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Your Hollywood Career File Drawer #9

Ref 330. I have a variation on the commonly asked, "Is film school worth it?" I am an undergraduate film student who was been recently advised to choose a different field of study for undergraduate work, for the so-called "life experience" and to choose "film" as a graduate area of study for the technique. I was wondering if you had any opinion? Thanks!


Ref 331. Hi Linda:
I'm from Boston, MA. Just finishing my first script. I am working on the assumption that
it is "commercial" and someone will want to make it (We have to think positively, don't we?)
I have recently reestablished contact with an old friend who is now a creative VP with 20th Cent Fox.
He is a man who decides what movies are made. Good contact, huh? He even said he will read my script when it is finished.
Also fortunate, right?
My question is this:
Let's say he likes it and wants to buy the script, I would then be missing out on a "bidding war" opportunity which could potentially raise the selling price on the script a great deal (remember, we are assuming that the script is very strong and "commercial")
It is possible that through other contacts and referrals I could find a decent agent to shop the script around (this is a maybe, not an assumption).
Am I better off going the agent route, paying the 10% comm. and hoping for a bidding war, or to go first to my 20th Cent friend and seeing if they will make me an offer. And take what they give?
I hope this clear. I look forward to your answer.

Ref 333. LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 330, TRAVIS: I've written a chapter in my book just for you! Get a copy of "How to Make It in Hollywood," 2nd edition, published by HarperCollins (any bookstore can order it for you) and check out page 102, "the pros and cons of film school". Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 331, BOSTON SCREENWRITER: Wow, what a great contact! I'd definitely take advantage of that contact and send him the script. Have an entertainment industry attorney standing by to handle the deal for you if you hit the jackpot. Don't worry about getting a fortune for your first script. Just get it made! If, far more likely, your friend doesn't buy it, try to get him to refer you to a top agent in Hollywood to represent you, assuming he's impressed with your writing. A writing career in this town involves selling many scripts, getting many assignments, and making many good relationships. Best of luck!

Ref 335. Hi Linda,

I would like to get started in playing in movies and comercials. Where
do I begin?

Ref 336. Ref 378. Anyone who is interested in online screenwriting class via the Internet,
contact Marylhurst College in Portland, Oregon. They have a 3 credit
course available on the world wide web. The instructor is a professional
writer with scripts under contract. I took the class, and it was terrific. I
really figured things out. You can check out their web site at or contact Kathleen Paul, Marylhurst's Director
of Instructional Technology ( call 1-800-634-9982.
The fall quarter starts September 18.

Ref 337. I believe I have great script. Is it possible to be a novice and still
be a part of making the movie?

Ref 338. Hi Linda,
We've pitched our screenplay to several developoment executives at Cannes
who all requested a copy of the script. My question is whether we should send it to them directly
or try and seek out an agent first which would obviously take more time.

Thnaks in advance


Ref 340. Dear Linda:
I had the good fortune of winning $38,206.38 on a DREAMWORKS test-market gameshow entitled "Majority Rules," last November. This past summer I used the money to shoot my first feature film (106min/16mm) based on a play I wrote that won the Young Playwright's Festival. My question is: Will the gameshow story work for me or against me? I want the work to be considered seriously, of course, and we are very proud of it. Also, can I use the DREAMWORKS gameshow connection in some way to get DREAMWORKS to look at it and maybe support it or at least refer it? I just want to make sure I don't make any false moves. We just finished the film September 10, right before I drove from Ohio back here to UCLA. We've already submitted to Sundance and Slamdance and John Pierson--what next and how do I use that game show story?
Biagio Messina (that's biagio "one one one")

Ref 341. Hi Linda!

I am a new writer with a fantastic self-help book almost complete. What happens
next? I live in Toronto, Canada ( for those who wonder, "Where?!") and will need
an editor, agent and publisher - I guess. Is that the correct order? Are there publishers
who will take first time writers seriously? I have made some query calls with good
response. Now, should I do letters, then send the manuscript (skip the editor and
let the publisher edit?). HELP!!!

Ref 342. By the way - it is me, 341 - If you can give me info pertaining to the US (publishers
who publish first timers) I certainly would not ignor it.

Ref 343. LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 335, GETTING STARTED. I think you'll enjoy reading my book HOW TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD 2nd edition, published by HarperCollins. It will tell you how to get started in the industry.

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 337, SCREENWRITER: Whether or not a novice screenwriter gets to hang out on the set is totally up to the producer and director. Usually the answer is no!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 338, STEVE: If you don't have an agent to represent you on your script (see the chapter of my book on agents for more info on that), line up an entertainment attorney to represent you and mention that so-and-so is representing me on this script, so the development execs have someone to contact if they'd like to option the property. It's just more professional. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 340, DREAMWORKS GAMESHOW WINNER: Congratulations on winning the gameshow money and shooting your first feature. I'd definitely use the Dreamworks story -- it's a great story! You can joke with people that Dreamworks financed your first feature... that ought to get people's attention! Best luck and keep me posted.

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 341, TORONTO WRITER: Hello to a fellow Canuck! (I'm from Montreal originally). If your self-help book is on a hot subject you can probably get a literary agent. Writer's Market published a good book on Literary (i.e. book) agents which you can probably get at the library or a good bookstore. And there are writer's associations like PEN that you can join for further advice. Ask a reference librarian at the library to help you plug into the book writers community in Toronto. And good luck!

Ref 344. Dear Linda:
I was 339 (Dreamworks gameshow winner) and unfortunately only part of your response came through! Please, if you get the chance, let me know what you were going to say about using the story.
Thank you so much!

Ref 345. I was 340--scratch that--now it came through! I've taken your advice and so far everyone I've e-mailed--Redeemalbe Films and Leo Films, and Wendy Jane Carrel--have almost instantly replied and asked to see the film (all this week) I'm very excited to be getting the film out there, and look forward to bringing you more good news!
Sincerely, Biagio

Ref 346. I have some grerat ideas for commercials but I know this is also a
catch 22 situation. Is there a way to get my idea read? Im from NY
my email is

Ref 347. Hello Linda. I was wondering if you could tell me what is the most important part
of a screenplay to a movie executive. Honestly, is it the characters and the plot, or is it the marketability of a
story that is consistent with what is currently making Hollywood studios more money(i.e. big budget special effects)

Also, what course of action should I take to pitch a story that I am currently working on?

Thank you very much.

Ref 348. Hi Linda, I am a Student in the u.k, I am also, a poet and writer of
short fictional stories, Embarking on a Degree in writing .
Hopefully, to speacialize in screen writing. What is your advice on
furthering exposureof my work?.Is this to be done now or when I have
graduated. Sincerely Dave (H).

Ref 349. LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 345, BIAGIO: Great to hear that so many folks are eager to see the fillm. Keep me posted!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 346, WTHRILL: I'm not an expert on copywriting for the advertising business. But good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 347, SCREENWRITER: The most important part of a screenplay to a movie executive is hard to define. It's obviously different for different people at different sized companies with different tastes. But, by and large, the big studios are looking for "event" projects -- either high concept or based on an "important" literary property, with a marketable hook (imagine the movie poster) and "castable" lead roles (i.e. big stars will want to play the part). But there are many exceptions to this general rule of thumb. My advice to all writers: write what's burning in your guts, not what you think Hollywood will like. THEN go about getting that out, winning screenplay contests, getting an agent etc. to build a career.
In terms of pitching a story, if you live in LA you'd probably want to get an agent and go thru your agent to set up a pitch or "meet and greet" meeting with the appropriate development execs/producers. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 348, DAVE, STUDENT FROM THE U.K.: If you're going to get a degree in screenwriting, try to pick a university that has ties with the film industry and can get your work read if the professors are enthusiastic about your talent. For example, Richard Walter of UCLA screenwriting department is well known as a source of good new material by promising writers so his recommendation would mean a lot. Good luck and keep me posted!

Ref 350. Dear Linda,
I am a screenwriter living in Australia. I have a degree in film and
graduate diploma in journalism. I have written three screenplays. I
have an agent in CA and I have been told that I will have a sale by
mid next year. My question is, what can a first time screenwriter
expect to make from a feature set for theatre release? And what
should I do after that first sale -- continue in a similar genre
writing specs or try to set myself up as a contract writer. (I intend
to move to LA by mid '98, but only after I've had a sale or option).
Many thanks,
Elton G.

Ref 351. Dear linda,
I am a 20 year old film student who is about to attend
the American Film Institute for Screenwriting and Directing.
From your experience, will this course of action allow me to earn respect in the industry,
assuming I am persistent enuogh to get my work out in the open, or is it "Crucial" to
earn a Masters Degree. Basically, I am asking if any executives are biased to writers and directors
based on formal education, and not talent.
In advance, I thank you for your response.

Ref 352. Linda, I recently had someone option my most recent screenplay. Unfortunately, although she has an impressive resume, this is her first feature and I am beginning to doubt her ability to raise money for the project. Should I attempt to get representation at this point before it is clear the project is dead or wait until she does get the money (if she does)? I do have other screenplays to sell.

Ref 354. Dear Linda,

I have about seven scripts under my belt, two of which, have placed in two separate writing competitions. I've sent out querry letters to producers, but out of the fifteen or so letters, I received two replies. Unfortunately, my script wasn't what they were looking for. Now what, seek an agent or continue seeking a producer?

Ref 362. LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 350, AUSTRALIAN SCREENWRITER ELTON G: First of all, a little caution is in order. No agent can truthfully tell you that you'll have a sale by mid next year! I hope he or she is right, but one never knows. As for a typical price, you can contact the Writer's Guild of America/West for "scale" rates for union writers. If the producer who buys your script is fairly reputable and substantial, that's approximately what you'll get (perhaps $50,000 - $125,000) on a first script unless there's a bidding war for your script. A smaller independent producer will probably offer much less. After a first sale you'd probably want to have a couple of spec scripts available in a similar genre. Your agent will probably try to get you writing assignments as well. It's obviously much easier to make all of this happen if you move to L.A., so you can add in the "schmooze factor." Best of luck.

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 351, AFI FILM STUDENT: AFI is very respected in the industry and through AFI you should be able to connect to people in the industry. But in the end, it all comes down to talent! Call me at the Entertainment Industry Career Institute at 310/553-9660 for a free brochure when you get to town. Good luck.

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 352, SCREENWRITER: Congratulations on getting your screenplay optioned! Who did the deal for you? A lawyer? An agent? If you don't yet have an agent, use the sale as leverage in order to get one interested in you and your work. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 354: It's great that you've written 7 screenplays and placed in two writing competitions. Now it's time to connect with other writers (perhaps here at the Hollywood Network) and get referrals to agents. At the same time, keep querying producers. In my book "How to Make It in Hollywood" I talk about how to parlay producer interest into agent representation. Good luck!

Ref 355. Hello, Linda. I am currently enrolled in a screenwriting program, but have (of course) decided that's not enough. I want to get into 2ndAD/AD work, and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some resources (books, journals, whatever) on the subject of production so that I can bone up. I applied to the DGA's trainee program, and want to be well prepared! Thanks, Laura.

Ref 356. help! i'm in dire need to know how i can get my hollywood career off the ground. i'm a newborn sciptwriter and i don't have the foggiest as to how i can get my screenplay to be seen. I've searched everywhere and only got a lot of gibberish about agents and posting my scipt on the net! i'm in need of some starting advice. i would appreciate any help, thanks linda.

Ref 357. LInda,
does ucla have an on-line screenwriting course?
if they do how do you get richard walter to review you script to
refer it to hollywood exec.'s, if it's a great script?

Ref 358. Dear Linda
I want to pursue a career putting together soundtracks for films. I have a degree in Music
and majored in composition. But I have no idea how to get into this side of the industry - do
you have any tips and advice on exactly what a Music Supervisor does?

Ref 359. Dear Linda,
I want to get an ahency, but I don't know which one I should get. Could you name a few and there addresses phone #s if possible

Ref 360. just a response to #357--there is an online program at UCLA. I'm in it now and it's pretty cool. Here's the website:

can't help you with the rest of your question though.

Ref 361. Linda, I'm from Pennsylvania, out in the stix. I have been working on a screenplay for 10 years. Any advice on how to get in the screenwriters guild and copywrited

Ref 362.LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 355, LAURA: Visit the Samuel French Theatre and Film Bookshop here in L.A. to get books on production. They're on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. You can also call them to order their catalogue. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 356, LINDA: Try calling the screenwriters forum at 410/592-3466 -- join and also subscript to "script" magazine. You've got to plug in with other, more experience writers who can point the way. Don't try to be a "lone ranger." Good luck!

Ref 363. Dear linda. I appreciate your comments and enjoy your book(How to make it in Hollywood)
However, there is one question that I cannot find an answer to.
If you are currently writing, or have an idea for a screenplay, is it possible to test market it to producers, agents, etc.
and if they like it, they will pay you to write it(I have heard of some examples of this). If so, what
course of action does one take?

I move to LA next month to attend AFI and I want to test market an idea. Is this impossible due
to lack of experience? What do you think.

Thank you for your previous help(ref# 347 and #351)

Ref 364. Linda,
I have written a screenplay, my first, and an independent producer has offered me a contract to produce it. I do not have an agent and found this producer on my own. I live on the East Coast and have a contract attorney who is going to look over the contract. Although, my attorney is experienced in contract law, he's not up on what the market is paying for low budget films. The producer is offering me a very small amount up front and 1% of 100% of the net profits. For this he wants all rights to the movie, any future sequels and the television rights. For the sequels he's offering half of what he's offering for the original movie, and 1/2 of 1% of the net profits. For the television rights, he's leaving that open to negotiation. The only rights he's reserving for me are the rights to write books, magazine articles, etc. based on the movie. My question is, is this typical? That you would give up all rights to future sequels? And how often do screenwriters who make these net profit deals ever really see any of these monies? Please advise.
Thanks, Marie

Ref 365. Dear Linda,
Do I have to live in Los Angeles to have a successful career as a screenwriter? If I do not, how do I go about acquiring representation living in Chicago. My parents are older and they need me near. Thank you very much. Jana

Ref 366. Dear Linda,
I viewed your replies to messages on screenwriting and I was hoping you can help me in a different field of filmmaking. I've worked on a few movies as an extra and I had some filmmakers say I had a lot of talent, but my passion lies in directing. I took some film courses in school, but I never actually attended a major film school. Can a person who's eager to learn the industry, with very limited skills, get a break in the business? I'm at wits end here and I have no one else to ask but you. I would like to get a start as a production assistant, and through more schooling, move up "through the ranks." Is this possible or am I leading myself down a dead-end road? Thank you for your time and cooperation.

Sincerely yours,

J. Brian Peterman
Dallas, Texas

Ref 367. i am interested in becoming an actor. Can you please help me?

Ref 368. Hello Linda. I am interested in becoming a script reader. I am currently living in Chicago
I would be willing to start out working for free. How do I go about this?

Ref 369. Hi Linda. Doing some research on the film industry I notice that a great
many studio and production company executives/producers hover around 30 years
old. What happens when most of these executives are in their 40's
and there is a new crop of aggressive 30ish people wanting their jobs?
Are most powerful young executive yesterdays news in 10 years?
I find that career longevity is important for me I would like to know how
likely or unlikely it is in Hollywood. Thanks

Ref 370. Dear Linda,
This is Ref. 366 again. I also had another question for you. How
can I find a referral to an agent. I've looked in the yellow pages for
an agent, but all I found was agents for modeling. Is there someone I
can write to or call to find a good agent, and how much does an agent
cost? Thanks again, I will patiently wait for your advice.

Sincerely yours,

J. Peterman

Dallas, Texas

Ref 371. LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 357 RE UCLA ONLINE SCREENWRITING PROGRAM: Thanks to Ref. 360 for giving us the website address! And as for catching Richard Walter's, it takes a truly great script for him to agree to refer it on to a Hollywood exec and put his credibility on the line. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 358, MUSIC SUPERVISOR: You might like to take a look at page 85 of my book HOW TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD (HarperCollins) which talks about the field of music supervising. It's basically a studio job. You'd keep track of all the music on a film or TV project, clearing rights and possibly organizing scoring sessions. It's basically an administrative/ quasi-legal/librarian type job that requires an extensive knowledge of the music business. If that's your background, you might want to check this out further.
Best of luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 359, AGENCY: Call the Samuel French Theatre and Film Book Shop on Sunset Blvd. in LA and order the Agents/Managers Directory that is published by the Hollywood Creative Directory. That's the phone book of agents. Also if you're a writer you can get a list of Writers Guild of America/West approved agents from that guild, located in LA. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 361, PENNSYLVANIA SCREENWRITER. You can register your script with the Writers Guild of America/West, located in LA. Call them for info. The Library of Congress in Washington can tell you how to also copywrite your script.

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 363, 347, 351: Thanks for sticking around! You might want to check out Robert Kosberg's book "How to Sell Your Idea to Hollywood" (HarperCollins). Kosberg is considered the Hollywood "king of pitch." But be careful to have fully registered outlines or scripts registered with the WGA before you pitching anything to anyone. Ideas are much too easy to steal. Be aware, though, that no one is going to pay you to write your idea into a script unless you have fabulous spec scripts/writing samples that they can read so they know you can actually write well! As a beginner, I'd suggest you just bite the bullet and write the script. Once you've sold a few scripts, they'll be ready to buy pitches from you. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 364, MARIE, SCREENWRITER BEING OFFERED CONTRACT: First of all, congratulations! It's always nice to have someone offer to buy your work, however poorly they want to pay for it! My suggestion is to contact attorney Mark Litwak, who is on the faculty here at the Hollywood Network. He should be able to give you good advice on how to handle the sale. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 365, CHICAGO SCREENWRITER JANA: First, check out the section "Do I HAVE to Move to LA?" in my book HOW TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD (HarperCollins). That will alert you to the pros and cons. It's not impossible to be a screenwriter living in Chicago, just more difficult. I have no idea if there are credible screenwriters agents in Chicago, but it's certainly worth checking with the Illinois Film Commission to find out. You may also want to plan a trip to LA to check out some of the agents here. A good source of info for Chicago screenwriters is Jeff Gordon, who runs the Writers Boot Camp. He's from Chicago and is very helpful. Try him at 310/268-2288. Let me know what happens. Good luck!

LINDA BUZZELL'S REPLY TO REF 366, 370, J. BRIAN PETERMAN: See my reply to Ref. 359 for some ideas re. agents. Agents usually charge 10% of whatever fees you earn. As for directing, it's a very competitive field. You might want to check out the section of my book on how to break into directing -- page 66 in the second edition. It's definitely a good idea to get some on-set experience as a production assistant. But be aware that you're competing with people from all around the world -- the cream of the crop from commercials, music videos, top film schools, independent filmmakers etc. If you decide to go for directing, seriously consider doing your own "showcase/resume" film to show your stuff. Good luck!

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