Recently, a guy we know who is more of a player than we are, was approached by somebody looking for a low-budget script in that genre. The guy we knew sent the would-be producer our way. We emailed, Skyped, and came to–we thought–a meeting of the minds. General terms and money were offered, we thought that was enough to get rolling.
Weeks passed. Nothing more from the producer.
As such things sometimes go, another guy got interested in the project. He didn't want to produce as much as direct, but when we put him together with the first guy, they didn't hit it off.
Let's call them ... Jerry Lee (the producer) and Elvis (the director) respectively.
So Elvis called us back and wanted to maybe do a deal if we hadn't already set one with Jerry Lee. We thought about it, since no contracts had been forthcoming. Dropped Jerry Lee a line: 'sup, Dude?
Jerry Lee hemmed politely and allowed as how he was busy showing the script around to producers and hadn't gotten all the responses back yet, he needed another couple-three weeks, and–
Whoa! Hold up there, Sparky! You can't do that. Until there is a deal in place, signed papers, option money tendered and all, you aren't supposed pitch the script. That's the rule.
Hollywood, as some of you may have heard, is not so much about making movies as making deals, and bootstrapping is the order of the day. You hustle here, you hustle there, and if you catch the right people on the right day with the right project, you can uncover gold.
But what an option on a project is supposed to do is make somebody pay for the right to hustle it for x-amount of time. It's a crap shoot; they rent it, put it in play, and if they can sell it, good. If not, it reverts to the writer.
I know folks who have made a fair amount of coin selling and re-selling the options for their books, never having one make it to the silver screen.
More than a few times over the years, I've been approached by wanna-be producers with a lot of enthusiasm but no money and no real prospects. I confess I have allowed myself to be taken in by a couple of them. They seemed so earnest, they blew a lot of sunshine up my sarong, and amongst all the name-dropping–we'll get Brangelina to star, and what did I think about maybe Bruce Willis doing that role?–I was swept up into dreams of glory.
Hustlers know how to pitch dreams of glory ...
Not any more. I have worked with folks who subsequently couldn't manage to put a deal together, but the difference was, if they were willing to pay for an option; that put them into a different class of serious. LaLaLand is notorious for breaking dreams, like Conan wading through bar thugs and cracking heads, but cash on the table is, for me, the dividing line.
Free is a very good price, and if you don't do anything with it? Doesn't cost you anything. If you pay your own money for something, you tend to work harder to make it go.
On one side, people who are pure hustle; on the other side, those who are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Trust me, the latter is the way to go. Not that pure hustlers don't sometimes get lucky; it's just that the odds are really, really long that they will.
We spoke with Jerry Lee and allowed he had to get papers and a check to us ... and he was reluctant. So we are going with Elvis ...