Thursday, October 17, 2013

Someone Found The Letter You Wrote Me On The Radio

Loyal reader Richard writes:

I am a big fan of your work and the genre(s) you work in. And from reading your blogs, I have gotten the impression that spec scripts are difficult - VERY difficult - to get made. In the low-budget arena, it seems getting commissioned through relationships to write other people's projects are the way to go. It's all who you know, as I've learned.
 My question is really more about the actual writing element, not so much "breaking in." When you write a project, are you writing with the budget in mind? I know some folks, like Mark Polonia, are INCREDIBLY resourceful and make movies that look way bigger than their budgets are. But does that affect your writing?


Richard, you are 100 percent correct, I have been hired now to write or rewrite I think 25 scripts in the last 14 years and none of them were specs.  I have really only written two specs; the very first one I wrote, to signal that I could do it, and one I really wrote for myself thinking I would produce it one day.  In the b-movie world it is hard enough because your average low to no budget film director is writing their own scripts, either to save money or more likely that they are making films to begin with because they have a story they want to tell.  But sometimes what they have is a concept or idea, or they have already sold a title and poster to a distributor without a script (that has for sure happened on some of my projects, believe it or not), and that is where there is sometimes a window of opportunity.

There's no doubt it is about building relationships.  The person I have collaborated the most with, Mark Polonia, is someone I have communicated with for a number of years and started just by nurturing a friendship.  Some other examples among many are director Ivan Rogers, who unfortunately has since passed away, and director Henrique Couto, who I actually met way back when he was in high school.  There are so many pretenders, dreamers, wannabes, and fringe personalities in the b-movie world that when you have had any success and/or notoriety at all you have to pick and choose who you work with carefully.  Once somebody knows you are legit it makes it easier.  When you can look out for somebody else and help them you also put karma in the bank.

I have learned to write as cheaply as possible.  If there turns out to be more money, ideas can always be added back in.  With Mark, I pretty much know who exactly is going to be in it and what the locations are going to be, and try to play to those strengths.  I learned about Henrique from watching his other work.  Same with Ivan Rogers and others.  And often they will flat out tell you, we have an ape suit, let's make a bigfoot movie (and so on).  I try to use minimal locations, crisp dialogue, limited roles, focus the action over a single day or night, no crowd scenes, no complicated effects, flesh out the movie by building kill scenes and other scenes like it related to the main action  so that they can be shot at different times and places.  Those are pretty much my main tips.  :)

Thanks for the email, and good luck on your own projects.

3 comments:

Rich Pierce said...

Thanks again for the response, John! Great chattin' with you. Keep us posted on your projects :)

Dr. Squid said...

All good stuff!

John Oak Dalton said...

Thanks guys!