For those of you just joining us, about two months ago, I got Pitch Slapped. In the middle of rewriting my latest comedy spec, C
ountless Melodies -- an all-male collegiate a cappella group tries to recapture its former glory by becoming national champions once again, if the group could only defeat its archrivals, the three-time defending champion Blue Belles -- I discovered the trailer for Pitch Perfect when it premiered on IMDb. Pitch Perfect (coming to theatres October 5!) looks like essentially the same movie I'm writing except the female a cappella group singers are the protagonists, not the antagonists. Great, now what? At that point, I could have stopped my rewrite, tossed the script in the proverbial drawer, and moved on. That would have been sensible. Instead, I finished the rewrite and posted my script online for anyone to read. Here's why:
1. My Script is Essentially Unproducible
You can read my previous post to learn how I completely missed the announcement about Universal picking up Pitch Perfect over a year ago and essentially wasted a year writing C
ountless Melodies. My script, however, wasn't some random comedy idea I had. The idea bounced around in my head for a few years because (I'm not ashamed to say it) I sang in an all-male a cappella group in college -- The Johns Hopkins University AllNighters. Finally, I decided to write this script because the idea wouldn't go away and I wanted to "write what I know".
Fast forward to this summer, and my latest comedy spec looks exactly like a movie coming out this fall. How unoriginal. I can't exactly shop this spec around in the hopes of selling it, so why not put it online as a calling card? It's really no different than posting a short film online to promote one's directing skills.
Let's face it. Agents, managers and producers won't read scripts unless they are direct referrals. Many won't even acknowledge query letters anymore merely asking them if they are interested in reading your script.
With a virtually identical story hitting theatres in two months, I don't expect this script to be produced, let alone sold. So why not let the world read it? And who knows? Maybe someone will read it, like my writing style, and pass it on to someone else. Maybe it will land in the hands of someone who can help me further my career. Or maybe not, but the cost to me is nothing.
2. Aspiring Screenwriters are Too Precious about Their Screenplays (Myself Included)
I don't want to be an aspiring screenwriter. I want to be a professional screenwriter, which I readily admit is almost laughable since I live in Albuquerque, not Los Angeles or even New York. To become a professional screenwriter, I'm constantly looking for new ways to get my scripts into the hands of people who can help me develop, sell and produce them.
If my previous scripts were good enough, they would have sold. I have had requests from managers, production companies and fellowship programs to read my scripts. I've placed in the top tiers of competitions. What have I sold? Nothing. Have I improved as a screenwriter over the years? Yes, I think so.
Unless I plan to direct one of my scripts myself (and I have some of those), what is the harm in posting my previous screenplays online? The only reason I haven't is because I think my writing is getting better, and I want to put my best foot forward. Ironically, Pitch Perfect has provided me with an excellent reason to reveal my latest comedy spec to the widest audience possible with no fear of the idea being stolen because someone already made this movie.
Oh, and about that fear of ideas being stolen, it's ridiculous. No one in Hollywood wants to steal my ideas. If they liked my ideas, they would buy my scripts or hire me to write the stories they want to produce. Someday, I hope that comes true. Until that happens, I'm going to be less precious about my screenplays. I may not post all of them online in their entirety, but if a few rounds of pitching and selling go nowhere, I'll probably post the first 15-30 pages online to add to my public portfolio.
3. This is a Good Opportunity, Not an Insurmountable Obstacle
Universal Studios has launched a major marketing campaign for a funny film about collegiate a cappella groups coming out this fall. I have a funny script about collegiate a cappella groups. Perhaps I can hitch a ride on this bandwagon and promote my own work.
4. I Spent Too Much Time on This Screenplay to Throw It in the Proverbial Drawer
I never even had the chance to shop this script around. My wife hasn't even read it (not that she wants to read it). Right at the moment when I was about to fire off query letters to potential producers, Universal launched its campaign for Pitch Perfect. This script never saw the light of day. If I had read the Variety report about Pitch Perfect back in June 2011, I would have realized that I had a commercial idea, but somebody else beat me to the punch, and moved on to the next one. I want to push this script out the door, simply as a validation of my efforts.
5. It's Time to Move On
This twist in events during my rewriting process oddly made me focus extremely hard on completing the best rewrite possible on C
ountless Melodies. Oh, sure, it's far from perfect and would go through several more rewrites if it had a chance of going into production someday, but because I wanted to publish this screenplay online very quickly, I became incredibly critical of my own work. I need to bring that intensity, that laser focus to all of my scripts moving forward. Now, it's time to move on.
Want to read my script?
You'll be happy to know that you can now find it online, or better yet, check it out below. [After over a year of having the script online, I've decided to take it off Scribd so I can focus on my other projects. If you really, really want to read it, email me] If you like it, please pass it on. If you have constructive criticism, please let me know. If you have nothing but nasty comments for me because the Internet is anonymous, I'm a big boy and can handle it, but you may want to consider focusing your energies elsewhere -- perhaps on your own screenplay.