Thursday, February 01, 2007

February Is Martell Movie Month

Happy Groundhog Day!

No, this is not a holiday honoring Jimmy Dean sausage... it honors a rodent’s shadow. Now that’s a good reason for a holiday! It’s also the shortest month of the year, and Black History Month... so rent some Spike Lee movies like SCHOOL DAZE. And SHAFT’S BIG SCORE. And SOUNDER, even though it was directed by a white guy it’s still a really good movie.

Click To See The Other movie's DVD Box

This is going to be a strange month for me, because I have two films coming to DVD. Used to be one was coming out on the 20th and the other on the 27th, but now it looks like both are hitting the shelves on the 20th. I’ve never had two films come out in the same month before, let alone the same *day*. Of course, you should rent SHAFT’S BIG SCORE instead - it’s a much better movie than either (and I’ve only seen one of them).

The count is now 19 films - and I have no idea how many other screenwriters have 19 films... but I can tell you that the guys who wrote THE ISLAND and the second ZORRO movie and M:I-3 have been handed the STAR TREK franchise. Can’t wait to see what they do with Kirk & Spock. I’m hoping that having 2 films come out in the same month on the same day might help me find an agent or manager or maybe a well-connected dentist. I’ve been writing all of these new specs for the studio stockpile, and it would be nice to have someone who could get them out there before the potential strike. A potential strike usually means lots of people buying scripts... and I have lots of new scripts.

By the way - I’ve done a whole bunch of those things on my to-do list: producers have finally gotten their scripts and directors have gotten notes and scripts. I currently have a whole bunch of people reading - but the odds of having one of these things go would be better with an agent or manager or well connected dentist pushing a little.

This year I plan on getting a bunch of stuff set up - to make up for the past few years where nothing ended up on film... and don’t know whether that will be easier with these two new films or not. I’m going to make the most of it - use this as a good excuse to get out there and hustle and try to find some representation. I have to admit to that I’m easily discouraged every time I go out looking for an agent or manager... I seem to think that if I’m selling things and getting work, why wouldn’t someone want to represent me?

What frustrates me are the agents or managers who insist on a referral. I can understand this if I’m someone off the street - it’s a screening process. But I can bring bag of DVDs with my name on them and dump them on their desk - shouldn’t that count for something? Not to them. It’s a situation where the rules are more important than the reason behind the rules. I can only imagine how tough it is for you guys.

The weird thing is that I have been at Film Festivals and at Writers Conferences with Agents and Managers who have been so kind as to refer me to their firms and ask someone to read my screenplays. In many cases it's the *boss* - the head of the management firm - who asks a junior manager to read one of my screenplays. Great! I'm in! The ultimate referal!

Except that Junior Manager then refuses to read me. They tell me that they are swamped and don't have time.

Putting me in a weird position where I can either narc on the Junior Manager and tell his or her boss that they refused to read me or just accept it and go on to the next possibility. I always do the latter, because I can't imagine getting a good read from someone who is pissed off at me for ratting them out to their boss. That Junior Agent is liable to tell their boss that they read my screenplay and it sucked. That would be worse than just walking away!

Almost every time I go to one of these things, I get the name of some junior manager or agent who is supposed to read my screenplay... and doesn't. So I just let it go. It would be nice if one of them actually did what the boss asked...

A couple of months ago I was recommended to a manager, who read a script... then I never heard from him. After a while I started peppering him with phone calls - which he eventually returned - asking to read another script. He couldn’t find the script I had sent him and didn’t remember it. So, I sent a second script (one that had studio interest at one time)... and haven’t heard back from him. I’ve decided that someone who screws up twice isn’t someone I want as my manager... and if he read and hated both scripts, he doesn’t want me. This kind of stuff frustrates me.

Meanwhile, actual real live producers - one who has made a movie that I know you have seen (everyone has) - are cycling through scripts based on reading other scripts by me. All kinds of people are reading my scripts right now. And this is what makes no sense to me - that the people who *buy* the scripts are easier to get scripts to than the middle-men. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Now, part of this is me. I want my past success to count for something and I want the quality of my scripts (which seems to work when it comes to producers I’ve never met before) to be more important than who I know. I don’t like the idea of referrals - that seems like cronyism to me. Yes, yes, I know that’s how the whole world works. I have freakin’ tips about how important it is to network - but I still want to believe that the material should be more important than anything else. I’m a stubborn moron when it comes to this - and I’m going to try to stop being such a moron and get on with my career. In my ideal Hollywood scripts would all have numbers instead of writer’s names and agency covers and it would all be about the script.

Some of you may think that is at odds with my wanting to be treated special for having a big stack of movies with my name on them. Except all of those sales were about the material. Oddly, one of these new films is actually a remake of one of my old films - that script sold twice. The other new film - a producer I sent that script to *years ago* called a few weeks ago to see if it was still available. Man, that company would have made much much bigger film and probably not screwed it up like the guys who made it. I had zero connection with that company - they asked to read the script off a cold query. Then I never heard from them and wrote them off. My entire career is some accident - people passing around a script or some script sitting on a shelf until someone gets around to reading it.

So - I’m looking at these two films on one day as chance to improve my career. But I also looked at January 1 as a chance to improve my career - I made a list of things that needed to be done to help my career and started to do them. In fact, I took my birthday as a good excuse to improve my career. Anything is a good excuse to get off my butt and do something. And whether I see instant results or some long-range results - whenever I do something there are eventual results.

When these two new films pop up on February 20th, will it mean a spring-like rebirth of my career? Or more dark and gloomy weather on my horizon?

- Bill


Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, I have been reading you daily for several years now, first scriptsecrets and now your excellent new blog.

As always I totally agree with you and just want to remind you what A great inspiration and information source you are -- for filmmakers all around the globe.

So just keep up the good work and don't let the world beat you down.



pwstrain said...

Your page over at IMDB is pretty impressive.. at least to me, anyway. I don't know if the industry looks at IMDB like I do when I run across someone new, but have you thought about doing the photo / resume thing there?

Schmucks with Underwoods said...

Hi Bill, Is it not possible that some of these producers that you've worked with can refer you? Do you think there is some kind of snobbery of the DVD market going on here? In a market where selling specs is so hard it seems ludicrous that at least a smaller agent doesn't see you as a potential source of income.

ObiDonWan said...

Interesting insight into some problems you have that make you seem like things "we" have to cope with. whereas i have nothing in common with guys like goldman or black or...

Do you get residual income from the DVDs?

Anonymous said...


I'm shocked that you're having so much trouble finding representation given your track record, but I remember reading In William Goldman's 'Which Lie Did I Tell' how he couldn't get arrested for 8 years after he'd won his second Oscar!

The real test though will come when you're back on top. Will you use that status to continue to open doors for us newbies or will you guard it jealously in case you start to slip back down the pecking order?

I for one am confident that once your back 'in play' you'll smile and hold the doors wide open for the rest of us just as you readily pass on your script secrets - and on that subject - when's the updated book going to be ready?



Emily Blake said...

It seems insane that someone with your credentials still has trouble finding representation. What does that mean for the rest of us?

One of my actor friends has had a siccessful career as a model and has an agent but not a manager. A cleint of his passed his resume and headshot on to her manager with a glowing recommendation. The manager said he was "too green" but if he started to get some success he could come back and maybe then they'd be interested. I'm surprised he didn't punch them.

It's such a stupid game.

wcmartell said...

Right after ANACONDA came out - and you may snicker, but that was a hot film that spawnwed a sequel... and made J-Lo a star - I bumped into the screenwriter. That was an original script, sold for real money. He didn't have an agent at the time - but even after the sale and after the film came out and after it was #1... he couldn't find an agent. Weird. Meanwhile, I know a couple of talentless guys with no real credits repped by ICM. Go figure.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time you write that novel you were talking about a few months ago.


wcmartell said...

You can have my screenwriting career when you pry it from my cold dead hand!

For me the weird thing is that *producers* are interested, but agents seem not so interested.

I can, at this time, sign with a manager (and probably an agency) that can get me the exact same jobs I can get on my own - but I have all of these nice big studio scripts I've been stock-piling. So I'm looking for someone who can get me what I can not get on my own.

I have decided that if all of those guys say "no", I'll probably sign with someone who says "yes".

This is also how I date.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

"I can, at this time, sign with a manager (and probably an agency) that can get me the exact same jobs I can get on my own - but I have all of these nice big studio scripts I've been stock-piling. So I'm looking for someone who can get me what I can not get on my own."

Why don't you sign with a manager or an agency and let them get you a job or two (the kind of jobs you can get on your own) and THEN start looking for new representation?

Just a thought.

It's possible managers and agents are more interested in "stealing" clients from another (inferior) agency than they are in acquiring writers who have never had representation. The hunting instinct, you know.


Mark said...


I enjoy the blog and your website script secrets. I even bought "The Secrets of Action Screenwriting".

I wanted to say I'm surprised and highly discouraged that someone with your talent and credentials doesn't have an agent. If someone with produced credits doesn't have an agent, we're are doomed.

Again, enjoy the insight and good luck landing a shark.


Anonymous said...

At Raindance last year, I found your talks quite inspiring, it's truly a shame that it comes down to this ..

As you've mentioned, imagine how we feel being lower down on the food chain?

All said & done though, I wouldn't lose heart, films aside for a moment, after I graduated in Computer Science I couldn't get a graduate job for many months, ended up working minimal pay for a while.

In the end when I did get a job, I found out from a trustworthy source that it wasn't because of my resume, apparently my name had a better ring to it compared to the other guy & that was the decider.

So, as you've mentioned many a time, they're (unfortunatly) not looking for talent. Just fixing paperwork, filling tickboxes & doing what they do.

My question to you would be .. is it so bad not having an Agent/Manager? After all they are just middle men.

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