HOW TO PRODUCE A FILM.
If you have produced before, if you have chums in the studios, if
you are KNOWN as a producer, if you produced a movie ten yrs
ago, you are not ONE INCH more likely to sell a script than a total
TYRO! PRODUCERS are HUNGRY FOR cheap PRODUCT. They
don't want some waxen lipped silvery throated hustler fleecing them
for some junk script. There's a recession out there and studios,
like banks, now have to buy cheaper scripts than the 3 million dollar
turds they've been buying from the insider Hollywood set. They want you
desperately. They want to see every script in town that's superb and
commercial! and which is a VEHICLE for a star. They don't so much
like to meet writers, so you have to OPTION a script for a dollar from
a writer and take meetings on it. Out of ten meetings, you'll get one option
if it's a decent script. If you are really the writer, delegate a chum with the gift
of gab to be the producer, as I repeat, they are loathe to meet writers
who always SUE the studio later for taking an idea. Now, the producer
needs a great outfit. A safari jacket, pen in pocket, briefcase, khaki pants
will do the job. A Hemingway outfit. Abercrombie and Fitch has 'em.
Then a car, some plastic in case you go out to lunch with the studio exec,
oh and a literary agent who does the pitching first by phone, warming them
up on the synopsis, idea, writer's identity, how he's 'just a kid from UCLA
film school,' and that agent can be your grandmother. Or me. But you gotta
be the PRODUCER. So read SELZNICK's BIOGRAPHIES to get the
hang of the MIND SET, but to understand the act of hitting the street read
MALCOLM GLADWELL on hustling. Success is mainly putting our feet on
the street! And how you pitch the phrase. The novelty factor.
NOVELTY IS GOOD but it helps
to be ugly and Jewish. Really!
Sure, hitting the street is work. But what a millieu to do it in. NYC or LA
production corps? And to get in is easy. You cold call, pitch a high concept idea
fax the synopsis, drive into the studio and park, take a meeting with the development
exec at the studio and don't forget Indie prods. In other words,
the efforts at first are only a step up from being a Jewish peddler --
making the rounds. You have to go door to door with your wares in a
briefcase. You have to be quick and uncomplicated as you pitch your
merchandise. Each script has to be gift wrapped. And when you pull it
out of its envelope, it must have the right look. It has manila colored
covers and two prongs, leaving middle one free. It has your stationery
for your literary agency attached with a paperclip. Your name, phone
and a one page synopsis is attached to your brief, 2 paragraph letter.
Read Bio on Darryl Zanuck. SUPERB!
Bone up on these three great ones, Mike Todd, Zanuck, Selznick.
Read their bios. Then, get a few scripts to show, a thriller, a family
drama, a comedy! Get your merchandise and xerox it a few times. That
means you need scripts. HOW? It is so easy and so fun that you won't
believe it. Get a lot of University cinema students from FILM DEPT. to
show you their best feature length scripts. How do you get them? Hang ads
at cinema school bulletin boards. Even more fun, create a SCREENWRITERS'
CO-OP in your living room once a month. Give these hungry, ambitious
kids snacks and wine, chips and dip and nutritive lessons on how to
write a script, SEE HOW TO WRITE. Show them scripts from libraries, but
don't lend them or you'll get stuck with fees and fines. Show them. Show
the 'form' that scripts are written in. Share SCRIPTWRITING SOFTWARE if
you can get some and put it on everybody's PC. There is a free download
script software you can get online. Do not imagine that your first time out you
can sell an idea. If you think that'll work, I have a few wonderful old computers
I can sell you. Work great. Vintage, mid 90's. Full of script ideas I hustled to
producers which they made without me. IDEAS are like un-set diamonds that
you hand around. They give you back glass, and they film yours and say
they never met you. ASK BARRY my chum who sued SUPERMAN for
III which was stolen from him. Reeve met with Barry, got the script with
atom bomb in it, gave script back a day or two later and went and wrote and
then shot SUPERMAN III. Barry never got a call back. He sued, and
WGA GUILD TOLD HIM that they'd have to hire a jury at the cost of 15k to
read all the scripts. He didn't have 15k. It died right there.
Now, here's where you get daring. Procure some "STARPOWER LITERARY
AGENCY STATIONERY" with your address, phone, fax, email on it, your
name. and it should say "The agency that runs the L.A. Free
Screenwriters' Co-op." I used to run that so I give you the names to
GET the HOLLYWOOD CREATIVE DIRECTORY BOOK, it's
hundreds of pages containing every studio, every indie prod, every
phone, fax, every development executive's name, every script buying exec
in Los angeles and New York. AND EMAILS! WOW! Pick your best script do
a one page synopsis on it. Phone a studio, ask for VP in charge of
development. Verbally pitch story in 1 or two sentences, and tell him
you'll fax or Email him a one page synopsis. Then, if he likes it,
messenger the script to him.
USUALLY TO GET A FILM PRODUCED you must
1.) ATTACH A STAR, that means say 'Sly Stallone read it and wants to
play the father." That's a starter kit to being accepted by a studio.
Say "X young star say.. BRAD PITT read it, wants to play the SON," then
you definitely have a producer interested as the younger star is
bankable while Sly is not anymore. You are lucky if you can get a STAR
attached as stars won't do promises anymore as if they break them later,
they get sued for millions. Dances with Wolves was the last time a star
attached himself to a script. Kevin Costner rescued his career with that
one. Have a star you can fund the making of film.
So, Find a star and get letter from him saying he'll do the role if the
film finds financing because he loves the script. FIND a STAR SEEM HARD
TO YOU? And GET a LETTER? HOW? Put a loaded gun to his head, contract
and pen to his right hand. That usually might tempt a star to SAY he'll
do your flick. But the important thing is getting a letter from him, on
his stationery saying "I WILL STAR IN THIS FILM IT GETS MADE."
Unfortunately, stars don't like to write that since Kim Basinger got
sued for 32 million and lost her ass because she promised she'd do
Boxing Helena. And then when they raised money, she wouldn't and didn't,
she was busy doing L.A. Confidential. The Producers who sued her made
way more money off her than the flick ever earned them. So now stars do
not give letters saying they are attached to a project.
2.) Raise part financing, has to be in the multi millions. This is very
hard unless your Dad is a dentist in IOWA. Foreign dentists will all
cough up a grand or two each to be your financier. Read PROSPECTUS.
If you can raise 15k, shoot it on video, sorta kinda, and show that on
UTUBE to producers in every city of the world. I know a kid who was a grip
on THE OFFICE who did that, sold a TV series to a Brit TV corp. They paid
him to shoot a pilot with a real crew. I played the cougar after the star. FUN!
But these guys had worked on a real show for yrs and knew stuff.
3) A better way is this: Let STAR produce it and take producers fees,
you get some back end points. For PERCIVAL one of my scripts, a loony
tunes guy is req'd. Jim Carrey is it, but ya know, I can't even get my
pal and longtime client Sally Kirkland (who was working with him day and
nite on Bruce Almighty) to show him my script and I promised her half
the producers' fees! She sez "I'm in love with him. I don't want him to
think I'm using him!' So she backed off. She also wouldn't pay for 2 yrs
of free phone readings so Sally? All bets are off. I'm telling all on
you! I'm not your friend anymore. God paid her back. Her final onscreen
time in this movie was ten seconds. What goes around comes around.
4.) Another way is to Give the big STAR that you ran into at healthfood
store, an option on your script for six months to a YEAR for free. You
'deputize' that star to produce it, as he has contacts. As Star didn't
buy the option for the usual ten thousand bucks, you write your own
producers' profits into the contract as backend points, i.e. you get 50
% of his producers fees/ profits. Remember you sign the contract at the
healthfood store and fill in his name. That a.) allows him to produce you
free, b.) to stay lawsuit free if he ever makes an identical film off your
idea cuz you gotta state there, you do a similar movie about a postman
post appocalypse I wont sue you. These clauses grease the way!
5.) If you don't run into stars at stores in L.A., call his manager, his
person, his lawyer, the people who think for him. They will always read
a script submissions. They are looking for a produceable for him. NOT
his agent. Agents only want big fat cash on the barrelhead offers. No,
get the friends who think for him to read the script, 'cover it,'
interest him and let them be in on it. "Be in on it" means a percentage.
It might mean a percentage of YOUR percentage. If he's really a friend
to the star, he knows he'll be given producing rights/ fees
automatically as his star friend has class and he found the script.
'Found' also belongs in quotes as it refers to the serendipity of
someone crossing paths with a super script that's right for the pal
6) Now, why we don't go to big AGENTS. Big stars' agents want only two
a.) you put his l0 million dollar salary in ESCROW before they'll even
read the script and tell him when you start shooting as big star needs
to have an opening in sched.
b.) their own in house writers, the big 2 million a script writers they
already have. They don't want to package a star with NOBODY writers cuz
they don't have l0% of the nobody and it would be a pittance. They have
writers under representation contracts who earn two mil. Then, THEY CAN
7). FROM THIS YOU WILL DEDUCE a. that you should never approach a big
packaging agent just because you wrote your script for one of their
stable of stars unless you can get the AGENCY to sign you FIRST. The
agency can sign you several ways: as a producer or as the writer.
Packagers love to own the writer lock stock. SOME agencies do want new
sharp writers. Usually age twelve. You're too old? Then send in a 20 yr
old pretending to be you. THAT WORKS BIGTIME!
It sure helps to have a big packaging agent. And I hear from the street
that young, new writers ARE getting signed by these really big guys cuz
they want fresh scripts. Hollywood wants the Young person's 'take'. So a
big agcy would sign a Hollywood based fresh, young writer if he could
show them a stack of student awards, scripts, all spec scripts that
never have been seen, never shopped around.This last is important. ANY
'no's circulating out there (for your scripts, where studios read them,
'COVERAGE' it's called) it looks bad for you. So no coverage is better
than bad coverage. You can bury bad coverage by renaming a script and
renaming yourself so the computer at studio can't locate data on you.
NOW, it's still possible to get a lucky hit and find a star. This
happened to Michael Black when he met Kevin Costner with DANCES WITH
WOLVES in hand. He had a second or half minute of access to him (I
believe he met Costner's massage therapist or something,) and a yr later
Kevin read it. So, the thing is, carry script full time. That massage
therapist may have access!
How to get a celeb to sign on? FIRST: Live in Hollywood. Second, Go
where THE celebs are or where their massage therapists and publicists
ARE: If you need a young dude for your action flick, Go to The Viper
Room to dance, go to boutiques to try on overpriced designer duds
healthfood stores, gyms, yoga instructors, chiropractors and high
colonic irrigation givers. I saw Greta Sacchi at Gooches. She's not
bankable but she's a beginning as she knows stars. She was actually m
arried to the star I want for my GRAVEDIGGER script, Vince D'Onofrio.
HEALTHFOOD Stores are a great place. I saw the German actor from Das
Boot at WHOLE FOODS,. Joergen Prochnow, ditto Sidney Poitier. Problem
is, the three of 'em together are unbankable.' YOU NEED stars that
studios hanker after! Like TOM HANKS. That is why I developed the SANDS
METHOD of getting a project bought which does not require going to
stars. I'll tell you that one in a sec, but let me finish up on this
part as Serendipity may put you in front of Madonna. That actually
happened to me. I told her about the script, MY FACE FOR THE WORLD TO
SEE which my pal wrote, she was very kind, said 'no problem, send it to
Ovitz, my agent". Dummie here should have had a copy of the script on
me, then I'd have said Madonna, you read it, you give it to your agent.
I was at a WGA screening. WHY the hell didn't I have a script on me?Or
ten or twenty!
Always carry your SCRIPT, DEAL MEMO saying 'feel free to read it, I
absolutely will not SUE you, even if you do a similar film" i.e. a
RELINQUISH RIGHTS contract, so they'll read it, carry right WITH YOU,
not out in the CAR!!!! I have a copy of that contract an agency gave me,
somewhere in a harddrive. Will dig it out.
If you print up a Script it has to be typo free. If you have typos, they
think you're stupid and won't trust your writing. Any stationery
included in the pcgk has to look so super beautiful and neat, and you
may include letters from a Rabbi who liked script. Felt it had
'humanity.' And include a SYNOPSIS. First, Do the log line in one
sentence. "It's about a hired gun at CIA who turns on the Agency. "
that's what you tell the star when you meet him in the carrot juice
section of Whole Foods. "Hey I loved you in TERMINATOR. I just got this
script from the xerox ten minutes ago and I run into you. It's GOD
talking! Your company can produce this, I give you a free option for six
months to shop it around." Actors are like trout always lunging after
flies. Roles. They believe in miracles like SERENDIPITY! When you tell
them GOD made them run into you, they think you're that writer who sold
Costner the best thing in his life. They realize that they can produce,
control the whole thing, you relinquish all rights to sue him and do
this very clearly. If you ever make a film about CIA guys turning on
agency I will not be a bother. That's guaranteed. Say that you trust
them because the role is so right for them, that with THEM attached,
this film will get made by any big studio and remind the star that he
can have the producers' fees...NO OPTION MONEY required.....You say all
that in one breath, and mean it. And have your word be your FIAT. You
will get them to take it and read it. To get anything in life, you have
to tell them with absolute truth, YOU WILL GET A, B AND C from me. I
just need X from you. Simple formula that gets you what you want.
Maybe with my script PERCIVAL I shouldnt try for some big celeb like Jim
Carrey. HE DOESN'T NEED THAT. Some up and coming comedian from Britain
is better, or maybe an over the HILL like Robin Williams would be best.
Or a star who needs image repair. Someone who OD'd in his hotel room,
bopped teens or someone sent to the drunk tank. Charlie Sheen or
someone. Someone who has SINNED.
So if you're good at saying ten things in one sentence with a Christian
face and good at hitting the star boutiques, bars, joints, always carry
a script and pre-signed release!
THIS IS A REAL PICTURE of how it is. So, HOW do we USE the current state
of the system to break in? That brings me to the Sands method. We don't
circulate as writers. We circulate as producers who own the script
already. That is because the main thing nobody wants to deal with is the
writer because all the big lawsuits were about writers trying to nail
producers who made films vaguely like their script.
Writer ART BUCHWALD WON. Took paramount to the cleaners on Eddy Murphy
COMING TO AMERICA FILM. The lady who sued Spielberg for E.T. won more in
lawsuit than she'd have made if he'd optioned it when he first got
script over the transom. (no agent.)
So don't be the writer. Deputize a friend to produce it. Appoint a
friend. Pick the one who's at lawschool or the one with the good suit,
nice shoes as she/ he will go into studio and pitch it. Appoint a pal to
work the stationery, and be the agent figure make the phone appts. I
pitch idea, show them one page synopsis by fax, then fone back and close
the appt. I do that with ease. "Hello, I'm Anita at the Starpower
Literary Agency. We run the L.A. Free Screenwriters' Co-op, (true). We
have dozens of scripts from our kids but one is so brilliant, I thought
I'd let you see it." It was optioned by another student, a lawyer, Or a
rich kid, who can come over, pitch it to you."
THE Development Executives want people to pitch scripts. Want it like
crazy. Dawn Steele, head Paramount Studios exec, wrote a book STEELY DAWN
they called her, forget book's title...where she said WE LOVE to see
every script in town. We want to see every new writer. We want to be the
first person to see the piece. We count ourselves lucky by how many new
writers come to see us daily." BUT ONLY ACCOMPANIED by the producer as
they fear writers suing them. BUT THEY REALLY WANT TO READ YOUR SCRIPT!
So that's the rainbow you ride in on. As beginners, OUR scripts have the
same ability to be bought, admired, shopped around, and filmed as M.
Night Shyamalan found out, a writer who got 10mil for UNBREAKABLE
*(it was his 7th flick, not his best but good enough. Coming on heels of SIGNS with
Mel Gibson, (where alien gets baseball bat), just before 6th Sense his chef d'ouevre, those
kinda paychecks sure beat a lottery ticket! Four and a half days to write? DO IT! Get your
chums to do scripts and option the things. Do a WRITERS' CO-OP to edit, pitch in ideas
and all of you split that paycheck!
One guy in the back row now pipes up. "You can hustle Hollywood all you want, unless you
have close chums, or hot priors or a black magician working your mojo, you can hustle all
you want but you will never sell anything. I had three fine scripts, took 'em to ten different
studios and indie producers, got bupkes."
Sir? You wouldn't be complaining if you bought ten lottery tickets and failed to get the
billion bucks. But selling scripts in Hollywood is a much better statistic than lotto. Start with the
majors, then the indie prods then the B producers, then get dentists to fund a 'pilot' version --
shooting video with college students or out of work non Guild actors who need film on themselves
for auditions. If your piece is high concept, very novel, a good script, you will sell it. Be prepared
to be rejected a little. Harry Potter /Rowlin was rejected 12 times before a publisher took it.
She didn't give up. The thing is, most likely you will GIVE UP before you should !
Reason? Humans just can't tolerate rejection. It gets them in the heart. That doesn't have to
happen. I'll tell you what a master metaphysician told me. The ego is here to do one
thing. KILL YOU." Kill the ego. Read THE MASTER JULES SUCCESS TRAINING
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