Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Finding a writer...

Good afternoon Russell,

What would you suggest as a first approach for enlisting the services of a writer for a movie concept that I have? My story now resides on audio-tape and written notes with a creative writer in Nashville. She created the synopsis. But we need someone to take us to the next level.

There are three important questions that need to be asked when you are looking for a writer. They are:

1- Can the writer write?
2- Does he write for your genre?
3- Do you like the writer and feel he can finish the script you commission him to write?

1-This sounds obvious, but it is very important to make sure you get writing samples from the people you would want to write your script. Don't make a choice with your heart because you like someone. It's a long, arduous process to write a script.

2-While the writer may be an excellent writer, you like him, and their script is great for a specific genre, it doesn't mean that he can write for your genre. Most, if not all, successful writers are excellent at writing for their genre. Writers want to get put on a "list" or be type-cast into a genre. Basically, when someone asks for a list of the best writers for X genre, they're name will be on that list. If they are good at everything, they never get on any list...which means they never get paid.

An example, Quintin Tarrentino doesn't write romcoms, and Paul Guay doesn't write psychological horror. It's almost like having an engineering degree, you can be electrical, mechanical, nuclear, robotics, etc. While there are many similarities, there are enough differences that you wouldn't want a electrical engineer working on your nuclear reactor.

This is, of course, a hyperbole. But, if you want a horror writer, you should find a horror writer, not a romcom writer. Not only will they know the mechanics of the writing horror, but they will be more into writing the script, and most likely produce a better script. Now, you can sometimes find a really good writer who is looking to flip genres, and they can work out. However, I would recommend that if you look for someone like this, you make sure he has substantial credits first. If you go this way, you may be able to get a really good deal on a great writer.

It is important also to understand that IMDB credits don't mean anything with writing. There are writers who have written 20 scripts on assignment, and very successful, and may have 3 produced scripts.

3-While it's not a requirement to like the person who's gonna write your script, you want to be sure he's going to come out with YOUR vision, not his. Many writers can write excellent scripts on spec, but find it hard to write on commission because it's fulfilling someone else's vision. So, its important to make sure the person you are hiring can fulfill your vision, and incorporate the points that you want. Basically, that he is a collaborator.

Now, on the flip side, you DO NOT want to hire someone who is a doormat. The person you hire should have an opinion that can change the script for the better. A good writer will make your vision better than you thought it could.

What you DON'T want is someone who will take your ideas, tell you he'll follow them, and then turn out a whole different script. I call this the BILLY WALSH. This is opposed to the Joe Eszterhas, which will take your script, do what he wants, return something usable, but it will still be your idea.

Writing is usually roughly a 6 week process to first draft, then you will have to give notes, wait for a rewrite, give more notes, rewrite, notes, polish. So, if you don't have someone that can do the job, you could be wasting 6 months of time. Most writers will give you a price based on 2 re-writes and a polish. They will give you a date you can expect the draft, and deliver on that date. It is RARE to find someone who will allow you in on the process, showing you pages, etc. However, if you are working with a young writer I would demand in the contract to see pages on a regular basis to make sure the writer is fulfilling your vision, and writing well.

If you can find someone nice, it's always better not to work with ASSHOLES. They just add gray hairs. The only thing that adds grays faster is Incompetent Nice Guy Yes Men.

Good Luck.

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