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Friday, November 14, 2008

In The First Person

Sorry for my relative absence lately, Wavers. The Creative Screenwriting Expo is going on right now, at the LA Convention Center, and all hands are on deck at The Script Department booth where we are showing movies, handing out green apples and doing altogether too much laughing. People like to come back to our booth again and again and tell us about their classes, their projects and their pitches. Our booth is always mobbed and I love it.

There are over nine volunteers who are helping out at our booth at this huge event and I am grateful to each and every one for helping communicate to attendees of the event that The Script Department is unlike any other script coverage service out there because we are a company by writers and for writers with a very personal, collaborative touch, unlike the vaguely hostilely-named-aquatically-themed, cold corporate entity that is our competitor. Suffice to say there's a new fish in town because anyone can call themselves the "industry leader" - that's just ad copy.

The fact is that this town is all about relationships. And we have great relationships with our writers - unique individuals who appreciate personal attention and encouragement, as well as great relationships with agents, managers and producers looking to be introduced to those writers. We're like the E Harmony of script coverage services. Crazy business model, huh?

I'm just saying - the shark should be looking over its pectoral fin right about now.

Aaaanyway. So in lieu of me blathering on (albeit entertainingly) about something entertainment related, I present a lovely first person essay by Steve Axelrod:


I don't know whether to refer to this as a 'wake up call' or a 'reality check' or maybe just skip the cliches altogether and present the facts.

For the last few months a thriller I wrote has been haunting the atrium of the Creative Artists Agency, ringing ever more faintly, like someone’s lost cell phone. I was just hoping someone might find it behind the potted ficus tree before the last bar ran down. But that begins to seem more and more unlikely.

Still, some people there like the script, and they’ve been trying to get clients interested in making the movie. If enough of them commit, the people who get in-house projects financed there could go out and get the money for the production. It’s an odd situation. I’m not a CAA client. I suppose I might become one eventually, if some creative ignition happens. But for the moment my script is as anonymous as a Shaker quilt.

We were given a list of possible directors and then watched as each one took a different movie. It was like reading Ten little Indians, except that nobody died. Most of them never even saw my screenplay. There’s not much incentive to read some unknown’s work when big stars and Academy Award winning writers and studio deals with big paychecks beckon. Finally the only one left was Peter Weir. When I first saw the list it never occurred to me that they might give him my project. He’s in a different class than the others. He's an authentic artist, a giant. I couldn’t imagine he’d be interested in my paltry adventure story. The last thing remotely like a thriller he did was Witness and this was no Witness, even I could see that. But I amused myself with some wary moments of hope as the weeks wore on. Finally he passed, as I had always been pretty sure he would.

What did he choose to do instead?

Well, he’s making film out of William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, a book I read last year when I was looking for something edgy and engrossing. Fascinating book. With a script by David Arata who wrote the screenplay for Children of Men, one of the best adaptations of all time. Even P.D. James said it was better than the book. I've read the book and she's right. The whole climax, where the hero and the last pregnant woman on earth have to infiltrate the hellish immigrant detention camp to reach the coast and their rendezvous with 'the human project', overwhelms the mundane final moments of the novel.

So --I'm supposed to compete in that league?, asked the house painter from Nantucket.

I don't think so. I don't get to be ball boy in that league. So that's today's humbling tale of Hollywood.

As a fan I'm looking forward to Pattern Recognition. As someone who doesn't believe in portents and signs, I'm not taking this as the big blood red sky-writing message (SURRENDER DOROTHY) that it seems to be. I'm more used to the other OZ paradigms. For writers, Hollywood is full of them: the poppies and the flying monkeys, the friendly munchkins and the angry trees.

All the quotes feel chillingly familiar: “Off to see the Wizard” (or is it the Head of Development); “Bring me the broomstick (or the next unnecessary free revision) of the Wicked Witch of the West.” And don’t forget that old favorite, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

Of course it ends with “There's no place like home” as you flee back to Kansas and tell yourself it was all a dream. But I did that 20 years ago. And I'm still dreaming.

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Anonymous said...

So Julie, met any promising talent up there?

All great screenwriters started off like the ones walking to or pass by your booth and maybe coming later.

Just curious are you getting any cold pitches from the anyone down there?

Anyone gave you their scripts?

Anyone bragging how great the scripts are?

Saw any big names?

For example are the popular players there: like Mark A, Jim M, William M, Unk, John D, Michael R B, PJ, Larry M, Linda S, Laura S, Barb, Derek, Scott M, John M, Michael B, William A, Snyder, Jim C, Zoe, Chad, Jessup, etc.

Let us know?

Best Cheeeeeeeeeeeers!

amy said...

Kansas sucks. You are in competition with those people and if you ever want to get out of Kansas (which is bleak and gray and boring) you (you-all of us) -- we all need our scripts to sparkle like Dorothy's rubyslippers in the Emerald City. Scrub scrub here, scrub scrub there... that's how we laugh the day away in the merry old land of Oz.