Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A 'Lot' Of Interest In This Show

Hello, I'm Phillip, and I'm an aspiring screenwriter. (Everyone: "Hi, Phillip!")

Being an aspiring screenwriter is almost like an addiction. (I qualify myself by saying "aspiring," since I've yet to earn $1 from doing it.) Like any addiction, it's often a pointless, self-destructive, waste of time. Honestly, all the hours I've spent pecking away at my computer on weekends would probably be spent better if I was playing online poker.

Yet I still do it. Like the gambler with a problem, one thinks that the next roll of the die, the next turn of the roulette wheel will be the winning roll that makes all of the losing worth it.

A quarter-century ago, legendary screenwriter William Goldman wrote the book "Adventures In The Screen Trade," which helped birth a nation of aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers, all with the same notion of walking out of a bad movie and saying "I can do better," then trying to do so.

Screenwriting has become a modern-day lottery. People imagine earning millions of dollars by selling that one script, because they heard of some housewife in Tacoma who did just that. What people never hear about are the millions of people waiting tables for the rest of their lives, piling up rejection letters from the companies courteous enough to send them.

I've quit screenwriting several times, but for various reasons, it didn't take. My first script, "1066," was a finalist for a Disney Fellowship in 2003 and won a bronze medal for Best Historical Screenplay at WorldFest, the Houston Film Festival. I even optioned it (though I never got paid for it.) I had enough of a success with it that it got me through two more scripts which no one in Hollywood cared about.

After that, I tried to write something more commercial, and you can't get more commercial than animated movies. The one I wrote, about dragons, didn't win any awards, but every company in Hollywood is looking for the next "Shrek," so I got a lot of looks everywhere (except the granddaddy of them all, Pixar). I even had a manager take it specially to Sony Animation; after they showed no interest in it, neither did the manager.

But it was enough to keep me going. The latest one I've written, "Nightstrike," was a quarterfinalist at last year's Austin Film Festival, then made it to the quarters of Creative Screenwriting's AAA contest. Right now, it's with a bona fide producer who wants to buy it, and has sent it to directors and actors you've actually heard of.

Yet while my family and friends are very excited about the prospect, I spend half my time waiting for the other shoe to drop because we writers are intrinsically a miserable lot, perhaps genetically incapable of optimism. Until I am holding a check that contains a life-changing amount of zeroes on it, I'm holding my breath, hoping against hope that this is truly the one and not another mirage.

I write this long preamble because tonight Fox airs its new reality show, "On The Lot," (Fox, 9 p.m.), which is co-produced by Steven Spielberg. Somewhat akin to the defunct "Project Greenlight," "On The Lot" is a chance for 50 writer-directors to compete for one of those rare Hollywood opportunities. The twist is, the audience at homes gets to see the filmmakers' work and vote for the contestants to advance, a' la "American Idol."

I have no idea about "On The Lot's" quality, but I enjoyed "Greenlight" a great deal and I'm looking forward to tonight's episode, in which the contestants have to pitch their ideas. Having done a pitch session in Austin (and humiliating myself), I can tell you it's one of the hardest aspects of filmmaking.

I wish them all luck. In Hollywood, it's usually the only factor that matters.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Speaking of "American Idol," it wraps up its final hour of competition (Fox, 8 p.m.) before tomorrow night's results show.

Speaking of reality, ABC has a night full of it (well, full of something) with a wrap-up to "The Bachelor" at 8 p.m., followed by the final "Dancing With the Stars" at 9 p.m.

"NCIS" (CBS, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season, followed by a new "Jesse Stone" movie, starring Tom Selleck.

"Veronica Mars" (CW, 8 p.m.) wraps up the series with a two-hour finale, ending what has been a slow, painful death for its fans.

Finally, "The Shield" (FX, 10 p.m.) continues what has been an exceptional run this year.


Edge said...

What no Heroes comments?

What did you think about last nights episode?

*I wan't go into details for those who have not seen it yet. but you may not want to read this comment.

All I can say is I was very disapointed. The show was going so well, and building up to what I thought was going to be a big ending then....meh. Don't get me wrong, there where a couple of great moments last night, and the set up for next year will be interesting. But they could have had a better fight at the end. It was almost like they said, oh no we have a hour program, with only 7 minutes left, so we have to squeeze something in at the last minute. I mean did they run out of time or what?

Anyway, I guess I'll comment further and in more detail of my disapointment when you post about it.

Phillip Ramati said...

I'll post my comments tomorrow, in case people taped it last night and didn't get a chance to see it, but suffice it to say, I guess I liked it better than you.

hotspur said...

Hi Phillip

Yhe hours you "wasted" will be worthwhile when you get the first check.

Jonathan said...

Oddly enough I also at one time tried my hand at screenplay writing and now make my money at on-line and live action poker. I still write from time to time, but nowhere near where I use to. I once got a rejection letter for a screenplay I submitted to Nickelodeon/Paramount, and it was orange; I still have that framed.

Good luck in your endeavor; from your writing here you obviously have the creative powers to get it done. I am looking forward to "Lot" as well, but I have a feeling it will pale in comparison to the highly underrated and underseen "Project Greenlight." Having the American public vote on it doesn't seem like the smartest thing, but who knows.

zodin2008 said...


You're not wasting your time if your passionate about what your doing and the scripts are good. And the fact is, you have obviously made enough contacts that you are getting close enough to finally crack the Hollywood line. You should continue to write if you enjoy it.

As for the finales, I enjoyed "Heroes" just fine but I can't say it was the best episode of the year. Very strong, just not my #1 of their 23 episode season.

As for 'Veronica', I at least hold out hope that the CW decides, in some way or another, to stay in business with Rob Thomas and the adorable Kristen Bell.

Phillip Ramati said...

Thanks for the love, guys, I hope everyone will be overcharged at the box office if one of my scripts gets made.

Jonathan, in a way, the public should be voting because in a sense, that's what it does when it pays for its tickets.

Zod, Kristen Bell will be doing voice-over narration on the new CW series set in the world of private school kids (the name escapes me at the moment), so you will be able to at least listen to her.

zodin2008 said...

Listening to Kristen Bell & watching her adorable face light up the small screen and deliver witty banter, are two entirely different animals. I do enjoy her voiceovers on "Veronica" but she also gets to act.

According to the press, Dawn Ostroff (CW prez.) has until June 15th to cut a show deal with Thomas & Bell together, or Bell can walk.

If I were Dawn Ostroff, I would get a deal done and let Rob create an FBI or other type new series.

Phillip Ramati said...

If CW and Rob Thomas were going to do the VM FBI show, they'd have announced it by now. The way everyone keeps saying it's dead likely means it is dead.