Monday, October 19, 2009

Waiting and what to do when there's nothing to do

Okay, this is going to be a challenge. Nothing is going on today on Travel Day.  Shirley is busy with editing on her San Francisco film that she shot a few weeks ago, and I'm waiting for Initial Investor to reply to my last email a few weeks ago and Dane from Winnipeg to continue to contact me with details on the Manitoba deal.  So what does one do when there's nothing to do. Well, there's always something to do but I've vacuumed and carried out trash and even re-arranged the refrigerator. 

And I stare a lot. 

Mostly at my computer. 

It's just sitting there daring me to use it. Because, of course, there is a lot to do. But I don't want to do it.  Here's a list:

  • Contact distributors to find a potential distribution deal. 
  • Contact new investors who might be able to come in for some of the US investment in the event Initial Investor backs out. 
  • I do have a meeting today with a presales company interested in talking about potential presales. He's the one I met through an editor who had put his name in 3 months ago for an editing job.  This at least has been set up last week.
  • Begin to contact some Casting Directors in the event that they could take TD to one of the other actresses we're considering, including Faye Dunaway, Catherine Deneuve and maybe Jacqueline Bisset. I have no idea if these people are even remotely interested but then again, you gotta try. All they can say is no. 
Waiting is part of this business, and it comes with the classic "nobody's in a hurry except you".  One of the big changes I've noticed during the last few years is that more and more, people are returning calls and/or emails less and less. 

My director friend Paul Lynch says it because they really don't have anything to say or have other things to do. I suppose it makes sense with the GenX population who carry cell phones around with them, yet you can never reach them and when you do they never call back.

Regardless you wait, when someone is reading your screenplay, when someone might invest in your movie, when someone might consider hiring you for a writing job. It used to be a lot faster. Fifteen years ago, when my agent sent out my screenplay to 20 people at the studios, they would read the script over that weekend and call back Monday. 

Less than72 hours. 

Nowadays they don't even want to look at spec scripts. In fact, a number of studios have said they are not looking for new scripts at least until early 2010.  They don't even want to talk about them till then. That has never happened in this town, but the recession is affecting everyone.  I've had scripts sent to several parties months ago and they never responded. Even when I emailed them. 

And I'm not alone.

I've talked to several writers, directors and producers and they all say the same thing. Nobody is doing anything. But that doesn't seem to agree when you look at the production charts. It seems there are lots of movies going on, lots of them. So who's making them?

Many are studio pictures, but far more are guys like me. Maybe a lot more successful, but there are hundreds of movies being made, either with borrowed money, credit cards, or looking for investors like I am. When I started Travel Day with Shirley, a lot of people I know just smiled, and said I picked a pretty bad time to look for money. 

I had to agree with that but I also knew that as long as I've been in this business, there hasn't been a year when someone didn't say "this is the worst year to try to make a movie".  It's never an "easy year" for filmmakers, there is never a good time or a bad time, it's always hard.  I think I must have had maybe 50 projects in the last 20 years that started promising and ended up dead. 

I met with a Dreamworks executive once at Spielberg's offices then at the Universal lot. His offices consisted of a Mexican hacienda, with an enlaid antique brick parking lot. The main building housed maybe 100 people with offices and meeting rooms.  I had a great idea for a remake,  it was an old movie, Death Takes a Holiday, a fantasy type story that had "Death" take human form to study human beings, and in doing so, nobody in the world died that day. It was a classic 30's movie and very well done. 

To my surprise, Todd, the exec liked it. Liked it so much that he was going to start on a deal immediatly.  I left feeliing like I had won the lottery. 

Until I got home. 

A message was waiting on my machine (pre-email and cell phones). Martin Brest, a well-known director had optioned the story one week ago. It hadn't had time to hit the trade magazines yet. One week. I missed getting a studio job by one week.  Brest made his remake, it was called Meet Joe Black and starred Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. It was long and drawn out and had nowhere the impact the original film did. 

So at least I felt a little bit better.

And I do have a meeting today.  So far.  If he doesn't cancel.