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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Thirty Thousand Dollar Question

Once in awhile, I come across things that really delight me and make me curious and tingly at the same time. The Robotard8000 was one such recent example. So when I saw an ad on Ebay yesterday for a feature script for sale for $30,000, I just had to know more. I contacted the writer and he was game enough to answer some questions for The Rouge Wave. Make of this what you will, Wavers - is it brilliant guerrilla market, giving Hollywood the eff you finger, or is it futile and misguided? Whatever it is, it is creative and it takes chutzpah. So without further ramblings, let's hear from the writer:

So Jason – I came across your script for sale on Ebay for $30,000 and I must admit I was flabbergasted and amused by such an unorthodox approach. I love your chutzpah. Have you heard of fellow guerrilla marketers, the Robotard8000?

No I have not.

Have you had any serious inquiries? If so, have you sold the script? Why or why not?

I had one very serious inquiry. Some company in L.A., I don't want to give the name. We were in talks, they were going to buy the script, I sent them a business proposal, the partners were one day away from finalizing the deal when they had to get Board of Directors' approval, and it failed by two votes. One of the partners wanted to buy it outright by himself but decided against it. Very up and down process for me emotionally.

I’m sure you realize that listing your script on Ebay is way outside the usual steps for a screenwriter to sell a script. What made you decide to try this?

Basically it was a last resort. I wanted to produce this script myself, but my friend and fellow filmmaker moved to L.A. I listed it because I thought it would be a unique and hassle free way of selling my screenplay and maybe someone serious would notice it. My priorities have changed and I can't take the time and money that it takes to get a screenplay sold, pitched, or even read. It is nearly impossible to get your script even scimmed [sic] through in Hollywood without a foot in the door already. I would just love to see my screenplay made into a film, that is my dream.

How did you decide upon $30,000 as the value of the script?

Basically that is the top amount, I will accept reasonable offers. The deal I thought I had in place was not for the $30,000. I picked the brain of my friend in L.A., and we came up with the price.

Had you tried the usual steps to find representation for your writing prior to listing it on Ebay?

I entered the screenplay in a couple of competitions early on, got a couple of responses but nothing I wanted to follow through with.

What is your experience with screenwriting?

I was a journalism major in college, and co-wrote a couple of shorts that my friend and I filmed. One was called CONVENIENCE, kind of a horror-zombie style set in a convenience store.

What is your script about?

It is a 20something mob drama, about six to seven central characters. Set in NYC and a small midwest college town. I hear it is bad luck to completely tell the story and plot line before it is a done deal.

Why do you feel your script would make a great movie?

The beginning and end are extremely unique. It is very rare to see an original idea these days in Hollywood. I am sick of movies like GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST and THE PROPOSAL, we have seen these movies a thousand times. My movie is original.

If the script doesn’t sell, what do you plan to do next?

I will try a new way and interesting way to get my screenplay done. I love movies, most of all I love the storytelling aspect of movies and the escape that it brings to everyone's life.

Thank you so much, Jason. And good luck.

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Benjamin Ray said...


Could you post some sample of your script?

Sounds good so far.

Good luck with it.

Benjamin Ray

Emily Blake said...

Although I respect an original method of breaking in, he said a couple of things that reek of amateur.

And this: "My priorities have changed and I can't take the time and money that it takes to get a screenplay sold, pitched, or even read," is very telling.

Seth said...

On the other hand, Emily, why not? This guy has clearly determined his level of commitment and the degree to which screenwriting can be an all-encompassing pursuit for him. And while he's not buying into Hollywood's "You must dedicate every waking moment to this dream" mythology, he's still trying creative methods of getting people to buy his work. It probably won't happen, but there's no harm, and maybe some good, in his trying it this way.

Imagine if a guy said, "I can't take the time or money to open a bakery right now, but I do love baking muffins, so I'm approaching some local coffee shops to see if they'll buy my home-baked goods once or twice a week." Would we have contempt for that guy?

I often think that those of us who buy into the studio system's rat-race mentality have lost a sense of perspective about how important movies really are, and I kind of like this guy's seemingly nonchalant attitude.

J.J. said...

One has to wonder if there would've more interest in the screenplay if had been marketed thusly:

"Here's YOUR chance to buy the greatest script ever written! BUY IT NOW before the bidding war begins! Was 1 Million Dollars, Due to our large inventory and because we need space for our summer stock theater plays, this great screenplay can be yours, NOT for $500K, not $250K, not even for S100K, but for the low, low, low price of $19,999 (plus S & H) and if you act now, we'll toss in another not-so-great script for an additional $10K (plus S& H). That's two reasonably good screenplays for $29,999! ACT NOW, these will go fast!"

Hey, who knows maybe the EBay idea works.

Julie Gray said...

Seth, that is the most clear-headed thing I've heard in a long time. Bravo. Agreed entirely.

Dave Shepherd said...

Not the first time I've heard about this strategy, though it's the first time I've heard about it for a reasonable (in script terms) price.

There's no one way to break in. It's different for everyone, and you can't follow one particular path. There's Oscar nominated writers who broke in using query letters, there's people who broke in making their own movie (in my opinion, the best in terms of career longevity, though one of the most difficult methods), there's people who broke in by virtue of standing beside the right person at the right time.

One path isn't better than the other -- depending on your end goals.

Whatever works.

It's the old cliche -- everyone's trying to get in the front door and no one's trying the back door.

To all the screenwriters going out of their way to attend industry events and network -- guys, that IS the front door now. That's what the majority of "serious" screenwriters are doing.

Not saying it won't work, it could (anything could), but understand that you're not doing anything different than the average pre-pro.

Blackmail on the other hand...

Tavis Sarmento said...

One thing's for sure -- we're all talking about it. So at least he's getting some publicity.

Although, maybe there's a better idea in the story of a wannabe screenwriter who attempts to sell their latest (only?) script on eBay after suffering their latest (only?) rejection letter...

Belzecue said...

Naive noob writers. God bless 'em.

Now excuse me while I finish my screenplay cover-page sketch of a robot fighting a mermaid. Peeeww peeeeewwww, ratatatatatat! So awesome! Let's say we start the bidding at six figures against seven, yeah?

Trina0623 said...

@ J.J. - Very funny. Love it.

I would like to see a sample page too -- preferably the first page.

My question is: how does he handle read requests? Can potential buyers read it by contacting him through e-mail? Or is it posted for download? Or is he expecting them to buy it based only on logline and/or synopsis?

Thanks for this interesting post Julie.

Emily Blake said...

Exactly, Tavis. This sounds like a first screenplay.

Let's go with the muffin analogy. If the guy has been making muffins long enough to really have mastered muffins, and if there is a need for his muffins, I say go for it.

But if the guy just learned to bake yesterday and runs into the bakery telling the owners their existing muffins are crap and his muffins are better while also trying to shout out a zillion other people trying to hawk their muffins, it's not really such a terrific plan.

Mac said...

But does anyone seriously believe the story he's claiming about the interest in the script?

A business can be structured as a partnership (so it has partners) or incorporated (so it has a board of directors).

I can't think of a business that could be structured to have 'partners' **AND** a 'Board of Directors'. It sounds like someone is just making it up using various 'important business' words.

Or they are being hoaxed by someone on the internet.

At least he isn't spamming message boards to push it ... there were a spate of ebay 'script auctions' a few years ago like that.

They were very sad. I researched one author ... he was a self proclaimed entrepreneur, and his previous business plan (before he decided to get rich by selling a screenplay) had been to try and auction off his sperm to lesbians. And no - I'm not making that up.

I wonder what he is doing now.


Lisa said...

I recently met a screenwriter who disappointed his parents when he told them he was not going to college. Instead, he is going to be a screenwriter. Upon hearing this, his mother threw her hands up in the air, his father massaged his heart.

"A screeeeeenwriter? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? You'll never make it!"

"Yes. Yes, I will. No matter the odds. I will do it."

And the young writer went home, and pitched it on craigslist.

Yes. It was purchased. Yes. He met some people. Yes. He moved away from the tony Dallas suburb to Los Angeles.

Would I or you make it if either of us pitched on ebay or craigslist? Who knows? But we can't judge others for thinking outside the box.

Don't forget the guy in NY who got caught up in layoffs, and wore a sandwich board with his resume on it. He did it for months. I'm not sure if he ever got a job, but he received tons of interviews from employers and the press. The point here being the effort involved and the determination to succeed.

No two paths are the same. We all will make it or have made it in a different fashion or method. It just depends on how badly you want it. IMHO.

**slides soapbox under bed**

J.J. said...

No one has asked the obvious question here (well, two, actually): 1. who the hell goes on Ebay looking for a movie script to produce? and 2. Who the hell buys a movie script off of Ebay sight unseen?

For all anybody knows the screenplay in question could be the same sentence repeated on a 100+ pages...

I admit, I'm a cynic, but Im also a believer in plausibility...

martinb said...

When all else fails... In the movie THANK YOU FOR SMOKING there is one shot of them driving in L.A. past a hobo with a scrawled cardboard sign: "Screenplay For Sale."

Antonia said...

There's more than one way to skin a chicken. Hope it works for him. If it does, there may be a script section on E Bay yet.

BobSound said...

I don't understand why this guy is so paranoid as to not allow anyone read the script here. If it's registered with the WGA then he has nothing to worry about. The best thing that could ever happen would be that his storyline show up in a major movie. He'd be rich overnight with the right lawyer. He should be overjoyed that someone would actually take the time to read the script and give him feedback.