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#1
Old 08-13-2010, 07:04 PM
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Hiring a writer for a screenplay: how much does it cost and how to find a writer?

Let's say I have an idea for a screenplay for a movie, and that I am not a writer. I want to find a decent writer to write the screenplay for me. Not a top-tier writer, since that would likely be too costly so maybe second or third tier?

Two questions
  1. How much would this cost? Is it around $5,000, $10,000, $30,000, more?
  2. How does one go about finding someone to write this screenplay?

For the record, I do have an idea for a screenplay, and I know that the chance that it will ever get made into anything are essentially zero, but if the price is not too high (say, $10,000 or less), I would like to see my idea turn into a screenplay.
#2
Old 08-13-2010, 08:19 PM
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I'll do it for $25,000. PM me.
#3
Old 08-13-2010, 08:29 PM
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You're going to get a lot of huffy replies. You want someone else to do all the work, for below market price (which starts at around $20 K), and you're still the boss and insistent on little changes at every step of the process. It might be worth your while to take a screenwriting class at a local community college, do the first draft yourself, and have any interested producer types handle the script-doctoring at their end and at their own expense.
#4
Old 08-13-2010, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
Let's say I have an idea
That's part of what will elicit the huffiness. People systemically overestimate the value of "ideas." It's all in the execution.

Put differently, if the hypothetical screenwriter-for-hire is accomplished enough to write a salable script using your idea, he's almost certainly accomplished enough to do/have done so using his own ideas.

And they'd be much better incentivized to work on their own projects than on your piecework, as you clearly intend to keep all the grand slam upside, which is what attracts most aspiring screenwriters.
#5
Old 08-13-2010, 08:43 PM
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If you go to a local college that offers a screenwriting class, and you dont want to enroll and learn a little scriptwriting yourself, ask the instructor if he can recommend some star students who may take the job for a flat fee you can afford. Hell, if you get lucky, and offer enough pay, the instructor might accept a pay-for-hire job. You may not get an Oscar-quality screenplay, but it should be at least competent.
#6
Old 08-13-2010, 08:47 PM
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If you use a WGA writer, here's the schedule.

If you want to get it produced in Hollywood, and don't use a WGA writer, or want to get one cheaper, you have to get special dispensation from the union.
#7
Old 08-13-2010, 09:32 PM
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I'd do it for $10k.

But then I am not a WGA writer, I live in a country where the money would go further, and I am not very experienced. I'm fresh meat ripe for the plucking (which is a mixed metaphor that shows just what my writing skill level is).
#8
Old 08-13-2010, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by bup View Post
If you use a WGA writer, here's the schedule.

If you want to get it produced in Hollywood, and don't use a WGA writer, or want to get one cheaper, you have to get special dispensation from the union.
Remember that "in Hollywood" doesn't just mean the major studios anymore. There are a few independent studios that are non-union these days. They don't produce high-concept summer blockbusters, though.
#9
Old 08-13-2010, 10:24 PM
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Look, just ask yourself one question.

Say that you found someone who would be willing to write up your idea for $10,000.

Are you capable of telling whether the final result is worth the money?

If the answer is no, forget the whole idea, even if the amount is $5.00.

P.S. I've been a professional writer for decades and I couldn't tell you whether a screenplay was good or not. It's not my field of expertise. Is it yours?
#10
Old 08-13-2010, 10:31 PM
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I have a writing credit on the IMDB. And I am cheaper than Rand Rover.
#11
Old 08-13-2010, 10:59 PM
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I have writing credits all over these boards (though technically I guess the Chicago Reader owns my stuff)

I'll do it for less than all of the others, combined!
#12
Old 08-14-2010, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Krokodil View Post
You're going to get a lot of huffy replies. You want someone else to do all the work, for below market price (which starts at around $20 K)
I don't want to do it for below market price. I asked in the OP what the market price was. Then I said, if the market price happens to be below a certain threshold, I wouldn't mind doing it.

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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
Let's say I have an idea
That's part of what will elicit the huffiness. People systemically overestimate the value of "ideas." It's all in the execution.

Put differently, if the hypothetical screenwriter-for-hire is accomplished enough to write a salable script using your idea, he's almost certainly accomplished enough to do/have done so using his own ideas.
As I said, I don't need to find a tier-1 or even a tier-2 writer. Just about anyone who is a professional writer would be able to do a better job at it than me, so they don't have to be that accomplished (i.e. have written blockbusters before). Of course, I don't want total crap, so I guess it's a balance between price and quality.
#13
Old 08-14-2010, 02:27 AM
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Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber View Post
If you go to a local college that offers a screenwriting class, and you dont want to enroll and learn a little scriptwriting yourself, ask the instructor if he can recommend some star students who may take the job for a flat fee you can afford. Hell, if you get lucky, and offer enough pay, the instructor might accept a pay-for-hire job. You may not get an Oscar-quality screenplay, but it should be at least competent.
Great suggestion. These types of recommendations were what I had in mind when writing the OP.

(Also, I thought there may be some online forums or websites where professional and/or amateur screenwriters hang out and people go there to find someone to write their script. Are there such places online?)

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Originally Posted by bup View Post
If you use a WGA writer, here's the schedule.
Thanks for the info.
#14
Old 08-14-2010, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Look, just ask yourself one question.

Say that you found someone who would be willing to write up your idea for $10,000.

Are you capable of telling whether the final result is worth the money?

If the answer is no, forget the whole idea, even if the amount is $5.00.
Interesting point for me to ponder.

I would say though that, if it did indeed cost very little, couldn't I pay to have it written, and then show the result to someone who could decide if the result is any good?

Of course, once the amount starts getting up there, it starts becoming a gamble to first pay and then ask someone else if it is any good.
#15
Old 08-14-2010, 02:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bup View Post
If you use a WGA writer, here's the schedule.
Wow, I just took a look, and, if I'm reading it correctly, the price for an original screenplay is in the range $62,642 to $117,602. Definitely out of my range.

Quote:
If you want to get it produced in Hollywood, and don't use a WGA writer, or want to get one cheaper, you have to get special dispensation from the union.
Is it a good idea to get it done cheaply, say by an aspiring screenwriting student or by an amateur screenwriter, and then, after showing the result to people who can evaluate the potential for moving forward, and if they see potential value, only then go to these higher-priced screenwriters?

Last edited by Polerius; 08-14-2010 at 02:43 AM.
#16
Old 08-14-2010, 02:48 AM
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how about you... post the idea here, post a bounty of a modest yet alluring sum, and see what kind of talent the SDMB can muster up? the down side is that you'll probably have to sift through like, 20 versions of essentially the same script but it would definitely be done at a discount.
#17
Old 08-14-2010, 02:52 AM
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What about the idea of a flat rate and then a %age of the rights? Is this just not done in the industry, or is this a reasonable middle ground?
#18
Old 08-14-2010, 03:53 AM
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"I have an idea for" is maybe 1% of the work of really fleshing out a story or a dramatic character. Biographies and non-fiction aside, throwing a bunch of ideas at a writer as the basis for a dramatic fictional story and expecting the result they ultimately come up with will be anything approximate to what you have in your head is (to be frank) kind of a foolish expectation.

A fictional story and it's characters takes on a life of their own in the hands of a decent writer. You really need to tell your whole story in your own words at least once before having someone ghostwrite your ideas.
#19
Old 08-14-2010, 04:12 AM
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Of course, there is the other trick, where you trap a starving screenwriter in your decaying mansion, seduce him into writing a fanciful screenplay that will return you to your beloved fans, and demand his undying loyalty.

Are you ready for your closeup now?

Stranger
#20
Old 08-14-2010, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
P.S. I've been a professional writer for decades and I couldn't tell you whether a screenplay was good or not. It's not my field of expertise. Is it yours?
Evidently from the garbage that gets made into movies, TV and songs and the like, you're not the only one that can't tell a good from a bad screenplay
#21
Old 08-14-2010, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
What about the idea of a flat rate and then a %age of the rights? Is this just not done in the industry, or is this a reasonable middle ground?
It's not done. Certain predatory individuals pay someone peanuts to get the idea in script form, take the script to a more renowned writer and say "I wrote this. Can you polish it up for a flat fee and a percentage?" The initial ghostwriter is cut out after having agreed to forego most of his fee in favor of a payout down the road. A ghostwriter usually agrees that the upfront money is all he'll ever see, so he makes it a sum worth his while.

Mark Evanier, a prolific writer in many formats (mostly comics and TV animation), frequently blogs about the adventures of people with a great idea who approach him to write it up on spec or for minimal upfront money. These stories never end happily.

Last edited by Horatio Hellpop; 08-14-2010 at 08:44 AM.
#22
Old 08-14-2010, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Enderw24 View Post
I have writing credits all over these boards (though technically I guess the Chicago Reader owns my stuff)

I'll do it for less than all of the others, combined!
No they don't:
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#23
Old 08-14-2010, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
What about the idea of a flat rate and then a %age of the rights? Is this just not done in the industry, or is this a reasonable middle ground?
This screenplay will never make a single penny. So why would anybody sane lower the price upfront for a percentage of money that will never appear?

This applies across all writing. Writers are always told to get all the money in the advance or as a flat fee because the odds of making money off the back end are so remote.

There are some circumstances in which a percentage of the rights make sense, but those involve known professional producers for whom making movies are their successful businesses. For unknowns, it is simply never a good idea.
#24
Old 08-14-2010, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
I would say though that, if it did indeed cost very little, couldn't I pay to have it written, and then show the result to someone who could decide if the result is any good?
Uh-huh. Who is that and why the hell should they take any time to read your screenplay?

As said above, professionals won't waste their time like this except for very, very close friends and relatives (and mostly never twice). Why should they? What's in it for them? I've been part of writer's workshops and enjoyed them, but I never, ever read and evaluate amateur work on the outside. Amateurs are insane and I'd frankly be afraid to tell them the truth. (If you think this is an overreaction, you don't know the world of wannabe writers.)

Admittedly, there are screenplay competitions and industry conferences that allow amateurs to submit scripts. I have never heard of any of these scripts being made into a professional-level movie. Personally, I consider them a sophisticated form of marketing scam. There are of course costs involved in entering the script into the competition or in conference fees so somebody winds up making money. Just not you.

Am I trying to discourage you from spending your money foolishly? Yes, I am.
#25
Old 08-14-2010, 01:38 PM
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Something I've heard various professional writers say is this:

Ideas are ten a penny. The hard part is writing them. Any good writer is going to have lots of ideas of his own. He will have more ideas than time to write them. He will not be interested in writing your ideas for you. He won't even want to hear your ideas.

See one writer's comment here.

If he hears your ideas, and his next screenplay resembles yours however slightly, even one similar line, then you might sue him and claim that he stole your idea. Refusing to look at your idea protects him against that.
#26
Old 08-14-2010, 03:27 PM
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I work in the entertainment industry.... Or to be more precise I am a lawyer who practices in that industry. Also take into account that I am refering to the argentinian market.
First of all, ideas are worthless: you can't even copyright them!
There are several stages before you have a workable script. For example, the "treatment" that is a rough summary of the story with no detailed scenes and no dialogues. This is copyrightable and I would advise you to register it before contacting anybody.
Then you can hire a scriptwriter. You should consult a lawyer first but the idea is that for the agreed consideration he assigns all the his rights as the author of the script to you (in the US there is a "work for hire" provission in your Copyright act).
You can hire him for a flat fee or for flat fee plus a percentage of your earnings.
Finally, as to the price. This week I drafted a contract for hiring an scriptwriter. The price? 40.000 american dollars.

Last edited by Estilicon; 08-14-2010 at 03:27 PM.
#27
Old 08-14-2010, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
Is it a good idea to get it done cheaply, say by an aspiring screenwriting student or by an amateur screenwriter, and then, after showing the result to people who can evaluate the potential for moving forward, and if they see potential value, only then go to these higher-priced screenwriters?
I'm getting, no offense, a very naiive view on your part of how the industry works. You seem to be starting from the assumption that (a) there are legions of accomplished (not too accomplished, but adequately) people who have trained in/have aptitude for screenwriting but have a shortage of their own good "ideas" and (b) lots of script evaluators/buyers who need to actively seek out new scripts to replenish their inbox, both classes of people anxiously awaiting your "idea" as the one missing ingredient of the industry.

That's just not how it works and there is a reason that I have never heard of an unproven individual outsourcing the entire writing of a script, then getting all or most of the upside (studios may outsource rewrite, and writers who have proven their box office/market value on their own sometimes get lazy and lean on ghost/co-writers, but that's an entirely different scenario).

Put differently, who is doing most of the "value-add" in your scenario? You've got the journeyman first-draft writer adding tons of text, characterization, plot detail, atmosphere. You've got the "evaluator" giving years of expert experience to tell you which part works and what would need to change. You've got the first-tier rewrite guy taking it from a rambling inconsistent but promising first draft to a polished filmable product. Compared to each of them, do you really think your initial idea is so valuable that they will all willingly fall into line and sign up under its sway?

I (again not unkindly) use the word "naiive" with reference to the blithe reference to "showing the result to people." If not the biggest, than the second-biggest cliche in Hollywood (probably before that in publishing) is the notion that (a) everyone in L.A. (cab driver, waiter, pool boy) has a screenplay he's trying to "get someone to take a look at" and that (b) everyone with the slightest degree of experience in/connection with the studios spends a substantial part of his time desperately trying to avoid people who want to foist off said screenplays on them, invoke their influence, etc.

Others have emphasized this but I'm not sure it's taking -- "ideas" are the easy part. I had an idea that a faster than light space ship would be great. No one's going to give me a patent for that space ship, nor is there anyone who's remotely qualified to do the legwork to actually make it happen who needs or wants me to commission him to do it on my behalf.

I could come up with six plausible, kind of interesting movie ideas in one minute. Here go -- Chechen terrorists who look European infiltrate the U.S., leading up to a big climactic standoff at the White House. A modern version of the Three Musketeers, but it's office politics instead of real warfare/political intrigue. America elects its first Chinese-American president, with all sorts of wacky cultural misunderstandings from his extended first-generation immigrant relatives. Two soldiers grapple with both the stress of war in Afghanistan and their growing realization that what they feel for each other may be more than just camaraderie -- all under the shadow of the don't ask don't tell policy. A couple meet in a chatroom and conduct their entire courtship in 140 character Twitter messages, meeting in real life only at the altar. A woman discovers her great-great-grandmother's Civil War-era love letters and sets out to see if revisiting the scenes where she and her beau had traveled to during that period can revive her ailing marriage.

Ah Hell, that took more like four minutes for the typing, but that's six "ideas." And feel free to steal any of them, 'cause as such, they're worth about the pixel they are printed with.

Last edited by Huerta88; 08-14-2010 at 04:03 PM.
#28
Old 08-14-2010, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
People systemically overestimate the value of "ideas." It's all in the execution.
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Originally Posted by astro View Post
"I have an idea for" is maybe 1% of the work of really fleshing out a story or a dramatic character.
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Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
Ideas are ten a penny. The hard part is writing them.
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Originally Posted by Estilicon View Post
First of all, ideas are worthless
Guys, you are preaching to the choir. Yes, I know that ideas are worthless without great execution. And they are worth even less when coming from someone outside the industry.

That's why I said in the OP "I know that the chance that it will ever get made into anything are essentially zero"

However:
  1. I want to try to move away from just the "idea" phase to a first step towards seeing the idea on paper.
  2. One route would be for me to take some classes, and then try to write it myself. Not only would this take a lot of time and effort, but I'm pretty sure that most current screenwriting students and amateur screenwriters would do a better job than me, so this route is out of the question.
  3. That leaves me paying someone to do it. Since the probability of some eventual success is practically zero, I don't want to spend too much money on it. The only thing that motivates me to spend a non-zero amount of money on this is the satisfaction I would get from seeing the idea taken from simple idea to an actual screenplay.
  4. This satisfaction is not worth $40,000 to $60,000, which seems to be the current rate for a professional job.
  5. This means that if I move forward, I would have to find some screenwriting student or amateur screenwriter to do it for a fraction of the price of a professional. Sure, the quality will be significantly lower, but at least the "idea" (which most people see as worthless) is now on paper in some fleshed-out form (which some people may potentially see as not totally worthless). Whether I stop at this stage or move forward depends on how this initial screenplay looks, but I can see that even with this initial screenplay in hand the probability of some future success is still practically zero.
#29
Old 08-14-2010, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
I would say though that, if it did indeed cost very little, couldn't I pay to have it written, and then show the result to someone who could decide if the result is any good?
Uh-huh. Who is that and why the hell should they take any time to read your screenplay?

As said above, professionals won't waste their time like this except for very, very close friends and relatives (and mostly never twice). Why should they? What's in it for them? I've been part of writer's workshops and enjoyed them, but I never, ever read and evaluate amateur work on the outside. Amateurs are insane and I'd frankly be afraid to tell them the truth. (If you think this is an overreaction, you don't know the world of wannabe writers.)

Admittedly, there are screenplay competitions and industry conferences that allow amateurs to submit scripts. I have never heard of any of these scripts being made into a professional-level movie. Personally, I consider them a sophisticated form of marketing scam. There are of course costs involved in entering the script into the competition or in conference fees so somebody winds up making money. Just not you.

Am I trying to discourage you from spending your money foolishly? Yes, I am.
Thanks for the info and the warnings. Since I'm not familiar with this industry all such input is useful.
#30
Old 08-14-2010, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Estilicon View Post
There are several stages before you have a workable script. For example, the "treatment" that is a rough summary of the story with no detailed scenes and no dialogues. This is copyrightable and I would advise you to register it before contacting anybody.
Useful info, thanks.

Quote:
Then you can hire a scriptwriter. You should consult a lawyer first but the idea is that for the agreed consideration he assigns all the his rights as the author of the script to you (in the US there is a "work for hire" provission in your Copyright act).
You can hire him for a flat fee or for flat fee plus a percentage of your earnings.
I don't think anyone would want to do this for a percentage of earnings, especially for someone from outside the industry like me, since the probability of any earnings is essentially zero, so most likely I'm looking at a flat fee.

Quote:
Finally, as to the price. This week I drafted a contract for hiring an scriptwriter. The price? 40.000 american dollars.
It's becoming clear that the prices for professional writers are much higher than I had thought, and are higher than what I'm willing to pay, for "just an idea". I may not proceed with this, but if I do, it looks like I will have to find a student or an amateur.
#31
Old 08-14-2010, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
Thanks for the info and the warnings. Since I'm not familiar with this industry all such input is useful.
We're trying not to rain on your parade, but reality kind of requires it in this situation. And as others have pointed out, if you go looking for takers to help you break into the entertainment industry (essentially what you're doing), you may well find takers, but (human nature being what it is) the odds are much higher of the people you find being the type of takers who end up walking away enriched with your money than your walking away with anything that will get you into the industry.

Two additional thoughts.

1. Why do you want to work up your idea? Presumably, it's because you think it would look great up on the screen (with your name attached to it). Think for a minute about every single person who has training or aptitude as a screenwriter (and many who don't). They all have the exact same motivation. There are fairly strong negative incentives for them to put their ideas on hold to get a few thousand bucks from some other much lesser (in their view) aspiring but unproven market entrant. "But I'd pay them something, which is better than what they're making as students!" Wannabe actors and Hollywood types are notorious for their willingness to be underemployed/unemployed for years while they chase their dream. They're not so well-known for taking low-rent assignments to further someone else's dream.

2. The scenario you propose has never, to the knowledge of anyone here, worked or been made to work by anyone (someone correct me if I'm missing an example). Never -- breaking into a creative business on a piecework/outsourced basis is just unheard of.

Just something to consider, as with any business proposition.

Last edited by Huerta88; 08-14-2010 at 04:18 PM.
#32
Old 08-14-2010, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
2. The scenario you propose has never, to the knowledge of anyone here, worked or been made to work by anyone (someone correct me if I'm missing an example). Never -- breaking into a creative business on a piecework/outsourced basis is just unheard of.
Quite true. Never. This has never worked.

You've heard of vanity publishing? This is vanity screenplay writing. You won't have much trouble finding somebody who would eagerly take all the money from you that they can. It's like a Nigerian scam for real.

However, at this point I'm switching sides. I encourage you to go ahead and do this, trying as hard as you can.

Why? Because like everybody else in the world I love it when people fail to take my advice and I get to say "I told you so."
#33
Old 08-14-2010, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
I'm getting, no offense, a very naiive view on your part of how the industry works. You seem to be starting from the assumption that (a) there are legions of accomplished (not too accomplished, but adequately) people who have trained in/have aptitude for screenwriting but have a shortage of their own good "ideas"
I don't assume this. Even if some aspiring writer has several ideas of their own that they are working on, they may have no regular income, so they get some income by writing something for someone else. Surely this is not an impossibility, right? A quick Google search shows that there are such individuals: "screenwriter for hire"

Whether they are any good is another question, but you make it seem like there is no one who will abandon their own ideas to work on someone else's.

Quote:
and (b) lots of script evaluators/buyers who need to actively seek out new scripts to replenish their inbox


I understand that people in the industry get bombarded by scripts every day.

Even if was aware of the above, you reminding me of this in the context of this thread is useful, since it makes me realize that even if I was insane enough to spend $100,000 to get a great writer to develop the screenplay and even if the screenplay turned out great, there is still the issue of pitching this screenplay, and being successful at this is very unlikely given the tons of people inside the industry doing it every day. And it gets even worse if this is done with a crappy screenplay, the one I would most likely get with the amount of money I'm willing to spend.


Quote:
That's just not how it works and there is a reason that I have never heard of an unproven individual outsourcing the entire writing of a script, then getting all or most of the upside
I'm not sure why you bring up the "upside". Wouldn't a script written for an unproven individual like me have an almost zero chance of any future earnings? So, why would the writer worry about getting none of the upside? Wouldn't they just want a flat fee to write this for me, so they can some income and get back to working on their own stuff?


Quote:
I (again not unkindly) use the word "naiive" with reference to the blithe reference to "showing the result to people." If not the biggest, than the second-biggest cliche in Hollywood (probably before that in publishing) is the notion that (a) everyone in L.A. (cab driver, waiter, pool boy) has a screenplay he's trying to "get someone to take a look at" and that (b) everyone with the slightest degree of experience in/connection with the studios spends a substantial part of his time desperately trying to avoid people who want to foist off said screenplays on them, invoke their influence, etc.
As I mentioned above, I am aware of this (mostly via many movies where this is a big cliche about life in L.A.), but you reminding me of it is very useful.

Quote:
I could come up with six plausible, kind of interesting movie ideas in one minute. Here go -- Chechen terrorists who look European infiltrate the U.S., leading up to a big climactic standoff at the White House. A modern version of the Three Musketeers, but it's office politics instead of real warfare/political intrigue. America elects its first Chinese-American president, with all sorts of wacky cultural misunderstandings from his extended first-generation immigrant relatives. Two soldiers grapple with both the stress of war in Afghanistan and their growing realization that what they feel for each other may be more than just camaraderie -- all under the shadow of the don't ask don't tell policy. A couple meet in a chatroom and conduct their entire courtship in 140 character Twitter messages, meeting in real life only at the altar. A woman discovers her great-great-grandmother's Civil War-era love letters and sets out to see if revisiting the scenes where she and her beau had traveled to during that period can revive her ailing marriage.
Well, my idea is better than any of the above

Seriously, though, the practical aspects of this whole process do seem insurmountable.
#34
Old 08-14-2010, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
You've heard of vanity publishing? This is vanity screenplay writing. You won't have much trouble finding somebody who would eagerly take all the money from you that they can. It's like a Nigerian scam for real.
Oh, it's a little worse than that. In vanity publishing, the author just about always has a fully realized (for better or worse) manuscript. All the third party does is format/print it. There's no real book analog to the OP's premise.

Not shockingly, because a vanity-press/self-published author has generally done a beginning-to-end project with a lot of (better or worse) thought and work, and a clear voice, put into it, there are instances of self-published books becoming successful and even making an author famous. Not many these days, but some. I wonder if there are comparable analogies of self-published e-books in more recent times . . . .
#35
Old 08-14-2010, 04:56 PM
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I'll do it.

I am a screenwriter. I've finished two features, sold a short, attend a writer's group and am willing to give your idea a try for $10,000.
Yes, I have lots of my own ideas that I could be working on, but working on them means I'm working for free. Giving your idea a whack means at least I'd be getting paid for my time. And as long as I'm writing, I'm working on my skill.
Some conditions: 1) I'd like to hear your idea first to see if it's a story or a bare-bones idea. 2) What genre were you thinking this would be? I have my strengths and weakness when writing. 3) I'd like to know what sort of time frame your thinking about.
#36
Old 08-14-2010, 04:58 PM
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If you have netflix, you can instant watch the documentary "Tales from the Script" which I watched just last night.

I also have a "great" idea and I even started writing the screenplay (started many times now, as a matter of fact), but after watching this documentary I figure that if I do write it, it will be only for fun because those writers are some VERY unhappy people with some real horror stories. (and these are the writers who have actually had their work made into films)

How about making your idea into a novel instead of a movie?
#37
Old 08-14-2010, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
Oh, it's a little worse than that. In vanity publishing, the author just about always has a fully realized (for better or worse) manuscript. All the third party does is format/print it. There's no real book analog to the OP's premise.

Not shockingly, because a vanity-press/self-published author has generally done a beginning-to-end project with a lot of (better or worse) thought and work, and a clear voice, put into it, there are instances of self-published books becoming successful and even making an author famous. Not many these days, but some. I wonder if there are comparable analogies of self-published e-books in more recent times . . . .
I don't disagree with this in concept. I would make the emphatic point that self-publishing is a very different thing than vanity publishing, especially today. It is much easier to market your own self-published book when you have control over the quality and printing than using a vanity press book, which almost always looks cheaply amateurish. In addition, although there are a small number of examples of vanity published books being discovered, most of the well-known authors who are trotted out as examples (Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Frank Herbert) involve small or specialty presses rather than true vanity presses.
#38
Old 08-14-2010, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88
A modern version of the Three Musketeers, but it's office politics instead of real warfare/political intrigue.
For what it's worth, I'd watch this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88
I wonder if there are comparable analogies of self-published e-books in more recent times . . . .
I can think of three off the top of my head:

John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow first began "publishing" their books by putting them on a website and setting up a "tip jar" link. Both attracted the notice of real publishers and are now highly respected (and bestselling) authors.

Scott Sigler released his fiction as free podcasts (dubbed "podiobooks") a chapter at a time through his website and iTunes. He gained a massive following and he too earned a publishing deal with a real publisher.
#39
Old 08-14-2010, 06:33 PM
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[aside]
I will say this about the execution-versus-idea issue: Yes, execution matters a whole lot, and Hollywood producers have gotten extremely good at it. They can get the top-rated actors, best CGI, best stuntmen, hundreds millions of dollars for financing, etc, so they can make just about any movie they want and make it look good. However, a lot of the stories, character development, and dialog are crap. I guess they still know what they're doing, since they still make millions at the box office, but they may not be doing as well as they could be (I think movie going is down, in real dollar terms, but don't have a cite).

When I come out of some of the blockbuster summer movies I often wonder "If they can put $200 million towards making this movie, why can't they set aside a decent chunk of that and put it on a screenplay that doesn't suck?". Some may answer that they don't need a screenplay that doesn't suck, and they know the optimal way to spend their $200 million to maximize their box office take. However, I think that another possibility is that they have gotten so good at the execution, they can make such dazzling movies these days (from a visual/technical point of view) that they simply go ahead and make a movie even if they don't have the greatest storyline to base it on.

It's like someone who has an amazing factory that can make any gadget they want, but they simply can't come up with enough ideas for amazing gadgets to produce a new one each month, so they go ahead and use their factory to make useless gadgets since they know their gadgets are so dazzling that people will buy them anyway.

The making of movies has become such a colossal enterprise that there are only a few entities which can execute well in this space. So the execution is focused in a small number of entities/companies, and I think this poses a problem, since there is not as much diversity in the types of stories being told, or even the way they are told.

(Artsy, independent films, of course are not covered by the above. The above refers to big mainstream movies)

[/aside]
#40
Old 08-14-2010, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
(Also, I thought there may be some online forums or websites where professional and/or amateur screenwriters hang out and people go there to find someone to write their script. Are there such places online?)
Now that you've heard from the stone-throwers, here's the other side. Many here have rightly suggested that ideas are over-rated - it's true. But the idea that talented screenwriters won't write for you because they have good ideas too is malarky. Screenwriting is their jobs and they strive to get paid for doing it. Almost all first time screenwriters who sell their work go straight to writing others ideas. In fact many spec scripts are written as a way to get their foot in the door. 99% of screenwriters in Hollywood don't write spec scripts, they write to get paid.

I had an idea for a screenplay. I went to seminars, read every book I could get my hands on and wrote, wrote wrote. I listened to podcasts and networked with other hopefuls on forums, etc. Finally I got my foot in the door and had my project optioned with Palm (for a measley $500, they didn't renew and no one else was interested). It's very hard work, but doable. My in finally came (from all places) IMDB Board: Shop Talk Writers. There is a guy that posts there that has sold several scripts and even had a minor but speaking part in Fincher's Zodiak. I haven't hung out there in years but I just checked and he is still posting there. PM me if you are interested as I don't want to identify him here. He's a very knowledgeable and straight forward guy.

Lots of luck on your project.
#41
Old 08-14-2010, 07:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
[aside]
I will say this about the execution-versus-idea issue: Yes, execution matters a whole lot, and Hollywood producers have gotten extremely good at it. They can get the top-rated actors, best CGI, best stuntmen, hundreds millions of dollars for financing, etc, so they can make just about any movie they want and make it look good. However, a lot of the stories, character development, and dialog are crap. I guess they still know what they're doing, since they still make millions at the box office, but they may not be doing as well as they could be (I think movie going is down, in real dollar terms, but don't have a cite).

When I come out of some of the blockbuster summer movies I often wonder "If they can put $200 million towards making this movie, why can't they set aside a decent chunk of that and put it on a screenplay that doesn't suck?". Some may answer that they don't need a screenplay that doesn't suck, and they know the optimal way to spend their $200 million to maximize their box office take. However, I think that another possibility is that they have gotten so good at the execution, they can make such dazzling movies these days (from a visual/technical point of view) that they simply go ahead and make a movie even if they don't have the greatest storyline to base it on.

It's like someone who has an amazing factory that can make any gadget they want, but they simply can't come up with enough ideas for amazing gadgets to produce a new one each month, so they go ahead and use their factory to make useless gadgets since they know their gadgets are so dazzling that people will buy them anyway.

The making of movies has become such a colossal enterprise that there are only a few entities which can execute well in this space. So the execution is focused in a small number of entities/companies, and I think this poses a problem, since there is not as much diversity in the types of stories being told, or even the way they are told.

(Artsy, independent films, of course are not covered by the above. The above refers to big mainstream movies)

[/aside]
Everything you say has truth to it, but when we say "execution" we are also including the "translating an idea to a screenplay," not just the filming/distribution of the screenplay. On your analogy, once again, the crappy products are coming out of the high tech factory not because product planners are too stupid to know that a rollable computer screen or hoverboard or sexbot would sell like hotcakes, but because they don't have the engineering chops to make those concepts work as a product that they can manufacture in that factory and sell at a reasonable price.
#42
Old 08-14-2010, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
[aside]
I will say this about the execution-versus-idea issue: Yes, execution matters a whole lot, and Hollywood producers have gotten extremely good at it. They can get the top-rated actors, best CGI, best stuntmen, hundreds millions of dollars for financing, etc, so they can make just about any movie they want and make it look good. However, a lot of the stories, character development, and dialog are crap. I guess they still know what they're doing, since they still make millions at the box office, but they may not be doing as well as they could be (I think movie going is down, in real dollar terms, but don't have a cite).

When I come out of some of the blockbuster summer movies I often wonder "If they can put $200 million towards making this movie, why can't they set aside a decent chunk of that and put it on a screenplay that doesn't suck?". Some may answer that they don't need a screenplay that doesn't suck, and they know the optimal way to spend their $200 million to maximize their box office take. However, I think that another possibility is that they have gotten so good at the execution, they can make such dazzling movies these days (from a visual/technical point of view) that they simply go ahead and make a movie even if they don't have the greatest storyline to base it on.

It's like someone who has an amazing factory that can make any gadget they want, but they simply can't come up with enough ideas for amazing gadgets to produce a new one each month, so they go ahead and use their factory to make useless gadgets since they know their gadgets are so dazzling that people will buy them anyway.

The making of movies has become such a colossal enterprise that there are only a few entities which can execute well in this space. So the execution is focused in a small number of entities/companies, and I think this poses a problem, since there is not as much diversity in the types of stories being told, or even the way they are told.

(Artsy, independent films, of course are not covered by the above. The above refers to big mainstream movies)

[/aside]
I was trying to stay out of this area as it is a hijack of the OP, but since you brought it up yourself...

Movies are expensive to make. As you mentioned $200 million dollars expensive. The people who put up that kind of money aren't looking to make art, they are looking for a return on their investment. Trends and focus groups show that most Americans wouldn't know art if it lovingly sucked their cocks. They are marketing to the lowest common (paying) denominator. It works, check out a Happy Meal. Movies are not art, they are business.
#43
Old 08-14-2010, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
It's becoming clear that the prices for professional writers are much higher than I had thought, and are higher than what I'm willing to pay, for "just an idea". I may not proceed with this, but if I do, it looks like I will have to find a student or an amateur.
Hee hee hee! Welcome to the Heartless Exploiters' Club! The dues are a little steep, but I think you'll enjiy the stylish crested blazers!
#44
Old 08-14-2010, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
When I come out of some of the blockbuster summer movies I often wonder "If they can put $200 million towards making this movie, why can't they set aside a decent chunk of that and put it on a screenplay that doesn't suck?". Some may answer that they don't need a screenplay that doesn't suck, and they know the optimal way to spend their $200 million to maximize their box office take. However, I think that another possibility is that they have gotten so good at the execution, they can make such dazzling movies these days (from a visual/technical point of view) that they simply go ahead and make a movie even if they don't have the greatest storyline to base it on.
I am not "in the business", but everything I've ever read about screenwriting (and I have done a lot of reading on this subject) indicates that what you see onscreen can bear little resemblance to the screenplay that was actually sold. A lot of problems in movies that get blamed on the "bad script" were actually the result of changes made to the original script. In other words, it may very well be the case that plenty of money was spent on a fabulous screenplay, and that the suckiness was introduced at a later stage in the moviemaking process.

Once a script is sold, the screenwriter loses control of the project. The studio can do whatever they want with it. IIRC if the studio wants a rewrite then the original writer has the right to have the first crack at it, but after that it can be totally rewritten by someone else...sometimes again and again. The director and in some cases even the stars also have the ability to make substantial changes to the story and dialogue. For more about how a good screenplay can become a bad movie and why it's foolish to assume you can determine the quality of the script from watching the finished movie, see this Wordplay column.
#45
Old 08-14-2010, 08:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlainJain View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polerius View Post
(Also, I thought there may be some online forums or websites where professional and/or amateur screenwriters hang out and people go there to find someone to write their script. Are there such places online?)
Now that you've heard from the stone-throwers, here's the other side. Many here have rightly suggested that ideas are over-rated - it's true. But the idea that talented screenwriters won't write for you because they have good ideas too is malarky. Screenwriting is their jobs and they strive to get paid for doing it. Almost all first time screenwriters who sell their work go straight to writing others ideas. In fact many spec scripts are written as a way to get their foot in the door. 99% of screenwriters in Hollywood don't write spec scripts, they write to get paid.

I had an idea for a screenplay. I went to seminars, read every book I could get my hands on and wrote, wrote wrote. I listened to podcasts and networked with other hopefuls on forums, etc. Finally I got my foot in the door and had my project optioned with Palm (for a measley $500, they didn't renew and no one else was interested). It's very hard work, but doable. My in finally came (from all places) IMDB Board: Shop Talk Writers. There is a guy that posts there that has sold several scripts and even had a minor but speaking part in Fincher's Zodiak. I haven't hung out there in years but I just checked and he is still posting there. PM me if you are interested as I don't want to identify him here. He's a very knowledgeable and straight forward guy.

Lots of luck on your project.
Congratulations on your perseverance. But unless I'm misreading, what you are saying here is the precise opposite of what Polerius wants to do.

Real writers do the hard work. They study, strive, network, and "write, write, write." That's not unique: that's the norm.

It's also true that many screenplays are written as a job. It's hard to believe that Guillermo del Toro has been waiting his entire life to make a movie based on Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.

Neither remotely applies to Polerius. He doesn't want to write, write, write. He wants someone else to. He's not a producer with a guaranteed buyer for a $200 million movie. He's not a director who wants to film his vision. He's not a screenwriter who has characters that are begging to be filmed. It doesn't even sound like he's a pornographer who wants someone to write up a script so he can film his girlfriend nude. (Yes, many movies were made for this reason.) He doesn't fit into any of the categories by which real movies are made.

As for Polerius' aside: every writer in the galaxy has been saying exactly that for decades. Big whoop. Whatever your plan is won't change the reality of Hollywood any more than it will add a new head to Mt. Rushmore.
#46
Old 08-14-2010, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Justin_Bailey View Post
I can think of three off the top of my head:

John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow first began "publishing" their books by putting them on a website and setting up a "tip jar" link. Both attracted the notice of real publishers and are now highly respected (and bestselling) authors.

Scott Sigler released his fiction as free podcasts (dubbed "podiobooks") a chapter at a time through his website and iTunes. He gained a massive following and he too earned a publishing deal with a real publisher.
Sorry, I meant to address this.

Cory Doctorow. Not true, I believe. He released his first novel online simultaneously with its publication by Tor. He was already a full-time writer, though.

John Scalzi. True. Again, he was a full-time nonfiction writer for a decade before doing this.

Scott Sigler. True. Except, of course, for the decade he spent publishing novels before his breakthrough online.
#47
Old 08-14-2010, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow first began "publishing" their books by putting them on a website and setting up a "tip jar" link. Both attracted the notice of real publishers and are now highly respected (and bestselling) authors.

Scott Sigler released his fiction as free podcasts (dubbed "podiobooks") a chapter at a time through his website and iTunes. He gained a massive following and he too earned a publishing deal with a real publisher.
Sorry, I meant to address this.

Cory Doctorow. Not true, I believe. He released his first novel online simultaneously with its publication by Tor. He was already a full-time writer, though.

John Scalzi. True. Again, he was a full-time nonfiction writer for a decade before doing this.

Scott Sigler. True. Except, of course, for the decade he spent publishing novels before his breakthrough online.
What are our rules? What do we do with guys who had popular blogs/websites (Fark, Real Ultimate Power, Four Hour Workweek (??)) first and then got book deals? That seems to be a not-super-rare route (though the "books" are often just lame-o rehashes/compilations of the web postings).

Or are we only talking straight self-published fiction?

Last edited by Huerta88; 08-14-2010 at 08:46 PM.
#48
Old 08-14-2010, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
Once a script is sold, the screenwriter loses control of the project. The studio can do whatever they want with it. IIRC if the studio wants a rewrite then the original writer has the right to have the first crack at it, but after that it can be totally rewritten by someone else...sometimes again and again. The director and in some cases even the stars also have the ability to make substantial changes to the story and dialogue.
Sometimes watching a bad movie you can glimpse fragments of the original script -- little bits of dialog that suggest character motivations that no longer exist, story arcs that imply the existence of scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, odd discontinuities that would make sense if you jiggered things around a little.

One of the games that my family plays after we go to a movie is trying to reconstruct the bad decisions were made on the fly during production. How was the story originally supposed to work before it got mucked up by the director ... ?
#49
Old 08-14-2010, 09:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
What are our rules? What do we do with guys who had popular blogs/websites (Fark, Real Ultimate Power, Four Hour Workweek (??)) first and then got book deals? That seems to be a not-super-rare route (though the "books" are often just lame-o rehashes/compilations of the web postings).

Or are we only talking straight self-published fiction?
Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!

I completely agree that people have gotten attention from online publishing and made deal with major mainstream publishers. That covers a lot of ground, from e-books to blogs.

I just wanted to make the point that many of the examples that get pointed to are really from experienced writers trying to leverage their expertise. That's perfectly honorable and smart. It's not quite the same as somebody who sticks their writing up online and gets noticed the first time out, which many people seem to believe is the case. There are some of those but they are far rarer.
#50
Old 08-14-2010, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Congratulations on your perseverance. But unless I'm misreading, what you are saying here is the precise opposite of what Polerius wants to do.
Sorry if my point was lost. I'm jaded from having this discussion too many times and I take responsibility for my jumbled meaning.
It seems from the OP he recognizes the futility of the exercise but wishes to pursue it anyway:
"I do have an idea for a screenplay, and I know that the chance that it will ever get made into anything are essentially zero, but if the price is not too high (say, $10,000 or less), I would like to see my idea turn into a screenplay."

Which was met with:
Originally Posted by Huerta88:
People systemically overestimate the value of "ideas." It's all in the execution.

Originally Posted by astro:
"I have an idea for" is maybe 1% of the work of really fleshing out a story or a dramatic character."

Originally Posted by Peter Morris:
"Ideas are ten a penny. The hard part is writing them."

Originally Posted by Estilicon:
"First of all, ideas are worthless"

I was trying to point out that even if your idea is second to an actual script, that doesn't mean that you can't get a decent writer to put it into 120 pages of professional material just because that writer might have good ideas of his own.

My second point was that an outsider (as I was) can get their foot in the door if they network enough. If the OP pays for someone to produce a sellable script and he is willing to work hard and smart enough he has a shot at getting it read. It's not as hard as you might think if you are creative. For a script to get read by a big wig it must first get past "the help". I got past that step by step by befriending Pamela Wallace who I met at a seminar. Rather than talk about 'the biz' I asked her if she knew the best place to eat while visiting Monterey, she in turn introduced me to a low level reader.

It's a loooong shot sure, but doable. I know because I've done it. My only regret is that I'm not a better writer so I could have capitalized on it.
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