Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How to sell a screenplay by drinking in a bar

Only a few more days for entering the Daffy Definition Kontest. Here's where you go. And even if you don't enter, treat yourself. There are some inspired entries.
Aspiring screenwriters always ask what’s the best way to break into the Hollywood? I say move to Minnesota.

It sure worked for Diablo Cody. A couple of years ago she sat in the frozen tundra and wrote JUNO. And now Nick Schenk.

Nick was a construction worker and fruit truck driver who dabbled in writing on the side. He contributed some of the better comedy sketches for the prestigious DVD, FACTORY ACCIDENT SEX.

A couple of years ago Nick spent his nights in a local bar banging out a screenplay. He scribbled everything down on a pad. With Hamm’s on tap as his muse, Nick wrote 25 pages in one night. Helping him develop this project was a guy who sold furnaces to the gas company and the bartender. So you know he was in good hands.

His main character: a sympathetic racist old codger. What Hollywood studio isn’t looking for six of those vehicles? Nick was clearly tapped into the zeitgeist.

He got the script to a pair of young producers. From there it followed the usual path. Submitted to Clint Eastwood who agreed to direct it and come out of acting retirement to star in it. Nick’s screenplay was filmed as is, with no studio interference and no other writers brought in to rewrite. In fact, there were no rewrites period.

GRAN TORINO opens in selected theaters this month and goes wide in January.

The point of this story is that IT CAN HAPPEN! Granted, not often. But still, without the benefit of living in LA, or having taken Robert McKee’s seminar, or spending six years at NYU, or being married to Brian Grazer you can become a highly successful screenwriter. Just make sure you dress warm and can drive with chains on your tires.


Anonymous said...

Aw, @#$&.

I live in @#$&ing Miami, where drugs are sold but condos aren't.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Well my motto has always been, anything you can't do while drinking in a bar, isn't worth doing, and that includes sex, which fortuantely, CAN be done while drinking in a bar. That stain on the pool table isn't beer.

Cheers darling.

geewits said...

"...being married to Brian Grazer.." made me laugh out loud. I always wanted to write a screenplay for "Frasier" but I guess it's too late now. Maybe I could write one for "Bewitched?"

Tim W. said...

If it's all the same, I'm still leaving the wife and kids for Brian Grazer. Just to be safe.

testsjmg said...


Nice rack.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you say so, Sexy...

MirrorJames said...

Just ran sexy's comment through google translate and, well, it pretty much says exactly what you think it does.

Anonymous said...

After drinking in a bar, we all know what comes next especially if the person gets really drunk.. Ooops! There's a girl... What's next?!

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to that kid Irv Thalberg in North Dakota.
What? You mean Nick Schenk isn't married to Brian Grazer. DAMN that Prop 8!

(The WV for this was "Yants." I'm going with gay comedian basketball team at a Christian athletic assn.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making this 16 years and still trying screenwriter want to shoot himself.

Anonymous said...

So it turns out this guy ain't such a noob. From Varety's spotlight--


'Gran Torino'

Nick Schenk sold the first script he ever wrote. "It went to Disney, and, not to date myself, but Katzenberg greenlit that thing, and when he went to DreamWorks it died that day. They had a director, and it was cast -- the whole works." TV gigs and specs scripts followed.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the crop of year end films makes me depressed. Despite this one and "Frost/Nixon", I'm not seeing anything close to quality of films we had at this time last year.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Diablo Cody didn't make it until she moved to Hollywood and - by chance - met Jason Reitman. Talk about good luck!

It's funny how in stories of how people made it, the most interesting part is always left out. "He got the script to a pair of young producers" is where it gets interesting, yet also where the details get vague. :)

Anonymous said...

I thought for sure that Schenk would turn out to be related to the Nicholas Schenck who used to head up Loew's Inc., parent company of MGM back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Hence Thalberg allusion 5 posts earlier. Damn that nuance !

This wv: odels
A fru fru nonalcholic malt likker.

Anonymous said...

One guy in Minnesota develops a screenplay by drinking in a bar? Most writers are just the opposite. They develop liver damage by moving to Hollywood!

Anonymous said...

My real name is Kernal Steve Johnson, but I'm changing it to Demonio Hickock. So where do I send my screenplay...

(Yes, I find it stupid that a white lady can change her name to something that means exactly "the devil" for about half the world, completely ignoring that her face has one eye bigger, and lower, than the other...)

Anonymous said...

...and yet Picasso text messaged her in as America's Next Top Model.

TCinLA said...

Right now I know 25 Very Good Screenwriters (including three Oscar nominees) who are absolutely ga-ga over this story.

Hey, any given month there's somebody who walked into a liquor store in California and bought the only lottery ticket they ever bought in their life, who wins The Big Spin.

This really is a good story for all writers. Nick Shenck wrote what he believed in. As he was quoted by Patrick Goldstein, "I'm the guy who loves history, so all the old guys on all the jobs I had were always telling me their stories."

Want to know what you want to write? Open your eyes and your ears. Like Nick did.

As Billy Wilder once told me, "If the story doesn't turn you on, doesn't matter to you, how the hell do you think it will turn on anyone else and make them want to make it?"

Anonymous said...

> Submitted to Clint Eastwood who
> agreed to direct it and come out
> of acting retirement to star in
> it. Nick’s screenplay was
> filmed as is, with no studio
> interference and no other
> writers brought in to rewrite.
> In fact, there were no rewrites
> period.

J. Michael Straczynski said he was ready and willing to do rewrites on Changeling after Mr. Eastwood agreed to direct, but said Eastwood said "It's fine. We'll do it as it is."

Evidently if he likes a script, it's because he likes what he read and has no need to change what he already likes.

Anonymous said...

I was in Minneapolis Friday and it is a culture open to the arts; theater, music, independent filmmaking, etc. Mix that with many art galleries and used bookstores...and long, cold winters and it's not a surprise screenplays are being written.

What is a surprise is they are getting made and making over $100 million.

For more info about writing screenplays outside L.A. visit: screenwritingfromiowa.wordpress.com