Been traveling a lot and the holidays are here, so the writing has slowed down. But no excuses, right? You can always find time to write! There’s a great book that I read by Pilar Alessandra, a writing consultant in L.A., called “The Coffee Break Screenwriter.” The basic premise is that you can take ten minutes out of every day and use that time to essentially write a script, improve it, consider changes, etc. I have often go back to this book to find ways to improve a script I’m working on. You should check it out!
So in my last post, I talked about how Rick and I finished “According to Plan” and we had to figure out how to market it. The first thing I did, and people have debated this significantly, was I registered the script with the Writers’ Guild of America (West) so that we had our copyright established. It costs $20 and your copyright is good for your life or 70 years (whichever is longer). You can also go through the U.S. Copyright Office, which costs $30, but you can’t file it electronically like you can with the WGA. I won’t get into the why and why nots here (I think you should), but here’s a great article on that very topic. The basic point here is that you can’t copyright an idea, but you can copyright your script, and you ought to protect all your hard work.
Neither Rick nor I have an agent (presently!) so it’s not like our script was going to be sent around to various production companies for consideration. So we obviously had to get the script out there in other ways. The first and simplest way was to put it on Simply Scripts. Simply Scripts is a huge database of scripts by writers who are looking for feedback on their work by other writers. It has been a valuable resource for me and has helped me make a ton of connections. A LOT of producers scan the site looking for scripts that fit into their wheelhouse of what they are trying to make. I’ve had at least ten contacts through this site on works that I have posted there, and it’s where I got my first big break as a writer.
I had written several short scripts, and an Australian director reached out to me after reading one of my scripts there and asked if I could read a current script he had and offer notes on it, which I did. He liked the notes and asked if I wouldn’t mind working on a rewrite of the script. I spent the next two years off and on writing and rewriting this script, and while the film never got made, that producer/director, Matthew George, and his company, Acacia Filmed Entertainment, went on to make several other films recently, including, “LBJ”, “Wind River,” “Shock and Awe,” and most recently “A Private War.” So the best thing about that writing gig was that I learned a lot about what you should and shouldn’t do in a script from a real director/producer, and I made a valuable contact for my future career.
In addition, I had a short film made in LA of my short film “Roadside Attraction”, that was an entry in a Simply Scripts One Week Challenge. That film (which was renamed Country Road 12) starred Dee Wallace (the mom in “ET” and “Cujo”). I’ve also just agreed to have another of my short scripts made (“Skip”, another One Week Challenge script), so I’m here to tell you that this site is proof that there are people checking this site out constantly for scripts to make and you consider it one of your marketing options. The best reasons for it: first of all, it’s free, which is a price you can never beat, and second, the level of exposure you get is well worth it. A third incentive is that you can get feedback from other writers to help you improve your script. Some advice will be great, some, not so great, but opinions are like buttholes — everyone has one, and you’ll just have to decide for yourself which opinions are worth anything to you. Don’t discard opinions, however, just because they don’t praise your work. Sometimes these are the best ones because they hit on exactly what is wrong with your script. As writers, we tend to blind ourselves to our own deficiencies, so be open to criticism and it will help your writing tremendously.
So we put “According to Plan” on the site and there it sat. Did I mention that not every script gets immediately picked up off that site? In fact, a great majority do not. We had a couple of comments from other writers, but for the most part, it just lay dormant there.
While that was happening, I tried putting the script out there in script contests, and other review sites, but nothing seemed to be taking hold. I chalked it up to it being a great little script that was destined to wind up like most other scripts: fun and a challenge to write, but ultimately winding up in the dustbin of history. I also sent query letters out to producers and managers, but no one was really biting.
But then, about a year after we first put the script on Simply Scripts, something weird happened. I got an inquiry on the script, and the inquiry came, from all places, from India. A producer loved the script and wanted to make it into a Bollywood musical. Well, Rick and I considered it, and thought, what the hell, let’s give it a shot and see what happens. The option we gave severely limited the rights to just the state of India where Mumbai is located, as we didn’t want to limit our rights to market the script elsewhere, especially in the United States. Rick and I agreed (against our better judgment) to no pay up front but a 3% back end on the profits, to the extent there were any.
In my next post, I’ll explain what happened with our Bollywood musical and how we wound up in LA anyway.