I haven’t written since December – which is an eternity for me because so much has gone on. I am writing my sixth screenplay right now. A lot has gone on with producers, directors and story development in the current ones that are making the rounds. Not much to write about there, other than it looks promising that two are likely to be made with standard budgets (about $35M). One thing that I have learned is that at those midrange budget sizes, I, as a first-time writer, will have no say in the final film. As my agent explained, at that size of budget, they’re going to want to own it outright. (They = producers/studios). This is because if they don’t, I could hold the whole thing up saying I don’t like the title, casting, etc.
Similar thing happened when my memoirs got published (“The Accidental Millionaire”). I got a publishing contract, had an entertainment attorney, all looked good, signed it, etc. As we were going through “production”, the publisher came up with the title, and I bristled against it. (“Can we call use ‘entrepreneur’ rather than ‘millionaire’ in the title please? – Answer = no). I really like my publisher, Benbella Books and the whole experience of getting the book out and in bookstores was very positive, once I gave up trying to control the “packaging” of the manuscript I had just sold. Benbella chose the title, chose a gold-plated camera for the cover, etc. For those of you who know me, that is not my style, to be all Donald Trump-ish. Driving Bentleys are not about show, it’s because it is a very nice car for me to enjoy for me. Not for me to press on you because I am insecure about myself or want you to feel sad. It could be argued that things like that could inspire you maybe? Even though that is a message I don’t want to convey. Nobody I know who has had any measure of success has wanted fancy things. Those that do have ALWAYS FAILED. 100%.
A friend of mine is a very successful Hollywood film producer. He said something worth note: He said, “I never want to have anything that makes someone else feel bad about themselves”. Beautiful words, and you would never know who he was if you met him. I was very impressed by that thought and agree whole-heartedly, even pondered if I should give that more thought. And I did. The cars and the house and things like that stay, and I’ll just encourage you in person with my words, I guess.
So, back to giving up creative control of the content. It is a bit of a sobering thought that you have to give up your baby in order to have a studio give your film a good budget (which means great cast, great production quality, sets, etc). I am okay with it because it’s part of being a professional. I cook up a meal, and hope you, the diner, don’t throw in too much salt or steak sauce (you, being the director).
I don’t know if what happened to me happens to everybody who is thrust in the business of making movies, but let me tell you. It is all normal now. Meeting directors, producers, agents, studio executives, etc. is all positive energy, productive, agenda-forwarding… just like business meetings. We get together, and riff ideas off each other over the newest story, commercial possibilities, demographics, genres, distribution possibilities, legal landmines in portraying existing people, etc. The side that excites me is the writing. So let me tell you where I am.
There is a beautiful “Rocky Balboa” type of cinderella story I am working on right now regarding an existing figure. There has not been a dramatic treatment of this person’s life, so my entertainment attorney is wanting to get rights. This requires my agent contacting the agent for the subject, so that I can fly down and do a “general meeting” interview – pitch me, and then pitch the idea of having that person’s life turned into a feature film. This one is now suspended between agents, but I am sure it will be favorable. I bring to the table me, and a strong development team, and very seasoned, respected Hollywood professionals.
That part I love about where I am right now. The people I work with. Hollywood’s best. Responsible for bringing you movies that you have loved for decades. I get to work with them to hopefully bring you movies that you will love, for decades.
While that potential development deal floats around in ether, I wanted to write something “until” we get word that the BalboaCinderella story is a go. I took the month of February off of writing (I had to travel to Tokyo, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas mostly for and with my friends at Sony Imaging on behalf of my company) though I had meetings about deals with the existing screenplays. I didn’t write. My agent asked what I was working on, and I said “nothing”. He was chill with that. I had written four screenplays in six months, and he mentioned that in one of his meetings with a producer, there was the ‘comment’ that I could be a little bit more patient in my writing, and to that I agree. So I spent time reading screenplays, watching acting tutorials (Yes, I am going to take acting classes to help me with – well, directing. Shit there goes that patience criticism again!)
In one of my meetings with a producer, he asked if I wanted to ever direct. I said no. He said he thought I’d be a great candidate for that, because of my knowledge of imagery, character drive (me, being the writer). I said that the reason I don’t want to direct is because I don’t want people to get hurt. If I write a shitty screenplay, nobody gets hurt. But if my screenplay gets funded, cast, crewed up, and I suck as a director, people lose jobs, they get a scar on their IMDB, etc. He still persisted that I should give directing a thought.
Whatever. I am open to anything.
So as I’m considering taking my cheap-to-produce stories and filming them with my friends and my own dime and gear, whenever we get excited that we’re going to actually do it (storyboard, cast, location scout, etc) there is studio interest in that exact screenplay we were going to take out of circulation.
I literally honestly had been wanting to write something tangible that I could make on my own. But that’s not the cards I have been dealt with at the moment. I have a very industrious, very involved agent that has yet to make a dime off of my efforts. I can’t go writing screenplays and filming them on my iPhone. They need to get a shot at Studio and Theatrical worlds. Kind of backwards, I know, but everything I do seems backwards.
I gotta go. I’m on pain meds. But let me tell you how this latest screenplay is going. I came up with a concept. Everybody is going bat-shit over it. Tons of excitement. Urgency to get it done. Typically when I pitch a story, it’s favorable, a good idea, etc. But with this one – it’s so good that we want to finish it so it can be run around town.
And rather than sit down and bang out a first draft in four days like I did on the last one, I am outlining by committee. Story development. Editor. Entertainment Attorney. Friends. Agent. I am bouncing off of everybody my beat sheet to see what flies, what got lost. what was far-fetched.
I have been working on the outline forever (in other words, about a week) and now everybody has weighed in. I have begun writing number six – my first ever thriller.
#1) Conspiracy Thriller #2) Family Melodrama 3) Shit! I forgot what number three was! 4) Rom-com 5) Rom-com 6) Suspense Thriller
This is an illustration in all honesty laid out there bare for all to see. Once I am done writing a screenplay – I can barely remember it. When I have to meet a producer about it – I have to skim it the night before. How embarrassing is it that I not only can’t tell you what the titles are (without pulling out a notepad and trying to write the list, like a grocery list) I can’t remember how many I’ve done. I swear I think this one is number six. Maybe it’s number five.