Tuesday, February 23, 2010
- Development Deal – this is a non-exclusive agreement between two parties to develop a screenplay from an original idea, or a novel, play, magazine, article, etc. into a screenplay. This arrangement usually exists between a writer and a producer or producing entity, but it may include other elements like a director, or producer.
- First Look Deal – A term agreement lasting three or more years between a movie studio and a producing entity on a first look basis. Writer, producers, directors, and stars can act as producers in this arrangement. Basically, any idea, whether original or based on other material, gets pitched to this particular movie studio first. If the studio chooses not to develop the idea, the producer is free to take it to another studio or financier.
- Exclusive Deal – A term agreement generally lasting three or more years between a movie studio and a producing entity on an exclusive basis. Writers, producers, directors, and stars can act as producers in this arrangement as well. Any idea whether original or based on other material gets pitched to the movie studio. In this arrangement, if the studio does not wish to develop the idea further, the producer CANNOT take it to another studio or financier.
- Organizes and INITIATES a project.
- Options rights to a book, finds a writer, goes into a studio, pitches, develops the screenplay, and gets paid a fee.
- Gets the money for the film, either from studios or outside funding.
- Gets a project off the ground
- Walks on stage to get the Academy Award for Best Picture!
- This is a former production manager who has worked their way up. They know union agreements, when you have to break for lunch, how many tracks the camera crew needs, and know when you have to stop spending. They deal with a lot of numbers.
- Oversee everything and make sure all the bills get paid.
- This is a person who brings name recognition to a project;
- The one brought in to finance a project;
- Or the person who brought the whole project together.
- Might be the Line Producer;
- Or could be someone who has never done anything but brought a script to the film;
- Or someone who works for the Producer;
- Or even just the Producer's girlfriend.
- This is a flexible title and can mean a lot of things.
- Often times in turnaround or other unique situations the Writer will say they want more.
- Example: In Shakespeare in Love, Mark Norman got the Writing and Best Picture Academy Award.
- This is often done as a little gift or kudos to the manager
- There are a lot of people who manager Writers and they don't make much money, so this money is how they stay afloat.
- Agents CANNOT get producer credits though.
- Executive Producer/Showrunner is usually the writer of the Pilot...if not, then its probably the person who hired the writers.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
This is some advice on how the Writing Fellowship programs work. Take a look! Great information!
Hi, I'm a past Disney Fellow (that program is now defunct,with only the ABC TV Writing and Daytime Writing Fellowships still available and paid).
I helped judge the fellowships for several years,
as well. They look at your sample first and, if it makes a passing
grade by the reader in the first round, the coverages are sent to
executives who narrow down their favorites (and their friends' specs ;-)
for the third round, i.e., the writers they want to bring in for
First, however, their assistants call you for a
"pre-interview" call to feel you out - if you get that call you are
being judged over the phone and if you sound cool and upbeat AND if you
say you have another piece to show them when they ask for it, then you
will most likely be called in as one of the twenty-thirty finalists for
a personal interview with the executives in one of the Disney/ABC
All they are looking for, especially for TV writing,
are people who can work and play well for others. They once flew a
writer to L.A. for the interview because he had THE BEST TV spec they'd
ever seen, but when he came into the room it was clear he had no
interpersonal skills and wasn't very social.
No one could imagine
sitting in a writer's room with the poor guy for 13 hours a day so he
didn't get it in spite of his great sample. So they look for both -
good, commercial writing with other samples to show, AND a personable,
enjoyable person with whom to work.
All the TV fellows got writing
staff positions by the end of the fellowship year and a couple went on
to develop their own series that aired for a season. I was 31 when I got
in and most of the writing fellows were much younger (early twenties).
There was one "older" writing fellow (38) and she told me she was pulled
aside by one of the producers on lot who was mentoring her and
encouraged to lie about her age or not reveal it (sigh).
The DGA-ABC Directing Fellowship has been completely revamped and does
still include some money but not apparently what it once did. It's more
of a shadowing thing now and, again, they look at your sample short
first and foremost to decide who they want to work with. These are also
"diversity" run programs, but I've seen white males get into both, too.
However, since this is the first year of this revamped directing
program, no one quite knows what to expect from the process yet.
Hope that helps!
Marie Rose (not Rowe ;-)
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
WB showrunner's asst: 800/wk + 300 out of pocket from a generous boss (female)
CW showrunner's asst: 700/wk + raises per yr (female)
NBC showrunner's asst: 650/wk (50 hrs/wk) (female)
Disney showrunner's asst: 650/wk, no health benefits (female)
USA showrunner's asst: 650/wk + health benefits after 1st season (female)
ABC showrunner's asst: 600/wk (60 hours) + health benefits (male)
NBC showrunner's asst: 500/wk after taxes (female)
CW writers' asst: 800/wk, no health benefits (male) USA writers' asst: 650-750/wk + health benefits (female)
ABC writers' asst: 650/wk (male)
ABC writers' PA: 600/wk (60 hrs/wk) + health benefits (female)
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Television Writing Fellowships
Nickelodeon: January-February (comedy spec)
CBS: March-May (original work of writing & TV spec, only diversity)
FOX: March-July (original pilot, prefer diversity)
NBC: May-June (drama/comedy spec, prefer diversity)
Austin: June (drama/comedy spec)
ABC: May-July (drama/comedy spec)
WB: July (drama/comedy spec)
Screenwriting Fellowships (feature films)
Film Independent: March (lab)
Sundance: May (lab)
American Zoetrope: August-September
WGA: http://www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=1042 (mainly diversity)
Friday, February 12, 2010
One script supervisor wrote me a nice note in response to my email about working in Dallas vs. LA (she is based out of Dallas).
Thanks for the compliments.
You've asked a tricky question. This industry tends to be very cyclic: one
place is the hotspot now, but two years later, it's somewhere else. Things
happen like union strikes and film incentive programs that cause work to
migrate to certain areas. Sometimes Texas is a happening place; sometimes
not. Since Texas is so big, you might live in Dallas and miss out on
everything going to Austin or vice versa.
Two places you can ALWAYS count on film work are NY and LA. However, that's
where the competition is most fierce. Plus, they're union towns, and the
cost of living there is very high. I don't know your personal situation,
but you might want to consider marrying and raising a family there vs.
Texas. I've known a lot of people that started off in Texas, moved to LA to
work on the big stuff, then moved back to Texas to raise a family.
Last year, I worked pretty steadily until August, then I didn't work again
until March (when I accepted a job on a TV series as a logger for a PA
rate). I didn't work again until July, when I did 2 movies back to back.
I've had to turn one down in Louisiana and I've got another one that
hopefully will start in mid-October. So now I'm busy again. It's always like
this, and I've been freelancing for almost 20 years. It's always feast or
So consider these factors in making your decision:
One of a handful of scriptys vying for a handful of movies (Texas) or one of
a thousand scriptys vying for one of a thousand movies (LA).
Quality of life
Family and personal connections
You can always work for a while in one place, and then move if things don't
work out or you want to change things up. No decision is forever. If you're
in LA already, you have a place to stay and friends and contacts--what about
trying to start your career there? You can always come back home and stay
with your family to regroup in Austin, but if you come back to Austin you
may find it hard to go back and start over in LA.
Good luck to you!
He had a lot of great advice, that I thought would be good to share here.
He started out by telling me that in this business, there are two sides...
The business side--which encompasses agents, managers, lawyers, studio execs, producers, etc.
And the purely creative side--actors, writers, and directors.
He says that when you are going to go into entertainment, its good to figure out which side you want to be in. Not that nobody ever switches, but its much more difficult than say, switching from a manager to an agent. He says he does know agents that have turned writer and such though, so it definitely does happen.
He then explained that for the business side, starting out at an agency in the mail room and going through the agent trainee program can be a great way to learn about the business because agencies are kind of at the center of everything. They deal with actors, writers, directors, studios, lawyers, etc. This is actually something I have heard before from others.
Next I asked about graduate school....he didn't seem to think it was going to be necessary at all...unless you seriously want to be an entertainment lawyer. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up pretty much regardless of your education. This is something that I have definitely realized...when I was working on set, I was a PA and on the same level as the kid who didn't go to college at all. I knew what all the equipment was called and yet I wasn't allowed to touch it because I was just a PA. The more time that goes by, the more I have come to realize it doesn't really matter what you major in to get into entertainment...the best part about USC is the networking and contacts you build while at school. Everything else you can learn once you get out there and are working in the real world. I mean school definitely makes you a smarter assistant, but the english major, the economics major, and the film major are all going to start out on the same level.
The next thing I asked was about networking and how you build up a solid base of contacts, which is essential to being a good agent. This was one of the most interesting things I learned during my meeting. He said that the only thing that was important was to build contacts among the people in "your class" (i.e. the people you are in the mail room with, the people you go to school with, the people around your age)...these are going to be the filmmakers of tomorrow. Its not as necessary to build contacts with older people because these probably aren't going to be the people working when you are an agent (or whatever you want to be). So networking really not this ominous difficult task, as it might seem.
Next up, it was...what are the characteristics that you feel make a great agent?
1. Great social skills...this is all about building relationships with people...both clients and others who will can use your clients. You have to be a good communicator and be able to connect with people.
2. Extremely strong work ethic. You will never get off at 5PM--its very intense. You gotta be the one out there always going the extra mile in order to succeed.
3. Lastly, you have to passion about the business through and through. You have to be ready to have less time and less money than all your friends not working in film. But passion is what makes people go far in this business.
Noticing his family pictures on the mantle, I asked about how he managed to balance out family life with work. He said that it is very hard. He didn't get married until later in life. There are always people who are the exception to the rule and make it work. But its difficult to work super long hours and have a spouse/children...you miss out on a lot and that can lead to resentment, or you aren't going to at work and might miss out on opportunities for advancement.
He gave me a lot of good things to think about. He ended the meeting by saying that when I graduate to let him know and if I'm interested, he can set me up with the woman who manages the trainee hiring. That would be really cool if I could get started there! We'll see what happens though, this is a crazy business! I love it though :)
Here are a few of the things we touched on...
So what are the primary responsibilities of a producer working at a studio?
Well your first duty is to go out and find ideas for films, whether it be from books or spec scripts (which is rare), or simply sitting around and discussing movie topics. Once you find the idea, you need to find the right person to write it--its very much like match-making actually. You guess at a person's talent and their ability to write this idea. You are usually wrong, but hopefully you are just right enough for the studio execs to start seeing the movie and to hire another writer (instead of just tossing the project)...often you are throwing out at least 300,000 per writer, so this can be a costly procedure!
If the studio is taking care of physical production, banking, marketing, and distribution...how much power do you have as Producer?
Right now, there is less money than every available to studios and everyone is fearful. It is your job to convince studios to make the movie you want to make and to convince them that it is relevant in today's market. Every movie is a power struggle. If you are doing a movie with Ridley Scott, and you are a young producer, he is going to be the one with all the power...but if you are doing a movie with a little-known Director, you are going to be the one with the power. If you have just gotten off of a successful film, you are always going to have a leg up with the studios; and likewise, if you have a flop, you are going to have less leverage with studios.
So is the producer basically the one who puts everything together? This title seems so loose, there seem to be all different kinds of producers, can you explain the difference?
Yes, well the Producer is basically the one who has a sense of what the movie should be...he/she is the one who tries to realize the dream of what the movie can be. This person is the one dealing with all the financial stuff, but there is also a ton of creative involved as well. He is the one on the project before the direct, at the time of the writer, and he is the one that is there at the end as well. The Producer is the one who gets to pick up the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The Executive Producer can be a variety of things...often times this is the manager who put it together, or could be a manager who didn't really do anything but just had the right client. Steven Spielberg is sometimes listed as an executive producer because his name helps sell a movie; he might have once upon a time found a good story and said it should be made, and then a studio might throw him a fee and in return, get to use his name. Associate Producer is much the same, usually its just someone who was given a credit as leverage. Line Producer is the one who is on set and making sure everything runs smoothly.
If you are a studio Producer, does that mean you only get to work with one studio?
No, what it means is that the studio you have a first look deal with has the right to all your projects first. If that studio doesn't want it, then you are free to take the project to another studio. When you have a first look deal at a studio, that basically means that the studio is paying the salaries of your executives and assistants and puts up the money to run your company. Often times these production companies are on the studio lots, but not always. We took Gladiator to Sony and they didn't want it, so we then took it to Dreamworks. In return, Dreamworks paid Sony a fee (since they were paying to upkeep our production facilities during the production).
What happens if a studio decides to take a project on and develops it, but then decides to drop it...can you take it to another studio?
Yes, this is called "turnaround." If Sony decides they are no longer going to continue on with a project, they will often give it back to you and allow you to take it to another studio; however, if Paramount picks up the film, they will be required to pay Sony back for whatever funds were spent developing the project. Often times, studios will make a deal to move a project from Sony to Paramount...but they can't pay back the 500,000 spent on development fees, so they will give 10% upfront, and then if the project is ever viable, Sony will get paid in full. This is a kindness among studios. Another thing to mention is that if you add an element, you are legally required to go back to the original studio and let them know before offering the project up to another studio. This basically means that if Sony drops a project, but then you get Brad Pitt to say that he wants to do the project...you must go back to Sony and inform them of the "changed elements" and give them a chance to come back on board before taking the script to Paramount.
How do you get a first look deal with a studio?
It changes all the time. Studios are always trying to figure out how to get movies. There was a stage where they thought younger people knew something...and that's how I got lucky. In my particular case, I was working for a director and they tried to hire me as a studio executive, but I said I only wanted to be a producer, so they took us on. If a producer has a couple hits, the person's agent will usually get a studio to meet with him/her and try to set up a first look deal.
What has been your shortest time frame between pitching a movie and starting filming?
2 or 3 years.
How did you get into management?
Well I actually started out in music management. I got a job in the mail room at Capitol Records...and managed a few people on the side. I managed to get a job at a small management company...it only had 4 people, but then it grew. Its a different path than I'd recommend.
How do managers differ than agents?
Agents can't produce, managers can. Managers are also technically not supposed to find employment, but that is a rule that I break nearly every day. You would be crazy in this day and age not to have both a manager and agent, the more people you have out there pitching for you, the better. Its a tough business and you want to have lots of people in your corner. With Agents, everyone has a speciality, some work in concerts, corporate shows, commercials, literary, TV, movies, etc. Agents specialize. While Managers, on the other hand, they have to know about a lot of different areas. Most of his/her clients do different things...if you can't get David Spade on TV , you try to get him on the road, etc. It takes longer to be a manager and its a harder road because you ahve to learn a lot. The talent will really look to you to explain everything to them and you are often doing multiple things at once.
Who do the studios call first, the Manager or Agent?
It really depends on who they have the best relationship with...but as soon as they call me, I'll immediately call the Agent...and vice versa.
What do you do if the client doesn't agree with you?
My rule of thumb is to always tell the client the truth, first and foremost. Its worth losing a client, to tell the truth. There is a movie coming out soon that I begged my client not to do, but she was friends with the Producer and they convinced her to do it.
How do you find clients?
Well if you want to be a good manager, you really have to be resourceful and go to the places that no every manager is going to. You have to find the really bizarre places. Sometimes kids in the office will wonder why they aren't getting promoted and I'll tell them--its because you need to be out there every single night at the alternative comedy places and clubs, seeking out prospective clients, you need to read the trades, and constantly be searching for the next big talent...you gotta read and go above and beyond the call of duty.
What do you do when you produce a show as a manager?
Well first of all, I will never take a credit on a show just because my client is on the show...I only take a cred if I am actually going to be a hands on producer...this is not the case with all Managers though. When you are working on a show, you really have to pick and choose your battles though, and its tough at times. On one of my client's shows, I constantly had to back my client and sometimes I would back him to his face and then do what was right for the show. My obligation was to his career, first and foremost, and sometimes what is best for the show is a better idea than backing what he wants. Actors often make decisions based on emotions and its your job to see through that and look out for their career.
What advice do you have for someone hoping to go into the representation business?
Well I think the best and smartest way to get into representation, is to get a job at an agency, go into the trainee program. This will teach you what everyone's job is and what people do. You really learn the business and how networks work. If you are smart and resourceful, you build relationships...it really is all about relationships in this business. My value to clients is that Bruckenheimer and Katzenberg will take my calls--this is so important. Or that you have someone in the office who has a relatinoship with that person to call. Its a great idea to intern at UTA, CAA, or Endeavor.
Close the Set: the Assistant Director’s Bible
by Craig Ormiston
You are in charge. Sure, the director might have the vision and the producer might be paying the bills, but you run the show. Your responsibility, your skill. You keep the clock. You stay under budget. And not to alarm, but you (in part with the key grip) are legally liable for anything that goes wrong. Keep the set safe, happy, and alive.
Ten Verbs of Wisdom for a Healthy Production
1. Inspire. Arouse in your crew an eager want. Remind them that they’re not at a desk. They have the best job in the world. Make them happy about doing what you suggest.
2. Anticipate. Production is like doing a jigsaw puzzle on a waterbed – plan for the worst. Identify at least five things that could go wrong during each scene and plan for them. No shoot is impregnable.
3. Name. A person’s name is the sweetest sound to them in the world. Know everyone’s name. Say it to them often and always embed it in every request.
4. Smile. From the bottom of your heart. It’s contagious. A happy set is an efficient set.
5. Listen. Let each person do the talking. Collect as much information as possible. Know everything.
6. Forgive. Never criticize, condemn or complain. If someone made a mistake, they already know and should not have to hear it again. If they don’t know or make the mistake a second time, call attention to it indirectly.
7. Assure. Encourage crew by making every fault or mishap seem easy to correct. Be confident. If you are not confident, be confident about not being confident. Get people to feel confident about you.
8. Request. Ask questions instead of directly giving orders. Let the other person feel like the idea is his or hers. Nobody likes being told what to do. And nobody likes being yelled at. Do you?
9. Pacify. Avoid arguments. Never tell someone they are wrong. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. If you cannot avoid an argument (or cannot resolve other people’s arguments), do not let the crew see it – move ugly out of the way.
10. Praise. Make each person feel important and necessary. Reward good work with honest and sincere appreciation. Acknowledge what each person is doing right. Commend every improvement.
The Production Meeting
1. Debrief the previous shoot. Always begin with a compliment.
2. Throw down a challenge. Give the crew a reputation to live up to. Your crew will take you more seriously with clean, pretty paperwork. Assume they don’t want to read it, so make it worth looking at.
3. Distribute sides for the upcoming shoot. Read every line of action aloud to the crew. Highlight every little prop, stunt, set dress, costume, vehicle, effect, movement, etc. and stop as you read to ask each department if they’ve got it taken care of.
4. You are in charge of all people and equipment. Make sure both will be there in time for the shoot. Make phone calls. Double check. Call sheets should be detailed and to the point (but never rely on them!). Remind the crew that being on time is late in this business - call time is work time, not coffee chitchat time. If you move call times earlier or later than planned, call each person.
5. You cannot cure a disease by suppressing symptoms. Address problems directly and invite everyone to be honest about their issues. Do not leave the meeting until solutions are reached and hands shake. Discontent grows like a tumor if not treated quickly.
Collaborating With the Director
1. Spontaneity is laziness. Don’t let any director or crew member convince you otherwise. Creativity lies in the battle plan, not the attack. “Wingin’ it” is not an option.
2. Wrangle the director and cinematographer on location or set to walk through the coverage, commit to shots, and schedule them efficiently. Do this as early as possible, but AT LEAST do it the morning before the shoot. Order shots for the day to accommodate lighting and inspire the director to be okay with that. Know every shot better than the director does.
3. Train the director to tell you whether or not he or she likes the take immediately after taking it. If they are not happy and you have time to get it again, announce“we’re going again” without delay. If the director is happy, check with everyone else first. Never announce that you are “moving on” until director, camera, and sound all confirm that they accept the take.
1. Start the day off with circle time. Get everyone’s attention, wish them a good morning, and inspire them. Take control. Remind everyone about safety and identify specific concerns (no matter how small). Make sure no one has any questions. Get the director to talk the crew through the day’s coverage. Simple and quick. Then orchestrate the first setup.
2. Learn to speak efficiently before you can act efficiently. Tell the truth. Honesty is a virtue. Stick to the facts. Say what you know, not what you think. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Misinforming is more harmful that saying nothing at all. Teach everyone to do the same.
3. Only three things should ever be happening on a film shoot: rehearsing, lighting, or shooting – and nothing else. Know what we’re waiting for.
4. Remember that everyone read the script.
5. It’s your job to coordinate background. Give extras a role. A name. Specific blocking. Make them feel like actors and not extras. Keep them engaged and away from the craft table.
6. Yelling “quiet on set” is ironic. The crew knows this, too. Set an example. Ask everyone to quiet down quietly if you can. And remember: people like hearing their name; if you target the source of the yap by name, that person will listen.
7. Keep producers and the director up to date on time. Never surprise anyone with the clock. Constantly stay in touch with crew heads. Ask for time estimates AND make your own based on what needs to be done. Set time deadlines and update everyone on the countdown. Five-minute warnings are important.
8. Make sure boom and camera are talking to each other. They should be best friends. If the boom slips into frame, it’s everyone’s fault. Unite the departments.
9. People need to do their job – and nobody else’s. If anyone has a problem or concern about another department or crew member, make sure they tell you first.
10. Keep everyone out of the actor’s eye line. Have your back to them if necessary. Don’t move during a take. Do not let any member of the crew concern themselves with anything outside their department during a take – especially performance. There’s nothing they can do about it anyway.
11. Take good notes. Times, problems, delays, names, injuries, everything. Have your 2nd A.D. help you take notes and monitor attendance.
1. Keep rehearsal simple. Get the crew to stand where the camera will be. Make sure everyone is paying attention while the director runs through blocking. Then walk through the coverage.
2. Show, don’t tell. Make sure the crew hears AND sees what you and the director imply. Keep everyone on the same page. Invite questions.
3. There are three types of rehearsal: blocking, marking, and tech rehearsal. Blocking demonstrates for the crew where the actors will be so the scene can be lit; marking refines blocking to collect focus and cue marks; and tech runs the scene as it will be shot.
4. When the actors are rehearsing, the crew should be quiet. When the crew is lighting, the actors should be quiet. Keep actors away from set as much as possible and always know where they are. Have the actors present as soon as you are ready for them.
1. Safety means liability, and liability is omnipresent. The producers dread lawsuits. If you don’t care about safety as an A.D., you are a wallet with a huge hole in it. The fewest accidents happen when you are shooting stunts; accidents usually happen when the shoot is easy.
2. Record every accident on the production report, no matter how small. Always be honest on the report – it is a legal document and will be reviewed. This piece of paper might keep you out of jail.
3. Know where the fire extinguisher and first aid kit is. Keep multiple paths clear as fire exits. Always have an out and let the crew know where it is.
Be yourself and don’t be afraid. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. This job is not for the squeamish, but I know you can do it. Making a movie isn’t hard – people are hard. Lead well and you will win. If the day goes well, you get the credit. Don’t stress. Be flexible. Making a film is an organic process. It is an art. Have fun and love your job; if you do, people will love you.
#1: He explained to the class that he started out painfully shy.
He hated having to take lunch meetings and would often order food and then go to the bathroom and hide out for fifteen minutes. He got in trouble with his boss for his expense report being too low! When he wanted to make phone calls...he would stare at the phone for ages before he would finally pick it up and make the call.
This was really nice to hear, to me personally. I know I have come a long way and most people are surprised when I tell them I am shy...but somehow I still see myself as the shy little girl I once was. I know I have definitely come a long way, but I know there is still room for improvement yet...and its nice to think that he started out shy and managed to mature and find great success as a producer. If he can do it, then so can I right?!
#2: The people who work the hardest finish first.
This has always been one of my greatest attributes--my work ethic. I love working hard and feeling productive, which is probably going to turn out to be a big career booster! I have always been smart luckily, but I'm not a genius by any means...I really do earn the grades I get and deserve the opportunities I am offered. Its just nice to hear that in spite of all the nepotism in Hollywood and the hoops that one has to jump through to be in this industry, that those who work the hardest really are the ones to find success in the end.