A/A Writing

Thoughts on writing from a pair of working screenwriters

Sean Thomas Options “The Agent”

| Filed under General

From InkTip.com:

Producer/CEO Sean Thomas of September Seventeen Studio found “The Agent” on InkTip and optioned it from Padgett Arango and Matthew Abrams. Sean Thomas’s credits include “Fall Down Dead” (starring Dominique Swain and David Carradine), “Gandhi of the Month” (starring Harvey Keitel and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar), and “A Single Shot” (starring Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Wright and academy award winner Melissa Leo). “The Agent” already has one of Hong Kong’s top film directors, Daniel Yee Heng Chan, attached to helm.

by Padgett Arango | 0

Busy Busy Busy

| Filed under General

It’s been a while since I updated here, but it’s not due to lack of activity. If anything, we’ve been busier than ever the last few months. Shortly after the InkTip Summit, we were contacted by one of the producers we met with and were offered a job adapting a comic book series to film. Obviously, we said yes. We just turned in our final draft a couple of weeks ago. It was a great process, and I’m hoping to get a post up here about our experience doing work-for-hire in the near future.

Additionally, we heard from another producer who was interested in a short-term option on Extracurriculars, so that he could take the script to his money people.  We signed papers on that as well.  In the end, his people felt, following the Connecticut school shooting, that they might not want to sink money into a film about killer teenagers. Disappointing, but still nice to have the interest, and the producer’s expressed interest in looking at other scripts.

We had another company that was interested in buying The Agent with the intent of adapting it into a TV series. Eventually, the deal fell apart. Disappointing, but, again, nice vote of confidence.

We’re currently in talks for another work-for-hire project, as well as doing some editing on our old scripts. Like everyone and their brother, we took Glenn Howerton up on his request for scripts, sending him Red Sea, just in case he wants to make a TV drama about Nazi hunters.  Given that they’re averaging eighty scripts a day, we expect to be waiting a while.

We’ve also heard from a producer who actually found the script for The Agent via the listing on InkTip.  I’ve had various scripts listed up there for a couple of years now, and this is the first time someone has actually gotten in touch with us from one of these listings.  He loved the script, so we’re running through another polish, cutting a few pages, and will talk to him again this week.

All exciting news, but makes it much harder to keep up with the blogging.  I don’t know how John August does it.

by Padgett Arango | 0

InkTip Script Summit

| Filed under General Promotion

We’ve been using InkTip for a little over a year now.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a service that allows screenwriters to pay to list scripts in a searchable database, as well as for producers to list scripts so that writers can pitch scripts that match.  It’s not a bad service in theory, and, unless they’re just making up the success stories they post, it seems to work for some people.  We’ve paid to list two scripts, which has led to a handful of readings of summaries and absolutely zero readings of scripts.

I’ve also subscribed to the newsletter, so that I can get leads on producers looking for particular scripts.  We’ve followed up on a lot of requests, but have yet to get anyone to request a script.  All in all, it did not look like this service was doing much for connecting us with producers.

That said, we were interested in the Script Summit, an annual event InkTip sponsors which is effectively speed dating for screenwriters and producers.  Both of us found the idea profoundly terrifying, but also seemed like something it was worth trying, so we signed up to attend.

Starting Thursday, we sequestered ourselves to start working on our pitches.  We have nine scripts that we like and are confident talking about, which meant a whole lot of pitch preparation.  By the end of Friday night, we had worked out pretty solid pitches for eight of them (with the understanding that if, for some reason, we had to pitch Moray Creek, we were both pretty comfortable with me just winging it).  Needless to say, we were also pretty punchy, constantly slipping into James Mason or Peter Lorre impersonations and coming up with wildly inappropriate and profanity-filled things one could do in a pitch.

By Saturday morning, we were in a pretty odd state of mind.  Overtired, exhausted, already overheating in our suits, we arrived bright and early at the Burbank Airport Marriott Convention Center.  We picked up our one badge and started perusing the available lines.

I should probably explain a bit how the thing worked.  Inside the main room were 80 or so tables – each holding one-to-four entertainment types (producers, agents, managers, assistants to producers, etc.).  These tables were roughly grouped by genre, so tables 1-12 might all be looking for Action scripts, 13-20 for Comedy, 21-35 for Horror, etc.  The writers would line up outside the main room, with each line corresponding to a particular table.  First in line goes inside, gets five minutes to pitch, then goes back out and chooses another line.  This goes on for six hours, so theoretically (if a writer consistently chose lines with no one in them) one could pitch to 36 tables.

We drifted over to the horror section first.  We had worked out a pitch that let us do both Extracurriculars and Ghost Trapers (sic) back to back in about four minutes.  Our first pitch was not especially good.  We both felt rushed, and I may have shrieked when the voice over the loudspeaker let us know we only had forty-five seconds left.  Still, all four people at the table took a one-sheet for Extracurriculars, which seemed like a good sign.

It wasn’t until later in the day that we realized that taking a one-sheet was basically a “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  Certainly better than a “no, thanks,” but not nearly as good as getting a business card or a handwritten email address with a “send me the script.”

Still, we did pretty well throughout the morning, getting four solid requests for Extracurriculars and meeting with at least a handful of people who seemed excited to talk to us.  Most exciting was pitching a table of horror people, one of whom insisted we were “funny guys” and wanted to know if our script was funny.  We told him Extracurriculars was not especially jovial, but we had a goofy monster movie he might like.  He was excited, so I ran through my thirty second improv pitch for Moray Creek.  He loved it and wanted a script.  He handed Matthew his card as I was wrapping up with the other people at the table, at which point Matthew elbowed me and said, “Hey, this here is Brian Pulido.”

Once we exhausted the horror tables, we moved on to Action and Thriller, where we pitched The Agent.  A lot.  I think we probably ran through that pitch at least twenty times.  I am pretty sure I was still muttering “We have a female-led action revenge thriller called The Agent” in my sleep last night.  Overall, reaction to this one was very good.

A few people insisted that we should make the protagonist male, which doesn’t really affect the plot, but makes it seem a little less interesting.  Two people from the same agency but at different tables derailed the entire pitch so they could tell us, at great length, how much better it would work as a comedy.  Most people got pretty into it, and we ended up with fourteen or fifteen people who wanted copies.

One thing we weren’t sure about going in was how pitching as a duo would work out.  In the end, I think it worked in our favor.  Being able to deliver the pitch together, sometimes deliberately talking over each other, gave us more energy than we would have had on our own.

We also had a few people ask us if we were interested in doing any work for hire.  I’m not sure who is going to say no to that.  Even unpaid work for hire seems worthwhile if it leads to a movie you wrote getting produced.

By the end of the day, our fears were gone.  We went back and cornered the guy from Informant Media, to whom we had earlier pitched The Agent.  We knew they had produced Crazy Heart, so it seemed irresponsible to walk out of there without pitching him The King.  I was pretty sure the pitch wasn’t working until he asked who we saw in the lead role.  I answered “Jeffrey Wright” without pausing, which seemed to make him visibly reconsider the whole pitch.  He was still not entirely convinced there was a market for a thoughtful, adult film about hip-hop, but I think we made our case as well as we could, and there was time at the end of the pitch for us all to have what felt like a casual, insightful chat about the merits and risks of our script.

Before the last round of pitches, we were ready to go for another eight hours, but looks like we’ll have to wait until next year.  We walked out with a sizable stack of business cards, and we’ve already gotten script requests from a few people who received one-sheets. At the cocktail mixer, one production company talked to us at length about a premise they’d like us to flesh out into a treatment and possible script, and another company engaged us in a lively debate over the perfect casting for The Agent.

All in all, a great, fun, and absolutely worthwhile experience – we’ll see where it goes from here.

 

by Padgett Arango | 1

Writing Antagonists

| Filed under Writing

I enjoyed this article on antagonists, and it generally made me think we do a pretty good job with our antagonists. That said, I think we do have a hard time with #14 “Holding Hands With Monsters,” and I’m pretty sure it’s all Bruce Kawin’s fault.

At one point in college, we read the essay that eventually developed into Kawin’s book Mindscreen, which talks a lot about point of view in film. Granted this is really basic, jr. high literature stuff, but films, for the most part, tend to take a third person omniscient viewpoint, which has always bothered me. As a result, I tend to try to keep the focus tight on one character, which leads me to have a hard time switching over to show what the antagonists are up to. It always feels like cheating.

Of our scripts, only The League of Santas really spends significant time away from the protagonists. It’s a habit I’m trying to break myself out of. Our latest script, a revenge action story currently in rough draft, manages to drift away from the protagonist a bit at the end, and it feels more like a real, fully-fleshed out movie when it does. I’m not saying I want to go back and change the point of view of all our scripts, but it seems good to be aware of our habits.

by Padgett Arango | 0

Maybe We’re Doing This Wrong

| Filed under Writing

Not to turn this blog into nothing but replies to John August but:

A screenplay is a huge undertaking, involving months or years of work.

Matthew and I can usually break a script from concept to scene breakdown in about two or three hours. On our first draft, we usually average something like four to six pages an hour, meaning we can usually go from one-line concept to rough draft in a little over three weeks. Editing usually takes about a week and a half, unless the rough draft has gone horribly off the rails.

That means that, with an hour a day of writing, we can usually end up with a polished script we feel confident about in less than six weeks. I know professional writers who are writing for contract end up having to do endless rounds of revisions and notes and such, but it seems like, for an aspiring screenwriter, there’s no reason to spend years on a single screenplay.

Or maybe we’re just not doing it right.

by Padgett Arango | 0