Wish I'd known that...

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;

- Pope

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Learnin' the hard way

I started to write in 2007. I haven't received any payment for a word I've ever written. So I don't call myself a writer. As soon as someone is willing to trade money for what I write, Tada: writer.

Until then, this.


I'm eager to get on with my life as a writer for movies. So eager that I'll take any seemingly legit opportunity that I can either scare up or that finds me by whatever channel.

Last May one found me.

I  got hooked up with a TV pilot writing gig last year by a contact from the world of stand-up comedy. It seemed promising but ended up as a total shit storm for which I will never see a dime. I emailed my 30 Rock spec script to the producers and they liked it.  We took a meeting. Two young people who had a mysterious third partner who was never available to meet. These were the “producers”. They had a legit director attached, a guy who has done a lot of Letterman and Conan segments. He was at the first meeting and that was a big draw for me.


I wrote a 36 page pilot based on their bible and they loved it. I never heard back from them for about three months. Then I get a text saying the project is still on and they have a connection at Lionsgate who loved the project but was thinking of it as a 1-hour project for Showtime. So I expanded my 1/2 hour to a 1 hour which now also featured a new lead character which it was said John Turturro was interested in playing.


I hadn't seen the name director at any of the meetings since the first and so I asked about him. As it turns out, the three “producers” had LIED about having funding, there was no money and the director didn't appreciate being lied to and having his time wasted so they had a big blow-up and director-man bolted. It would have been nice if this crucial piece of information has not been kept from me before I re-wrote the 1 hour pilot AND an additional 10 page "teaser" script - which was all they had the money to film now.


But, they maintained that their connection to Lionsgate was legit and they were going forward with casting and filming. I was extremely pissed off as you may well imagine and was just on the verge of telling these kids to go fuck-off. But then, I went to sleep and awoke the next morning with the thought "maybe this is just par for the course. Maybe this is as good as it ever gets in show biz". And so I decided to see it through to the end - whatever would be the outcome.


They announced that the casting and filming would go ahead as planned.


They ran an ad on CRAIGSLIST!!! The ad stated "Major network sitcom casting this Friday" with a character breakout and followed by the phrase, "No compensation available".


Needless to say the ad was flagged and had to be pulled as total bullshit but not before getting a few dozen responses. So CASTING WENT FORWARD! WITH CRAIGSLIST RESPONDEES!!!


I attended the casting session, which was like being in a bad comedy about , well, casting a movie off of Craigslist. Imagine the worst community theater actors that ever appeared in your hometown production of The Music Man. Some of these people couldn't speak English, some were downright scary.

And best of all, the "producers" had not prepared enough copies of the scenes for all the "actors" to read. And since I was the only person with even a shred of experience I was enlisted to read opposite these hams. The “producers” didn't even have enough copies of the scenes printed for me to read from. One of the  "producers" a small woman with ADHD was actually handing out copy for these people to rehearse outside, then would call them into the audition, realize that I didn't have a copy of the scene to read and would simply switch the actor's scene - "I know you just rehearsed this outside but we don't have a copy for Roger so just read something else". Then the other "producer", ADHD's boyfriend announced that his tiny video camera had run out of batteries - he hadn't even brought along a cord to plug it in.


I left that night feeling that I had just been a party to a terrible hoax. The people auditioning must have also felt something was amiss. Many refused to sign a release as they feared the whole sorry mess would end up on Youtube.


Weeks passed and I finally get an email from ADHD telling me that a "rough  cut" is now up on Youtube and would I look at it and see whether I though it was ready to be shown to Lionsgate.


I looked.


They had simply had all the "actors" IMPROV it. Didn't use a word of what I had written. In fact had completely changed the concept and the characters.


The moral of this story? There are many.


First - Know who you are getting into bed with.

Second - Make sure you have protection.

Third - Make sure the money is in place first.


All good advice for either a screenwriter, or a prostitute.

Your pal,



  1. Cautionary tales rule! Great piece. I look forward to more.

  2. Viva la Craigslist respondees!!!