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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

by Andrew Zinnes

Man, Tom Petty gets to the heart of things so easily doesn’t he? Waiting…not the easiest thing for this Aries to handle and yet so integral to writing. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting for the printer to spit out your script. Waiting to get a response from readers/production co.’s/studios. And what has been sticking in my craw for the last few months: waiting for the deal to close.

Back in July, I entered into negotiations to write a script for a couple of producers and as of this afternoon, the deal remains half completed. As a creative person, all you want to do is write. Especially in this case; we had to do a fair amount creative thinking to generate a story that got the production company to say yes. At that point, both sides got excited. This could be a good movie! Both sides want to go to draft. Both sides can’t wait to see the finished product. This is part of the juice that we all crave. But it can’t happen. Not until the deal closes. And typically speaking deals move at glacial speeds.

So why does it take so long? First, your reps have to negotiate deal points and money with their business affairs people, which can take as little as a week to several months. Then the deal has to be papered – literally written out followed by more back and forth to get the language correct. This could take months, too. Finally, you get the call to sign the deal and once you do, then you can commence writing and even better, money starts to flow your way. Studios seem to have a two-week schedule for paying after you sign. Oh, make sure the agreement states that the deal goes into effect once YOU’VE signed, not when both have signed. That contract will sit around for a few more weeks until their rubber stamp comes out and you don’t want to be waiting even longer.

If both sides want the deal, then why can’t they speed things up? Well, the finger usually gets pointed at the business affairs department of the paying company. But to be fair, these people (who are mostly lawyers) are generally overworked and get the brunt of everyone’s ire because the creative side moves so much faster and wants the deal closed immediately. Plus they typically work on sometimes a dozen deals at the same time, which I’m sure is a bit of a head screw. And if they don’t get things right and the company gets screwed, guess who’s ass is on the line. Now imagine that pressure combined with everyone yelling at you all day long to close their deal NOW! That would make me reach for the Rolaids. In the long run, their due diligence means that you typically get a better deal should your project actually go forward.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not uber-painful sitting around waiting for that call that says, “It’s done. You can start writing now. And the check should be here in tomorrow.”

So I guess the lesson here is that if you are fortunate enough to get into a deal with someone, don’t go out and spend like there’s no tomorrow - for tomorrow no check will be coming. Try and be patient. Try to get your mind off of it by keeping busy with other things. That’s what I’m desperately attempting to do as I sit here trying to not wait for the phone to ring. Though, ironically, I’m working on other projects that, once written, shall go out into the world and create a new cycle of waiting.

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Mathew E. Amaral said...

I'm not in the industry, but I would think that if this is a "done deal" and you're merely waiting for the ink to dry, couldn't you simply do the writing whilst you wait, so that when the lawyers' end of the work is done, you'll have less turn around time?

I. M. Anonymous said...

Could be worse, you could be waiting on the financing (which has been in negotiations since last March) from a private first time film investor (and who is insisting on a completion--which doesn't actually happen until after filming starts--bond before actually giving up the money, and who refuses to understand the problems he's causing) for a film you're supposed to direct (from the script you've already written) that was supposed to have started in late July (and which now has previously committed actors and crew members dropping out because of the delay) and which appears (if I'm lucky) to be headed for a Jan/Feb shooting date (if the money comes through by the end of the month, otherwise it gets pushed back even further)...

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting--annoyance doesn't even begin to describe the frustration. But I feel your pain.

Julie Gray said...

Wow, I.M., you've got the patience of Job (or maybe not?) and hopefully a good supply of rolaids!

I. M. Anonymous said...

Despite consistent thoughts about buying a gun and using it (well, first getting over my aversion to gunplay might help)...I can see that this guy is going to be a real pain-in-the-ass on the set once the shooting starts. I'm prepared (I think)...

Yeah, the big hang-up is the completion bond (which, despite the investors claiming his lawyer is an expert at negotiating movie deals and knows all about the requirements, won't happen untilafter the film starts shooting)...The budget is relatively small (a paltry 2 mil), and we've got a 21 day shooting schedule (and I think I can get it done in less because of the nature of the script structure which allows for multiple scenes being shot using the same backdrops, etc.) all locked down, so all we're waiting for is for the investor to get his head out of his ass.

Between foreign distribution, a pending agreement with a cable channel, dvd possibilities, etc. the investor will likely get all his money back and then some (and we'll all likely make a few dollars)...

But it is still very frustrating, especially considering that other opportunities have presented themselves because I couldn't commit to them because I'm so involved in this project.

I will say that this situation hasn't stopped me from writing (and looking for investors to fund those scripts (I guess that's the secret to maintaining my questionable sanity: keep writing).

Julie Gray said...

wouldn't it be fun if we had a real, live message board? But then I'd have to deal with it. In my spare time. Okay maybe not. ;)

Well keep the faith and keep writing, I.M. I'm rooting for you!