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Friday, August 14, 2009

"THE" Story Versus "A" Story Part 1

I'm back after a brief hiatus. I've been working on an interview piece on independent filmmaking. Hope to tell you where to find it soon. It came about originally because I wanted to do something for this blog about indie filmmaking and it just expanded to a full on article.

This idea began because I noticed something while judging the PAGE Awards. Some of the best scripts I read this year were finalists from the previous year. Some of them had been submitted multiple times. While I appreciate the dedication it just struck me as the wrong career move. Sure the newly resubmitted script could win the award and that would be a lot of money and prestige. But winning an award is not the same as getting a movie made (at least not usually though there are exceptions.) Anyone who's serious about becoming a working writer needs more than one script in his portfolio. Agents and Managers don't want a one trick pony even if that one trick is amazing.

I've more to say on the subject. I'll pick up part 2 of this thread later. Right now, have to get back to work.

There is a huge difference between selling "A" story and selling "THE" Story. This is the biggest lesson beginners have to learn. Too many of them become fixated on turning this one vision into a movie. Getting work as a writer in this town is hard enough, trying to sell one particular story is near impossible. A quote from the Bill Pullman/Ben Stiller movie Zero Effect sums it up best:

Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.

The same idea behind being working writer (though success is by no means assured.) If you're out there just wanting to get any work, Reese Witherspoon's new Rom-Com, Kevin James' followup to Paul Blart, a low budget direct to DVD horror, an episode of iCarly, your chances, while not a sure thing, are better than if you try to get one script sold to Paramount. A successful writer will, after placing in a contest begin contacting agents and managers to try and get signed. He then works with his reps to fashion a script that will sell.

But say that one story is what really drives the writer. Say they don't have another story in them or that they can't bear to let this one special story go. Then it might be time to consider the DIY route. That's when I started reaching out to people with indie projects to see what it was like. I'll sum it up by saying it is difficult. Writing is tough enough, adding director and producer caps just makes it tougher.

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