Peter Conquers Showbiz, Episode 4


Television Writing from the Outside In
This week: What deals have you got?

Last week: Do you have an agent or manager yet?

This week: What deals have you got on your own, and how?

Let me describe six anonymous deals. In each of these cases, the deals came through a friend of a friend (of a friend). Here they are:

Someone in LA contacted someone I know. She’s read my scripts before and knew that I wasn’t a bad writer. They needed someone who could write X, with elements of Y and Z. Did she know anyone? She contacted me and, very secretively, told me that I was her first choice on a thing. Would I be willing to give it a go with an off-the-books treatment?

“Sure,” I said, “I’ll give it a go.”

So I stayed up all day and all night and all day and wrote something that kinda made me cry. It was emotional, it was structural, it was character-driven. It worked. She gave it to her LA contacts and they flew out to meet me. We talked about nothing for a while (the flight, the weather, jazz), and then they said, “Alright, we’ll be in touch.”

I went to a cafe and, 30 minutes later, was given the job. WGA minimum plus 1% of the backend. Which was fine by me.

A friend of a friend knew a guy who was one of the premier directors in his home country. He’d already made five films, but really wanted to find a writer to work with on his opus. We met each other, and his idea of getting-to-know-you went like this:

“I’m going to get as drunk as possible and make fun of you until you weep. If you survive that process, you’re in.”

So we got drunk and he made fun of me until I wept. He asked me if I had a writing sample. I sent it. He liked it. I was in—a low budget road-trip feature. I liked the concept so much that I threw myself into the story—my own themes, my own characters, my own cinematic moments (based on years of keeping tabs on human behavior).

We banged out a first draft in about twenty days. He was an asshole on the social front. But I admired his story instincts SO MUCH. I learned a lot by working with him, and I gained a good sample script in the process that I could show to others.

A friend of mine recently came in contact with an old high school friend of his on Facebook. His friend was in the IT industry and wanted to fund a hacker movie. Might I be interested? I met the guy at a restaurant and discussed the story with him.

A week later, I got the email: “Let’s do it.” We signed the contract and are now in stage three of its execution: a) treatment/outline; b) first draft; c) second draft; d) polish draft.

I had translated a well-known foreign director’s script into English for the Cannes film festival. He was impressed with my ability with the language. When the time came for him to direct his first English-language script, he thought of me. Might I be interested in the subject material?

I reviewed the background of the story events, loved every moment of it and shot off a 5-page treatment of how I’d write the film, if hired. (Which I can pretty much do now without thinking, given my years of investing in the craft.) The next week, my lawyer friend finalized the deal. WGA minimum.

A friend of a friend (of a friend) needed a writer for an action/comedy taking place here, about that. We went to dinner. We had a blast. As I left the restaurant, I was given the job. No contract yet. Will keep you posted.

An actor friend of mine had been hired to star in an improv-style film. They didn’t have a script, but they had an outline. But they couldn’t get investment without a script. Might I be willing to spin their outline into 90 pages?

I worked hard and, 30 hours later (over three days), delivered a 95-page script. That director now knows that I can be trusted to deliver solid material on time, and is keeping me in mind for his next script.So there you have it.

Six deals, leading to more and in each case, the deal came through my network. But despite all this love and friendship, you have to be able to write scripts.

Seriously. I’m 33 years old. I’m a late bloomer. I studied film in college and continued to learn as much as I could—studying every theory imaginable. You have to do the same. You have to be an autodidact (a self-taught whiz), because one theory isn’t enough—you have to learn them all and decide what works for you. Film theory is like religion—a metaphor you use to get you where you want to be (e.g. IMDB/salvation).

But I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Use my experiences to help inform yours. Leave your questions and advice in the comments below.

Peter is a baby feature writer who wants to be a showrunner. (BLAHAHAHA!)