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March 1992


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Kerr Avon <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 23 Mar 1992 11:41:30 GMT
text/plain (193 lines)
(Crossposted to cinema-l and screen-l, as well as scrnwrit)
Hi y'all.
     Here, as promised, is the summary of what happened when _Empire_
magazine sent copies of a slightly altered script for _Sex, Lies and
Videotape_ (renamed _46:02_, one of Steven Soderbergh's original
titles) to 26 film production companies, "in a light-hearted attempt
to see how easy -- or difficult -- it is to get started in the
business of writing movies".
     A cover letter was sent with the script, which said that the
author was studying film and writing in London, a brief synopsis, and
that he would call in a week to see if the script arrived and to check
     I'll summarize what happened with the various companies.  They
are ordered by the length of time they took to reach a decision.
     Please note that I am only doing this summary because I believe
that it falls into the "fair use" category, regarding copyright.  It
is only a summary -- for more information, I suggest that you order
the back issue in question (I've included addresses and phone numbers
etc., at the end of this message).  _Empire_ is an excellent magazine,
and well worth checking out if you can.
     Please do not ask me, therefore, to go into any more detail.  If,
however, you want me to clarify anything that appears below, please
feel free to mail me.
                                * * *
20th Century Fox (UK) returned it within a week, as did Palace
Productions.  Fox refused to read it unless submitted via a
third-party (such as a solicitor, producer, publisher or agent.
Palace were "not in a position to take on board any further
Merchant Ivory Productions, Cappa Productions and Art Linson
Productions responded during week 2.  MI had projects planned for the
next three to four years, and wouldn't consider unsolicited material.
Cappa called to say that they don't accept unsolicited scripts, since
they are too small to read everything.  Even if submitted via an agent
because "Marty (Scorsese, who owns Cappa) only does projects with
people he has a close, personal relationship with".  Linson sent a
letter and three page release form, without which they wouldn't
consider the script.  It states "use of material containing features
and elements similar to or identical with those contained in (my)
Material shall not obligate (Art Linson) to negotiate with me nor
entitle me to any compensation".
Samuel Goldwyn, Walt Disney and Film Four International replied during
week 3.  The first two wouldn't accept unsolicited material.  Film
Four were "not enthusiastic enough about the project to wish to pursue
it any further".
Cinema Verity Ltd., Working Title (Developments) and Warner Bros,
replied during week four.  The first two caught on to the stolen
screenplay.  "[U]ncomfortably close to" and "bears an uncanny
resemblance to" were the ways they put it, rather than outright
accusation.  Warners refused to accept it unless submitted by a
"licensed literary agent".
Six companies responded in week 6.  Enigma read the script and
realised its origins.  Letter (they didn't return the script) said
that it "bears more than a passing resemblance to _sex, lies and
videotape_".  20th Century Fox (US) refused to accept it but a
handwritten letter, attached to the typed letter, said "PS.  I glanced
through this script.  For your information, plagiarism is illegal and
despicable.  I don't know who you thought you could fool by changing
the names and location of _sex, lies and videotape, but I advise you
to stop making a fool out of yourself".  This was the only letter to
actually accuse plagiarism.  Handmade returned it unread, as did
Tri-Star and Paramount.  Imagine sent script and cover letter back,
with no rejection letter.  Envelope was stamped several times with
"Return to sender -- Imagine does not accept unsolicited materials".
First Independent returned it in week 6, claiming to have a full
roster of finished product.
Morgan Creek returned it in week 7, with letter saying that they
didn't accept unsolicited or unrepresented material.
British Film Institute Production sent a letter in week 11 from the
BFI's script co-ordinator, saying that their script-reading group had
read and discussed it, but it hadn't reached their short-list.
That left five companies who hadn't replied by the time the issue went
to press.  It was the December 1991 issue, and the scripts were sent
out on 22/7/91.  The outstanding companies were Euston Films, Orion
Pictures International, MGM/Pathe, Geffen Films and Universal.  Eusten
said at week four that it would be read.  No word after that.  Orion
claimed that it was on its way back (in week 3!), since they only
accept scripts via agents listed with the WGA.   MGM said on the phone
(week 11) that it would be sent back or "tossed in the trash, to be
perfectly honest with you...", `cos they were moving offices.  Geffen:
Week three (phone), "It will be sent back to you".  Week 7 (phone,
office manager Gloria), "I'll take your number and have someone get
right back to you.  You're calling from London?  Right _now_?"
(Presumably Gloria thought he might have been phoning from London next
week..! -- Liam).  No word back.  That just left Universal.  All the
contact that could be made with them was with the internal answer
machine for the story department (week 3 and week 7).  No word back at
			    * * *
     The actual article goes into far more detail... it's worth
tracking down if you are really interested (I'll include the address
for back issues and submissions at the end of this message).  There is
a follow on (semi-serious) article about "How to Get Ahead In
     The moral of the story..?  The article lists 5 things that "Matt
Tyler (the fictional author) wishes he had known back in July...
1. Don't go overdraft sending your script out ... on both sides of the
pond. Instead work out a _very_ careful plan to minimise costs and
maximise chances of being read.  Call people to ask if they're looking
for work, and heed their answers.
2. British companies will at least read your work.  The Americans,
though, ...
[won't unless you're represented or sign away all sorts of rights
etc].  There is no copyright on ideas and don't the studios know it.
3. In Britain #20,000 is about the limit for a screenplay by an
established writer.  [1st timers often get low thousands or even
hundreds].  Hollywood pays `rather' better.
4. Get an answering machine and never turn it off.
5. Don't, whatever you do, give up the day job."
(# = pounds sterling)
     A major question that comes to my mind is just how unread is your
material, when it is returned "unread"?
     I look forward to your comments on this exercise (I hope it
generates some discussion -- I spent long enough typing the
damn thing!!!)
     Anyway here is the address for back issues:
              Empire Back Issues,
              P.O. Box 500
              LE99 OAA
    or phone  0858 410510
Cheques should be for #2.80 per issue.  Overseas readers (outside the
UK) should list a second and third choice in case the original
selection is not available.  Personally, I'd phone...
Only the following back issues are available (according to the April 1992
    December 1989, November 1991, December 1991, January 1992,
    February 1992, March 1992.
(The fake script article appeared in the December 1991 issue)
For subscriptions:
              Empire Subs
              Same address as above.
Credit card payments: 0858 410888
Rates:   #25.00  -- UK
         #29.00  -- Surface mail to rest of world
         #38.00  -- Air mail to Europe
         $68.00  -- USA direct
They accept VISA, ACCESS, AMEX, DINERS CLUB, or cheque (mail).
(Again, # = pounds sterling, and $ = US dollars (I assume)
     In addition to a twelve month subscription, if you apply before
May 10th 1992 you get a long sleeve _Empire_/"Are you talkin' to me?"
T-shirt, an _Empire_ calendar, and a copy of _Recommended_ (Empire pick
of the movies and videos of the year, 1991).
     Phew!  That's about all, except that I should add that I have no
connection with _Empire_ or its publisher, except as a regular
                                   *"I mean. look at this.
 All e-mail to:- [log in to unmask] *   What is it?"
                                   *"I'm surprised you've
 Kerr Avon (aka Liam C. Cairney),  *   forgotten my Lord."
 ICL Associated Services Division  *"I haven't forgotten. It's
                                   *   a rhetorical question."
     "I belong to Glasgow..."      *"Nah... it's a potato."
                                   ** -- Blackadder & Baldrick**