Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When to move on from a script

Nimat writes: Last year I sent a feature spec out to three producers and all of them said basically the same thing. "Good comedic voice, very commercialized script, call me whenever you write something else and or what else have you got."

Now although I got such good feedback, no one was willing to buy or show the script around. So although I was advised by one of the producers not to change anything, I went ahead and rewrote the whole thing. Same plot, just completely different setting and added more depth to the characters. Is it okay to send it out to the same producers and let them know that I re-wrote it or just pretend as if it's my first time speaking with them in hopes that they don't remember me or my logline?

There's no official rule about this, but here's my take: these producers liked your writing in the past, so you might as well use that to your advantage. If you contact them and pretend you never spoke, you miss out on the fact that they already liked your writing, and you're taking the risk that they may never get back to you at all (since unsolicited queries are never a priority). I think when you contact them again you should mention that you spoke before, that you reworked a script they liked, etc.

But I also think that you should follow their advice to write something else. Maybe you shouldn't even contact them at all until you have a second script to show. This isn't always the case (one single feature has gotten me pretty far), but some people need to see a few scripts before taking a chance on someone. It shows your range and also that you're serious enough about writing to complete multiple scripts. These producers liked your script, but they didn't like it enough to do anything with it. In the future, unless people like this advise you to rewrite specific things about it and encourage you to re-send it, you should write a new script instead.

I've seen writers waste months or even years trying to push a script when they should just be writing new ones. You can't force people to like something, buy something or represent you. At some point, you need to move on. Maybe it won't be completely dead or useless forever, but if it's not opening doors, it's time to write new material. If you write a hit script later, maybe people will be more interested in your older stuff. But even the most successful writers have piles of scripts that never went anywhere.

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Nimat said...

Thanks for that answer. I thought that everyone was just blowing me off because it really wasn't good or needed more work or that SOMETHING wasn't working. Oh well. I like the new one better anyway :-) I will definitely be working on my other ones while trying to shop the new one.

Dan Williams said...

Interesting. How do you know when to begin the next script?

Shakespeare wrote a new play about every six months or so, so if even he let go that often, it's probably the thing to do, I guess. He wrote for over 20 years, from about 1589 to about 1611.

Shaw wrote 5 unsuccessful novels before deciding he was a playwright in his later 30's, and then wrote 45 plays.

Somerset Maugham wrote 7 plays before one got produced. It was a success, so the producer asked if he had any others, and then produced three more at the same time in, I think, 1907. He had four going on in London at the same time. The next year they produced his other three at the same time.

So I guess the moral is, do your best, but don't get lost in a single project??