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I'm a Screenwriter through and through. I've written scripts based on other people's ideas, loglines and treatments. I've sold mine and even sold pages of scripts, bizarrely. I've been paid weekly, monthly, half up front and half on receipt of the finished product. I've been paid by the page. I've negotiated my own fees and terms that suit me and that suit those hiring me. There comes a time, however, when your passion for a particular script you have written takes hold of you in a way you just cannot explain. Be it the story as a whole or the central character or the genre or what the character does. Their occupation or purpose. Some part of it sucks you in and attaches itself to you inside and out. You and it become one and you want to see it to its fruition, no matter how long it takes. I'm a creative producer. I like finding the talent who best suit the characters I have written. I approach acting or directing talents either directly, because they're friends of mine, or via their representative. I've been fortunate to be able to send material to agents and managers for their clients to read because of the producing hat I have worn at the time. In a producing role, I have dealt with lots of agents who have responded in quite an off-ish manner, saying the script wouldn't suit their client or 'it is not a project nor character my client would care to be involved with'. I've since gone on to meet with said clients and discovered their reps hadn't even mentioned the project and when discussing and receiving the script, they've gone on to love it! No wonder certain star talents do the same old project types over and over. I'd say they either feel content and don't wish to venture out of their comfort zones and thus enjoy the pay-packet they receive, or that their agent doesn't pass them different material, making the talent feel nobody is penning anything different for them, genre or character-wise. I was chatting with my stunt director pal, Peter, who's up for directing my spy picture 'Vauxhall Crossed' and he said he'd just love to shave Hugh Grant's head, beef him up, stick a gun in his hand and make him one mean badass.
It's a different feeling being a writer / producer or producer than simply being a 'writer'. It's almost like having a platinum card as opposed to your normal run of the mill current account Bank Card. Film is one, big club, but there are definitely different levels of the club. Being a creative producer isn't enough to get your project up another level. It helps to attract the 'named' talent of course, but you also have to attract the financial folk. The internet for me and especially the social networking sites have been a valuable tool to aid me in that quest. Just type in 'film finance' or 'private equity' into Twitter and see who's talking about it. Investors aren't just buying into a script or a movie, it's practically an entire universe. Transmedia is becoming massive and it's so exciting to have other creative discuss with you the different avenues an element of your project could go down.
I'm listed as a producer on the film 'Deader Country'. It's an Australian schlock horror sequel. A good friend said a guy he knows would like to use my name in order to gain finance. What! My name can't even get me finance, how could it get anyone else? After much correspondence, sighing and hesitation and saying the word 'no' and 'OK' a lot, I agreed to write a few scenes for the film. It was a film that didn't even have a full script, let alone a proper outline. It was set in Australia, with an alien zombie or something roaming around and infecting people. I said I would shoot some footage here in the UK, setting it inside a building, so it could double for somewhere in Australia. I know a fair few Aussie actresses, one in particular, my trusted friend Angela Peters, who I cast in everything and will continue to do so. She's the most genuine, fun, helpful, respected, respectful, professional and gifted actress you could hope to work with. I called Angie up and also my producing partner, who was an Exec in a division for one of the majors. He had access to some cool HD cameras and also an office block. I penned myself a role and on a Saturday and one evening during one weekday, we shot a bunch of fun footage. Blood, zombies, running, eerie stairwells and corridors and the obligatory horror shower scene complete with topless actress (no, not Angie, but another very willing actress friend). Some intentionally cheesy acting followed. We even shot some behind the scenes footage for the DVD. Why some of what we filmed was left out, I have no idea, but what we shot, I think was better than the entire film put together! I was promoting it online for people to buy and I hadn't even seen the finished product, let alone a single penny. I bought my own copy and felt quite embarrassed towards those who had purchased it. One buyer said to me: "I liked the bits with you in it, but the rest is like Gothic horror soft porn." I didn't mind doing the guy a favor. He loves films and me helping him got his film financed and he made a film and got it out there. He's making films at least.
Hey, we all have at least one dodgy piece of work in our repertoire, right? I'm sure it won't stop there for me either! That's another thing about some talents starting out. Writing, acting or whatever, they want to be in an instant hit immediately, turning their noses up at the little work, because they might break a nail, bust a gut, be on YouTube, or have a non-speaking part or God-forbid, end up in a soap opera! Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, because this business isn't really that clean at all.
A COUPLE OF CURRENT PROJECTS
As martial-arts projects are trending like crazy, it was time to fast-track a script of mine. I know a champion martial-artist / actress in Zara Phythian and wanted to write something for her, so reworked an idea for her and my friend Sean Brosnan. It's a very heart-felt story about a young woman, distraught from witnessing the murder of her parents as a child, develops her own unique martial art by playing video games. It's because of this she suddenly finds herself embroiled in the world of underground fighting It's a $1m and under picture and we have some terrific talent on board. We're still seeking to secure finance as we were let down heavily a couple of months ago.
It's an ambitious project and has gone through many guises. The central character, 'Daisy', began her life in a short I wrote, back in my supermarket days in 1994. Daisy was an adventurous, two-gun toting female, who studied antiques and history. That's another aspect of this business. Lawsuits. I've sued and won cases and I have attempted to sue and been advised to stop as it was costing me a fortune, but if something is unjust in life, you pursue, no matter what the cost. Moving on swiftly, top dog lawyers stated to me that if I could write a 'female Indiana Jones' then I could certainly create a 'female James Bond' and so my 'Daisy' character soon evolved and matured rapidly into exactly that. She grew up and got herself a career in the Secret Intelligence Service. Daisy Scarlett was born. A character and screenplay I wrote for actress Kate Beckinsale, five or so years back. She would have been perfect. It's another story regarding agents with that matter and perhaps kept for the pub only. Writing, to me, can also be likened to painting. A touch-up here, an additional brush-stroke there. You can forever change and tweak your own work. Tastes change, too. Audiences and expectations change. Dialogue becomes dated and boundaries can be pushed. I'm fortunate to be friends with Pierce Brosnan's son, Sean. A great actor in his own right and a talent I've written a few projects for. When I heard Pierce and Tarantino had discussed reworking Casino Royale, I leapt for joy! How awesome would a Tarantino James Bond movie be, with Pierce still in the role? It'd be brilliant. It also had me thinking about my own spy project and that it had to be more realistic. My Dad lent me his experiences yet again and arranged for me to meet some spies and discuss my script. One who read it said, 'taking into consideration the commercial factor, it was quite on-the-money.' Finding finance has been a crazy journey and could be another blog all together. I have recently decided the project needs an overhaul and complete shake-up.
I'd like to thank the guys here at Stage 32 and various other interested talents and film fans out there. Whatever your dream or goal in life, pursue it. Without a doubt be realistic, but reject rejection. An actor friend, Chris Showerman, signs off with 'All Things Possible'. He's absolutely right.
I'll end on a joke:
How many producers does it take to change a light-bulb?
Does it have to be a light-bulb
|Guest post - The Key to Genuine Networking: Introductions|
|Part II: Guest post - Mission: Impossible 3 (Tom Cruise Told Me Not to Name-drop )|