The Worst Place This Could Have Gone

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et’s recap: I optioned a script to a producer. My manager will also be a producer on the project. I was asked to do a small unpaid rewrite to bring the script up to where the producer thought it ought to be in order to court a director or a star (the second step in finding money for any film project).

The results are in on my little unpaid rewrite.

And they’re not good. Beyond not good, the rewrite seems to have triggered a tidal shift in how Producer is now looking at the project.

You hear about this sort of thing. You see it parodied in television shows about Hollywood. The absolutely insane notes that producers give writers. Is it complete and total lack of understanding for how a story can be told? A juvenile terror over suddenly realizing that you’ve put money into optioning a script and you’re worried what all those stars and directors you want to send it to will think?

What ever it is, it’s remarkably… Sad.

We conferenced.

I listened.

They sent their new notes.

I read them.

I laughed and all but cried.

It seems Producer Jr. (the fledgling hire at Producer’s newly established production company) is all about #trends. At least that’s what these new notes indicate. And the goal appears to be rewrite the script with as many buzzwords and sexy characters as possible.

And that’s fine. When it comes to selling out I’m the first to buy in. This is a Hollywood action movie not art. I want it to get made so that I can get paid.

So you want trendy tripe? Let’s get t’werk.

Here’s the tragedy though… The complete and total lack of understanding for story. The changes they’re proposing – adamant about implementing – would fundamentally alter the core story and characters. It’s such an overhaul that they didn’t even dare ask for another unpaid rewrite. This one would indeed be the paid rewrite agreed to in my option agreement. A rewrite I was told earlier would be saved until they’d found their director and received his/her notes.

The domino effect their changes would effect upon the script is tricky to explain without detailing the entire story. But it would be the equivalent of say… Asking to rewrite Jaws without a shark. And a protagonist obsessed with a shark. Or obsessed with anything at all. In fact, do we really need to set this by the ocean?

I know that sounds like a glib simplification. But that’s what this boils down to.

And they don’t see it. They don’t understand why what they’re asking intrinsically crumbles the entire structure of the story.

In a word: Sad.

This turn leaves me extremely disappointed. Yet not at all surprised. It’s everything that you’ve ever heard about how backwards Hollywood is and yet here I am trying my hardest to be a part of it.

Which may make the situation sad and the producers ridiculous, but it makes me the most pathetic one of all.

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2 Comments

Filed under The Journey

2 responses to “The Worst Place This Could Have Gone

  1. irscriptwriter

    I’m sorry about your situation. There are screenplays where changing small things can create tremendously huge domino-effect-like ripples throughout the story, so I understand your Jaws analogy.

    I see what you did there with “Let’s get t’werk.”

    Without knowing a dang thing about the story, the only potential solution I can muster (without toppling the entire story) is, can you give them “their character?” The one “twerking” character who is woven throughout the thing? Who, probably, seems out of place, but might potentially toe the line between your story and what they seek? Though, it sounds possible they’re looking for an entirely new story/script while only charging an option re-write price for it.

    It might sound less than ideal, but is there an option for you to bow out of going the direction they suggest? Not doing the re-write? Obviously not getting paid for said re-write? If it’s a sinking ship, it might be in everyone’s best interest to jump ship. I don’t know, just musing…

    Sorry about your situation. Hopefully, you find a silver lining in it.

    • Thanks IR, your suggestion is a good one and one I wish I could implement. Unfortunately there really is no easy fix for this. They really are asking to remove the shark not replace it or some other fix.

      That they’re looking for a new script for the price of a rewrite seems to be exactly where this is headed. And that’s something I might have fallen for a few years ago. Back then I hadn’t yet learned the law of diminishing returns.

      Thanks again!

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