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ScreenwriterBones

Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.

Name:

I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Friday, July 15, 2005

On "The Meeting"

Meetings in Hollywood tend to be oddly inscrutable. Something for the beginning writer to be aware of, and the veteran writer to endlessly put up with.

I blasted out my passionate ideas with genuine enthusiasm. They sat back, nodding, thinking, frowning. You all laugh, you all agree or disagree on smaller points. After an hour or less the meeting ends, and they say thanks for coming by. And you say, sure. And you also think - um, did I leave something out? Why didn't they jump up and down and acknowledge my unique creativity?

In this case it was with the Chairman of a company (Academy Aware winner) and his excellent producing partner. But it's the same all the way down the ladder. And the farther down you start, the farther up you have to come with the same meeting and new people.

Ah well. If you want instant feedback do stand up comedy.

Anyway, that's it. You go home and then you wait for them to call your agent and find out what they really thought.

That's how the system works. They'll rarely say "no" to you in the room, and rarely say "yes" as well. They don't want to harm a relationship with a turn down, and they don't want to harm a negotiation with thumbs up. Plus, in this era of a financially more careful Hollywood, every money decision seems to be made with double and triple checks.

So, now I wait.



11 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Thanks for the heads up on your work over here.

Cool.

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

in one of the many tips that ended up my way, I heard if it looks like the pitch is going downhill, try to salvage the meeting by finagling yourself into a re-write job on some stalled script they have on file...do you find that is the case? they are willing to keep you around even if the project you came to them for falls through?

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Matt Reynolds said...

Unrelated to this post. But, in a few years my wife and I are planning to move out to LA. My first question to screenwriters and filmmakers I know who've made the move is: is it worth it before you've already got a couple of credits under your belt? Are you likely to get lost in the crowd with all the other wannabes?

Like the blog by the way.

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Good question, Moviequill, but no - that's not the case. All you can do is to bring 120% commitment to your take, your creative enthusiasm, and your genuine insight into the project - and that will either win the day, or not - based on countless variables of which you know only a few. Have they heard something like your take before? Are there political issues with this exec. behind the scenes that make them more/less in favor? Do the execs love this project, but the pres. hates it? (that's happened to me) You could go crazy trying to figure it all out. I"m guessing that was non-professional advice you heard. I've been specifically told by my big shot agents not to de-rail and try to jump tracks onto a new idea. It looks like you're desperate, and it takes away from you in the end. Now, having said that, if you're in the room - and the exec. says - "hey, forget that, you might be the guy for - this - and it's a new thing, go for it. It's coming from their side and follow that energy. And, on another meeting, I went in for a re-write chat, but we took off on a whole other thing which would have been an original adaptation of a sci-fi book. But as that conversation wound down, the exec. realized it wouldn't work, and so we went back to what the meeting had been about. So in those situations, you ride the energy. In this town, everyone on the money side has one emotion: FEAR. Afraid they can't fix the script, afraid they'll be fired if they hire the wrong person, on and on - so your job is to come in clear, grounded and with answers. Jeez, this is turning into a long answer and I have more to say. For example - in my meeting yesterday, for this production re-write, I went in saying - cut this character, I want this other guy to now be a woman, and she has a child, and they move in with the leading lady...blah blah.. and she is crippled pscyhologically and has panic attacks (she's a cop and was fine in the other draft) and all this new stuff is coming at them and they're saying - 'you're sure?" And I'm saying - this is how I want to do it, this is how it has to be, don't you see? Now, they're thinking it over this weekend. They may say - screw him - or yeah! But in the end, I went in crystal clear, and confident in the way I saw it - that's how you write, and how you pitch in this town. Period. Because at the end of the day you have to know you did your best job, and the rest will fall where it may. Phew. Sorry for the long answer!

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Jessica said...

Philip, that was a long answer, but a good one. Thanks for asking the question, moviequill.

Your take on confidence reminds me of the little bit of "Project Greenlight" I saw on Bravo, namely the utterly UNconfident presentation of the director-to-be, John Gulager. Did you watch any of that? Is the movie making process as painful as it looked?

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

Thanks Phillip...

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Jessica: Absolutely dead on accurate. I started watching Project Greenlight in the first season and by the third episode began getting a pain in my stomach, then turned to my wife and said "I can't watch this show." It was too close to many of the work situations I had been in. So it was back to Frasier. Why do it? Born story teller, this is my medium and I love it. And thank God the human mechanism is gifted with the ability to forget pain...!

Saturday, July 16, 2005  
Blogger Matt Reynolds said...

Wha?? Does my previous question not merit a response. Am I commiting some faux pa by asking a question unrelated to post?

Monday, July 18, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Matt: Jeez, relax. Don't wait for the credits, or you'll never move. You have to want it more than that, or you should do something else. Some people wait to move until the possibility of a job is in the air because of lots of previous writing, submitting scrips, calling and following up, getting a response, possibly flying out for meetings, and feeling that's enough - or maybe getting the job and then moving. Others just say screw it - and come out and write specs. here anyway before a job, to be six blocks away from where the checks are written, because it's meaningful to be that close. (It was for me) I am an example of verision one, and came out when a job reared its head, but had been writing in NYC for two years before that, had about three spec. scripts under my belt with a partner and had met with executives who liked my friend's short film, and it looked like we were going to get hired. So - in the end you have to do what feels right to you, but don't wait for the credits. That's a way raising the bar on your trigger so high, it may never happen. And then you never tried. Whatever you choose - make sure you can make peace with it, either the move, or not moving and writing from there. Because in the end, peace of mind is the most important as we all write better from calm and deep waters.

Monday, July 18, 2005  
Blogger Matt Reynolds said...

Relax?? I'm quite sedate at the moment Philip, thank you.

In my case I don't think it's a case of 'wanting' it so much as balancing what's right for me and my family.

One of the joys of writing is that you can do it anywhere but there seems to be a constant pressure to move to LA or NY if you're serious about being in the film industry.

I often wonder if it's entirely necessary, with technology and communications being the way they are or if I'm kidding myself to think otherwise.

Thanks for the advice though. Much appreciated.

Monday, July 18, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Hey Matt, well, you're right about technology and all that, that's very true. And the great truth about writing is that it really can be done anywhere. The pressure comes from a weird cultural thing in Hollywood - NYC is more a "literary" scene, and has different issues. I posted my thoughts on moving to LA, coincidentally - and it's recent. In the recent posts common - just click "do you need to live here?" And you can share my thoughts on it. In the end decisions about family and moving are big ones, I have two kids so can relate. And you have to do the one that's right for you. And there's always the exception that breaks the rule, and I believe in that too. Perhaps others will give more insight here.

Monday, July 18, 2005  

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