“Timing is everything.” Part II

If you’re not caught up, read Part I.

So I keep hearing that any screenwriter that wants to be taken seriously should have at least three polished screenplays ready to go if he or she wants to be picked up by an agent. Considering how long it took me to polish my one screenplay, the idea of doing two more wasn’t the kind of time I wanted to invest. No, no, no. Let me amend that. I don’t mind investing time; I just didn’t want my one awesome screenplay to waste away on the shelf while I was crafting the other two. So instead, I focused on working on a smaller, five-minute project that I could hopefully circulate through the film festivals and get some recognition. After all, I think any kind of published/produced work is far more convincing to a potential producer than a thousand manuscripts/screenplays that have never seen the light of day.

During this time, I was also just starting to collaborate with burgeoning director Danny Safady. I met him in 2004 when he and his friend/business partner, Gerry Garcia, were trying to launch a fashion and entertainment magazine called SWITCH, which was responsible for my start as an entertainment journalist. The magazine never got off the ground, sadly, but years later Danny started to get into directing music videos and he sought me out to write a couple of treatments.

Unfortunately, I was unemployed at this time and desperately needed a steady day job. So after the respective recording artists we targeted either admitted that they didn’t have the money to fund the projects or rejected us outright, I put my creative pursuits on hold (or at least on the back burner) until I could stabilize my financial situation. In 2007 I spent my weekdays writing marketing copy for a Home Resort manufacturer and those days were some of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever endured. I’d like to think that my time with this company will be the time in my life I use to contrast my success with in my memoirs. It was during this time that a friend of mine put me in contact with an actor who had been in a major Joel Silver movie.

To refresh your memory: My film is based on a brand that Joel Silver owns the movie rights to. That means only he can make the movie if I want to keep all of the brand-specific material in the script.

At the time, my friend was a server at a popular family Italian restaurant chain in Northridge – or thereabouts. He had just transferred and hadn’t gotten to know everyone yet. One day he was talking to his coworker and – impressed by his coworker’s tremendous height and baritone voice – my friend suggested that the man should be an actor. That was when the coworker revealed who he was. Apparently, when you’re not an A-list actor, you sometimes have to pick up gigs on the side, like serving at a restaurant, to stay afloat.

I felt like this was a message sent from on high! I was one degree away from Joel Silver! My friend, who knew about my screenplay and who it had to go to, immediately told his coworker – Mr. Actor – about me. Mr. Actor, in turn, requested my screenplay. I gave it a thorough polishing before UPSing it over to him. Then came the waiting, which was excruciating. Don’t get me wrong. I’m used to waiting. And I’m used to disappointment. But this was new territory for me. I hadn’t been rejected yet as a screenwriter. As a query letter writer, sure, but not as a screenwriter. I only expected success. Keep in mind that my screenplay is also amazing. There are few things in life that I am certain about. Above all things, I know that my work on this script is magnificent. I know I probably sound arrogant, but you haven’t read the script. 🙂

After a few days Mr. Actor gave his opinion to my friend. As my friend related to me, Mr. Actor said that he was “my biggest fan.” I was elated in a way and to an extent I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Of course Mr. Actor tempered my excitement with a bit of bad news. Apparently he wasn’t in much contact with Joel Silver. On the upside, he said he would sit down with some big name directors that had worked with Joel Silver and talk about the script over coffee. With that in mind, I immediately scheduled a meet with Mr. Actor over lunch and made the trek up north.

Our lunch meeting went a little something like this.

I really didn’t have a problem with the finder’s fee. To me, 10% was nothing when I considered that it would be buying me an entire career. At this point, I felt that success was just a matter of time. With Mr. Actor’s connections, how could it not? So I waited. That’s not to say that I didn’t keep trying on my own. In 2008 I got picked up by Buzzine and I thought my interactions with industry people as an entertainment journalist would also open doors for me as a screenwriter. I was also still working with Danny. We tossed around a few movie ideas and I even script doctored a screenplay he picked up. My journey to becoming a professional screenwriter was well on its way. I just had to be patient.

Two years went by.

At this point I had all but given up. Mr. Actor fell out of contact and none of the people I met in the industry ever seemed to be interested in me beyond my role as a journalist. I fell back on my original plan of producing something small myself and hopefully building a name that way. It wasn’t a happy time for me, but at least I had some kind of solid direction. And then Mr. Actor contacted me through Facebook. He lamented his dry spell of gigs and joked that once my screenplay got picked up he’d be working again. I commiserated with him and said a few encouraging words. Then he mentioned something about giving the script to his manager – a woman who, according to him, had a lot of connections. I found his musings strange since I figured he’d be showing my script to everyone. After all, he had 10% on the line and a potential acting gig.

I urged him to show it to Ms. Manager forthwith.

Again, I waited. This time I was less anxious. I had already adjusted myself to the reality that I would never make as an industry screenwriter and that I would have to save up my money to fund my own projects. I still expected Ms. Manager to absolutely love my script, mind you. After all, the quality of my work hadn’t changed.

Mr. Actor texted me about a week later with Ms. Manager’s reaction. “This shit is AMAZING.” Or something like that. I was flattered, to be sure, but my mind was pure business. Get me the career first and then I’ll take time to bask in the praise. I wanted to know what the next step was. Mr. Actor was our go-between for a few days. He’d text or call me, get my feedback and then get in touch with Ms. Manager. While I’m typically irritated by middlemen, I understood that Mr. Actor wanted to ensure he had some control over his 10%, so I tolerated the situation. Mr. Actor suggested that I write up a synopsis – a short three-page summary of my screenplay – so that Ms. Manager would have something compact to send Joel Silver. I worked on a couple of versions and sent them off.

And then the information stopped coming.

Much like this entry. 🙂 Read the exciting conclusion of “Timing is everything.” In Part III soon!