Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Grain or Two...

Being a freelancer in Hollywood means you have to constantly be on your toes to find your next writing gig. It's not an easy life. Your next job can come from anywhere because so many people in this town are connected in so many different ways. That means you are "on" a lot because you're always making a first impression. (This is sometimes hard as I am a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy who enjoys a good beer and burger, and I am often surrounded by vegetarian, Armani-wearing sharks. But they know I'm not afraid to break a limb or two if necessary, so it evens out..)

Being part of Hollywood also means writing all day, and then shaking hands and exchanging numbers all night. It's a hustle: Phone calls, web surfing, events, emails, etc... all geared toward finding work. So, if you think the life of a screenwriter means solitude and monastic habits then don't get off the bus at the Hollywood station. Please keep moving. We don't want you here...

Hollywood also means that there are a lot of opportunities if you can dig them out. You meet someone and it turns out you've worked with someone they know, or they've seen your movie on the shelves. One thing leads to another and you're working. Everyone is in the business (at least it seems that way).

But in this digital age you would think that there would be an easier way to find work - especially for those writers out of town. I think a step in the right direction is the Screenplays Wanted link to the right - a clearing house for producers and writers to interact. That's how this whole internet thing is supposed to work - interaction that leads to productivity. Some folks I know of (JR for example) have writing credits based solely on their query emails and contacts via the web.

Another site (in terms of work) is Craigslist ( which allows free listings for people to hook up and hopefully get something done. There's,, etc...that post classifieds of producers and writers, both looking to build their careers.


I really can't sing the praises of Craigslist and the like sites because anyone can post on them.


That includes the so-called "producers" who don't have any experience, credits, and especially don't have any money. So I thought I would make up a list of my favorite phrases, buzzwords and clues posted on the net to let you know what they really mean. This will allow you to sniff out the bozos really quickly, and only respond to legit postings. They are there - you have to dig for 'em.

1. There is deferred pay = There is no pay.

2. Any mispelled words = bozo. This is especially true for words that are industry related. Examples: "muvie", "feeture", "development exectutive"...

3. I have a script that needs to be rewritten = I have a bunch of words on paper but it has no formatting, structure or coherence. Okay, all I have is an idea, but my dog's groomer thinks it's a great one.

4. This movie will be a great calling card for the chosen writer = I have no money and I don't know what I'm doing.

5. If they don't list their credits = bozo.

6. The script needs a part for a spunky 30 (40+) year-old male (or female) actor = The producer is getting money from an actor in exchange for a part in the movie to showcase their "talent." Hollywood hasn't discovered this amazing actor yet and all he/she needs is to get onscreen in a juicy part (or so the producer says as he cashes their check).

7. We want an ensemble drama = we have a group of people from our acting class who we can use for free.

8. This theatrical feature film will be shown at Sundance = it will probably be shot on HD for around $50K (or for whatever money we can scrape up) so that means you won't get paid.

9. We want a ( insert film genre or title here) type of movie = we want a script that will rip off superstar movie X that's making a ton of money at the boxoffice right now.

10. There is low pay = there is no pay.

11. Music video director seeks his first feature script = director has no credits. There is no pay.

12. Need screenplay based on my upcoming (novel, comic, graphic novel, t-shirt line) = I have not sold this to a publisher despite being rejected 1000 times, so let's see if we can make a movie about it first, then sell the book / graphic novel / t-shirt. Oh, that means there's no pay for the writer.

13 Multiple postings for actors, crew, and writer all at the same time = desperate bozo who doesn't know what he/she is doing.

I use the internet every day for work. It's a great research tool. It's a great communications tool.
But it needs to be taken with a grain of salt - just like tequila...

Stay tuned.


Aric Blue said...

Hey, a small disagreement.

"little pay" doesn't mean NO pay. For my last flick I posted "little pay" on mandy for some all-purpose guys(grips/electric/gophers)--I paid $500 a week to each, which is little pay when you got them working 6 day weeks, an average of 10 hours a day, but it's certainly better than NO pay.

And I'd add--Don't trust any "producer" whose email address is yahoo or hotmail--with how cheap it is to get your own domain name(with accompanying emails)--if they can't afford THAT then they can't afford to make a movie.

Bill Cunningham said...

Aric, you're the exception that proves the rule. Also, you were advertising for crew people and not a writer. You produce your own stuff so that wouldn't come into play, but in my experience when they say there is low pay it usually means they mean low "deferred" pay, which of course means bupkiss.

I agree totally on the yahoo and/or hotmail thing.

Steve Peterson said...

If I was 22 and just out of college I'd probably give more thought to one of those low/no-pay things, even for writing -- think of it as kind of an internship.

And, while I also totally agree on the yahoo/hotmail thing, I might have to revise that opinion since I'm falling deeply in love with gmail. It's convenience has even lured me away from my own paid hosting (which is spam city), and the terrific Fastmail.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Amen on the above list.

Bill Cunningham said...

If any of you get one of those free invites to gmail then please forward it to me as they haven't been able to sign me up yet. I NEED the mailbox space and since it's a google product as is blogger...

The only disagreement I have is that these guys rep themselves as producers with some sort of clout and money. I've answered several of them (after I've checked them out thru the grapevine) and not one of them has really panned out.

IMO if you're asking for people to do something for free then a) Be up front about it, and B) provide references so people can check you out and make an informed decision.

Carnacki said...

Great post. You make Hollywood sound a lot like a version of the smalltown-small business-Chamber of Commerce-Biotechnology Council-Rotary Club circuit.
Work all day, shmooze all night.

Bill Cunningham said...

Yeah, that's my ass spiking the Hollywood Chamber's punchbowl...

John Donald Carlucci said...

I've heard it said that you only need a cell phone and a Kinkos to call yourself a producer in LA. Unfortunately, it seems to be on the nose.