Thoughts on Producers

We're back to a pinkish background. Why? Because I'm going to share my thoughts on producers. Producers -- another major stress factor in the life of a screenwriter.

Right now I am taking a break from polishing a script of mine -- a script that must go out to an actor/producer.... yesterday. The more I think about him the more nervous I become. Yes, I'm just like you. All body parts are crossed, and my breath will be held until I hear back from him.

I'm seasoned. Boy am I seasoned. I've been through it all and still I get jazzed when I get "that" phone call, or talk to "that" producer. God, I love it! And, yup, I hurt when I'm rejected (which shall become yet another essay). But the hurt is fleeting; I don't have the time, or inkling, to wallow in negativity, and neither should you.

Look at it this way. It's a crap shoot, it really is. Not every producer that you contact is going to love your work; it's all subjective. Some producers may not even see your script; it may not get that far. Your script must first get past the reader -- and that's a trip in itself (yet another essay).

How do you know which is the best production company for your property? Read the trades. Keep up with who is producing what. Keep up with sales. Don't send your romantic comedy to a company that is known for suspense thrillers.

Should you shotgun your property? Sometimes shot gunning can work for you. Sometimes it can hurt you. I prefer sending to one producer at a time. If I do submit to more than one producer (receiving multiple requests I hadn't expected), I tell them it has been requested by other companies. And, no, don't lie and tell them it's been requested by others if it hasn't. Call it karma; lying will come back to you in a most unfriendly way.

Don't expect an immediate answer from the company. Just because they asked for your property doesn't mean that you are at the top of the list. Companies generally have many projects in development, and many scripts waiting to be read. Get in line.

If you want to contact the company with a follow-up call two weeks after delivery-- to check that it was received -- that's great. But I would wait at least six weeks before asking about the script's status. If it's been six months then forget it. Move on. Look at it this way (and this applies to agents as well), if you never hear back then they have no interest in the script. It's rude not to contact you but sometimes "them's the breaks".

Over the years I've been amused at the "free for all" atmosphere surrounding the industry. Writers seem to run amok trying to find a door that opens; their desperation apparent in the panting and sweating. I've known writers to submit to so-called producers who had one line in the trades (advertisement), and who responded to the writer's query with a letter that contained no address or telephone number; just a box number. Now why would you want to send to a "producer" who has no telephone number or physical address?

Writers seem to have a "thang" about producers; a fear that I don't understand.
We are a paranoid lot; everyone is out to get us, yet we want to deal with these "villains". Hmmm... have to think about that one for awhile. But until you are given reason not to trust, not to believe in someone, why agonize over something that may not happen -- probably won't happen? Writer's don't always get screwed. Have a little faith.

Producing is like any other business: there are legit upstanding individuals, and not such upstanding individuals. Again, it is up to you to sort it out through research and talking with other writers. Don't query a producer whom you cannot verify as being legitimate. Do the research first.

Finally the day comes when you are offered a contract. Again, don't automatically assume that the production company is trying to take advantage of you. Do what any responsible writer would do: get an entertainment attorney. If you fail to do this, then you have only yourself to blame if you are unhappy with the contract.

Producers are not out to screw you or steal your material. It is much cheaper for them to buy your script than battle it out in court. And, believe it or not, most producers are ethical and value their reputation.

I've had only one unpleasant experience with a producer, and that was while acting as an agent. The producer was hot for the property, but he/she (I'm not telling) was class "A" jerk. We got the deal we wanted, despite the producer's whining, and I vowed I would never work with him/her again. I never did.

There is always another side to the coin, so...

Take time to think about the producer's POV: what about "writer" horror stories that are whispered at the producer's water cooler. Ah ha....

---Arrogance. The writer's downfall. Don't push your luck. Producers need us, but not that much. They can always find a writer who is a joy to work with. You are expendable.

As an agent I met many novices who demanded production credit, or a chance at directing, etc. No, I did not offer them representation.

---Don't immediately go on the defensive. Don't run in a circle like a pit bull defending his territory. Be someone the producer wants to work with...

-- someone the producer will want to work with again. Lose the attitude (if you have one).

--Don't count on anything. Once the script is out the door I move on to the next project.