Yo, non-writers with “great ideas!” Ever wonder why writers you meet curl their lips, growl, and stomp away when you suggest that they should write your great script for you? Well, you stupid %$#!, here’s why:
by Sharon Soboil
A while ago I read Josh Olson’s article in the Village Voice blog, entitled “I Will Not Read Your F—ing Script.” After chuckling through his op-ed piece, I read each of the comments posted. Some understood his position, others thought he was arrogant and too high on himself. What it stirred up for me in reading it was not so much that I don’t want to read your f—ing script, but rather that I don’t want to write your f—ing script.
I have been a professional freelance writer in L.A. for years. I’ve traveled to France, England and India for projects. I have optioned, sold, done rewrites and ghost written on films and television scripts. I’m not saying I’m winning the Academy Award this year (not that it’s not a dream), but I’m a writer in the trenches.
I was recently approached to co-write a friend’s “story idea,” something she’d always thought would make a great movie, and upon hearing the idea I wanted to run screaming into the Hollywood Hills. It just reminded me of Josh’s article and instigated my wanting to write a companion piece, if you will. I hope you don’t mind, Josh.
It is mind-boggling to me how often I have people come to me who are on the periphery of the business with this “brilliant” idea that is going to sell tomorrow! “If only it were written, because I’m not a writer, but you are!” “I have huge connections, I just need to bring them something.” “I don’t have any money, but I’ll split the proceeds with you. Sixty-40.”
Every time I hear this (and I’ve heard it a shocking amount of times) I get a glassy look … and ask with incredulity “Who are you thinking gets 60?” Even my mom pimps me out, telling her friends to contact me with their stories. Ultimately, what I’m getting at is that I don’t want to write your f—ing script … for free.
An anecdote of my feelings on writing for free is the story of when my best friend who works in post-production was dating a TV agent at CAA. He begged me to write up a pitch package for an idea he and the agent, post coital, had come up with one night. Unfortunately for me, I was suckered into the “Please, you’ll be a producer, she’s already sold on the idea and wants to take it out! I’ve told her all about you and she’s sooooo excited that you’re writing this for us. It’s CAA!”
Sadly, sucker is indelibly inscribed on my forehead and he is one of my oldest friends, so the guilt factor was especially high. So, after hours of painstaking research, and character descriptions, and story arc ideas, and 13 episodes fleshed out, I presented my pitch package to said friend. He, having no idea what it takes to write and develop a pitch package of any worth, tells me nonchalantly that he’s stopped seeing the agent. … She hates him. … They no longer speak. She caught him screwing some other bootie call he’d been chasing and they’re done.
To say I was annoyed is putting it mildly. I’m pretty sure I got more screwed that night than his new bootie call.
And he’s just one of oh so many! I’m amazed when I read posts on Craigslist from people who are certain that they have a stellar idea that is brilliant! Yes, I now read Craigslist from time to time as I’ve had three friends get their WGA movies set up through postings! Who knew?…
But among the legit offers are postings where amateurs are looking for a writing partner to flesh out their idea. Really? Why would I want to write your story? I get no money until it sells. And although this person with the “stellar idea” is sure it will sell tomorrow, that doesn’t make it so. And, should the clouds part and the story gods shine upon us … the company who would buy it will no doubt come from me, because it really is pretty much about who you know.