There's nothing that makes me more angry than reading a story about a writer who has "come out of nowhere" to sell a script for millions of dollars. Not because I'm jealous of their success, though I am, but because those stories never, ever make any sense. There are so many details missing that it's nonsensical, and encourages the idea that people just walk into LA and get a meeting with Spielberg.
How'd they get the agent? How many scripts did they write before that one? Who is their dad?
Sure, there are a few, rare stories of overnight success, mostly from people who went to USC. But for the most part, it's bullshit. So herewith, is a real story of some success but mostly failure, with all of the details (and half baked script ideas) included...
I was in my last year of graduate school for screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University, and just lucked into a job as an assistant for an Emmy winning comedy writer. I was working on my "thesis", which was a feature length screenplay.
I was pretty proud of it, but it's fair to say that the professors at Loyola didn't get it. This wasn't that disconcerting however, as the best credit anyone of those idiots had was "Hawk", the great spin off of "Spencer For Hire".
I worked away at the script - there were many, many rewrites. Even to this day, I don't really know if it's finished. But at some point it was "good enough", and I tried to figure out the exact right time to give it to my boss. This was a very sensitive thing. I mean, up until that point, she had respect for me. She thought I was smart and funny, and we enjoyed hanging out together.
But what if she hated the script? Then everything gets uncomfortable, and even though this is my first real script, I never get a chance with her again.
She had a 2 year development deal, so I decided to wait until it was closer to that 2 years to being up - less time for awkwardness. Finally, at the preselected date, I gave the script to her, and waited...
That wait, ugh. It's like waiting for your AIDS test results. Except instead of finding out you have an awful, most likely fatal disease, it's even worse.
The script was:
"The Target"At the time, I was dating a girl who would later end up in jail. I don't remember exactly what drama she was concocting at that time, but I know that I was outside of her apartment all night, and then drove home at 7 am - and I probably haven't been up at 7 am since.
Logline: An everyday Joe who’s been targeted for death his entire life seeks to find out why.
I got back to my apartment and checked my messages - and I heard my boss's voice. A pain shot through my stomach. She had called the night before and I missed it. She read the script...
And she fucking LOVED IT.
I don't mean she liked it a little, or thought it was pretty good for a first time writer, I mean she head over heels lost her God Damn mind over it.
She left a message that was 5 minutes long, saying that I needed to make 10 copies of the script immediately to send out to the most important people she knew, and that I should demand that Tim Burton direct it. And she was dead serious.
It was insane. I woke up my roommate and made him listen to the message, that's how good it was. That morning, and that message, remains the high point of my "career".
The reason why is that up until that point I had no idea if I could be a writer. No one had ever singled me out for any kind of talent. There was still a thought in my head that I might have to try something else. It was the first validation that I had as much a shot at this as anyone else, and there was no going back. I was going to be a writer.
I started calling family members, telling them the tale of this voice mail. And I'll never forget, my sister said to me "wow, you're an overnight success!"
Now, at this point in the story you may have noticed that you don't own the DVD of "The Target", I'll explain why soon in Chapter 2.