Three cheers for low-budget screenplays

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Back again from a whirlwind trip out to Burbank for a screenplay pitch fest. I had to share the funniest part about InkTip. Some 300 companies came to hear pitches — fabulous. They have great names — like Flying Wong Productions, Twisted Pictures and No Suck Comedy, Inc. It’s just that some of them ask for ridiculously low-budget features. For example, in this line you could pitch to three companies at once.

Wong, on many levels
Flying Wong, if you look closely, wants thrillers like Nolan’s Inception – with a $200,000 budget! That’s a dream worth stealing…just add another three zeroes when you wake up.

Another alternate reality at work this time was the age differential. Most working writers in Hollywood are around 30 years old. The average age of writers pitching scripts at InkTip? Their fathers. Or grandfathers. Maybe all the younger writers were on summer vacation from film school, but it made for lots of discussion about World War 2 films in the cattle lines.

no time to waste

Many of you cringed at the speed-dating format of the last pitch fest I blogged about, so how about a sequel? InkTip takes pay-to-pitch to a new level. You get the same five minutes of face time in a cavernous hotel ballroom but you pitch to three or four companies at once. Now I know what an American Idol audition must be like.

This format is actually better, once you get the eye contact dilemma down. If you can tell your script isn’t right for one exec (as in, they text while you talk or munch on candy the desperate writer before you left on their table) you just ignore them and find a face with alert eyes. I did miss the cowbell though. This time they just dimmed the lights at four minutes and thirty seconds into your pitch and had bouncers drag you away if the producers were still asking questions. Which happened to me several times. Which is a good sign, I guess. I had requests to read three of my four babies – even the drama I thought Hollywood had given up on.

In the end, that was the best part about InkTip. At my first pitch fest, last year,  I got the message that “Mask of the Innocent,” and “The Scarlet Registry” are too dark and gritty. Drama was a dirty word. But films like Winter’s Bone and Frozen River are breathing new life into production companies – or at least a new willingness to read scripts that aren’t “tent-pole” or “high-concept.” Three cheers for indie producers with big dreams! They end up making Oscar-nominated films and hopefully one day mine will be one of them.

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