Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rare Hollywood Update

Okay, I admit it. I got my ass kicked by Hollywood this summer. I wrote a script that is such an obvious winner that I was sure the first big shot who read it would jump on it. As things turned out, it was rejected by one of the main green-light people down there - the type of executive who shepherds 10 films at once. I was right inside the innermost private sanctum of the palace. Folks, this was access from God. My script went where big-time Hollywood producers bow and grovel to the Man. His official response was that the screenplay was a "one-line joke", to which I responded, "Jaws was only about one fish." If the Man's assessment seems a little cold, that's because it is. When you go in this high up, and ultimately waste their time, they get annoyed. What a drag.

I did not get into screenwriting to let Hollywood bring me down. I consider it a lottery deal and I refuse to be bummed out about the process. This summer I was bummed out about the process. For 3 days, I was actually quite depressed - so much so that I couldn't even blog about it. We're talking about two simple words here: Yes or No. Yes would mean 700 grand plus a producer credit. No would mean on to the next big shot, but not nearly as big as this. I've gone through lesser versions of the game before - I've been doing it for 6 years - but I finally wrote a script that I considered rejection-proof. It's like every once and while I'll send a joke to my favorite late-night talk show client, and I'll just know it's going on. I'll even think to myself, "If he doesn't use that, it's his problem." I've rarely - almost never - been wrong on those, and I had the same confidence in this script: "If Hollywood doesn't go for that, it's their problem." Well, guess what? Hollywood didn't go for it and it's my problem.

I really am unimpressed with people who brag when things are going well but are too proud and weird to admit when they get their ass kicked. But that was me this summer. And oh my God, forget about my mood: My producer connection sounded downright morose. Talk about despondent. He didn't even call me with the bad news - I had to call him when I finally figured out the rocket had blown up on the launch pad. It takes a tremendous amount of personal capital for him to get a meeting with the Green Light Man. Most scripts are read by low level types and migrate up the chain. To drop one in at the top costs a lot of an invisible money called Access. You don't get to do that every week. Not even once a year. We have never gone in this high up with this kind of sell job, and frankly my producer connection sounded more bummed out than I was. And I was practically a zombie over it. First I had to deal with my own reaction, and then I had to go into pep-talk mode and try cheering the producer up.

I made up my mind that I would blog again on Hollywood as soon as I had anything even close to good news in this area. After all, being rejected at the level we were at, was bloggable stuff. It's actually quite a major accomplishment to get that far. You could sit down and try and write a dream scenario for gaining this kind of access and you would be hard pressed to come up with one. It wasn't a well-known name like Spielberg but it was someone right there as far as clout.

So let me finish with the good news. First, my producer connection's son is doing great in the biz. You've heard about this Ali G film coming out in November that has already sparked an international incident? President Bush will meet with the President of Kazakhstan soon and this film called Borat will be on the official agenda for discussion. Let's just say the idea for the film is not going over very well back in the old country. Of course, the notion of President Bush dealing with Ali G is so hilarious it is beyond gold. It is comedy perfection. But it is defintely publicity gold - this should help the film do a lot of business, and my connection's son is involved as the film editor. He also just edited an upcoming film by the 40-Year-Old Virgin guy: Steve Carell. So that's very, very positive.

As for me, my script is now in the hands of another Hollywood producer. One of these people is going to get this. This guy has made over 50 films, so it's onwards and upwards. I've got to get past the summer setback, stop being such a grouch about it, and press on. I can't believe I'd lose my cool over Hollywood. How embarrassing. When you think about it, what's the big deal with 700 grand and a life of total freedom anyway?


At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting what gets done and what doesn't get done in Hollywood. My dad has been bitten by the screenwriting bug and has begun shopping his around. Near as I can tell it's American Pie for the Geritol-set, but he thinks its Grumpier Old Men only younger.

I'm not quite sure of all the ins and outs of how the "process" works. It's one of those things I look at and think "well it keeps him off drugs and out of the bars until 2am". He tells me stories of meeting guys at local events and how he's getting his script read by this studio or that. Your observation about people who brag fits the situation to a T. It works the same with access. Those who have it don't generally brag, those who don't do.

I'll be interested to read more about your adventure as you continue to knock on doors. Not that you need to hear it from me, but keep your chin up.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Thanks, it's been fun and I'm very lucky. But with an opportunity like this you live with the knowledge that if you only had come up with the right key, the lock would fly open.
There's all kinds of dynamics. There's really only one person you're writing for: The person who can get in the door. But once inside you wish you could customize it for the person who puts up the big money. They tend to play it much safer, which is understandable.
Then there's all the stories of insiders coming off hits who still struggle to get their next project financed. It's a tough business which is why you have to enjoy the process. I've collected some pretty funny anecdotes along the way, and that may be all I get.


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