Never believe them until the check clears…
January 21, 2012 § 2 Comments
Yes, in Hollywood it’s sad, but true. I’ve had the head of a production company tell me that our project was going “in 60 days from our meeting” and even that another project they wanted me to write was being “held up in legal”— for five months! Both projects fell apart and of course I didn’t find out until about five months later. I then realized that I was probably being strung along for those months, hoping I would get a contract soon and could get started writing — and get my upfront money to start writing. Wrong.
Take everything as face value for talk is the cheapest commodity in Hollywood. Many times interest in you or your script and the endless talk is just that—interest and talk. Everyone wants credit for their good intentions and many times a producer’s upbeat attitude about your project can become infectious. You want to believe. Why not? It’s what keeps us going as screenwriters—faith and belief. I’m sure when producers and executives tell you that your project is going into production, they just might believe it themselves to be true — but too many times a writer is told this to buy more free time. Everyone wants to keep a writer’s interest in hanging on until they work out the pesky financing details. If they can’t raise the money for the budget and have a tiny development budget, there really is no money to pay the writer.
Unfortunately, writers often make employment judgments based upon pending projects — meaning that you might turn down a job as they told you— (not by an assistant — but the guys at the top)— that your project is a “GO PICTURE.” So, if you can’t trust the word of the powers that be, whose word can you trust? Realistically, no one’s word. Trust your instincts.
Tread lightly and always keep in mind that you are the only person looking our for your best interests. Juggle as many projects as possible, because it’s guaranteed that many of them will not make it — or possibly every project on your plate will disappear into a void. If you are lucky enough to get a contract and sign it, immediately deposit your check into the bank — that is when you can truly breathe again and believe the truth of their words. And when you write on assignment, there is still no guarantee that your script will actually go into production. These are the many hurdles to jump over to finally see your precious “WRITTEN BY” credit on any sized screen.
Never allow this harsh reality to diminish the wide-eyed kid inside, but always be mindful of the business side of Hollywood. There is a reason they call it “show business” and you as a writer are also running a business. Once you are aware that words are free and it costs nothing to tell you that your project is a “GO” picture, you won’t get blindsided and will be able to cushion the blow when your reality check is not getting an upfront check.
Remember, the devil is ALWAYS in the details.
“Some are able and humane men and some are low-grade individuals with the morals of a goat, the artistic integrity of a slot machine, and the manners of a floorwalker with delusions of grandeur.” — Raymond Chandler
If you find yourself in need of screenplay consultation please check out my services. Click on the icon below for the link to my website and more information. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Why not have a second set of eyes on the project before you unleash it upon Hollywood.