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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Evian Tour

by Dave Sparling

Hello Wavers. As the second week of the Writers Strike comes to a close there's been no shortage of info swirling around the blogosphere about the meaning of the work stoppage and how it affects writers on all strata. One sentiment felt by practically everyone is that there's absolutely no reason to stop working on spec material during this time. We've all been reminded that the big spec-script boom of the late '80s/early '90s came on the heels of the last Writers Strike, so for writers at all levels this is a great time to keep plugging on our material.

Yeah, but what does any of this have to do with bottled water, you ask. The second of my three-post series on the importance of concept invokes a phrase I first heard from friend and colleague Matt Nix, the creator and Executive Producer of USA Network's hot new series "Burn Notice." Matt wryly applies the term "Evian Tour" to a series of "meet and greets" a writer goes on after his or her spec script hits the marketplace, generates some buzz and attention, but ultimately doesn't sell or option. Ever modest, Matt doesn't take credit for coining the term, but his use of it at an industry panel I organized a couple years ago was so amusing I'll always associate it with him.

Back to the spec that didn't sell. Sharper executives and producers, while they first evaluate scripts on their merits as projects, also take notice of writers' executional skills. How many of you have received effusive praise for your abilities as a writer, or on your writing, as a result of someone in the industry reading your work, yet the person or people who read said work didn't fall all over themselves to be in business with you on that project?

In some cases that could be because the project is outside their company's mandate, or maybe is a bit too close to something they're already developing, but often it comes down to the concept just not jazzing them. Part of the "good story well told" is there, but only the latter part. Your skill as a writer is evident, though, so you'll probably be invited in for some meetings (and when you arrive for those meet/greets you're generally offered--you guessed it--bottled water). These stops on the Evian Tour let executives and producers get to know you a bit and get a sense of whether or not, personality- and disposition wise, you seem like someone they'd enjoy working with--on a future project. That could possibly be a rewrite on something they have in development, but more often than not it pertains to a future spec project of yours. The hope being, of course, that your next script will marry your solid executional skills to a stronger concept.

So make sure you're fully and effectively developing your concepts! Doing so may well mean the difference between the Evian Tour and your first post-sale development meeting.

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JPS said...

Great post. But the last time I flew in for meetings, the water thing almost became an issue. First meeting at a company on the Warner lot. A table full of every non-alcoholic beverage imaginable. "I'll have water." And the exec excuses himself and returns with a GLASS OF WATER!

Next meeting, at a prestigious prodco in Santa Monica: "What would you like?" "Water would be great." Again, they had to schlep a glass of water up from downstairs.

The next meeting in Brentwood I asked for nothing (and got bupkis in every meaning of the term), and my fourth, at another prestigious company won me my prized bottle of water. But of course their fortune was made on this movie about a boat that goes into the drink.

As for the script, in one case, I was given two possible assignments (which I didn't get, because one, a book adaptation, was dropped by the star who was producing it, and the second, a script rewrite, went to another writer), and in the others at least got to meet and chat with the execs who have since left their respective companies.

Anonymous said...

keep up the hard work and just suck it up & drink X, sprite, 7 up, coke, iced tea, fresca, root beer, or fruit juice.

Dave said...

You're right, jps, with the bloom off of bottled water's rose these days, "Evian Tour" may soon become a tad anachronistic. anonymous, to your list I'd perhaps add, in tribute to the late/great Hunter S. Thompson, Knob Creek.

Kevan said...

Fascinating concept. Sounds like a story in there somewhere for a script.. Perfect title too "THE EVIAN TOUR"... Where's that WGA web site and my credit card... mmmm..

Julie Gray said...

I'm not sure I agree that a bunch of ultimately pointless meetings where a bottle of water is the net result sounds like a story idea to me, Kev....

I think Dave is saying we need to shoot higher than that - for that bottle of Evian to herald a deal, not just a bottle which now needs to be recycled :)