Sunday, May 14, 2006

What Producers Look For

Writers often wonder how an editor, agent, producer, or director could say something is good, or even great, but not right for them. Well, what IS right for them? Many publishing companies have a "list", but producers? Nope. Your agent may know where to shop your screenplay and you may even have researched similar projects that producers have developed, are generally interested in, or have openly stated they are lookng for, and those producers may have even responded affirmatively to your query.

Why, oh why then, if you send a brilliant piece of work to them, do you still get a form letter, postcard or brush off?

The most obvious answer is that the screenplay isn't so great. But let's assume it is. Not only is it great, but it's the right genre, the right budget, a great concept, and is exactly the type of project this producer or production company embraces. How can the regrettably letter say it's not what they are looking for? Of course, it's what they are looking for!

Yesterday, while my sister and I were shopping for her birthday gift, we stopped to check out a swimsuit sale on our way to buy the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers cd. I didn't really need another swimsuit and wouldn't have gone shopping for one at all, but these were a designer brand marked 70% off and there were hundreds to choose from.

I had too look. Had to.

But, hey, I knew exactly what I was looking for. It had to be black or mostly black, no frills, no high cut legs, no granny skirts, nothing too revealing, and it had to be one of those "makes you look ten pounds lighter" suits or I wasn't interested. Simple. But, I didn't find a thing.

As we left the store, my sister demanded to know why I hadn't wanted any of the hundred suits I'd seen and didn't bother to try on a single one when at least twenty swimsuits met my exact criteria. They were the right size, color, price, and material. Just what was I looking for?

Dunno, but I'll know it when I see it. I always do.


David Anaxagoras said...

A couple of years ago I decided to publish a literary magazine. I read hundreds of story submissions per month. Most of them were terrible. Some of them were good. Only a handful of them were right for for the magazine.

The hardest thing was turning down really, really good stories because they just didn't fit. I even turned down name-brand authors, which was a little embarrassing. I learned then that rejection really isn't personal. It has everything to do with getting the right story to the right person at the right time. If I was going to publish a story, it had to be one I was crazy in love with and felt very passionate about.

(And no, I never published an issue. I had stories and art all lined up, but the expense finally sank me and my graduate-student budget. Someday...)

Anonymous said...

I once tried out to be a diesel fitter coincidentally... uhuh... I'd pick up one of those no frills, black swimsuits and nod 'yep. diesel fitter'... ha, I'll have a neighbour update soon by email, not much happened this week

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Todd, I don't know what a diesel fitter is --

David, that is uber cool, a literary magazine! You're gonna try again after the funding reappears, right?

Jesse said...

At my current job, I have to sort through literally hundreds of short films, documentaries and animations a day, looking for only a handful that will fit the time slot of our tv stations show. It's at times really hard to say no to some really good and clever short films, since they really just don't fit the style of the show we're making. But I understand exactly what you mean with knowing what is perfect when you see it, but it sure was hard in the beginning to try and remember that when you had to tell the people that they're film just didn't make it. But like David above said, it's never personal.

(Oh, and that last paragraph was a bit poorly stated in my blog. It merely just meant that in Ghost Dance, the majority of all character exposition happens in dialogue and thought bubbles in the comic, but in the screenplay I'd have to try and convey all that through subtle hints and dialogue that doesn't feel too heavy and expositionary. And that there's all this stuff going on with religion, isolation and loneliness at the same time in it.)

Jorge Escobar said...

I've been reading your blog for the past month or so and I really like it.

I specially like how you put things in perspective on this post, using a metaphor. It's important that we, as writers, don't attach emotionally to our work and not to take rejections personally.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the Scriptshark review of my first completed screenplay and I seriously don't know how I'll react when I see my email client showing a "FROM: Scriptshark" email...

David Anaxagoras said...

Oh, yes, I'll get that little mag published someday. Good dreams never really die.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Yup, Jesse, we all do this "not knowing what we want until we find it" thing.

How bout pizza for lunch? -- Naw.
Chinese? -- Nope.
Fried Chicken? -- Not today.
Taco Bueno? -- That's it!

Jorge, update me on your Scriptshark review when you get it.