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The Horrors of Selling Horror Writing


Okay, so last week I talked about this spec script I'm going out with to all the studios. It's a creepy, dread-oriented ghost story as opposed to a gore or spectacle-filled kill fest.

(Don't get me wrong here - if you know me, you know I love gore and spectacle as much as the next guy in a perpetual state of arrested development.  It's just that this story happens to be something quieter, more cerebral).

Well there we were, on the cusp of going out wide (getting a copy to all the studios and producers at once), when I'm contacted by an A-list star. I can't give out names at this point, because there's no news  yet. But anyway, we talk. I find out he's looking for something like this, and more importantly, something like this to do with me. Great news! So we hold off on going out wide with the script to give him and his team time to review the material and get first dibs.

So that's where we're at. Waiting. Most of writing a screenplay is waiting, believe it or not. Waiting for inspiration. Waiting for that idea. Waiting for time to yourself to sit down and write. Waiting for more ideas to come. Waiting for notes from trusted friends and peers who get an advance copy. Waiting to see if the agent likes it. Waiting to see if you get to go out with this one. Waiting for responses once it does go out. There's a waiter/writer joke here somewhere but for the life of me I can't grab onto it. (Let me know in the comments if YOU can).

In the fury of getting ready to go out wide to a lot of places with the script all at once, and then me connecting with this actor all at the same time and screaming "Stop the presses," one script did go out to one producer, so they got a sneak peek at it, by accident.

It's okay though, because they passed on it. My agent tells me they said, "The writing is great. The story is great. The characters are believable, but they just don't make this kind of movie..."

So I said, "What  kind? Good ones?" 

We laughed and then he said, "No... they like it but it's the ending... well it's missing... spectacle."

"But it's not a spectacle kind of story," I said.

"I know," said my agent, "That's what I told the producers."

"Well what did they expect?" I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

"Well, they do these kinds of movies, but they like the third act to be bigger, grander,  like with the whole town blowing up and an M. Night Shamalamadingdong twist ending."

There was a long pause. The kind of pause filled with long drags on cigarettes, and tinkling ice-against-glass drinking sounds. Finally, I broke the silence.

"I see," I said, "Then I guess I'm glad they passed."

"Yeah, me too," said my agent.

"I'm gonna have to make this damn film myself aren't I," I said.

"Depends on if your actor friend likes it," said my agent.

So now, we wait.

Gaudium Per Atrox.