Take One, And Done?
You never know about Hollywood.
Let me explain.
Dashed off to Universal Hilton in Universal City last week. Sisters in Crime National put together an incredible opportunity for members to meet with Hollywood producers and developers of productions for companies such as Warner Brothers and Dreamworks. One of the speakers was the woman, Laurie Zaks, who developed Castle for ABC. Can you believe that? Seriously. This was serious.
I LOVE Sisters in Crime!
Before we met with our perspective Catchers (we were the Pitchers, hence the clever reference to those who received the pitches – you get that, right?) we were prepped. In between a great continental breakfast and a terrific lunch, we were treated to talks and panel discussions by famous producers and screenwriters. I mean famous. The writer for Marvel: The Agents of Shield was there. The writer for Bones was there. It was a mesmerizing and wonderful experience. (Okay, it was overwhelming and scary.)
But we hung in, every Sister and Mister Sister to the next step. Industry-savvy people joined our perspective cohort groups to help each of us hone our pitches. This part was to help center us, write the perfect Tag Line, find the true heart of the story so we could spew out the details of what took (some of us) several years to write—in five minutes. Our coaches were so nice, so encouraging, so skillful. They tried so hard. We were convinced, however, that we were still completely befuddled when our coach smiled and hurried away, saying “Let me know how it goes.”
Just before she left, she told us that probably no one at the conference would get a “buy”. The odds were against us. But, she hastened to add, that didn’t mean some of us wouldn’t get a call months down the line. “You never know what a producer is really looking for. He or she could already have a story like yours ‘green-lighted’ (going to production) therefore doesn't need yours. The producer might be thinking about the cost of production, or about the type of story that companies are not looking for – at the moment – therefore they don't want yours. Right now. "Maybe next year,” she said with a bright smile. “You could still get a call.”
So, into the pitch session I went unprepared for what we were told to watch out for—the polite stare of the person to whom you are pouring out your heart—in my case, two very nice, very young women who work for a large Cartel that sells screenplays, books, concepts to the Hollywood factory. They were adorable while I gave it my all which was a bunch of words that at the moment I was sure had little to do with the heart of the story. What was the story? Ugh! I am so glad that Claire Abramowitz (Princeton graduate and previously at Random House Studio and Penguin Development Group where she developed original intellectual properties—referred to as 'IP' in the trade—for film and television) asked a great question about the traumatic event that sent Darcy away from home in the story. Oh, what a relief. Claire really was listening. She even asked for the postcards I made as a ‘leave behind’. So again – you never know.
I could (and any of us writers could) sell a story to Hollywood, because they need and want our stories according to everything we heard at this conference. But it could take years to get to the screen and will have very little resemblance to the book you wrote. So be prepared to just let go if you sell to the movies.
On our second day there was a panel of “Gatekeepers”, screenwriters and developers that work closely with studios. They made it very clear that one has to have an AGENT to get to them. But, there is one way that might work, they conceded. Screenwriting contests. Winning one of those might get you noticed. Otherwise, yeah. AGENT.
Oh, but wait! There is still another way. A path that reveals, it seems, only every decade. A Sisters in Crime Conference that brings its members into the same room with the elite of Hollywood writers and producers. Yes! This opportunity allows those who attended to contact the speakers, Catchers, developers that came to meet with us. That possibility is there. And who knows? As the song says:
Hooray for Hollywood
That screwy, ballyhooey Hollywood
Where any office boy or young mechanic
Can be a panic, with just a goodlooking pan
Where any barmaid can be a star maid
If she dances with or without a fan
Hooray for Hollywood
Hollywood is crazy wonderful. Just have to remember not to end up as crazy as Barton Fink did when he went there to write a screenplay. Have you seen the movie? It's hilarious. Well, maybe a bit scary. :-)
Thank you, Sisters in Crime