It appears that our supernatural thriller script is DOA. Dead on arrival. Cause of death remains unknown, but the script could have been killed any number of ways by a long list of suspects. It seems that these days the M.O. for development execs appears to be the “tracking boards,” an online, invite-only site where producers check to see what new screenplays have come out and what the “buzz” is. Apparently, a little “buzz” can go a long way, in either direction. Everybody wants the scripts everybody wants. Nobody wants the scripts nobody wants. Interesting how that works, isn’t it? But the fact that Hollywood acts with a “mob mentality”, flocking to whatever is popular, is no new revelation. What is scary for writers, however, is that we really have no idea who is writing these tracking reports that seal our fate. It could be anybody. An intern writing coverage for their first day, trying to impress his or her boss with how smart they are by ruthlessly trashing a decent script. (As a former “reader” for the studios, I know this is most likely the case. I suppose rejection similar to what I doled out as a smart ass twenty-two year-old is my karma). Or a stressed-out development lackey with thirty scripts piled on their desk who reads the first and last ten pages and renders judgment without really reading the script. Or maybe somebody who actually knows what they are talking about and thinks the script sucks as badly as all the others that pour forth from the fingertips into the laptops of millions of writers just like me. Either way, it’s frustrating and makes me all the more appreciative of those executives who actually do read the scripts themselves and give thoughtful comments. (Or are they just recapping what they read on the tracking boards? Who’s to know?)
And then there’s the flip side. Somebody writes something glowing about a project, everybody wants to read it and grab it before someone else, and the next thing you know, there’s a bidding war on the script. The writer walks away with several hundred thousand dollars from some producer who hasn’t even read the damn thing. It’s rare but it happens.
That doesn’t change the fact that these tracking boards are more curse than blessing. Oh, how I want to hack in and write a review of my own script, fooling them all. Maybe I should write a script about a writer who finds success by hacking into a tracking board. I could send the script out, then sneak in, pretend I’m Steven Spielberg and write how great the script is, cause a bidding war, make a million bucks and then tell everyone the truth. Hollywood will either be impressed by the balls I had to pull off such a stunt or they’ll blacklist me and I’ll never get another script read by anyone. It’s all or nothing. Maybe I’m not that desperate yet.
So my co-writer and I have discussed the fate of our script and come up with Plan B: the cable television movie. We figure our movie is not very expensive and could be well-suited for the half dozen cable networks who are making TV movies or “movie events”. Apparently the ratings for these types of films are pretty good and advertisers are willing to fund them. So we’ll have to get the script to a few TV movie producers and see if they want to shop it around to places like TNT and F/X. The script is done so we may as well give it a shot. We’ve got nothing to lose. (I think). And hopefully TV people don’t read the tracking boards.