle your words, and the way the audiences react to them.

Repeat as necessary.

Or, work up a standup routine and hit the local open mikes. Check the audiences. See what works and what doesn't. Repeat.

Patrick J. Rodio said...

I've had dozens of local readings with local actors, etc. That's a great idea for starting out, and I like to do that once in a while, but it's not something I need right now.