Monday, August 08, 2005

No More Hiding

Just a couple of things before it's back to work:

1. So, I was over at Alex Epstein's COMPLICATIONS ENSUE and he brought up the subject of not talking about work related items in a blog. I put up a comment that I never post anonymously. John Oak Dalton says he has never written under a pseudonym (and doesn't plan on it).

I stand by that.

So from here on out you will never see anything on this blog that isn't credited to the proper source. That means no more anonymous comments. That means, good or bad, what I say I stand behind. You'll always know what I say because my name will be on it.

If I end up being wrong - I'll own it. If you're wrong - you have to own it. It's called being responsible and it's one of the characteristics that this industry looks for in its creators, and often it's in short supply. It's time to resupply - if at least on this blog.

End of sermon.

2. A Question for the Pulperverse:

How many female readers do I have in my audience? I see several female bloggers of the screenwriting variety on blogger, but very rarely do I see commentary from that segment of the audience. I want to know why. Is there something that this blog has or lacks that is keeping you away? I know Writergurl is out there - who else? Do you feel there's nothing for you in the D2DVD end of the industry? What blogs do you check out and why? What are you writing?

Feel free to write me at: or just comment. Please spread the word if you don't mind.

Still writing until Wednesday deadline. I'll be quiet (Ha!) until then, ingesting caffeine and food that's bad for me (but oh so good!) and writing. Sleep is an option I may not exercise.

Oh, go and throw a few coppers to the Kung Fu Monkey. Sifu John Rogers is collecting for a very worthy cause and as a veteran of the "undeclared wars" of the late 1980's (86-90) , I can tell you it will be much appreciated. There are currently members of the armed forces and their families that are on welfare - that in my mind, is absolutely unacceptable.

Go forth and be responsible.


writergurl said...

I think that there are few women who write D2Dvd scripts (or read your blog..insightful though it is) because many of us are not into comics or pulp fiction. I could introduce you to several women who read writers like Catherine Coultier on a regular basis, but they havn't the faintest fogiest notion of who Robert Howard is. They'd probably think I was talking about "Opie" instead of the guy who created "Conan". Me? I read EVERYTHING. Just cause I'm a girl who refuses to be told what she can or can not do. 'Course that's just me.

Besides, Harlequin romances are for wusses.

John Donald Carlucci said...

How many D2Dvd female writers do you know Bill? Is it a large percentage?


Bill Cunningham said...

I don't know that many - a couple. I think that's the point. While I love my pulp there are other genres out there, more appealing to women(?) - that would be good for the D2DVD market. I'm trying to get a handle on the perspective women have of this market, that's all.

writergurl said...

Bill, you missed my point, women DON'T, generally, have a perspective on this market as they are usually not at all interested in it. They're not likely to read the Chronicles of GOR. (Which I did, until they became waaaay too misogynistic for even my hardy sensiblities.)

There is a market for women, but it's covered by cable. Think Lifetime, Oxygen and most MOWs.

Bill Cunningham said...

I understand that, but just because it's a D2DVD doesn't mean it can't be a comedy, romance, etc... (stereotyping here). Just because a movie premieres on DVD doesn't make it a "genre", it makes it a media format.

D2DVD encompasses a lot of things other than the horror, sci-fi and action genres. So why aren't more women writing for the D2DVD market? Why don't we see more movies with a female perspective?

I'm thinking that women are staying away for a reason - not due to genre (because there is a huge female following in horror, sci-fi and action), but due to their ignorance of the potential of the D2DVD market, or possibly ignorance on my part.

If D2DVD is to grow and become like magazines (available most anywhere) then it must grow in all directions - across genre lines, budget lines, distribution lines and yes, gender lines.

Is the misconception out there that D2DVD is only about horror, sci-fi, and action? It's not actually - Family films and animation make up the biggest market slices of the D2DVD pie. If it is - then I have the subject for another post...

writergurl said...

You evidently have the subject for another post. Most people think that d2dvd IS pulp, horror and the like. Think about what you see on the sheves at Blockbuster. Mostly, it's not the "sensitive" movies (chick flick) that women would pick. For instance, at the local Blockbuster, a few years ago, I saw a Jodie Foster/Mark Harmon flick that was released direct to video (no dvds in 1988). Then by sheer coincidence... I caught it on cable about 6 months later. Guess which channel? Lifetime.

Is this because d2dvd sells mostly on title and artwork? Think about it, what artwork would capture the eye of a general browser at the Blockbuster on a Friday night if it's got no blood, guts or gore?

Or is a general lack of female screenwriters? Let's face it, there's a lot more guys in this field than girls.

There's a highly paid female writer by the name of Cynthia Whitcomb. If you go to IMDB and look her up, you'll find she's written quite a few MADE films. But, they are all for TV (cable mostly). Not features and not d2dvd.

Any insights you can provide as to what a female writer should be doing to break into the d2dvd market would be greatly appreciated. I'm all ears!

John Donald Carlucci said...

"I'm thinking that women are staying away for a reason - not due to genre (because there is a huge female following in horror, sci-fi and action), but due to their ignorance of the potential of the D2DVD market, or possibly ignorance on my part."

See, nail on the head time. I really wasn't that open to D2DVD until we talked and I read your site Bill. It took you to point out that D2DVD can be utilized like the pulps, comicbooks, dime-store novels. That the stories told here are limited by money, but not enthusiasm.

The company that distributes the Scarecrow films surprised me because of their attempt to bring more to a small film than most companies in the business.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I guess the question (Bill, since you work with D2DVD marketing) to ask is how well do RomComs and Dramas sell in D2DVD?


Bill Cunningham said...

Anything can sell if it's packaged to it's correct audience properly. You can even sell shit if you put it in a plastic bag and label it 'fertilizer'.

So lets extend the 'pulp' idea to the female audience: What are Harlequin romance novels if not pulp? Fast fiction. Inexpensive. Tailored to a specific audience.

Why not Harlequin D2DVD's? (I think there were a few TV movies done as a series awhile back).

Further extension: Is what's happening in D2DVD (female perception that D2DVD is only made up of horror, scifi and action) a direct correlation to what's happening in the comic book direct market (mostly young white males who follow superheroes exclusively)? The perception becoming the rule as most comic book shops carry superhero books and few other genres, and not bringing out books for girls/women that will bring them to the store?

Manga fandom in the United States is dominated by teenage girls - because there are manga stories for them. Manga does huge business in the USA.

So again, I put the call out - who's writing out there, and why aren't you writing D2DVD's?

writergurl said...

So, Bill, if someone came to you with a script that wasn't in the least bit "pulp" would you be open to looking at it? Assuming that they did a decent job with the script would you be open to taking it d2dvd? Is there a genre that you wouldn't touch (legimate genre, not porn or fringe products like that)?

Bill Cunningham said...

I don't read other people's scripts until they pass a rigid screening process:

1. The logline - is it good?(meaning is the concept sellable?)

2. Does the one-page synopsis work?

3. Does the three page treatment work? Is it well-written and to the point? Am I surprised?

4. Is this worth my time? (the most important question of all, and the highest bar to overcome)

I have only ever negotiated to produce one outside script - ever. I attached two indie name directors to the project and pitched it around town (one director dropped out because we disagreed over the story, the other was "unbankable" to my financing contacts even though his pictures continue to be made and distributed). The project still hasn't happened (but I still continue to pitch it).

It takes a lot to produce. Sometimes more than I have to give. If there is anything that doesn't feel right - I pass. If it needs work - I pass. I don't care what the genre is (except drama), I care if I can set it up and it fits into my business and marketing plan.

My business partner is equally rigid in his criteria for taking a picture on. His taste is somewhat different than mine and he has a different skillset - which is why he's my partner.

Bottom line: It can't be just 'good' - it has to be 'great' to get us interested. Even then it's a crap shoot. That's why we prefer to develop ideas ourselves.

writergurl said...

I can respect your terms. Obviously, you've made these decisions based upon past experience as well as personal preference.

The question remains, though, if there are few woman writers in the d2dvd world, and the producers that are making them seem to concentrate on "male" stories, as well as refuse to look at anyone else's material, how's a female writer to break into this realm? You may not know that answer and I don't wish to seem as if I'm presurring YOU for it. Just a rhetorical question for anyone who stumbles across it. If you've any suggestions, I'm all ears, again...

I enjoy your blog, I hope there was no offense taken at my question. :)

Bill Cunningham said...

"The question remains, though, if there are few woman writers in the d2dvd world, and the producers that are making them seem to concentrate on "male" stories, as well as refuse to look at anyone else's material, how's a female writer to break into this realm?"

Ah! It's not that D2DVD is concentrating on male stories to the exclusion of all else - they are concentrating on what they perceive (and what the market tells them) they can sell. You show them that romantic comedies about immigrant plumbers will sell - they'll buy into it. Urban movies weren't big until about five years ago when the market exploded and you could make $750K on a $100K movie. Before that - zilch.

Just because I refuse to look at other people's material unless it interests me, doesn't mean someone else won't. You're equating me with the whole industry and thus giving up waaaay too easy (and giving me way too much clout). There are a lot of companies that take query letters.

*** But you have to give them (and me) a reason to look at it ***

That is the bar that the industry sets. This is mass marketing here - it has to have universal appeal. It has to be so great that I slap my head and say, "What the fuck! Why didn't I think of that?!"

So write something that shows that you have what it takes to craft a story that will sell - then the industry will hire you to write their concept! That is how you break in - talent, craft and marketability. Few, if any people are going to make your spec. Your spec is a calling card - period. It should show people that you are worth the gamble and get you a meeting for a possible assignment.

[ Maybe that's the disconnect - women want to make their movies and not write someone else's? ]

I refuse to believe that women can't write a D2DVD that would a) interest them, and b) interest the marketplace. There's other forces at work here: a) They just haven't tried, b) they are under the mistaken belief that they wouldn't be accepted or c) there's something else at work here that none of us are aware of (see above).

I am not in the least bit offended by questions that seek the truth. I am offended that you felt the need to apologize for asking it. Don't pull that shite around here. There's no need for it. We all speak the truth plainly and from the hip - no apologies necessary.

I think it's why Alex Epstein calls this blog "Bracing." (Thanks, Alex!)

John Donald Carlucci said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Donald Carlucci said...

Teach me to post when I am half asleep -

My guess at Bill's answer would be to develop the project yourself. It is very hard and very painful, but very rewarding.

He also has a number of articles on the site directing readers to areas of research when writing in this field. Search out companies that do the same type of material and approach them. Approach companies that don't do this type of material and see if they are willing to develop these markets.

Not speaking for Bill of course.


writergurl said...

"romantic comedies about immigrant plumbers will sell"

Wasn't that a Robin Williams vehicle?

"I am offended that you felt the need to apologize for asking it."

What can I say, my Momma taught me to be polite.

Oh, since we're not pulling punches here, who sez I'm giving up? NOT ME! I have a friend who once remarked to me "You're the stubbornest white woman I ever meet." My reply? "Yeah, so?" ;)

Believe me, I've done my research about how to get in. And I'm not under any delusions about what a psec is for. If you read my blog, you'll see that I HAVE written something at least one producer thinks is good. He's asked for "something longer" that he can look at. (I sent him a short.) For now, I'm doing a polish on my feature, and research for the next one...

God, this is a lotta work! LOL

I'll let you know if I ever want to seduce you. With a story, with a story!

Thanks for the "bracing" discussion!

Bill Cunningham said...

That's my (writer)gurl!

Shawna said...

Bill, thanks for the invite to comment. I do think the subject is interesting.

I think more women wuold write D2DVD scripts if there was someone out there looking for them. You made the point that the industry perceives that the market is for pulp/gore type films and anything without might not be successful. I commented to someone about the lack of MOWs on network TV in the last 8 years or so and she noted how they had all moved to cable, which is true.

If there was a big selling "female targeted" D2DVD title, I'm sure there would suddenly be more interest in developing these projects.

I'm a total sellout, in my mind. I will write anything, even a commercial jingle, if it gets me in the door. If someone wanted me to write something for D2DVD, I'd do it in an instant. I'm not sure I have any great ideas for that right now...well, maybe one...

And as for your readership, I stop by occassionally...I just hadn't gotten around to adding you to my blogroll. :-)

Bill Cunningham said...

No offense here Shawna. There are a lot of folks I haven't put on my blog roll yet. When you stop by, just say "Hey" every now and again.

I absolutely think that a D2DVD from a female perspective would sell. I think perhaps you might have to go outside the usual suspects in terms of distribution though. That is - selling the DVD not only in general retail and BB, but in places that women frequent more than men.

I'm gonna put this out there --

I think a D2DVD "Sex and the City" type movie would sell for the market. I think a teenage girl D2DVD movie would sell like hotcakes as well (hitting two markets at once as it would allow mothers and daughters to watch together).

Do I want to write them? No. I don't think I would be good at it. My idea of a romance is when a head explodes or somebody takes two to the chest (sorry ladies, I can tell you're disappointed, but I do have to be the pulpster that I am).
However, I do think that the market is there and somebody could make some money off of it.

I'm just sayin...

John Donald Carlucci said...

"I think a D2DVD "Sex and the City" type movie would sell for the market. I think a teenage girl D2DVD movie would sell like hotcakes as well (hitting two markets at once as it would allow mothers and daughters to watch together)."

I agree with you and am VERY surprised that nobody has moved on this market. I'm surprised someone hasn't grabbed the XL1 and filmed it themselves. We are talking smaller budgets than ever with one of these pieces.

I like writing RomComs, but not an outright romance. The field is better developed by others.

"My idea of a romance is when a head explodes or somebody takes two to the chest"

And don't forget that one to the head (just in case).

Steve Peterson said...

I thought that one reason might be that if you can make a "Sex and the City" type film or film with teen appeal for a D2DVD budget, the cable networks might simply be paying more than straight D2DVD prodcos -- plus you can still release the MoW on DVD later.

The horror fare, however, has its R rating preventing it from getting a MoW deal -- so has to go straight to DVD.

The upshot -- the female friendly films in that budget range are getting made, but they've got a better distribution venue available so they use that.

The hole in my theory is that it should also apply to kids movies, those Mary Kate and Ashley things, and the low-budget action films. But at least for the action films I think there's no network that makes a living doing MoWs for them -- except SciFi for SciFi actioners, and in that case we DO see the pattern where a scifi film is first made for TV, then released to DVD later.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

The home entertainment market has blossomed over the past 6 to 8 years, and with more women bringing home bigger paycheques, they can afford to indulge themselves with the latest DVD/plasma screen/surround sound toys.

Such accessability and equality in the marketplace has helped to dispel the notion that direct to DVD offerings are low-rent crap for those who are desperate to watch anything.

The competition for our consumer dollars is bigger. Therefore, it only makes sense that DVD producers, writers and financiers step up to the plate and provide us with a wide selection of high quality direct to DVD movies and TV series to rent and buy.

I forsee a time, perhaps ten years from now, when monthly releases of direct to DVD titles will number in excess of a hundred or so. Offerings of every genre: horror, comedy, sci-fi, westerns, romance, drama. A little something for eveyone, from pre-teens to the geriatric set, and all of it network broadcast quality -- or, hopefully, better.

I have toyed with the possibility of turning what was designed to be a syndicated fantasy series for teens and young adults into a direct to DVD television series with a potential audience of tens of millions world-wide. Would it be more advantageous for everyone involved if I did so? That remains to be seen. But I am not at all ruling out the impact the home entertainment consumer market could have on my series.

Bill Cunningham said...

I always make the analogy that D2DVD is the pulp magazine or comic books of our age:

Feature = main story.
Behind the scenes = backup story.
Audio commentary = letters page.
trailers/DVDR links to web = ads.

Soon we will have actual ads on DVDs and they will be priced far cheaper. Production and replication costs are being lessened every day with digital camera, post and authoring technology and software.

DVDs will be doubt about it. Eventually, like print they will be available by SUBSCRIPTION.

Certainly , there are opportunities for everyone here to find their audience and market to them. D2DVD is simply not just horror and action, but a wide variety of genres. Again, like the pulp magazines...