I talk to Nick Maley about the pitfalls of writing and selling scripts......... Ergo
The Writer's Plight ...
Ergo: "You wrote a script in 1980 that was made into a feature......"
Nick: "Yes, HORROR PLANET, otherwise known as INSEMINIOD. My wife Gloria and I wrote it together."
Ergo: "You only wrote the one?"
Nick: "Oh there were others but we were not happy with the way HORROR PLANET turned out so we decided not to submit other scripts unless we had more control.
Ergo: What went wrong?"
Nick: "When everything started to go wrong I signed a declaration not to discuss the details of that movie, let me just say that their idea of what we were making and our idea of what we were making were not the same. In fairness I have to say that most Producers will tell you that writers fall in love with their creations. Consequently they usually hate to have the writer on the set. They're always interfering with the way things are being shot....effectively getting precious about the value of the original material. Well, having written a few scripts and been through the process of seeing one destroyed by a production company, I have to sympathize with the writer's plight."
Ergo: "It must be hard to write a script knowing how few get made."
Nick: "There's a limbo period when the script is just an idea in development. You have to believe that it will be made into a movie otherwise.... why are you bothering? At the same time you know that 1000 scripts are abandoned for every one that is purchased so you half prepare yourself for the worst."
Ergo: "When you do sell the option on the script you must be totally elated."
Nick: "Of course.... All those insane nights hunched over the keyboard, discussing the motivation of some obscure character are suddenly justified. You imagine it's going to be great..... that you're career is going to take a great step forward and everyone will look at you with greater respect for having exposed this new talent.......... Then reality hits home. You wrestle with the re-writes, trying to protect your characters and stop the script evolving along lines you hate. Unless the option you signed allows you to keep control of the script then, if you put up resistance, you are likely to find that some-one else is doing the re-writes and all your hopes are in the hands of a stranger. Its like raising a sweet child, going through the process of her marrying a stranger who you then discover wants to give her drugs and turn her into a serial killer!"
Ergo: "So when you sign the option you shouldn't give up control of the script content?"
Nick: "In reality it's not that simple. If you're an established writer you might get away with that but as a newcomer you're on shakey ground. Look at it from a consumer's point of view. How many companies do you think are prepared to pay good money for something and then let the seller tell them what to do with it? Would you buy a car and then have the salesman tell you where you can drive it and what you can carry in the trunk?"
Ergo: "That's kinda tricky."
Nick: "Especially when you know that the odds of selling your work are so slim in the first place..... and when you're about to sign the people you are dealing with seem so nice, (they must be nice, they like your script), its very easy to be swayed into accepting the "trust me" approach. Not everyone can afford to be hard-assed. Unless Producers are clammering at your door, you don't want to lose the sale. You're eager for the rest of the world to applaud your creation. You've probably already planned how to spend the money anyway!"
Ergo: "So most writers give up their rights?"
Nick: "Most new writers do, few have agents at that point. I have to applaud the writers who are prepared to take the risk that the sale may fall through, like Sylvester Stallone did with ROCKY, and have the strength to hold out for what they want, although I have been on the receiving end of a writer's power too, (see The lost Kurgan from HIGHLANDER.).
The process of making a movie from the script that Gloria and I wrote really tested us. Though profitable, (see "How to succeed without trying".... coming soon), it was a very painful experience and we would never allow ourselves to make the same mistakes again. In fact, although we vowed not to submit any scripts until we had the ability to make them ourselves, we recently broke that vow by collaberated on a new script for Producer David Strapko. Lets hope this experience is more satisfying."
text © CineSecrets 97/98
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