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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Field of Dreams

It's so fun when you are working on your script and you think - this would be PERFECT for Diane Lane and Owen Wilson or Laura Linney and Ryan Gosling. An actor with the right look, an actor who seems to relish this type of role and whose work you have enjoyed in the past. I actually find it quite helpful to write your characters with an actor in mind; that way you can more clearly imagine their speech cadence, gestures and movements.

Yesterday I had lunch with a VP of production at a very cool feature film production company (and he'll be doing a guest blog soon). And we talked nuts and bolts about production and specifically, a particular script. As we talked about packaging and casting of this material, we ran into that rock in the creek - well, that actor's last two movies didn't do so well. The studio wouldn't like him/her in a package. Or - that actor already has another project like this one. That actor is good but not as bankable as X other actor. That actor is in rehab and we can't get insurance.

A glimpse into the locker room and at the strategy board is daunting. And that's just the actors - then there's budget, attaching a bankable director and the whole, complex, difficult game of, as this VP put it, "running the ball down the field and getting it in the net."

The distance between you writers out there writing a script, getting that script repped and then getting the movie made is vast. Getting the movie sold much less produced is not a genteel game of cricket - it's rugby, Wavers. Down and dirty. Intense. Constantly shifting.

But, as my friend and colleague pointed out - "a good script is more imperative now than ever."

So. Stuff to think about. You, the writer, are the center - you hike the ball to the quarterback, the agent. And the production company executive is the running back who is going to try to get the ball down the field and over the goal posts. Okay I know I'm now mixing up about twelve sports up here, but you get it. The script is the ball. The ball must get over the goal post or into the net.

Nobody is going to get all beat up and bruised in this wild game of running down the field to get the movie made unless you have written a great script. Why would they? Everybody wants to make money and to enhance their careers but it all comes down to your script. Without the pigskin, we all go home and there's no game.

You will be a happier, more successful and informed writer if you understand the strategy of the game. It starts and ends with the script but there's a whole lot of people and agendas and politics between the script being written and a movie being made. Take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about how the game is played.

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E.C. Henry said...

I've written a lot of scripts that I feel have roles suitable for a plethora of actors:

1. Jennifer Love Hewitt: 7 roles in 8 movies. * Supernatural western thriller fit for Jennier AND her currenty fiance, Ross McCall.
2. Owen Wilson: 2 roles. 1 sports comedy, 1 romantic comedy. * Would LOVE to pit Owen v.s. his brother Luke in the romantic comedy I've written...
3. Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Liev Shrieber, Mel Gibson: Supernatual western thriller. OR Bruce Willis/Niccole Kidman.
4. Danny Masterson, Wilmer Valderamma. "That 70s Show" stars reunite in an urban drama in the vein of a low budget, "Reservoir Dogs."
5. John Krazinski (from "The Office"). Role in a screwball comedy.
6. Kate Hudson. Romantic comedy role.
7. Leighton Meester ("Gossip Girl")A young Julianne Moore. She COULD sub for most of the roles I originally envisioned for Jennifer Love Hewitt -- something that was actually brought up on Jennifer Love Hewitt's IMBD message board.
8. Zac Effron. Role in sports comedy.

Lots of "dreams." Need someone to hike all balls I've got.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Julie Gray said...

That's wonderful, EC, but you're missing the point. The point is that the viability of a) your scripts and b) these actors is totally up in the air. You can make these wish lists but ultimately you have little to no control over, particularly, the casting.

Luzid said...

This is the reason why great ideas are so important -- no one will even try to catch the ball if the script is a great execution of a mediocre, soft idea.

I've read that the best way to handle "casting" when writing is not to focus on writing a role so that only one actor can play it, but rather to write with the *type* of actor in mind. To that extent, I choose three different-but-similar actors who could play the role to get a feel for the character, not to lock onto one actor in make-or-break fashion.

Like "writing the shots" without actually writing the shots, I think it's helpful advice.