9.25.2006

Nitwit of the day! We have a winner in absentia

I realize this isn't your area of expertise, but I might as well try: I've been working on a script. A friend of mine is sure there are agencies out there hesitant to take on writers from rural, "unmarketable" areas such as Iowa, where we currently reside. So much so that he is sending his own script to a friend in another state, just to have an address from Colorado on the envelope. I find it hard to believe that any agency that wants to make money would throw out any good work, but then again, maybe I just have a rural way of thinking. And if having 'Colorado' would get my work opened, read and decided on faster, I'm all for it.


Your friend is a nitwit.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Exactly.
If it's a movie or television script, have it mailed from a Beverly Hills zip code.
If it's a book, especially nonfiction, have it mailed from a NYC address.
Then all will be well.
-ObiDonWan

Anonymous said...

Screenwriting operates under a completely different set of rules than book publishing. Don't even think about sending any part of an unsolicited script from anywhere. Film production companies and agents who deal with scripts are hyper paranoid about people claiming their ideas were stolen so THEY WILL NOT OPEN A FAT ENVELOPE unless a script has been requested. The receptionist will think you are a complete twit if you send one. No one else will see it. You're supposed to register your script with the AWG or the Library of Congress then send out a very brief 1 page query letter ONLY until the full thing is requested. There are numerous books available for would-be screenwriters describing how this works. Study those. Follow the instructions.

Anonymous said...

Your buddy's thinking rural, all right. How do you explain why your phone number's not in the same state as your PO Box and you don't pay taxes in that state? And what happens when they want to fly you out to LA to take a meeting, you gonna secretly ride a bus to/from Denver in the middle of the night every time?

heidi said...

Since when is rural Iowa so far removed from the rest of the US that it becomes a liability to live there? Don't you have a post office? Don't you have the Internet? Don't you use US currency?

Believe me, living five hours from the nearest major city is *nothing* compared to living five days away from the next human settlement.

Try living in outback Western Australia.

overdog said...

Anonymous 1, I respectfully disagree. I read scripts for a Hollywood agency, and nobody there looks at the return address to judge the script's merits. My instructions from the head lit. agent there are as follows:

Read the first ten pages. If I'm not excited, mark it "NO."
If I'm excited, read the last ten pages.
If I'm still excited, then the agent will read it.
If she's excited, she'll contact the author, no matter where s/he lives, and offer representation.

By the way, this agent just sold a script by some rural writer from out in the middle of nowhere in northern Minnesota. Despite the rural address, somehow the script was good for Dreamworks. Isn't that wacky?

Miss Snark is right. The questioner's friend is a nitwit. (And any agent that would turn down a script because of an "uncool" return adress is a nitwit, too.)

overdog said...

Anonymous 2 has the right idea. Querying is good. But you can query from anywhere, geez. And yes, register your script with the WGA-w before you send it out. Protect yourself.

Pennyoz said...

Well there goes Iowa off my "Must Go To" list. Does Hertz rent covered wagons?

Jean said...

Huh? Tambo? You listening to this one? Try to pick yourself up off the floor. But go ahead and keep laughing.

Concur. The friend is a nitwit.

zornhau said...

You probably want to direct your questions here:
http://www.wordplayer.com/

You might also find useful:
The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski

which - if it's similar to the earlier edition I have - covers everything about scriptwriting except the actual storytelling.

(Amazon.com has second hand copies for not very much money)

Anonymous said...

Your friend is very clever. No doubt he/she will then have the Colorado script sent to L.A. from Idaho, where all the hot scripts are coming from these days.

kitty said...

So it's COLORADO! And here I've been sending mine from my home state of NY.

Anonymous said...

If your friend's idea had any merit (and it doesn't) Colorado wouldn't impress anyone any more than the other "fly-over" states, in the minds of the east-coast/west-coast elites.

At least Iowa has that great writer's workshop...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Miss Snark. You're the nitwit here. In screenwriting, where you're from is critical. People even pay answering services in Beverly Hills so no one can tell by their phone number that they live in an unfashionable section of LA.

lisa said...

Sheesh. You people are talking like Iowa is some sort of ... oh, I don't know. Canada or something.

Maybe the nitwit could work on improving iowa's self-defeatest image by sending along a homemade cornhusk doll, sitting in a director's chair.

Power of suggestion, I always say...

Anonymous said...

To elaborate on my previous comment -- most producers don't want to deal with someone who isn't in LA. It's a dumb prejudice but it certainly exists. Unless you have the next blockbuster, you really need to be in LA.

Colorado is an okay place to mail a script from because you could plausibly be on vacation there. Martha's Vineyard, Telluride, Aspen, Santa Fe -- all vacation spots for LA types. And while no one may be looking at the return address on the envelope, they certainly do look at it in the query -- which is what you should be sending instead of a full script.

In LA, "write well" isn't nearly enough. It's "write well and be pals with Brad Pitt."

Divawrites said...

Your friend IS a nitwit. I live in South Carolina, and I sent my script out to various agencies. One well-known agency requested my entire script, which I have copyrighted and registered with the WGAw. The reader called me and requested it, then the agent read it and loved it, and so did his boss, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It's the writing, not the address dear.

Anonymous said...

Make it a science fiction script. Everyone knows Captain Kirk is from (rather, he WILL be from) Iowa, so that makes it a coooool state from which to send a genre script!

Oh, wait--Superman was raised in Kansas, right? Do a science fiction superhero script and make sure your return address has "Kansas" in REAL BIG letters on the front.

Your friend can do only western scripts since Kit Carson was from Colorado or perhaps a horror docudrama script since Lon Chaney and prospector-turned-cannibal Alfred Packer were also from Colorado.

Or you could both just let your writing sell the piece, not your home address.

Chumplet said...

What a cruel, cruel world. It's who you know AND... the other stuff.

I guess Colorado is the new black.

overdog said...

"Anonymous said...
To elaborate on my previous comment -- most producers don't want to deal with someone who isn't in LA."

Sorry, anonymous, wrong again. If you write a screenplay a producer wants to produce, s/he buys it. You are out of the picture. S/he doesn't "deal with" you. S/he might hire another writer to "deal with," and that writer will rewrite your baby. (You have to live in LA to be THAT writer.) But nobody needs to deal with you unless you're a hotshot, and that likely won't be your first script anyway.

If your movie's a mega-blockbuster, then people will "deal with" you, and you can live wherever you want.

If you want to pitch ideas or write for TV, yeah, you need to be in LA (or maybe New York, but probably LA). And it certainly can't hurt a screenwriter to live on the coast (it's nice here). But it's not a requirement.

Elektra said...

Overdog, I believe Anony 1 was joking...

Ryan Field said...

Location, location, location...

Isn't that a somewhat dated concept now that THE WORLD IS FLAT...?

There was an excellent first time novel out a few years back titled, ANYWHERE BUT HERE, about an address snob who lived in the worst end of Beverly Hills just to have that 90210 zip. It was a film, too. This is an excellent example of how no-talent nitwit's who pay for Beverly Hills answering services to get the "right" phone number wind up driving ten year old Mercedes and living in places called The Seacrest Arms on the fringes of Beverly Hills.

nice anonymous said...

Ummm, people attending the Iowa Writers Workshop probably use an Iowa return address all the time ... and I've never heard any of them fretting over the prejudice they think they might encounter because the envelope wasn't postmarked in, say, Brooklyn or San Francisco or Cambridge or Saratoga Springs.

Emmy Voter said...

Gotta chime in with the agreement that your script is what matters, not your return address, when you are offering a spec feature. In fact some agencies and producers are specifically looking for 'fresh voices' and people who have life experience outside the 213/310. People who are paying for Beverly Hills PO Boxes or answering services to create an image are losers looking for an 'in.' If their work were selling they wouldn't need the
location excuse. Lots of working writers live out in the valley or up by Valencia.

If you want to work as a TV writer, either on staff or freelance, or be a studio's go-to writer for turning first-draft features into production drafts, then yes, you'll most likely need to move to the greater LA area, and indicating a willingness to do so can show an agent that you understand the business. (After you've built your reputation for brilliance, you can live elsewhere and just jet in for meetings.)

But for sending out a script for 'cold reading,' your location doesn't matter. If it did, I concur with the earlier poster, Colorado is no 'better' than Iowa as a place outside the radius to hail from and send mail from.

B. Dagger Lee said...

Go all out and legally change your name to Joe Eszterhas, then just put a return address label saying, Joe Eszterhas, Center of the Universe, Currently on location in Iowa, boinking starlet [insert name].

The Colorado idea is a bad one, I'm from there, and there's way too much Polartec all over the state for it to be a cool place. And that includes Aspen.

yrs, B. Dagger Lee

Harry Connolly said...

Miss Snark, there are lots of places where people can get their script questions answered. For instance:

Chris Lockhart is the Executive Story Editor at ICM.

Wordplay, run by Pirates of the Caribbean writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have a long-running message board. It's not what it once was, but it's a great place to go.

Bill Martell is a writer who has written a bunch of movies, and all the ones that have been made are low-budget. He's got a lot of great craft advice.

Scott the Reader is a professional reader for the studios.

Really, it would be the work of a few minutes to google up a couple places to go ask script-specific questions.

Ryan Field said...

Emmy voter said, "People who are paying for Beverly Hills PO Boxes or answering services to create an image are losers looking for an 'in'..."

This was so well stated I wish I'd been mean enough to write it.

Anonymous said...

Now, I live in Alaska so take what I have to say for what it's worth. My opinioun comes from reading lots and lots of blog entries and articles by screenwriters (mostly in the TV business) and my understanding is that if you live anywhere other then LA their going to say "If this person was serious, they'd be out here,".
I believe the predjudice against people who DON'T live in LA does exsist, Larry Brody and Jane Espenson have both reffered to it at some point. There is also an age discrimination as well. But *shrug* you wana be a screenwriter, move. If it REALLY doesn't matter where you're from it's wont hurt to be in the same city as the people who are going to be reading your spec.

Anonymous said...

I hope no one tells Jane Smiley that you can't get published writing from Iowa. Or get a Pulitzer for a novel set in Iowa.

Bill E. Goat said...

By that thinking no Goat will ever be published! I reject that! I fully expect to be published. My new novel, The Seduction of Molly Goat is about the ghost of King Henry III's favorite goat. It haunts a stone shed in Normandy.

There's this really cute French Alpine who's made the stone shed her home. The ghost goat hasn't really been interested in the things Goats do for a few centuries. I mean, he is dead. But Molly's so totally cute! So ...

Well, anyway, I'm sure someone like Elora's Cave will publish it. So being rural should be no hindrance to publication. Typing without fingers may be, but rural location? Never!

Emmy Voter said...

Anonymous in Alaska, Larry Brody and Jane Espenson are TV writers, successful ones; their advice applies to that field. I can't emphasize the distinction enough. TV staff writing is a day job that involves going to an office on a daily basis -- you need to be within commuting distance of that office. Even freelancers need to be close by for frequent meetings, haphazardly scheduled. TV scripts are not bought on spec, they are beat out in collaboration in the room. Conference calls don't substitute.

None of this applies to screenwriters selling spec features, which are purchased after they are complete, similarly to fiction manuscripts. Being in town can give you advantages (including the constant education you receive from being immersed in the culture of Da Biz), but it's not necessary in features as it is in TV.

Most people sending spec feature scripts in from Iowa or Colorado will not make sales. Neither will most people sending them from West Hollywood. The differential is not the return address.

PS Ryan Field, hee! Call me!

Judy said...

I say we all move to Colorado and start writing scripts. We could flood the LA offices of producers and agents alike, but by our sheer numbers we could break down the walls of prejudice in that lovely, lovely city pf promise. Then, when we all get rich and famous, we can move to LA and start a writer's colony somewhere in Beverly Hills. I say we get a mansion and turn it into a writers' commune.

Only then can we confess that we come from less favored areas like Iowa or even Colorado.

It's so nice to dream. Actually, I'd hate LA and that whole mentality. I'll stay where I am, crank out a novel every few years, and keep plugging.

GutterBall said...

B. Dagger Lee, your Broncos are killing me. Could you ask them to please stop winning? I mean, seriously. Give us other AFC Westers a chance!

Word ver: wldcgkhw - the Vowel-less Wonder!

overdog said...

elektra, you're so right. At least I hope so.

Harry Connolly said...

I hope no one tells Jane Smiley that you can't get published writing from Iowa. Or get a Pulitzer for a novel set in Iowa.

This isn't a question of "getting published." It's about writing scripts.

Anonymous said...

This very issue stopped me from writing screenplays. No matter how many screenwriting classes I took with screenwriters, producers etc, they all implied that it would be best to live in LA. I was always told that if I want to be considered a serious, long-term screenwriter, I'd better be moving to sunny Cali or forget it. Even though I had a screenplay requested by Paramount a few years ago, my family and I weren't about to pack up and move across the US. I started writing novels instead.

It has been interesting to get the point of view from others that work in the business. I appreciate your input. Maybe I'll get back to screenwriting again one day.

Sumac said...

I must defend my home state:
Not only is Iowa the home of the famous writer's workshop, it is also host to a handful of top agents who still travel to the cornfields once or twice a year to lightly "recruit" writers from the workshop, give talks and hobnob amongst the hogs.

As an editor originally from somewhere NOT New York City (There are many of us!) I'm often drawn to books about Iowa, and authors from Iowa. As I'm sure an editor from Florida would be naturally drawn to stories about Florida or authors from Florida, etc. Working in a big city, it's a pleasant surprise to pick up a manuscript and realize it's written by someone who lives near where your grandfather used to farm in Traer.

Re: screenwriting: my best friend's an agent at a major agency. She sometimes shares her scripts with me, and the writers she reads are from all over the place. However, I think it puts you at an advantage to live in L.A. as a screenwriter, because the writer-for-hire mode of work is much more common out there.

B. Dagger Lee said...

gutterball:

I used to live in Colorado, but was driven out by the Polartec. Now I live in the center of the universe.

Broncos? What are Broncos? I seem to remember some jibber jabber about Broncos.

Broncos! Stop winning! Go play with Princess Sparkle Pony and cut out the rest!

yrs, B.D.L.

Kanani said...

I'd become a Lebowski nihilist just to get into the writers program at Ames.

Anyway, there are so many screenwriters in L.A. The most tragi-comedic plug I ever saw was when a guy with a script took out a billboard on La Cienega saying, "Kevin Costner: I wrote _____ for you!" As the weeks went by and it was apparent that Kevin Costner had not read his script, various names were put up, crossed out and another substituted.

So while living in LA might get you hired to write, it's no guarantee of getting your script read.

Heck. Keep writing. Don't give up. Doesn't matter where you live, as long as you produce writing of good calibre and you're enjoying what you do.

GutterBall said...

Broncos! Stop winning! Go play with Princess Sparkle Pony and cut out the rest!

Bwahah! That oughtta do it!

As per the center of the earth, I used to think I lived there. Turns out it was two miles south. *sigh*

Word ver: vudwm - the crushing disappointment experienced when discovering that you used to live two miles north of the center of the universe.

Anonymous said...

I actually do live in the center of the universe but wish we lived just a mile south.

Anonymous said...

diva, part of e that is missing is *then* what happened? Did the agent actually sign you? And if so, did he/she sell the script? I doubt that too.

You can die from encouragement in Hollywood.

You really do have to live in SoCal unless you are a very unusual client. Unlike a novel, you don't just send off a script and have it sold. You have to take the meetings.

Laurel said...

Yeah, okay... I laughed SO LOUD when I saw this.

Let me say that I find an Iowa postmark or reference (I lived there for seven years, stuck around five after I finished the workshop) to be a HUGE plus!

I have had several people specifically request to read my ms BECAUSE I lived in Iowa. Like, they replied to my emails to ask if my Iowa address meant I was a grad of the workshop.

I now put "Iowa gal" in the subject line of query emails.

No shit.

xoLaurel