For many of you, selling your script to a Producer is your primary goal in the business. Maybe the thought of independently producing it yourself is unappealing (especially the part about finding money!)….or you’ve ‘been there, done that’ on a previous project and want to move up the ladder now …. or maybe you’re just not a producer at all, and want to focus on writing and/or directing as the main focus of your career.
Whatever the case may be, you don’t have to feel ashamed! Just know what your goals are from the outset and proceed accordingly :)
In the case of FS Members Alejandro Seri and Johnny Silver, they worked on their project FINAL GIRL for a good couple years before finding and attaching A-list producers Prospect Park. You can read the Variety press release here. For them, selling their script up the food chain was an ideal scenario for a variety of reasons.
Because I know many of you are in a similar position and want to get your script set up in 2012, I asked Alejandro to recount his journey to us here in IFB, in hopes that it will inspire some of you to follow in their footsteps. Check it out below and feel free to ask us any questions you have below in the comments section.
Timeline for FINAL GIRL
• In early 2009, Johnny Silver, Alejandro Seri and Stephen Scarlata take a close look at their screenplays and realize that it is time to diversify the slate from the quality character-driven festival fare and high budget action scripts they had written up to then. In order to jumpstart their writing careers, they decide to go for a logistically simple, low budget genre film with a hook. They start developing the female-driven Thriller, FINAL GIRL. Drawing from his music video career, Johnny is to produce while festival-winning feature director, Alejandro, is to helm. At the time, Alejandro was still working as the Marketing Director at Final Draft.
• Some months later, FINAL GIRL was accepted into the 2009 NALIP Latino Producers Academy (LPA). Johnny Silver attended solo as attached Co-Writer/Director Alejandro was homebound expecting the birth of his son.
• Johnny receives mentoring from Stacey Parks at the LPA in New Mexico. Her suggestions include marketing advice and possible distribution strategies. What also comes to light at this lab is making a more realistic adjustment of the budget considering the possible distribution returns in today’s marketplace. Stacey hammers home the idea of approaching the business of producing FINAL GIRL with innovative marketing strategies in mind.
• Johnny and Alejandro become members of Film Specific, following more of Stacey’s advice and become inspired by other members’ success stories.
• Johnny, Alejandro and Stephen rewrite the script so they can execute it as a contained film for a $250K budget. Johnny & Alejandro are still attached at this time to produce & direct, respectively.
• Heeding Stacey’s advice, the filmmakers create their marketing & distribution plan. Alejandro enlists Maria Banos to create a poster and artwork. He utilizes his background in entertainment marketing to create copy. The three writers develop a bible for a web series called THE SEEDS which would follow FINAL GIRL’s characters in their early years and show how each developed into the archetypes they would become in the feature project. They also developed some social media marketing schemes. The plan is to begin pre-marketing the project before the feature is even shot.
• Johnny and Alejandro are accepted into the NALIP Latino Media Market to pitch FINAL GIRL to development execs, agents and managers. The filmmakers take the conference by storm, armed with a full size poster, lobby cards and enough cash to buy plenty of drinks at the hotel bar. They tackle each pitch starting from a business discussion. They lay out their marketing plan first, then distribution expectations. The execs eat it up, commenting on how refreshing it is to meet with screenwriters who are also business men. The marketing plan leaves such a great impression, that even when the execs were not looking for material like FINAL GIRL; they want to develop relationships in order to find other projects to work with them on. After the pitch sessions, the two block off a corner at the bar and start the real networking with the folks they met earlier. Many of these executives, producers and managers remain part of their growing “sphere of influence” today. That conference was the tipping point. It was the moment they knew they were going to make this film and their careers happen.
• Stephen’s solo project, JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, gets announced at Cannes and in the Hollywood Reporter. The Sci-Fi doc focuses on the story of cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempts to film Frank Herbert‘s novel Dune in the 1970′s, one of cinema’s great “films that never were.” This documentary starts getting attention, which only helps in opening doors for FINAL GIRL.
• Alejandro then submits his award-winning road film script, GRAIN, to the Sundance Producers Lab. The quality, Latino-themed writing sample has been instrumental in opening many doors for Alejandro, winning him contests, readings, and fellowships. They put together an impressive industry table read for GRAIN, which continues to buildup their Rolodex. The GRAIN screenplay catches the attention of producer Marco Torres, a former MGM exec. Impressed with the package for GRAIN, Marco stays in touch with Alejandro and Johnny and promises to do what he can to help them get their careers off the ground.
• True to his word, Marco calls some months later to see if the writers have any low budget Horror or Thriller scripts. They send FINAL GIRL over and it gets a raving reaction the next day. Johnny, Stephen and Alejandro meet with Marco and repeat their marketing plan pitch. Three days later, Marco options FINAL GIRL.
• Marco goes to work for Rob Carliner (CRAZY HEART) and Prospect Park (WILFRED) as a development exec. FINAL GIRL gets leaked to ICM, causing a stir. Agents have been hustling, looking for the right project for celebrity fashion photographer-turned-director, Tyler Shields. He reads it and expresses interest. Prospect Park presents the writers with the opportunity to sell the script, but with Tyler directing and Marco and Prospect Park producing. Alejandro and Johnny decide to step down from these positions, but remain as writers. Within a matter of weeks, the producers find financing through Studio City Pictures. ICM negotiates the deal for the filmmakers and in early December the deal gets announced in Variety.
• Phones have been ringing ever since and the writers are now working on getting their other Thrillers, Action-Adventures and Dramas set up.
• While following Stacey’s great advice did not lead them to exactly the scenario they originally imagined for ourselves (producing & directing), Johnny and Alejandro are now getting the film made by the producers of award-winning films at a much bigger budget. The promotional opportunities that will come from making a film with such seasoned vets are incomparable. Stacey’s marketing advice is what helped them garner the industry’s attention by showing execs that although they are filmmakers and artists, they were prepared to be fiscally responsible. Turning over every rock and submitting to various labs and fellowships helped them grow their network. Having a great writing sample in GRAIN helped open the doors for their other projects. All of these efforts taught them a valuable lesson – a filmmaker must use all resources at his/her disposal to make the miracle of film happen.
So what about you? Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!