Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: When her step-brother, whom she’s never met before, gets back from rehab, a 16 year-old girl with all sorts of issues engages in a bizarre, sexually dysfunctional friendship with him.
About: Alexander McAulay has found a small level of success selling novels, but this appears to be his first real screenplay (or at least the first one he broke in with). It finished fairly high on last year’s Black List, though it is so messed up I don’t know if anyone’s going to have the balls to buy it.
Writer: Alexander McAulay
Details: 99 pages

AnnaSophia-RobbAnnaSophia Robb as Erica?

Sometimes you read something and you go, “Did I just read that?” Because you can’t believe that you actually did. Like Fatties. I still have nightmares about the amputation fisting scene. But Flower, with its appropriately coy title, may go beyond even that script. I mean, this thing is so messed up I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess you should imagine Flower as “Fatties meets Heathers.” That would give you a small inkling of how delirious it is. The question is, would anyone actually purchase it? Getting on the Black List is great. But it doesn’t always mean a sale. It just gives you the kind of exposure that may lead to a sale.

Personally, I think this was a brilliant move by McAulay. He knew the chances of Flower getting made were slim, but he also knew that if he pushed the envelope and made the reader uncomfortable, that you’d remember his script. And call him in for a meeting. And that’s all you’re really trying to accomplish as a screenwriter. Get as many people as familiar with your work as possible. Because the more people who know you, the more rooms you get into, the more jobs you get.

Oh, so what do I mean when I say this script is crazy? Well it starts with this girl, 16 year-old Erica Vandros, blowing a really creepy old dude in a van. After he finishes, Erica’s best friends, Claudine and Kala, come out of the bushes, informing the man they’ve been taping the whole thing. If he doesn’t give them every cent he’s got, he’s going to jail for a long time. Oh yeah, and this isn’t an isolated incident. They do this ALL THE TIME.

Erica’s saving up money to bail her deadbeat dad out of jail. But her blowjob streak is interrupted when Luke moves in. Luke is her stepdad’s son, the result of a new enough relationship with her mom that she and Luke have never met. Luke is really fat.  Like Southwest Airlines “buy two seats” fat. I think Erica describes him as if “Jabba The Hut sat around all day eating lard.”

So how does this relationship begin?  Well, what better way to introduce yourself to your new step-brother than asking him if he wants a blowjob! Yes, Erica’s so into blowing guys (preferably guys she doesn’t know) that she actually has a sketch book where she’s drawn all the penises she’s encountered. What a classy lady. Luke is so freaked out by girls in general that he declines, and a baffled Erica eventually learns that the reason for this (and his craziness in general) has something to do with a guy who lives in the house across the street molesting him as a boy.

This angers Erica, who puts Operation Stepbrother Blowjob on hold so she can take Paul (the neighbor in question) down. She and her friends will drug him, take a bunch of sleazy pictures with him, then use those pictures to blackmail him out of everything he owns.

Things don’t go exactly according to plan though. (Spoiler) Molester Dude sort of… dies accidentally during the drugging, which means Erica’s a murderer. So she goes on the run with Luke, deciding to kill two birds with one stone and bail her father out of jail along the way. But what happens instead are a lot of confessions that amount to these two being big fat liars their whole lives. Including that little molestation accusation that led to Paul’s death.  Oops.

fatkid_02_medium-453x400

Like I said, this is a great script to get you noticed. It’s risky. It’s daring. It makes you feel weird reading it. I wrote an article awhile back about not writing “soft” scripts. This is anything but soft. It’s got pointy, stabby edges that are continually jabbing at your insides. I mean, I’m not going to pretend like it’s God’s gift to screenwriting or anything. But I’ve been pretty bored with my reading the last few weeks and this was the first time a script really made me sit up and pay attention. So it had SOMETHING going for it.

And it wasn’t just a string of shocks either. McAulay knows how to construct a story with goals and obstacles and conflict all the way through.  I liked that Erica wasn’t just sitting around on her ass being a boring independent movie character all the time.  She’s out there actively making money so she can bail out her father.  And when Luke enters the equation, Erica’s goal slides over to taking down the molester.  That’s what you need in a script – you need to feel like the characters are moving towards something at all times, even if it’s something odd or nontraditional that would only make sense in their particular universe.

Also, if you’re going to get on the Black List like Flower, you need interesting characters – characters readers haven’t seen before.  Both Luke and Erica definitely fit this bill. Luke is half-crazy, suicidal, an oxycontin addict and a food addict. And Erica’s an enigma. She’s a blowjob addict. She’s funny. She’s over-the-top. But I think, most importantly, you DON’T FORGET HER. I read so many forgettable female characters in screenplays. I PROMISE you, with this girl’s attitude and the shit that comes out of her mouth, you will NOT forget her.

The only thing that hurt the script was that every now and then, it felt “written.”  In other words, when you read something, you could actually see the writer typing it down.  It’s typically a bad thing as it means you’re not immersed in the story.   I mean, when Erica’s mom kisses her and she yells back, “more tongue, ma! Or I feel gypped!” or when she spots Luke, “Look! Shamu’s found dry land!” or later to Luke, “Don’t you want revenge? Or did he rape all the manhood out of you?” you can smell McAulay grinning deliciously at his little insults.

And then you have things like Luke getting back from rehab, then a scene later, his molester from ten years ago moving into the house across the street – I mean, come on, what are the chances?  A plot should be invisible.  It must not draw attention to itself.  When you cram big plot points together like that, they expose the gears of your story.  The reader shouldn’t see the gears of the story.  It’s like seeing behind the curtain in Oz.

The funny thing is, it almost worked. I mean, the story and characters were so out there, so weird, and people were always doing and saying things that were so bizarre, why not make it a giant translucent chicken drumstick of crazy?  If you’re laughing, you might not care that you can tell the writer’s there in the room with you, typing away.

I don’t know if the masses are ready for Flower though. This thing is offensive at every turn. Who’s going to pony up five million bucks to have a high school girl parade around town offering blow jobs to old men? I guess it could happen. You have to find that really fucked up filmmaker, like a young version of whoever that guy was who directed “KIDS” back in the day. But I’m not holding my breath.

Still, despite its weirdness, I wanted to see what happened. I wanted to get to the end. And the writing was infinitely readable. Enviably sparse and to the point. It was one of the faster 99 pages I’ve ever read recently. I’m going to recommend this only to the weirdos though (like me!). If you’re not the kind of person who waits til you and your friend are alone so you can start cracking the most inappropriate, insensitive jokes in history, you’re probably not going to like this.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Beware the perfectly-timed coincidence. Coincidences are your enemy in screenplays. If things that you need for your story to work just show up out of nowhere at just the right time, the audience will groan and roll their eyes and call you on it. The perfect example is Luke coming back from rehab and, what do you know, the guy who molested him at some faraway camp a decade ago has just moved in directly across the street.  It may be EASIER to write that plot point, since you don’t have to put any effort into it, but it’s always better to go the extra mile and make your major plot points coincidence-free.

What I learned 2: While it certainly isn’t a prerequisite, if you can write two really quirky weird characters into your script, your chances of getting on the Black List go up 100 fold.  The Black List loves the unique weird offbeat strange characters.

  • Magga

    Based on the description, I’d see this movie in a second. I guess my brain isn’t wired to understand what is mainstream and what isn’t, because this sounds like a great pitch to me while all the major Hollywood movies I see feel like recreations of 9/11, which I can’t fathom why average people would put themselves through over and over.

  • Linkthis83

    It’s refreshing to see a writer actively creating a character that a woman….er….teenage girl would want to play. I was just thinking the other day how HW is missing the teen blowjob demo. And the plan is genius: actually give blowjobs to completion and THEN blackmail for all the money. What if all he has is plastic on him? Do we now drive to the nearest ATM? And why couldn’t you just continually extort for the money? Why just a one time deal? It’d really cut down on the number of bj’s one must do. I think I’m just being snarky against this concept because it just makes me say “Really?”

    And it did well on the BL, really? And it gets a [x] worth the read, really? My ideas are going to crash and burn in the business then. Oh well, I will write what I want nonetheless.

    OT: I just wanted to throw out there that I’m working on some pages for the Sheldon Turner Industry Insider Competition. I’m close to having a readable draft and my plan is to post it on here to get some feedback from those who are willing. I’m hoping to have it done by tomorrow, if not, I will probably wait until Monday (I don’t want to take any time away from the AF writer). I’m also doing this just to give myself a peer pressure deadline. Thanks in advance.

    • Rzwan Cabani

      You already know I’m waitin’ for it brah.

    • gazrow

      “I’m close to having a readable draft and my plan is to post it on here to get some feedback from those who are willing.”

      I promise you’ll never write another word by the time I’m finished with your pathetic offering!

      Ha! Only kidding, Link. Looking forward to reading it and hopefully giving you some useful feedback. :)

      • Linkthis83

        “Very well. Dr Schlotkin, do your worst.”

        • gazrow

          “My pleasure.”

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Send me a copy to GregoryMandarano at aol.com. ill give you some feedback that’s as helpful as I can muster.

      • Linkthis83

        Much appreciated.

        • Kirk Diggler

          I’ll take a look at it too.

    • ElectricDreamer

      Is this a complete feature length script or just the required opener for the contest?

      • Linkthis83

        The first 15 pages.

        • ElectricDreamer

          I’m in.
          soleil dot rouge13 at gmail dot com

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Haha, I love this comment because it’s the exact opposite reaction I had ;-)

      Does anybody have this script? It sounds awesome.

      Probably only because I had an idea pretty damn similar to this once, except this is even better because it goes further. I want to read!

      • gazrow

        I have the script – gazrow at hotmail dot com :)

  • Ansar M. Smith

    This definitely seems like a film Lars Van Trier would do.

    • ScottStrybos

      Or Neil Labute.

  • G.S.

    Am I having deja vu or did we not already see this review?

    Anyway, this type of thing is not my cup of tea, so I kind of passed on the premise. That said, I’m curious about the strategy of using an essentially un-filmable screenplay to get industry attention. Maybe I’m still too green about this, but I have a certain amount of affection for just about everything I write. So the idea of putting a year or more of effort into a spec that has no chance of becoming a film doesn’t register. I understand the strategy, but the execution sounds so… painful…

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Anytime a script has Fuck in the title and you get industry heat tells me being derivative is an equal alternative to being competent, commercial, and diligent. I keep letting the idea marinate in my mind write a derivative script to get name recognition.

    • wlubake

      Agreed. This felt very familiar.

      • Randy Williams

        Maybe it’s the beginning with the creepy old guy in the van getting a bj. Scriptshadow did another review at some point of another script where a van, a teen and a pervert were part of the whole story, if I recall correctly. Don’t remember the title. How DO we keep these things straight?

        • wlubake

          Found it. September 26, 2013 newsletter. Too many bells were going off to have not read this review before.

        • pmlove

          Yeah, what was that script? The girl with the rape van or something. She gets friendly with a guy, wants him to rape her, then it turns out he is a rapist…

        • Midnight Luck

          this had to have been reviewed already. I remembered everything about this review. Must have been covered at some point already.

    • Linkthis83

      Well, investing a year into writing could be argued that you’ve just invested a year in making yourself better. Even if the script isn’t going to be bought and made. Plus, with some of the films that are out there, I don’t know why anyone would think their story doesn’t have a shot at getting made.

      Maybe you should check out the Robotard 8000:

      http://www.therobotard8000.com/Robotard_Main/Main.html

      I love their attitude towards the industry.

      • Midnight Luck

        I can’t believe that Robotard site is still up. I remember going there and reading it years ago.

        did it work for them? never heard anything else about them.

        • MaliboJackk

          Got them noticed, some meetings, and writing assignments.

      • G.S.

        I’m not silly enough to think that everything I write is destined to become a billion-dollar feature franchise. But I can’t fathom putting so much of myself into something that I don’t think at least has a CHANCE at it. Carson suggests in this article that the writer of this screenplay must know that, based on the content of the screenplay, it will never be bought, let alone made and that the sole purpose of it is to get into meetings.

        I understand that, ultimately, that’s the most likely course of action. You get attention with a well-crafted spec, get representation and then get assignments. Bing, bang, boom, you’re a professional. But I started doing this because I love movies, I love writing and I hope upon hope that something born of my imagination can someday make it onto the big screen. Every time I type out the contents of my mind’s eye, I HAVE to believe it could be a real movie. If I don’t, why would I expect anyone else to do so?

        Then again, maybe I AM doing it wrong…

        • Linkthis83

          I wrote on SS the other day how I think we HAVE to write our scripts like we KNOW they are going to be a movie because if we don’t, what’s the point. I don’t mean billion-dollar franchise, but I do believe that if I’m taking the time to write it, I better freaking believe in it.

          I think Carson is making a generalization there based on his own beliefs. There are some many movies that exist that people can’t believe were made.

          It might come down to managing expectations more than anything else. The first script I started on (currently on) has the sole purpose of getting noticed and meetings, but I think it would make a beautiful movie. So I’ve managed my expectation, but still believe it could/would be made. And I’ve also learned that even if I have a script I can sell out on, I can’t write that script without my heart in it somewhere.

          I believe there is no known way to do this that is 100% successful. That’s I believe you try to figure out what you can and can’t live with and embrace the hell out of your approach and your stories. There’s no sense in spending all that time being half hearted. In my opinion.

    • JakeMLB

      If you’re writing specs with the purpose or thinking that they have a chance to be made into films, you’re doing it wrong…

  • Franchise Blueprints

    Off Topic

    Does anyone think this news article has merit as a screenplay? It’s extremely interesting to say the least. I see it as combination documentary mash-up between Dahmer and Kevorkian.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/oregon-fugitive-stalked-women-had-dungeon-van-n87136

    • mulesandmud

      Are you thinking about it as a character study of the guy? I’m not sure the article points the way toward a specific story or gives us a character that is automatically compelling, but if you’re fascinated than it’s worth digging deeper to see if there’s something there. So far, all we know for sure is that he’s a creepy motherfucker.

      Not sure exactly what you mean by ‘combination documentary mash-up’, or what Kevorkian has to do with anything.

      Also, if you’ve never researched a project like this before, then be warned: it’s a dark road to travel.

      • Linkthis83

        One of the first things I think about when I read some stories on here is “Oh man, I bet that research was awful.” Some can be fun, but others just heart breaking.

        One AF script was about child pornography. How do you even do research on that without ending up on all kinds of lists (and 20/20)? –please note, this is rhetorical. Please don’t respond with suggestions. I don’t want to know.

        • mulesandmud

          Yeah, half-measures aren’t good enough with material like that. You either need to commit fully or else find another project. Even before you get to questions of journalistic integrity or moral obligation, you have to ask yourself how far past your comfort zone you’ll go, and what that might cost.

          Like the man says: “When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I agree when you give serious merit to a project you should present both sides of the story. In doing so you give an amount of credence to a subject matter you may be opposed to. But since script writing isn’t journalistic reporting I guess you can slant the script in any way you want.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          I had to catch myself one time. I was pitching a military tv show idea to a guy online and I mentioned specific targets. I saw the potential for a gross misunderstanding and edited my comments before I posted. You’re right certain topics alert agencies unknowingly.

          (Not a suggestion.)

          I have noticed that when certain topics like child pornography are involved, typically women are employed to take away the stigma or conflict of interest.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          I did a lot of research once about how to make meth for a script.

          I realized afterward that could look bad from the outside…

          • mulesandmud

            At this point I don’t even think twice about swan diving into the grimiest cesspools on the web to get info I need. ‘Research’ can only forgive so much though, and after that I’m just a creeper.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I was thinking along the lines of a straight ahead documentary style of Kevorkian combined with the sensational aspects of the Dahmer trial. Granted this person was stopped before he committed one murder. His intent on becoming a serial murderer is evident. I guess thinking about it in hindsight writing a script about a failed killer might be more sensational than thought provoking.

        • mulesandmud

          I agree that there’s a kernel of fascination in the notion of a serial killer who gets nabbed before he ever starts killing. It’s just a long way from becoming a movie.

          All the big questions are still on the table: Who is this guy? What’s his pathology/worldview/background/motive/goal? Aside from the lack of body count, how is he different from every other serial killer we’ve seen? What story are you trying to tell?

          The subject isn’t automatically sensational, but it can easily slide that way if you don’t find a real purpose for broaching it.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            You’re right. He was stopped beforehand. So there wouldn’t be public fascination on this particular individual. And building him up to be a bigger monster than the evidence presented would be a Hollywood treatment of the facts.

            When I read mobile dungeon my first thought was WTF. It reminded me of the man who held the women hostage in his dungeon basement in Ohio, and the next door neighbor rescued them by mere chance.

          • astranger2

            I get it now. Real people.

    • Eddie Panta

      I like the story NEWS STORY about the 15 year old runawat boy who stowed away in the wheel well of plane out of San Diego. He survived! He was found frozen stiff on the tarmac of an airport in Hawaii.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        What surprised me about that story other individual attempted the same thing before him. The outcome from his exploit will be increased searches at the airport. I don’t know if they do this at all airports. But at DTW they require you to remove your shoes prior to going through the metal detector because of the shoe bomber. I really don’t like when stories like that get aired because the trickle down effect is more rules and regulations towards flying.

      • klmn

        I find that hard to believe. Unless there is video coming forth of him emerging from or entering the wheel well I think it’s more likely that he hid in the cargo compartment and was discovered later.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    Fatties meets Heathers? Man! That is SOME pitch!

  • Dan J Caslaw

    OT but, if ‘Locke’ is playing at a cinema near you this Friday (already out in the UK), go see it. Brilliantly done character drama/thriller, without the usual thriller trappings.

  • Eddie Panta

    Here’s MARTY on a stroll while location scouting in NYC..
    He looked so pimp! This is just on Crosby street btwn Little Italy and Soho.
    Right in the hood he grew up in and where Mean Streets was shot.

    This is the best I can do. He walks fast. Also, pitching my screenplay only made him walk faster.

    • BSBurton

      Did you really pitch it? IF so, awesome!!! LOVE IT :)

  • Randy Williams

    You’re probably right that Hollywood might not “have the balls to buy it”
    But, they’d surely love to run the auditions.

  • m_v_s

    *Spoilers* – What the hell did I just read? This script had something going for it – it was a page turner, one that progressively got stupider and stupider as it went on. I admit I did find one or two things funny (for all the wrong reasons) but this read like someone making it up as they went along. In fact I’m sure it was made up as it went along, if it wasn’t dialogue sledge-hammering certain plot points home it was the story being pushed forward with ridiculous contrivances. It’s here I separate value in story with proficiency in script-writing. From a technical point-of-view it’s a breeze, from a story point-of-view it’s a mess. Character-wise is Erica memorable? Up until the point you realise why she’s memorable and beyond that I have to say I honestly couldn’t care less. I thought Luke was credible up until his revelation. At that point I’m pretty sure the writer was thinking of how to tie it up in under 100 pages. Step-brother and step-sister end up together, sort of. Right. They both tried to lie their way out of their lives and found each other. I have to ask: do you honestly care? I didn’t.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    Okay, wow. This script is a bizarre experience. It was really quick and fun to read, and then it just totally and completely falls apart. I quit reading with only 7 pages left. It just fell apart, and then kept falling apart, and then I just gave up.

    Seriously one of the worst third acts I have ever read from a script that had a fairly promising first two acts. I mean, they weren’t great, but they were very readable. And then, just… what the hell.

    Damn.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Also, why the fuck is it called “Flower”?

      • Kirk Diggler

        Simple, easy to remember. Jaws. Titanic. The Matrix. The Godfather. Not saying it’s a great title, but simple always seems to work well IMO.

      • Midnight Luck

        I think it is being IRONICAL.
        or subverting expectations
        or shocking
        …or something.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        Because that’s what receiving a Blow Job feels like. A beautiful Flower.

      • Citizen M

        Because Little Miss Blow-Job is too on the nose.

  • Midnight Luck

    Carson,

    I think we need to have a THURSDAY article about :

    “What if your goal ISN’T to make a splash, just so you can pick up jobs and write for OTHER people and their Project ideas”. (I know, this will sound CRAZY to everyone)

    My big goal isn’t to get noticed so I can then go into meetings and pitch Producers, all for the glory of the $$$ and to work on some idiotic mutation of a Graphic Novel or an Adaptation of some YA novel I would never read. Or worse, a Producer’s hair brained idea that they MUST see as a film. Now don’t get me wrong, making some dough $$$ is great and we all want to have a big rainy day fund, but that doesn’t excite anyone in the same way having something you made, spring to life.

    I like working on MY ideas. I have so many I cannot stop them. Do I really want to work on another person’s idea, something for which I have no enthusiasm, that I am not vested in? It sounds like WORK. Laborious un-fun work.

    If anyone out there (including Carson) has any thoughts on the future for writers who want to do their own spec work, if there actually is a future in slaving away writing your own exciting stuff. Instead of being a cog in the machine, pumping out other people’s wants and ideas.

    I know there are only a few writers who are able to just do their own work, most are Writer / Directors, and I’ll be honest, that is my ultimate goal, but aside from the W/D, how difficult is it to just write your own specs which are purchased? Is it a possibility? I have read so many things that say selling that first Spec was like hitting the LOTTERY, but selling a second is like starting all over again and trying to win a second time, and NO ONE hits the Lottery twice, so don’t even try.

    I don’t buy all this. However, since all everyone refers to on ScriptShadow and other sites, is getting hired by these companies for work, and this main goal of GETTING NOTICED and BEING REMEMBERED by readers and Producers is just so they will want you to hire you, it just leaves me, uninspired. All this seems very limited and not that interesting. I hope many others have more of a goal than to write for someone else.

    Like this FLOWER script, I agree with G.S. below vvvvv, that writing a script which you don’t believe has any chance of selling, and making it so outlandish, for the pure purpose of attracting attention, just seems kind of sad. Kind of boring. Spending ALL that time on something that isn’t dear to your heart, and you have no belief will ever be up on screen, doesn’t make much sense to me. I am not someone who gets into Flash or Hype, and a script like FLOWER seems like that is all it is. Doing something to attract attention, no matter WHAT it is. What is this writer going to write NEXT? Since this wasn’t a REAL script, will the next one work? That is what I would be thinking if I were a Producer looking at this script. I cannot tell what the writer is capable of, if this is what was created.

    Maybe he’ll be the writer brought in when they’re all having trouble with their BLOWJOBS.

    • Brainiac138

      If you want to work exclusively on your ideas then you need to materialize them. It is true that it is like winning the lottery with a spec getting made but it is even much, much more difficult to sell a script AND have it made, if you are unknown commodity. Start putting your energy into getting your scripts written and filmed, otherwise your efforts right now is going to be directed at the line of work you do not want. Writers are not so much looked at as artists, or even really creatives, in the Hollywood system, but more like tradesmen who break proven stories that make money. It isn’t impossible to become a writer who is respected for your creativity and even write specs that get heat, but it is very much more likely if you already have something filmed that buyers have seen.

      • Midnight Luck

        hey, thanks for your thoughts. Just wondering if my perspective is just too grand. Yet Hollywood is the center of the Universe for grand thoughts. But, I could be a bit out there with my ideas, I can be sometimes.

    • mulesandmud

      A spec sale is like a lottery for people who treat it like a lottery. Lots of amateurs just write a script, send it out, and cross their fingers. Guess what? Even if the work is brilliant, they’re a long shot on their best day.

      Most spec sales go to established writers. Not because the game is rigged, but because those writers have made the choice to treat screenwriting like a career. They’ve done the work, learning both the craft and the culture. For them, a spec sale is less of a lottery and more of an investment (risky but calculated) that finally pays off. If you don’t make that investment, don’t expect any reward.

      Midnight, you say very bluntly that you have no interest in doing any writing that feels like “un-fun work”. Basically, you want to write whatever you want, whenever you want, with no input from other people, and with no strings attached that might require you to behave like a professional.

      Good for you; be your own person. But don’t expect to be paid for it. Which is fine. Nobody says this has to be a job. Do it in your spare time, for the love of it.

      On the other hand, if you want a career writing and directing movies, even resolutely indy ones, you’re going to have to learn collaboration and compromise. This is a team sport. Some producers will be cynical assholes, others will be smart people with ideas that dramatically improve your project. You’ll have to deal with both of those types, plus a million others, and you will very rarely have the complete and utter last word on the final product.

      But hey, I get it. Studios suck, greed sucks, careerism sucks. Meanwhile, the real world is a complicated place. Before you knock the idea of writing “for someone else”, try to remember that in film you’re never writing purely for yourself, and to get to whatever high ground you’re aiming for, you have to put in some time.

      • astranger2

        Reality, what a concept? That was a rose-scented iron fist striking a glass jaw. Relentlessly logical… and inexorably on-point. Everything you said rings resoundingly true — and this is no business for “lazy” novelists. In the film world, “resilient, determined, and cooperative” are much more valued attributes than “inspired, gifted, or creative.” Sobering, but nonetheless true. Thank you for your thoughts…

      • JakeBarnes12

        Well said, mules.

      • Midnight Luck

        no, no, that isn’t exactly what I am saying, or it isn’t what I meant to say. Wow, sorry if I came across all dower and everything is all sucky. It wasn’t my intention.

        What I am trying to say is, the general consensus on here is everyone is trying to figure out how to have a script get them noticed or possibly sell, so they can get hired for work. My question is just, what if that ISN’T your main goal? What if you don’t want to just be hired to work on someone else’s stuff?

        Is it possible? Can you get noticed, or sell a big spec, and continue on selling your own stuff, or creating your own work and get payed for it?

        I know it sounds all “Pie-in-the-Sky”. That was just the main point I was making. I know how the rest of it works, and I am open to changes and other people’s opinions, I am not a “my way or the highway” person. I am open to collaboration in film as well, it being a completely collaborative process as well.

        thanks for the comments, just wanted to clear up what didn’t seem to come across in my previous post.

        • mulesandmud

          No worries. Hopefully this is all helpful.

          It’s possible to get payed for writing your own stuff, yes, but you need to broaden your definition of ‘your own stuff’ to include more than straight specs. And you need to accept that there are many other steps and shades of gray in the process.

          Let’s say your spec gets noticed, which frankly is a miracle. Doesn’t sell (they usually don’t), but lands you a serious agent. Woohoo. The first thing she’ll do is send you out around town on general meetings where your only goal is to build relationships and leave people with the impression that you’re a real writer, so that the next time they hear you’ve got a new script, you go to the head of the line.

          Some generals will go terribly, most will be pretty unexceptional, and on occasion you’ll really connect with someone and they’ll say “Hey, we just got the rights to this novel. Why don’t you read it, and if you like it we’ll talk.” And guess what, you read the novel and you love it, and can see it as clearly as one of your own ideas.

          That’s an assignment, which is what most people mean when they talk about ‘getting hired’, but the assignment game isn’t any more of a sure thing than the spec game, because everyone in town is fighting for the same assignments. So maybe even though you love the novel you decide to pass and write a new spec instead.

          You trade emails with that producer about the novel, and you bluntly tell her that you’re passing to work on your own stuff. She respects your honesty (saves her from listening to a halfhearted pitch) and asks what your spec is about. You tell her, and she loves it. 1She introduces you to a director who she thinks is a good fit; you all hit it off and decide to build a pitch together. They both have lots of suggestions, some you love, others you hate but incorporate anyway because, hey, you’re part of a team. Then you all go into a studio together and sell the project as a package, and your deal gets announced in the trades and suddenly more people want to meet you to talk about what else you’ve got. And that’s a career.

          In that scenario, you’re getting paid for writing ‘your own stuff’, but the studio now owns it, even though you haven’t even written it yet. See how complicated that got? And when your first draft is totally different than what they were expecting, the studio can fire you (which can happen when you sell a spec, too). And that producer that you really like will send you an apologetic email because you just got kicked off your own project, but you know there’s not much she can do to help, so you swallow it and keep relationship intact, and years later you work on something else together.

          All that to say, the question of ‘your own stuff’ isn’t black and white, and all of it rests on an infrastructure of relationships, whether you’re talking about specs or assignments or any other version of development. If you want to work in a vacuum, without nurturing that network (it’s not a dirty word), then you had better treat every script like it’s your last, and earn money some other way.

          • Midnight Luck

            hey thanks. your perspective on things is gold. I really appreciate hearing everyone’s thoughts on things.

            I already know how most of this works, but hearing any breakdown with insights into the industry is awesome. That kind of thing is what worries me more than anything. The reality of the inside workings.

            That is why the typical person spends 4-12 years at school doing what they think they want to do, then go out to whatever industry they are in, see the “real world” and bow out, never to use that cherished degree again. The reality is so different from the book work and school.

            Even Charlie Kaufmann worked on an adaptation project, of course it turned into Adaptation (if it is in any way based on truth), and he is the literal KING of his own stuff. I get that in the end I will have to swallow my pride, or whatever someone wants to call it, my bullheadedness? and do studio projects to push my name out there (should I be so lucky).

            my question was what the “real world” chances are of being a purely spec writer, of your own, non-IP work? is there a future? or is there no real future in that at all? Or only for one in a billion?

            Thanks again for your insight and words. I really appreciate it.

          • mulesandmud

            Okay, real world answers:

            Pure spec sales are not a predictable or sustainable way to make money. If you’re working with edgy material, then many of your scripts won’t sell even with great reps and connections. It’ll be feast or famine, mostly famine, even if you’re brilliant.

            Specs developed with the blessing/attachment of a producer, exec, actor, or director have a much better shot at selling, assuming everyone involved loves the script (I recommend selling the pitch when possible, since people will often drop out along the way).

            There’s plenty of non-IP work out there, spec or otherwise. Higher risk means lower budget though, so you’re likely working for scale.

            And Kaufmann, by the way, worked as a staff writer on multiple television shows, and has adapted at least two novels (both of them much more faithful than Adaptation, which was in fact the result of a writing assignment he got to adapt ‘The Orchid Thief’).

  • Citizen M

    Just finished FLOWER, and have to say I absolutely loved it.

    C’mon, somebody, pony up a couple of g’s and make this movie. Will cost you next to nothing to make and is a guaranteed indie cult classic if properly handled.