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I Can’t Afford to Write Screenplays

May 21st, 2009 · Comments Off on I Can’t Afford to Write Screenplays

By Poor Literate Writer

Not long ago I took a break from writing to market a service to screenwriters – I won’t go into details about the service since it failed miserably and left me for broke – but I did do some homework at the time to find out who my potential customers really were. Turns out aspiring screenwriters are loaded, at least according to a subscriber survey conducted by Creative Screenwriting magazine about eight years ago.

They concluded the average Creative Screenwriting reader was a wealthy, highly educated adult making a hundred grand a year. And half of the subscribers held a Master’s Degree or Ph.D.

So, forget about that image of the poor sap scribbling dialogue down in the boiler room, screenplays are written by lawyers, doctors, bankers and professors. No wonder I can’t sell anything. I wish someone would have told me I had no business writing screenplays at my level of income. I guess no one told Diablo Cody, or David Benioff, or Joe Eszterhas either. If they had, these folks could still be dancing, teaching, and stealing cars instead of writing screenplays for a living.  🙂

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Writing Screenplays for Free

May 20th, 2009 · 3 Comments

By Gullible Gus

Am I a gullible sap for writing screenplays for free?

More than once (three times, actually) I’ve worked with production companies who were interested in my screenplays. Each time (well at least the first two – still in the process on the third) I’ve spent months rewriting, polishing and tweaking before I could even get the companies to commit to an option – for pennies I might add.

Many aspiring writers have the idea that once a production company expresses an interest in their screenplay, it’s all glory. They’ll pay you a chunk of cash for the option or outright purchase, then pay you for a rewrite, and then pay you some more for a polish. The reality is, at least for me, that doesn’t happen. Now granted, the companies I’ve worked with were smaller, but they did have some impressive projects under their belt.

I suspect the reality is, just like my spec screenplay, the film industry itself is a speculative business. Lots of sweat equity goes into projects in hopes of a payoff, by writers and producers. I can’t help but wonder though, if my time would be better invested seeking an agent rather than working directly with production companies.

I actually do enjoy working with producers. It’s exciting to have others geeked about my work, and they all seemed quite bright… just not bright enough to help me quit my day job.

I did get some press once in the Hollywood Reporter. They were at Cannes interviewing the production company I was working with at the time. The guys were gracious enough to mention me as a “hot new writer. “ I still have the framed printed edition in a box in the basement, somewhere. There were even rumors that HBO was looking for me after reading the article. They haven’t found me yet. I don’t understand – all they need to do is Google “Gullible Gus.”

For now, I guess I’ll just keep writing screenplays for free.

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Dustin Lance Black talks about ‘Milk’ screenplay

May 18th, 2009 · Comments Off on Dustin Lance Black talks about ‘Milk’ screenplay

dustin-lance-black1First-time feature film writer Dustin Lance Black chats about his award winning screenplay “Milk.”

Condensing Harvey Milk’s life into a movie.

Black – That was the hardest part. I had, like a mountain of research and Harvey’s life is fantastic, his twenties, and thirties – all of the stories, and after he was assassinated, the story of his trial was fantastic.  So I just had to look at it and make tough decisions and say, I know I’m going to lose these things that feel like my babies, these stories that I love so much, but if I bite off too much I’m not going to be able to go deep enough that people are going to care personally. So I just took a shot and said I’d just do his time in San Francisco.

What prompted him to write the screenplay?

Black – My step dad was in the army and transferred to the bay area from Texas, so I grew up in this very conservative, Mormon household in Texas – not a great place to be gay. And I had a theater director there who sat a few of us down and told us a story about a gay person. I said, wow, what’s that? That’s a scary thing to me. But he said, “No, no this guy was celebrated by his city, elected to public office, and beloved.” And it was such a hopeful story. And, I just thought, we’re losing that. He’s one of our great heroes and forefathers and it’s so dangerous if you lose your history.

On his adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’

Black – It’s a tough one – I’m still going through drafts of it. Because his [Tom Wolfe] language makes the book so beautiful and it’s the thing you can’t really grab and put into a film, so you have to find a style of your own to try and capture that same energy without those beautiful words.

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