Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Make Producers Hate You

Over the weekend, an email chain between an aspiring writer and a producer went viral. In short, a screenwriter pressured a producer into reading a script, and after the producer read and passed, the writer took it personally and would not leave the producer alone. Here's a snippet of the exchange, which becomes rather cringe-inducing:
Third response by exec

Hi XXXXX,  We’ve now reviewed the script, and I’m afraid that it didn’t deliver to the level you had promised and, in fact, both my head of development and I found it pretty derivative and not fully convincing. 
It’s a pass for us on this basis, but best of luck in placing it elsewhere. 
Fourth email from writer director to exec 
I’ve got to say my first inclination was that you didn’t read it yourself, but passed it on to someone else to read on your behalf, because what you say in you’re email makes no sense? 
To say it doesn’t deliver as I promised, or that you found it pretty derivative and not fully convincing is completely unfounded and quite frankly, insulting?
It delivers high originality, powerfully and cinematically, it would make an absolutely fantastic and highly marketable film. 
If it is ‘pretty derivative’ as you say, please name the films, the content or subject matter that it is ripped off from? Or, even similar too? Name them and email them back to me? 
I’ll tell you the answer now. Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. It’s not an imitation of anything that’s ever been made. Why? Because it’s from my own mind, my own writing skills and none other. Unlike, a lot of the tosh regurgitated round and round by unskilled interns with a penchant for writing and real derivative writing at that. 
Sorry XXXXX, but if you accuse me of something like that, you really should back it up. 
Because you’re judgement is so out of whack, I don’t think you read it. 
Read the whole post for what is basically a master class in WHAT NOT TO DO when trying to get your script read. Yes, sometimes you have to be assertive when trying to get a read. It's especially frustrating when people agree to read a script and then don't get back to you, or string you along for weeks or months, promising to read. (Hint: Sometimes they HAVE read the script and just haven't told you that they're passing, because of email chains like this. They're trying to avoid these awkward situations.)

There's a lesson to be had here, and some useful insight into how producers and execs think. People will often be resistant to reading your material -- and again, this email chain is why. Unfortunately, this behavior is pretty common; I've come in contact with a fair amount of writers who are shocked when you don't tell them that they're God's gift to writing. They assume that a pass must mean that the reader is wrong, not that the script is to blame.

Producers, execs and agents read mostly bad scripts, so the default assumption is that your script is going to be bad. They also worry that you're going to be defensive and annoying. As a result, it's often easier for them just to ignore you.

YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TAKE A PASS. It's part of the job. Sure, you can bitch to your friends or family about it, and you can take a couple of days and feel sorry for yourself. But accept the pass and move on. If you're polite, the producer or exec might still be open to reading a future script. Also, keep in mind that even if a pass is a little hurtful (nobody wants to hear that their script is "derivative"), it's just a pass from one person. The script is not right for them -- but it might be right for someone else. Usually, people pass very politely, acknowledging that they enjoyed the writing or like the concept even if they have to say no for other reasons. Maybe the compliments are mostly B.S., but I often find them comforting.

Many writers also seem incapable of writing brief, succinct emails. Get. To. The. Point.

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