Friday, September 02, 2005

I Know Less About The Movie Business Than...Anyone In The World, But..


In the 80's, I went through a huge horror movie kick. I loved them all. In the mid 80's, April Fool's Day was released. And it completely polarized the horror community. (In fact, go to any horror film forum, and bring up AFD, and see the varied response you get.) I loved it. It was funny, and refreshing. The acting was good, and I didn't want to kill any of the characters off, which is unusual for a slasher flick. Normally, I hate every character in the movie, and root for the killer. Not so this time. Bif was damn funny...

So almost two years ago, after watching my brand spanking new AFD dvd, I was thinking about the plot heavily, as I often do after viewing a film. I jumped in the shower, and like a shot of adrenaline, the idea of the sequel came to me. I had never even thought of a sequel, or of writing it, because really, what's the point? I don't own the characters, and I've been told countless times "you can't sell a sequel"But I would not be denied. I had to write it, if only for me. The only way to describe the feeling is if you discovered Plutonium by accident, and wanted to tell everyone about it. I was in my own personal jubilee zone. The only time in my life such a zone existed, me being a morose, depressed personality and all.

Cut to six months later, and I have a polished first draft. So I'm cruising the net late one night, when I decide to look up Deborah Foreman, star of AFD, Valley Girl, My chauffeur and many other '80s flicks I have a great fondness for. She has an email for her new business, and I shoot a nice fan letter over to her, also stating I've written a sequel, and would she give it a gander. I think I wrote, "If it is garbage, and I have wasted your time, feel free to lambast me on you website", and I left my contact info.

So I go to sleep, thinking nothing of it. I wake up and check my email, and to my amazement, she has responded. I nervously stare at the title of the email, which reads RE:April Fool's Day 2. I stare for five minutes, wondering how bleak the response will be. I click on it quick, like ripping a band aid off an infected cut. And she proceeds to tell me she is very interested, and to send it to her. And if she doesn't like it, she will "Lambast me to everyone and anyone she knows". I stare at my screen which has her address on it. Then I look at my script. Well, needless to say, I had a new third act I was working on, and I was only at page 68. I responded to her that I would send it shortly, as I had to write another 25-30 pages. (How's that for honesty?) She says fine, and I'm off.

I finish it in two days, and overnight it. I shoot her an email just to tell her to expect it, and I sleep like a rock. The next afternoon, I open up my email, which has her response resting in wait. The title? Blank. Nada. A bucket of ice water pours over my shoulders, and I am experiencing some slight nausea. I open the email, which is very short and succinct. I scan it first, not really reading the words, and realize it's all of maybe ten words. I look away, knowing that I have been rejected, just like Diane Pizzo did in the eighth grade. With a smile. (Damn her!) Then I actually read it, and it says, "Jason, I loved it. Call me. 555.555.5555" (the number was further down, so I didn't notice it while scanning) After breaking down onto the floor with weakness in the knees, I begin my pacing, back and forth. Little known fact about me(unless you've met me): Speaking with people for the first time is like torture for me. I stammer, I look anywhere but their eyes, I mumble, and I say some of the dumbest things this side of Mike Tyson. But I get the nerve, and finally, 4 hours later I dial the phone...and promptly hang up, because no, I am not ready. Let me get a beer first.

Finally, I do call. And she answers. I stammer a little, finally blurting out, so you liked it, huh? She doesn't even have my name yet, but I have decided to skip ahead, evidently. She gives me the enthusiastic greeting, and we proceed to have a half hour discussion about my script. She tells me her worries with it, and she tells me some things she thought were the funniest lines of dialogue she's ever read. We talk about how I would direct it. About how we would get financing, and if I knew anyone. I tell her my ideas, and she tells me hers, like a few different ending ideas. It is by far the most exhilarating conversation I have ever had. By the end, she offers me a letter of intent to star, which I grudgingly accept. I now have my star. She gives me a few of her old contacts, and we hang up, sure this is leading somewhere. And it is.

Later in the week, through her contacts, I get my first manager, who loves the script. He agrees it has some work to be done on it, but says he'll track down Frank Mancuso Jr., who produced the first, to see if he would give it a read. We must go through him, then Paramount, because one or the other owns the characters. And Mancuso is in tight there. All of this happened in three months time, all because I had the bright idea of sending an email to a person who I thought would never respond.

So, where does it stand now? Damn if I know. I learned the hard way we, 'aspiring screenwriters that is, think in terms of real time, and managers, agents and producers think in terms of film time. And film time is much slower. Last I heard, the script hadn't reached Mancuso yet, but my manager still had a big interest in doing so, and said if he didn't believe in the script, he wouldn't track down anyone. When he hears something, then I will too. And that is that. I wait like the thousands of other hopefuls, hoping against all that is sane that my script will get read by the one person who can do something with it. But I have faith. I was in this position before, and that one person gave me all I have in regards to the screenplay going through the proper channels, so who's to say what will happen next? All I know is, I was just some punk just moved to FL from Jersey, didn't have a pot to piss in, and I took a gamble on something I believed in. Has it paid off? Just from the experience, in a way, yes.

So what's the elongated moral to this story? Write something you believe in. Don't write that high concept Rom/Com because that's what sells, unless you want to. Take some chances. Email and cell phones are impressive technologies, and they open all kinds of contact options, as does the internet. I cannot stress enough how useful the internet is. I have the contact numbers for all kinds of producers and agents, all for free. It takes a little creativity to get, like signing up to Variety or Imdb pro during a free trial offer, or something along those lines, but it is worth it.

Another great...and I mean great idea is to find actors who were once well known, and maybe haven't been making films for awhile. Watch their old movies. See if they can fit a role in your script. After all, they don't forget how to act. Next, get their contact info. Many of them have personal emails to contact them directly. Never underestimate what contacts former working actors still have. Now, I'm not talking a Burt Reynolds old time star, but someone like Judd Nelson, or that guy from Gremlins. How about Andrew McCarthy? Shit, take a look at the old horror movie staples, such as Allison Steele. I have sent emails to each of these actors, and all responded. These are actors who will be approachable, and open to reading your script. And they may hold the key to your success. They may not want to act anymore, and that's fine, but you'll find you actually get somewhere with these folks, instead of getting the run around constantly. Make sure you're complimentary, and mention some of their notable performances as your favorites. But not the role they're known for(Like The Breakfast Club). One of their second tier movies is more impressive.

Because of Deborah Foreman, my script was sent to George Clooney(Section Eight Productions), Bruce Campbell, Dean Devlin, Frank Mancuso and Anthony Hickox(?). I don't know if they even read it, but it was sent to them. And really, that's the first step, isn't it?

Now, go write a story you love, and look up James Farentino! Actually, I think I will look up James Farentino....

17 Comments:

Anonymous said...

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JD said...

Cool anonymous! Thanks! **** It appears they have finally hit me...

moses said...

great story JD. Here's hoping it works out. And I think you are spot on in saying write what you believe in. Sure, you could write a commercially viable script that you're not to gun-ho about in order to get noticed and I've got no problems with that approach. For me though, I'm more into writing the stories I think are cool and love regardless of their commercial appeal. Call me stupid.

Perhaps I'm stubborn and arrogant enough to think I can make it this way.

Again, great story and very helpful to think about contacting actors... postscript: only watched April Fool's Day once, long time ago, maybe late teens, remember enjoying it, thinking it was clever.

Grubber said...

Congratulations JD, seriously, well done, and great hustling!!!!!

Hope something(assignment, anything) comes of it!
cheers
Dave.

The Moviequill said...

Damn, I loved hearing about this, way to go!

"I had to write it, if only for me." I have a rewrite project I have been wanting to do ever since I started writing so if anything I'll do it as practice and who knows? So far nobody has it in the works yet"

Scott the Reader said...

The best advice to give anyone is to write what they are passionate about. Kudos to you for going for it.

I had such a crush on Deborah Foreman. I even liked "My Chauffeur"...

John Donald Carlucci said...

JD

Why don't you track Mancuso down (try the producers guild and the directors guild) and mail it to him care of Deborah and yourself (her name first)? It beats waiting on managers.

JDC

JD said...

JDC: Anything beats waiting for managers...including not having one! But yes, I have contemplated that. The main sticking point is this manager is very close with Deborah. And I think it's safe to assume they have spoken about it. What I dream is she and he(manager) did send it out with her name on it, as well as his. I'm kind of scrared off of sending it out myself, but lately, I have been thinking I might do it. We shall see.

John Donald Carlucci said...

The thing is that you shouldn't be scared. These people have more clout than you do (that is debatable to be honest), but you are the one who has to fight for your project. Simply communicate to this manager that you will also begin exploring avenues to get this on the screen also. The manager manages your career and opens doors for you, but it is your career. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself. Be prepared to walk from any project and willing to put a script away again if you need to do so.

This is your project that is set in someone else's playground. You did the hard part by getting a key player interested, now keep plowing ahead.

I can get things to George Clonney's company as easily as this gentleman, but you don't know how well it has been received.

I'm not trying to throw cold water on you, just encouraging you to remember you are the champion of your own work - no one can put the passion out like you can.

JDC

Jawahara Saidullah said...

Gosh, this is an amazingly cool story. Good luck. Hope it works out.

JD said...

JDC-I was only pointing out the fact that Deborah has personal relationships with these powerful people, and thus, my script got attention I alone could not provide it. Sure, I could send it to Clooney myself, but not without a query letter first, followed by the probable turn down letter, or nothing at all. Deborah, having been friends with these people, offered me a way in. I highly doubt I would have it the same without her. (I am going to send the script out to Mancuso, care of Deborah and yours truly. A good, sane, and obvious to all but me idea)

JD said...

JS- Thanks. I hope it works out too.

John Donald Carlucci said...

"I was only pointing out the fact that Deborah has personal relationships with these powerful people, and thus, my script got attention I alone could not provide it."

I know and I was just pumping you up a bit and not poking hole in what you've been doing. Hope you know that.

JDC

JD said...

JDC: Yeah, I know. I didn't want my initial post to come off as cocky or self serving, so I wanted to clarify.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Be a little cocky and self-serving man, you deserve to strut a little when hard work pays off a little.

How is the move coming?

JDC

JD said...

JDC: I do sound cocky often, but my humor is so self depreciating, nobody seems to mind.

The move is set for the last week of October, so I'm steadily packing away all things meaningless. By the by, if anyone wants a Magnavox 51 inch widescreen HD TV for $800, come get it. I don't think I have the room to move it. It's a nice tv too. Still under warranty, in fact.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I would, but I saving for my move to LA. I would dearly love a set like that.

JDC