Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The poll results are in!

If you are an unrepped, non-WGA writer, how much would you be willing to spend to have a known agent/manager (not his asst. or reader), immediately read your script cover to cover and consider you as a possible future client?

20% of you Zip!

15% of you $100

40% of you $250

10% of you $500

15% of you $1000

So 75% of respondents would only pay $250 or LESS!

So what this is telling us is that getting your BIG BREAK, getting your chance to get up on stage and show what you’ve got to someone who can launch your career and forever get you out from behind the figurative barista counter is only worth $250. Really?! Really?!

I knew people who jumped for joy when they got into USC, UCLA or NYU film school and the right to pay $50,000 or more to learn their craft. But this poll says these writers won't pay more than $250 to work at their craft and most likely get paid. Does this make sense?

What does that say about the writers who answered this poll?

What might it say about writers in general, or the system?


  1. "What does that say about the writers who answered this poll?

    What might it say about writers in general, or the system?"

    I was going to respond to your questions but holy SMASH CUT! Even though it's a hypothetical question and you're not offering to read anyone's script . . . no one has asked you to read their script for $500 dollars! Well let the meek inherit the earth. I want to make movies.

    O.K. I'll take a bite at the apple. If you're willing then I'll pay you $500 to read my script and have you consider me as a client. Since I'm a waiter/writer I'll have the $500 no later than August 15th. I can cancel cable tv, not go to the movies, or out on a date (even if the girl is a hot looking blonde who owns a liquor store), and eat spaghetti for the next few months if $500 is all it takes to change my life and do what I love.


  2. I think it's because there are alot of scams out there. I know for me, it'll be too good to be true, even if I am paying the reader for his/her time.

  3. i believe that an agent or manager would want to find that undiscovered talent and it shouldn't be based upon whether one is able to pay a certain amount to have a script read. paying one's way in, so to speak, doesn't guarantee that the script has any more merit than another writer's, who did not pay a 'fee'.
    kind of like digging for diamonds.
    one is paid very handsomely once the perfect stone is unearthed.
    so i would venture that a good agent or manager would have enough clientele already in their roster, but that agent/manager is always on the lookout for new untapped talent.

    can also comment about the writer who would pay to have a script read.
    if a writer knows in his/her heart that the script is truly marketable and profitable and sees the end product through creative as well as business eyes, then no money could possibly pay for what one believes in.

    there is also something to be said about struggle and having the drive and belief in not only oneself, but in one's script.

    everyone has heard of at least one hollywood movie which was considered nothing, scripts passed on, actors passed on.
    and that very movie goes on to become a blockbuster and award winner.
    no one has a crystal ball as to how any project will turn out.

    as a writer, would i pay to have my script read? polite no.
    if i were an agent would i charge to read a script? polite no.

  4. "OK........ he let's out a massive sigh tinged with defeat."

    I'm really struggling with what I'm about to write. On my right shoulder is an angel who wants me to encourage all comments, say everyone's opinion matters, clap my hands and say "good job" after my infant son pulls a bugger out of his nose. Then there's the daemon on the left. Jack Daniels in one hand, cigarette in the other who whispers "are you f*@#ing kidding me? Who's the kid off the short bus?"

    I'm going with him this morning. Time for some tough love.

    SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This comment reads like part of Amy Adams' dialogue in the first act of Enchanted. It's in no way based in reality. Marianne, I apologize for my comments, but you are helping the class.
    Delusion #1)"it shouldn't be based upon whether one is able to pay " Reality: first of all this is hypothetical to make you guys think outside of your preconceived notions, second "should" has nothing to do with it. "Should" is always how we would like it to be. "Is" is what matters, and currently there IS not a great incentive for representatives to read you stuff.
    Delusion #2 "doesn't guarantee that the script has any more merit" Reality: Yes it probably would, as bad writers would do a better job of self-censoring for fear of losing money.
    Delusion #3) "kind of like digging for diamonds. One is paid very handsomely once the perfect stone is unearthed.” Reality: Writer pay across the board at all studios is down.... SIGNIFICANTLY. Assume 2/3rds of that diamond just disappeared. Now that diamond sells for less than the average home in Southern California.
    Delusion #4) "but that agent/manager is always on the lookout for new untapped talent." Reality: Why????? Why would a rep want to spend time looking at no-names rather than work promoting his clients who are proven $ producers?
    Delusion #5 "if a writer knows in his/her heart that the script is truly marketable and profitable and sees the end product through creative as well as business eyes, then no money could possibly pay for what one believes in." Reality: Oh my god, did a blue bird just land on my shoulder, and are there butterflies in my office? Let me list of a few other "true believers" Gen. George Armstrong Custer, the Light Brigade, Soviet troops in Afghanistan, the Jamaican Bobsled team, and presently my alma mater UCSB Basketball team going to the NCAA's as a 15 seed. Most writers don't have the knowledge or experience to be able to accurately make that judgment call. And if they are wrong, they waste years of their life pushing a rock up a hill.
    Delusion #6)"there is also something to be said about struggle and having the drive and belief in not only oneself, but in one's script." Reality: NO, there is not. It's really tough enough for writers already. We don't need to make it any harder.
    Delusion #7) "everyone has heard of at least one Hollywood movie which was considered nothing ...and ... goes on to become a blockbuster and award winner.” Reality: Not really, blockbuster and award winner????? Maybe one or two, but that would be out of the universe of 100's of thousands or millions of projects people have attempted over the years. Do you want to base your career on a 1/million?? Delusion #8) "no one has a crystal ball as to how any project will turn out." Reality: Yeah actually we do. We use our experience working in the trenches to predict what will happen. And more often than not... we're right.

    People, we, your representatives, are getting pounded out there on your behalf. It's the worst it's ever been since I got in the business in 1994. That year The Long Kiss Goodnight sold for $4 million. Today, that script would be passed on and the producer told, come back to us when you have Hugh Jackman. And even then the payday would be 350/500.

    Please wake up. Help us, help you.

  5. "This is an industry in which a lot of quality stuff does not sell," admits Bartlett. "It's a function of what the studios are buying at any given time."

    Your quote above, is sadly accurate.

    Apology accepted.

    what about sleepless in seattle?
    jeff arch was told that no one would buy into the fact that the main characters aren't in the same scene together, until the final scene, on top of the empire state building.

    kevin costner was told that 'westerns' aren't 'selling' and no one wants to watch a subtitled movie running almost 3 hours.

    the studio wanted to stay with an established star like robert redford or james caan, for that famous boxing movie, instead of an unheard of actor called sly stallone.

    who would have thought that a historical tragedy would become king of the world at the box office.

    or a man who builds a baseball field on his farm would turn out to be a homerun movie.

    why would a rep take a chance on a no name, over a proven producer?
    because even proven producers get stale and sometimes new is fresher.

    Mr. Bartlett, Jack Daniels in one hand, perhaps my query letter in your other...
    as you confer with the angel or devil to perhaps take a chance on a new no name and request a script.

    (cigarettes are bad for one's health.. even daemons know this to be true)

  6. And in The Mexican it didn't work and regardless of Sleepless' success, buyers still feel that way. I know, I tried years ago with another script about a woman who's slob boyfriend magically trades places with the hunk from the cover of her romance novel and they don't get back together until the end of the movie.

    Do you have Kevin Costner attached to your script? Until you do, you don't get to challenge the rules.

    The 70's???????? Your bringing up the 70's? They are no longer analogous to today.

    Again, do you have Jim Cameron attached to your script? And for the record Titanic is not an original story and other versions were floating around at the time.

    It was first proven as a novel.

    Your "exceptions" prove the rules.

  7. Bruce,

    I admire the fact you dish out tough love - discussion boards need it. I also admire Maryanne for being so tough skinned. (And for keeping the faith. If I were American, I'd say 'you go, girl!' about now. I'm not so I won't.)

    That said: I'm staggered that only 20% of respondents said they'd pay nothing to have a manager read their script, vs. 80% who said they'd pay something. When this topic came up on a LinkedIn site, I maintained it was a hypothetical; a wish-list type thing, the result of stressed, over-worked managers pissed at having to read through so much dreck. I'm surprised therefore, that you would chastise writers for not leaping at the concept.

    Everything writers are taught - by industry professionals, not in ivory towers - says that people who ask for money to simply read their scripts are scam artists.

    I guarantee you'd get the exact same percentage of crap scripts if you charged that you do now - possibly more. Why? Because far from self-censoring themselves to avoid losing money, deluded writers are more likely to go: "Aha! THIS is what's been holding me back!! It's NOT that my script sucks; it's that they've been too busy to read it. All I need do is pay this fee and the manager (i.e - the world) will see just how brilliant I am!"

    I realize Hollywood's a damn tough nut to crack. I'm cognisant of the fact that times are especially tough right now. But I also believe cream rises to the top. Whether through a referral, an A-list contest win, a pitchfest, producing a short film or play or whatever. There are ways of being noticed and ways of getting read.

    And if that's not the case, then what does that say about managers in general? What does it say about the system? :)

    (Oh, and needless to say: I'm hopeful that some of the cream rising to the top will be mine. Ahh... shameless self-promotion. What could be more American?)

  8. Alan, I like your comment, but I chastise them for not thinking outside their pre-conceived notions. This discussion is not about the specific dollar amounts, although I will admit that in a month I'm going to advise a group of honest and legitimate agents and managers to do just this.

    Example, many writers can't or won't get their heads around this concept and yet would gladly work for a subpar producer at minimum wage or free in hopes of furthering their career. When you add up the lost income from working at a reduced rate in exchange for this producer reading your script after working there for months, the cost (in both $ and time) is vastly higher than anything I've suggested here.

    This reminds me of a discussion I had in 2008 regarding why so few homes we're selling here in So. Cal. Buyers look to the future. They look at how the home will appreciate or depreciate while they own it. Sellers look to the past. They remember how their neighbor sold his home for $750,000 in 2005 and they are not willing to accept a penny less. This Seller has failed to acknowledge the market has changed and watches his overpriced home sit for two years until finally in an act of desperation reduces it to $695k, but it too late and the home goes into foreclosure.

    Writers are doing the same thing. They are looking to the past for examples of what to do in the future without acknowledging that the market has changed and the old ways are no longer as effective as they once were.

    As for the Ivory towers and telling writers not to pay. I'm guilty of being part of that chorus in the past, but I'm now screaming to the mountain tops for you guys to realize that times have changed and whether it's paying $ to a REPUTABLE group (I'm astonished by how many of you can't wrap your heads around the concept of paying for quality, ethical labor) or baby sitting for a directors kids in exchange for him reading your script and giving feedback, or getting it read via a website you build or making friends on LinkedIn or facebook or bartending where agents hangout or whatever, do whatever it takes. Stop judging on style and only look at results. If it’s effective, do it. If not don’t. Most of the people in Ivory Towers are decades away from the reality you face.

    Yes the cream rises.... if it gets read. The exercise was the equivalent of saying you could take the stairs to the top of Mt. Everest to speak to an agent or ride the elevator for $, Alan, I'll take the elevator.

    As for what it says about Agents and Managers, it says the same thing it always has that, with the exception of a few idiots like me who doll out free advice, they will always do what is in THEIR OWN self interest.

    When David Geffen was recently asked why he had chose the music business, he said that it was simply because he liked to make money and in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s it was relatively easy to do in music.

    I also have to point out that it's kind of sad that when I post information about surging red box sales, which is the WWII equivalent of the Germans capturing the British Isles and New York, there's not one comment. And yet when I pose a mere hypothetical about increasing cost for writers, comments and readership go through the roof. Trust me redbox, netflix and the like are a far bigger threat to you writers.

  9. Mr. Bartlett & Mr. Brash: i would say that i did have to develop a bit of a tough skin, although i'm very soft spoken.
    i had worked in the fashion industry in manhattan(new yorker born & raised)
    because of what has been happening ( job loss as more jobs become outsourced to china)
    i found myself in a very precarious position.
    i was interviewed and appeared in 3 segments as well as the trailer of HBO Documentary Films: Schamatta: Rags To Riches To Rags, which premiered in October 2009 ( yes i attended the manhattan premiere)
    (i'm @.50 sec)
    Subsequently, I done a bit of acting.( Law & Order & Dr. G)
    I'm still known in the fashion industry . There is a website called the fashion industry network and out of 12,000+ members, only 4 are featured. i am one of the 5.

    a dear friend of mine is a well known screenwriter writer in england, and i did pen a script with him.
    since i am ny based,
    my query letter is making the rounds at the moment for agent representation for our registered copyrighted script.

    had a lovely response from a much admired director who encouraged me to find an agent, and sent a list of possible agents for me to contact.
    i hope one day, i can thank him in person. i was genuinely touched by his generosity.

    yes, i clearly know what i am up against.
    hollywood is probably as tough, if not tougher than NYC fashion industry.
    i did quite well in fashion, so my expectations are to do as well in this industry.

    i don't know how to contact you.
    my contact information is:

  10. Bruce, as I'm sure you know: the more provocative the comment, the more discussion you generate. :-) I'm aware of the redbox phenomenon (even though they don't exist here in NZ), and I agree it's potentially a game-changer (like VOD and a whole host of other platform-related changes that are afoot). But maybe I wouldn't feel so inclined to comment on it! :)

    Also, like most provocative comments - I believe what you're saying contains a kernel of important truth. Namely: every hour a manager spends reading an unsellable script is as an hour he's not making money. i.e: He's in it on spec. A bit like: Every hour a writer spends writing an unsellable script is an hour wasted. (Except in as much as it teaches him to be a better writer.) Writers, too, generally work on spec. (Unless they don't!) But the same is true of many producers: Every hour they spend in a meeting with a manager who's pitching them something they believe is unsellable is an hour wasted. But I can imagine the hue and cry if the Variety headline read: "Top producers charge managers to take meetings."

    Which comes back to why I never really took the comment "seriously" in the first place. Besides anything else: Who decides who's reputable or not?

    To me, this is the nub of it: Respect a rep's time. Don't send them garbage (or things patently unsuited to who they are and what they do.) Do your homework; reserach them. don't expect them to read more than a few pages if they think it's awful. Managers/agents/producers have filtering systems for a reason - to try to seperate the wheat from the chaff (I've seen your website, Bruce; I know you do it, too). They're imperfect: They let crap through and they (may) keep out some good stuff. But if you perservere - at both marketing yourself and your writing craft - then there'll be a way through.

    Here's 1 tiny example: While I have a solid rep here in New Zealand, until recently no one had heard of me in LA. I paid for (yes paid...) for Virtual Pitchfest to get me access to 10 producers and have them read my query letter. (And no, I'm not affiliated in any way!) Why pay? B/c they guaranteed a response in 5 working days. I figure: It'll cost me $100 to find out if (a) my concept's any good, and (b) my query letter's any good. I targeted the 10, and fine-tuned the query letter to each of them. I got 5 "yes" responses. (ie: Please send the script.) While I concede they haven't led to any sales, I have now met with each of them when I was in LA, and they've urged me to send them whatever I write next. ie: They said THIS one's not right for us, but send us the next one b/c it might be. I've taken meetings with Mace Neufeld Prods, Morgan Creek, Solaris and others. Maybe not Dreamworks, but legitimate industry players.

    So, in a nutshell I guess my approach has been: Spend the money on "legit" script assessors (ie - check out their credentials, testimonials, who they've worked for, and what they've worked on that's been made - or at least optioned) - they'll help you improve your script rather than just saying 'yes' or 'no.' And if it costs 10 bucks to get access to someone - maybe it's money well spent. (But if even that feels like a scam, then I respect that view, too.)

    A useful discussion to be having. :)
    PS: If my memory sevres me correctly, you were looking for a new way to employ readers, too. I think thinking outside the box is a useful asset in difficult times. Good luck with it.

  11. I had a really pithy way of summing up what I think but I forgot to include it in the last post. :) So here it is:

    If you've written a great script that's marketable, you won't need to pay someone to read it; if you've written a mediocre script, paying someone money to read it won't help your cause. Ergo: Write a great script, find out a few tricks for getting it read (if not by Bruce, then by someone else who's "legit"), and spend your money (if you have any to spare) in getting good advice on making it better.

    What could be simpler...? LOL