Today I got two emails from two different people, both hoping for the same thing, that they could use me to achieve their dreams of success in Hollywood. This first email came in under the subject heading "I Have Some Great Screenplays!" (The names, addresses and phone numbers have been removed, otherwise the emails are untouched):
Hello Mr. Lee Goldberg my name is XYZ but people call me Hollywood.
I have three great screenplays ready to be shoot and I am working on my forth
one which should be done in a month or so. If you would like to know more about
my scripts please give me a call at XXX-XXX-XXX or email me at
XXX@hotmail.com thank you for your time.
I responded: Hello Mr. XYZ, my name is Lee Goldberg, but people call me Pierce Brosnan. Why would I be interested in your screenplays? I’m trying to sell my own.
I received a polite email from a guy on the East Coast who says he has a great idea for an episodic legal drama:
Though I spend a great deal of my time developing and
selling creative concepts (for direct marketing applications), I’m not a script
writer. I’m contacting you because I’m looking for a talented television writer
with industry credibility that might be interested in partnering to develop a
pilot. If you are interested in exploring this or know of a
writer who might be, please let me know.
I get this offer several times a week from people outside the industry who have "great ideas" but just need a guy like me to partner up with.
To be blunt, why would I want to do that? What’s in it for me? I’ve got lots of ideas of my own and all you’d be doing is benefitting from my experience, my "industry credibility," and years of hard work. What do you bring to the table? An idea. Sorry, but that’s not enough.
There’s a saying in television, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. The networks don’t buy ideas, they buy ability, experience, point-of-view, and a track record. LOST is not a great idea — People shipwrecked on an island. It has been done a hundred times before. What ABC bought was hit-maker JJ Abrams doing people shipwrecked on an island. NYPD BLUE is not a great idea. It’s cops in NY solving crimes. What ABC bought was Steven Bochco doing cops in NY solving crimes. They also bought the proven ability of JJ Abrams and Steven Bochco to write and produce a series.
I know… that’s what you need me for, right? You need my "industry credibility" and "talent."
But here’s the thing: there’s absolutely no upside in it for me, or any other established writer-producer, partnering up with you. We didn’t work for years to establish "industry credibility" so someone else without any could take a shortcut and ride on our coat-tails.
If you were a bestselling novelist with an idea, that’s something else. You have something to offer beyond an idea. You bring your name, reputation, and proven track record as a storyteller. If you were a famous actor, that’s something else. You bring your image, your fans, and proven ability to draw a large audience. If you were an ex-D.A., and your idea draws on your background in the field, then you have something to offer. You bring years worth of courtroom experience and credibility in the field (for instance, I’ve partnered with cops before to pitch ideas based on their unique experiences).
I think you get my point. Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.