Way back in late 2010 I was paid an option for one of my screenplays. For those of you who don’t know what an option is, this is how Wikipedia describes it:
In the film industry, an option is a contractual agreement between a potential film producer (such as a movie studio, a production company, or an individual) and the author of source material, such as a book, play, screenplay, etc.
That usually involves a small fee upfront followed by a much larger fee if (and that’s the word to keep an eye on) the film goes into production. In my particular case it was a very small upfront fee, but the actual payment on production would have been substantial.
I really thought I’d made it. After a few years of getting mostly nowhere I was finally on the up. I was finally going to be able to call myself a writer. So clearly it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy myself. In other words (and here’s the lesson kids), I took my eye off the ball. A golden opportunity and I let it slip through my fingers.
Here’s roughly how it happened:
Back in 2010 I had recently joined the Twittersphere and was struggling to find people to follow – At the time I was writing screenplays and wanted a good list of “movie folk” to follow. Coincidently Empire magazine ran an article titled “the top 20 people in film to follow on twitter” or something far more succinct. I ran through the list and followed a few of them, one of which was Noel Clarke, he of Doctor Who fame and more notably, writer and director of Kidulthood, Adulthood and 4,3,2,1.
Almost the same day that I started following Noel he posted a tweet about “The Triangle” competition which said something like this:
“I am writing three screenplays. If you write one by the time I’m finished, I guarantee that my production company will read it.”
Now, at the time I had an idea for a TV script that I was just about write for the Red Planet Competition. A few tweaks to the story (yes, I plan a script before I write it) and I had turned it into an idea for a feature film.
By the way, deadlines are great way to get you to get on with it – Especially ones that aren’t self-imposed – I knew I had until Noel had finished his three to finish mine – I checked Twitter every day to make sure there was no news of completion.
The script finished, it was time to email it off to the production company – Unstoppable Entertainment. By this stage in my career I was already used to sending stuff off and getting turned down or, more likely, never hearing from the company in question again. So I put the submission out of mind, split the script in half and bingo – I now had a 60 minute TV show to submit to the Red Planet Competition.
I can’t really remember what else I was doing during that period, probably just messing around the Xbox or something less worthwhile. It may have taken a few weeks but the first good news I received was that I had made it through to round two of Red planet! Delight abound, I can tell ya. I had almost given up on the “Triangle” challenge when I got an email from a lovely woman called Ros. Now, I have to tell you that when I get an email in from either an agent or a production company it can take me a few hours before I pluck up the courage to read it. It’s normally bad news and who wants that? Especially when you are almost certain that’s what you’re getting – It’s like sticking your hand into a bee hive with the slim chance you might get a fistful of honey without a bee sting. I reckon it probably took me a good three or four hours to press the “open” button and read the email.
Holy fucking shit!
Not only was it NOT a rejection, it was a damn fine email and here it is:
I wanted to get in touch to thank you for submitting your script… I read your script and thought it was absolutely gripping, well written and such an original idea. Exactly what we are looking for.
Up until then that was the best email I’d ever had about my writing.
Wow. Pasting the email into this blog is the first time I’ve read it in a very long time. It fills me with both pride and sadness, because that is still the best email I’ve ever had about my writing. And it was six years ago.
Okay. I’ve taken a minute to compose myself, so onwards with the story.
A swanky meeting was set up in London to meet with Ros. To say I was nervous is an understatement. To say I made a fool of myself, well, that too, is a massive understatement.
End of part One…