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Friday, August 17, 2007

Going from "Nowhere" to "Lost"

In this article, Jeffrey Lieber - the guy who shares the "Created By" credit on "Lost", tells the story of how he got ousted from the series. He developed a pitch, to the point of writing a pilot called "Nowhere", which eventually became the bones for "Lost".

"Nowhere" is nowhere close to "Lost" and yet, strikingly similar.

This also gives some interesting insight into how TV shows get made/not made.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Endeavor releasing 25% of clients - effects on unions, upcoming strike.

Take a look at this.

I've read some analysis that this may actually be a positive thing. And negative.

From Gary Milin:

25% of all clients are being cut, including writers, directors and actors. However, the article makes it clear that writers are especially vulnerable. And that, in fact, ALL writers who are not productive, or simply working on small projects, will be cut. This means that considerably more then 25% of Edeavour's writers will be given the boot. Personally, I think there'll only be token cuts in the other departments and that this is really about making room for new writer clients in the near future.

When I originally heard about this, indications were that Endeavour would be cutting clients as well as firing agents. But now it seems that even the junior agents won't be let go. At least not right now. This indicates that this is not a simple downsizing, but that Endeavour plans to increase their client load in the near future and that's why they're retaining all its agents.

Also, just because Endeavour is the only top agency dumping clients right now, doesn't mean that the other top agencies don't think a sea change is happening. Other top agencies, like CAA for example, have a habit of signing lots of new clients and after a short stint of trying to find them work, they just forget about them and ignore them completely. As a result, they don't have to drop clients to free up agent manpower, all they have to do is igore them. This won't make the news like Endeavour's strategy, but I'm willing to bet that more and more unproductive writers at top agencies are finding that no one is returning their calls anymore.

All this indicates that the agencies are preparing to go hunting for fresh blood and new ideas, because they anticipate that that is exactly what Hollywood will be desperate for in the very near future.

Needless to say, this will prove to be a tremendous opportunity for new writers like us. But we will also need to be ready to capitalize on it. There's thousands of us out there, and even with the agencies cutting clients, their time and resources are still limited. They will only be able to invest so much time and energy to determin if we have 'what it takes'. So if we want to get our foot in the door, we have to make sure our scripts are exactly what they are looking for. And what they're looking for is SPEC SCRIPTS.

That means professionally written high concept scripts in one of the following genres: broad comedy, romantic comedy, thriller, action, horror.

They're NOT looking for writing samples. In the coming crunch they will not have the time to nurture new clients. They want new clients with highly marketable scripts that are ready (or almost ready) to put on the market as is.

Now, of course there's always exceptions to every rule and if you have a truly remarkable character-driven drama then an agent might still snatch it up. But, honestly, for that to happen, your script will have to be something that they KNOW would be perfect for a big name actor or director. If it's just a great script, but they know it'll be a hard sell, or they don't know if any big names will be interested, they might decide not to spend the time to do anything with it. In that case, it might be wiser to submit such a project to a smaller agencies, because the biger ones are really going to be focusing on highly commercial specs to feed the coming spec buying frenzy.

Things are actually happening faster than I anticipated and this news from Endeavour really lit the torch under me. Now I just gotta hurry up and finish my rewrite and get down to LA before the strike deadline. Although, even if I'm late, I still think the best time to find a new agent will be DURING the strike. That's when they'll have the most free time. Only problem is, you have to wait until they strike is over before you can actually put your script on the market. And all the indications are, if there is a strike, it'll be a long one. Maybe six months or longer. Especially if the studios hold out until the actors and directors contract expires next spring (or is it summer?). In which case we could have a WGA strike that lasts almost a full year. Yipes!

From Rob:

I'll add my two cents. The Screen Actors Guild (disclosure: I'm a member) is under new management and all indications seem to indicate that SAG is watching this situation very closely since they have many of the same grievances as the WGA (namely royalties on DVD's, Internet, new media, etc.) and may stand with the writers. An actor's strike is a whole different animal not to mention the DGA.

There has been talk for some time now of actors not crossing the writer's picket lines especially on television shows which are owned by entities with studio film operations.

I've also been told by WGA friends who know that I write that if there is a strike not to sell a script to a signatory company during the strike - the WGA tracks these transactions very closely and that I might not be allowedto join after the strike is over. So if I do sell a script during a strike, to make sure its to a non-signatory.

I'm not going to tell you what to do - I'm sharing information that I have heard here in town over the last year or so - this strike/negotiation has been looming for some time now and was certainly a campaign issue for the new SAG leadership. SAG wants the WGA to get its fair share of profits in its negotiations else SAG will not get its share and the SAG membership felt that the previous union leadership laid down on the last contract and vowed not to do so again. The WGA is obviously happy about this.

So if there is a strike, I don't think that it will be very long because the actors and directors are most probably going to support the writers. All that's left is for the producers to determine whether all three unions are unified or not, if the writers negotiations are actually writer-director-actor negotiations.