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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Various people from places that are not a nexus of international showbiz (hi, Branko!) occasionally write in to ask if it's possible to sell a script to Hollywood. My usual response is that it is theoretically possible, because Hollywood doesn't care where you wrote your spec, they just want a great hook. Often, however, I can tell from the email that the writer is not a native speaker of American English; then their script is almost certainly doomed.

Here my old friend and fellow staffer on CHARLIE JADE, Dennis Venter, goes and proves me right. (Via other fellow CJ staffer Denis-with-one-n) He's in South Africa, an easy 20 hours flying time from LA, and he's gone and sold a spec.

Dennis is an extremely experienced writer, mind you. In S.A. they pay practically nothing for scripts, which tends to encourage lots of writing for those few guys who can support themselves (and in Dennis's case, Lovely Wife and Adorable Kids). So his cops are pretty good. You can sell a spec to Hollywood from far away, but it still has to kick butt.

Good on ya, Dennis! Drop a note and tell us how it happened!



Congratulations, Dennis-with-two-n's!

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 11:03 AM  

"In S.A. they pay practically nothing for scripts, which tends to encourage lots of writing for those few guys who can support themselves"

This begs the question: Is it possible for someone living in the Midwestern U.S. to sell a spec in S.A.?

By Blogger glassblowerscat, at 1:08 AM  

Thanks for the kind words, Alex, but just to point out that it’s an option, not a sale – which leaves me in that hinterland of optimism and pessimism, and means I check my email oh, about once every three minutes.

How did it happen? I queried Jim Thompson, aware through that he was seeking action scripts. Mine didn’t quite fit the bill, but I queried anyway (not through Inktip, because they have a strict give-‘em-only-what-they-ask-for policy) by finding the relevant email address on the web and approaching with an unsolicited query. That was on Friday morning my time, by Friday afternoon my time, the script had been requested, by Saturday afternoon my time I was talking to Jim telephonically, by Saturday night involved in a conference call with Jim and Nick Powell who’s slated to direct, and by Monday morning had signed the option agreement. It all happened really quickly and almost knocked my socks off.

People talk of an overnight success – this isn’t one of them. Firstly because an option does not a success make, secondly because the script has gone through about 100 versions before it finally reached Jim’s hands. The first draft was written, oh six, seven years ago and was optioned by a South African producer at one stage who never was able to raise the funds, and to cut a long story short, it was an example, I think, of right time/right place that landed it on Jim’s desk.

My advice to writers not in LA wanting to sell to Hollywood – move to LA. If not possible, then keep on trucking. Although this was the first feature script I’ve written, I’ve written several others and have a trunk full of rejection letters. And as mentioned above, this is a script I’ve rewritten endlessly and never stopped trying to improve. I guess it boils down to, never give up and hope that luck shines on you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check my email…

By Blogger Dennis Venter, at 9:18 AM  

Oh and as to glassblowerscat's question - short answer: no. medium length answer: sorry, but no. Long answer: anything’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely. We make very few local feature films, and those that we do tend to be very South African specific so you’d need to be fairly intimate with local customs. Also, our budgets are minuscule and with the dollar/rand exchange rate at around 1/7, you’d barely cover your postage costs. Add to this the political background and BEE policies, well, it basically brings me back to my short answer.

By Blogger Dennis Venter, at 9:21 AM  

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