Big news, guys! Get Repped Now! has its first “consider.” We’d like to congratulate Joseph Balczo for bringing it with his TV pilot BLOODLANDS. The script concerns an Indiana conservation officer who uncovers a web of crime and conspiracy when he goes looking for two missing fellow officers. Joseph definitely has the goods -- this is his second time around as one of our GRN considers.
"I felt this had some pixie dust on it," he said after we sent back his coverage. "I'll dig into the notes immediately and get to work on the adjustments. I'm very excited about this."
This is the perfect time to wish everyone who has already submitted, or is about to, “good luck,” as well as put things into perspective for those of you who have gotten a “pass” or “consider with reservations.” We know how disappointing that can be. Here at CI everyone is a writer as well with plenty of firsthand knowledge of handing in a draft you think is pretty close to the mark and getting a “pass.” It stings! The important part is to carefully sift through the notes (or, alternately, rage-quit your email and give it a few days and then carefully sift through the coverage...) and think about how to improve your script. There is still time to resubmit and even if you don’t nail the rewrite before the end of GRN, there will be another one in the spring and plenty of other opportunities as well.
What are we looking for? The same thing as a manager or an agent will be looking for. Writing that’s so alive it jumps off the page, as well as a fresh and marketable concept. We are looking for someone who knows his or her craft, has a great attitude and is at least a little bit savvy about the business. Most of these things should be self-explanatory, but let’s examine why it’s important to be at least a little bit in the know when it comes to the ins and outs of this business.
If you know something about what sells and what doesn’t sell, then one would hope that you won’t spend a year on perfecting something that doesn’t stand the proverbial chance of a snowball in Hell. A couple of years ago, a script came across our desks that was as close to the mark as anything we had ever seen. In fact, we handed it to several readers, because we couldn’t believe that there is such a thing as only praise and no notes. But such was the case with this script. This was that rarest of rare things: a "RECOMMEND."
The downside? On a marketability scale of 1 – 10, the script came in at about minus 123. We floated it to all of our contacts. Every single one had the exact same reaction: “Really good writing. But there’s nothing I can do with this material. If the guy has something else, I’d be more than happy to read it.” We got some of our industry people to meet with him and... same result.
Look, that’s not a terrible outcome. The writer managed to crack open a few doors, which he can utilize should he have something a bit more commercial. But it’s a far cry from Brandon Barker, whose spec NOTTINGHAM AND HOOD we discovered through Get Repped Now, and we got him signed by a manager, an agent, and, shortly thereafter, sold to Disney in a six-figure deal.
Now you might scratch your head and wonder why being an excellent writer isn’t good enough to get you through the door. Agents and managers ultimately are salespeople, and the main thing they want to know is if you can produce material they can sell. Everything else is secondary. And until you have proven that you can make them money, they won’t be interested no matter how good you are. We've seen it time and again -- great writers who get passed over because there's no (easy) place to shop their material. No one wants to take on the Sisyphean task of selling a brilliant period drama, for example. It takes years of work for a very small payday. Whereas if you write the next FAST & FURIOUS or THE HANGOVER, there are producers out there hungry for that material.
None of this means that you should try to imitate someone else, or force yourself to write scripts that are "more marketable." Or that you should use the same concept as that summer blockbuster hit from last year. Don’t laugh. We see these scripts all the time. This is where fresh and original comes in. Look, nobody will sign an imitation of somebody else. They will sign you because of your unique voice. As they say, be yourself, it’s a tough act to follow.
Or, as we like to say, be yourself, but marketable.
Next, let’s talk about attitude. I was recently on the phone with a client who was very distressed because the fifth draft of his script still hadn’t gotten a “consider.” What was running through my head during this conversation?
1. And? Dude, I’m on draft 15 of my new script right now. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. Writing IS rewriting, folks.
2. How could I possibly refer this person to our industry people, if he freaks out when he has to do another draft? They’ll be asking him to implement their notes on draft after draft after draft. Remember ANIMAL HOUSE -- "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" Yeah, that's screenwriting. Get used to it.
3. If he has a hard time getting or implementing notes, he is not ready to work professionally in this business.
And here is a personal favorite of mine: “But such and such writer (insert name of any famous Hollywood darling) doesn’t know what s/he is doing” or “doesn’t seem to know structure” or “writes terrible dialogue” or “never has a setup.” People, there are two sets of rules here. One set is for people who are already “in” (even if their entry wasn’t merit-based,) and the other set is for people who are trying to break in. If you’re already in… you can pretty much do what you want. If you’re not… well, you can’t. Seriously, if you need to find a blackboard and write this longhand 150 times until is sinks in, do so. Eventually, you’ll be glad you did.
What do we really want? We want you to succeed. Really and seriously. I know that it’s difficult to get a “pass,” but the hope here is that with our help you’ll be able to improve your script to the point where it will become a “consider.” Why do we want you to succeed? Because it makes us look good.