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Monday, May 30, 2005

Here's an odd question to ask in the abstract. Would you ever pitch a star vehicle without having a star handy?

Lisa and I are working up a comedy pitch, and the concept allows us to go ensemble cast or lead-and-supporting. I like it as a lead-and-supporting, but we're writing without talent attached, and one problem with lead-and-supporting is if your lead isn't marvelous, the show's dead, no matter how good the writing is. On the other hand if you're hanging it on a lead, then you can spend a little extra money on your lead; and a busy, successful actor is more likely to say yes to a lead role than one-of-the-gang. On the other other hand, with a lead, inside one year you've probably got a diva, and that's a headache in itself.

I'm not sure there is an answer to this one, but that's what I'm pondering this morning. (Are you pondering what I'm pondering?)

9 Comments:

"Would you ever pitch a star vehicle without having a star handy?" To give an answer in the perfectly abstract: no, I wouldn't.

Are you saying that an ensemble-show stands a good chance of being successful if the writing is good, whereas a show with a 'lead and supporting' will die if the lead isn't marvelous - even when the writing is excellent? Or am I misunderstanding you?

I think you should definitely go for what pitches best and/or what you like best.

-Anna

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 AM  

I have pondered what you're pondering, Alex, and it's a tricky situation. I'm developing a TV series that is intended to be a star vehicle for a particular well-known Canadian actress and a male Hollywood B-list celeb. Both are friends of mine and both want in on this project, whatever it takes, just do my best to make it happen. So, what do you do when you you've got celebrity talent practically signing on the dotted line before the pilot script is even finished? Do you pitch it to prodcos and mention their names? If you do and they don't like the people you had in mind, they may decide to pass on the project. But if you don't mention that your casting choices are eager to sign up, they may decide to go a whole different route and then you're helming a series staring people you don't know or don't like, leaving your friends, who've devoted themselves to the project for months (the Canadian actress) and years (the L.A.-based actor), out in the cold.

You're damned if you do...and damned if you don't.

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 12:49 PM  

Kelly -

I'm a feature guy and have only done a few television pitches, none of which were picked up, so pardon me if I'm off base, but your problem seems like a no-brainer. If you're developing the pitch specifically for talent that has already said yes, include the talent in the pitch. The talent is one of your major assets. In addition, it sounds like the talent helped you develop the pitch. They didn't do that for no reason. You owe them something. Looking at the downside... what was the downside, again? That the production companies might pass even though they like your pitch because they don't like the talent that you specifically developed it for? If it's really developed for this particular talent, how much sense does it make without them? What is the real chance of this downside materializing? Doesn't sound like much of a downside.

If you really developed the pitch specifically for this talent - trust yourself. Pitch it the way you intend it to be made. Live or die by your creative instincts, not by the hope that fudging a pitch might catch the interest of a producer who otherwise doesn't get it.

As I said above, this is a little outside my area, but I really don't see the "damned if you don't" part.

By Anonymous Jon, at 4:22 AM  

I think you pitch it with the talent on board but not attached. As in "so and so wants to do it." Then if the studio doesn't like so and so, they'll tell you. If you've developed it with that person, of course, you owe them some kind of buyout if the show goes forward without them. That's what some of the funky producer credits are for.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:33 AM  

Jon and Alex...

My series was developed with these these two particular actors in mind, and it was only after all the really hard work was done (9 years of research, planning and writing) that I contacted them to tell them about my series. They both loved the project and vowed to stick with me as I launched my prodco pitching blitz (doing that this spring and summer). The actress, who is married to the president of a Canadian network, has offered her assistance in getting the project to her husband (must find a prodco first, was turned down by 3 just this morning) but warns that I should, as Alex suggested, pitch it without getting specific about names right up front, and then say, "Well so-and-so wants to do it." only after negotiations are underway.

God, I hate all this strategizing and conniving. It's not good for my health. :(

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 2:01 PM  

Ohhhh... in that case I would go to Muse, say, and tell'em, "I've got an in with so-and-so, but I can't say I do until I have you attached."

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:27 PM  

You mean, be honest!!? Wow, what a strategy! Thanks for the tip, Alex. :-)

KJC (who has just located the Muse website and will email Jesse Prupas today)

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 3:49 PM  

Alex, Jesse from Muse just contacted me and he wants to see my proposal. I fucking LOVE you, man! Thanks, again, for the tip and, BTW, you do know you're on my list of writers for the show, right? :-)

KJC (who also just found out that a letter she wrote has been published in the summer edition of Canadian Screenwriter magazine, RE: the SF edition featuring an interview with Alex)

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 7:48 PM  

Mazel tov, Kelly, and good luck with Jesse. He's a good guy, and plays a mean hand at poker. Let me know how it goes with him.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:36 PM  

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