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The War on the Script Consultant – Part Deux: It Sounds Good on Paper

Yesterday, we chatted about the attack on the script consultant. The quick and dirty version is that script consultants suck, everything is horrible and everyone should kill ourselves because, really? What’s the point?

(If you want the less paraphrased version, check out Part 1 here).

We left off with my “impressive” list of credentials. And if I’m correct, I was about to trash said credentials. Yup. You heard me. Let’s break ’em down and play devil’s advocate.

First. The degree. It’s meaningless. Ohio University is a school that most of Hollywood doesn’t even know exists. OU hardly pumps out Oscar worthy screenwriters that are taking the industry by storm. I don’t say this to shit on my education (or the school), but let’s be real here. It’s no USC, UCLA or NYU. (TRUE FACT)

My first screenwriting professor at OU was an actress from Great Britain. Her claim to fame was one of many BBC productions of Pride and Prejudice in 1980. She taught us using Aristotle’s Poetics and Robert McKee’s Story. She never sold a script. Once I think there were talks of one of her scripts having heat, but like most of what happens to scripts in Hollywood, it fizzled out and never went any where.

She did her best, but let’s face facts… one of the senior lecturers at USC is Mardik Martin, who co-wrote Raging Bull. His 1980 was a little bit more eventful. Know what I’m saying?

So while the phrase, “I have a masters in screenwriting” sounds cool… the reality is… it’s not.

Quick Anecdote: In my final year of grad school, right before graduation, I had a discussion with a mentor of mine, Jessica Bendinger… a successful screenwriter. She told me that my degree was pretty much worthless when it came to Hollywood. One of her suggestions was enrolling in the prestigious Stark Producing Program at USC. Doing that would be a “silver bullet into the industry.” (Her words). So the answer to getting into Hollywood with a masters degree, was to get a DIFFERENT masters degree from a “better” school?! Um, no thanks. Anyway…

Next up: My Internships.

Internships aren’t hard to find. Being a reader is easy. The problem with being a reader? You hardly ever get to read anything that’s super spectacular. Both places I interned had a “no unsolicited scripts” policy. Which means that they only take scripts from reputable sources. Which sounds exciting, but again, let’s face facts… not EVERY agent and manager has the next golden ticket script in their pockets.

Everyone has a script. Everyone. And sometimes their A-list client wants to help out their niece’s cousin’s gardener who wrote a script and they’re forced to lightly peddle it around town. When said script makes it to the production company, who do you think gets to read it? The president of production? The CEO of the company? No fucking way. Interns read that shit.

Quick Anecdote #2: One day Arnold, of Arnold Kopelson fame, emailed me a script and told me to read it and give him some notes on it. Who wrote it? The Maitre ‘D at one of the resturaunts he gets a good table at. That’s how it works. The Maitre ‘D makes sure he gets the good table by the piano and in front of the window, next to Jennifer Aniston’s table and Arnold “reads” his script. (TRUE FACT)

I’m sure Arnold went back to that guy, told him a couple of nice things off my notes and made the guy feel awesome thus ensuring that he’d still get the “best table in the house.”

I promise you. That script sucked ass. It was BAD, but Arnold isn’t going to tell that guy that. He doesn’t want to rock the boat when it comes to remaining relevant in Hollywood.

The point is, it’s not like I was reading scripts by the next Alexander Payne… or even Alexander Payne himself. It was all shit.

Does that make me an expert? Hardly.

When I moved up in the ranks at Kopelson, the scripts didn’t get better. In the 90’s, the Kopelson name could print money… but now? Let’s just say that I wasn’t joking with the table table story and the staying relevant comment. Arnold’s ship was full of holes and he was scrambling to plug them up before the whole ship went under. You think heads of studios were calling up and delivering top notch material for Kopelson to produce? If you answered yes… you’re just as delusional as he was/is.

Yet, for some reason… “Kopelson” is still a legend, so it sounded cool when I dropped the name. Made me sound important. I wasn’t.

“I attended a slew of pitchfests.” This one gets me tons of street cred. Why? Pitchfests are literally the bottom of the barrel. That’s not me being hyperbolic… it’s me being real. The first time I attended a pitchfest, I had been working as an intern at a different company. My friend asked me to sit at a table for him because the organizers were pressuring him to participate and he didn’t want to. Plus, he knew I needed the money. I asked him what I needed to do. He said: “Just sit there, listen to what they have to say and pass on everything. If you hear something AMAZING. Get their number and let me know.” Boom. That was it. Before that day, I didn’t even know what a pitchfest was.

Now obviously, I’m not stupid and I picked it up pretty quick, but if I could hear pitches being an absolute zero… well, do the math? You think 100% of the people you’re pitching to has any real power? Hell, or even knows what they’re doing? I doubt it.

When I started going to pitchfests under the Kopelson name, I told Anne and Arnold that I was going to do it. It was on the weekend, it was my “own time” so they didn’t care. I thought it would be a way to show initiative and prove to them that I’m serious about being “in the game.” The following Monday, I tried to give a report of my time at the pitchfest but they couldn’t be bothered. So I dropped it. I kept going to them though, using their name without their knowledge. Now, HAD I FOUND SOMETHING, of course I could have given it to them… or worked it up the ladder, but needless to say, I never did.

I went to pitchfests all over Hollywood for a little over 3 years without them ever knowing or caring. Pitchfests were beneath them. The people running the pitchfests didn’t care because as soon as I signed on, they bumped some “lower company” off the email in order to make room for Kopelson. I mean come on, Academy Award Winning Producer… his company? At our pitchfest? They loved it and used his name as much as I did.

A few months before I left, I was planning to attend one of my last pitchfests under Kopelson. Arnold had received a call that I was on to take notes. It was from manager friend that he had known for years and was just as old as he was. One of the manager’s clients was planning to attend the pitchfest I was going to and said as much to his manager. The client also mentioned that Arnold’s company was going to be there. While on the call, the manager asked Arnold about it. It went a little something like this:

Manager: I hear you’re gonna be at this pitch thing coming up.

Arnold: What? What pitch thing?

Manager: I don’t know… some thing. One of my clients saw your name listed on the email.

Arnold: I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: It’s this thing. Where people pitch… I don’t know… I told my client it was a waste. That’s when he told me that you’re going to be there and I thought, well if Arnold is going to be there…

Arnold: Not me. I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: Oh. Well they’re using your name to advertise it. Says you’re going to be there.

Arnold: Well not me. I don’t even know what that is. (NOTE: YES, he repeated himself that much.) 

Manager: Well you should look in to it.

Arnold: I will. Thanks. I’ll have to. I don’t even know what that is.

Manager: Okay. Take it easy Arnold.

Arnold: You too.

(click)

After the phone call I thought: “Oh shit! Busted.” I’m going to have to explain it to Arnold all over again and there’s nothing more Arnold hates than being told he was told something and doesn’t remember. Rather than admit HE fucked up, he chose to stick to his guns and chew YOUR ass out. It’s HIS name on your paycheck after all which instantly means that he’s right and you’re wrong. So I prepared. Ready to get yelled at.

Thing is? After that phone call? Never came up. He never asked. Didn’t care. Never heard another word. That was that. (TRUE STORY)

So if you think “attending hundreds of pitchfests” holds any weight, it doesn’t. Doesn’t mean SHIT. Not when it comes to the top of the food chain. That and there’s the whole thing about nothing good has ever coming out of a pitchfest. Ever.

Ever.

Ever.

EEEEEEEEVEEEERRR.

Okay. I might be a little hyperbolic now, but seriously… it’s horrible. Most of us mainly go to see other execs. People we don’t get to see often because we’re all working. There are some execs I only get to see once a year and it’s usually at a pitchfest.

So does that “credit” on my resume mean anything? Nope. But it sounds cool. Sounds important. It’s not.

My time at Final Draft… Was a joke. I was barely there and the truth is, Final Draft isn’t “in the industry.” Its a software company. Run like a software company. By people who know how to sell… software. Final Draft (the program), in every sense, is a product. With a very specific market.

I went to Final Draft because I thought it would be an opportunity to mingle with a community that I was so desperately trying to be a part of. In my mind, working at Final Draft would afford me the opportunity to network higher up the chain than I have ever gotten previously. I mean… it’s Final Draft, right? I’d be able to rub elbows with the WGA elite… Right?

I forgot one thing though… FINAL DRAFT ISN’T IN THE INDUSTRY!

Sure, I met some people. Some big name writers. But their writers. Doing writing things. And I was the Final Draft guy. Doing software things. I wasn’t on their level… I was the guy that could explain what was taking so long for Version 9 to come out. (TRUE FACT)

When it came to writing, the people that run that company know as much about writing a script as Punxutawney Phil knows about predicting the weather.

Again, not being shitty. Writing scripts, giving notes on scripts, getting scripts made… NOT their business. They don’t NEED to know that shit. Their business is making and selling software.

So does my working at Final Draft give me some credibility? Not really. But it looks good on the resume.

Lastly, my current position with Barnyard Media… Holding the title of “Creative Executive,” to me, means a lot in the Hollywood game. It means that someone with a lot of years, knowledge and experience in the industry values and trusts my opinion. It’s validation that I know what I’m talking about.

This position gives me a lot of street cred… BUT, have I sold a script to a studio? No. Have I successfully packaged a script, locked talent and got it into production? Nope. I’ll say again, development is a slow game. Doesn’t mean I won’t do those things, but it doesn’t mean I will either. Hollywood is fickle. I say this, not to be negative, but to be realistic.

Do I have the power to get your script made? No. Do I have the power to get your script in the hands of someone that can get it made? No. Do I have the power to get your script in the hands of someone that can get your script into the hand of someone else that might be able to get your script made? Yes, but it would take a LOT for that to happen and it still doesn’t guarantee that it’ll get made.

The reality is: the only people that can actually get your script made are studio heads and they only give their number out to a select few and I promise you, they’re not going to take MY calls.

So why trash the credentials?

To prove a point. You see, I have a confession. One that makes me feel… ookie. Don’t tell anyone, but… I too… once dabbled in a little in script consulting.

Say what now? Part 3 coming up next…

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