A Script So Good The Only Question Is, How Much Will It Sell For?
by Corey Mandell
Corey Mandell: The story of the manager was, I was in a writing group and there were some professional writers. There was actually an Academy Award® nominated writer. We met at her house (that was really exciting). So I had written a script and they were giving me feedback and long story short, it got to the point where they said “This script is amazing. This script will sell! The only question is how much will it sell for? Do you want help getting an agent?” And of course that was like magic to my ears. And then I mentioned to my professor at UCLA who you know a lot of really big writers had come through that school and his class. So he volunteered to read the script and he said “This is one of the three best scripts I’ve ever read in 20 years at UCLA.” Again, I’m thinking of all these amazing writers and so I’m thinking “Well I guess I’m as good as those!” And he goes “Well this will definitely sell. Do you want help getting and manager or agent?” I was interning for a manager at the time, as an intern. As a favor to that manager I’m like “Do you want to read this? It’s going to sell. Do you want your 10% or not buddy?” He agreed to read it (it took like 3 weeks, which drove me crazy). It was a meeting that I’ll never forget. I go in there and he says “This is a pretty good rough draft. Don’t show it to anyone in the industry. Because when you show stuff to people in the industry, they get coverage reports on it and those are databased. That’s your first impression. But if it’s not just great coverage, you haven’t just blown your chance with the production company, they are going to share that coverage with everybody in the database. So you’ve blown your first impression across the board. And he said “This will not serve you well. But…you have some real strengths. You have some real weaknesses. You have some blindspots. I can help you with that,” and he’s giving me this whole talk. And the whole time I’m like “What is wrong with him?” I was like “Did I tell you what the Academy Award nominated person said? Did I say that my professor who taught Steven….you know.
And he said “Look, they were all telling you the truth. This is a better script than most scripts. It’s an impressive script. But it’s not nearly as good as what you need in the industry. People in the writing group are working writers. The professor at UCLA…all smart people. But they are not in the business of breaking writers into the business. I am. I know how good something has to be. This isn’t close.” I didn’t want to believe that. My fixed mindset is like “He’s an idiot.” So what he said and this was the best thing anybody could have said was “Hire three studio readers. Pay them under the table. If this script came through the tracking system, what coverage would you write and then give me the coverage. Honest coverage. And if the coverage isn’t good, it’s not going to hurt you. Just you only see it. No one will see it.”
I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did this. I paid like $100-$150 bucks to someone at Imagine Entertainment, someone at Warner Brothers and someone at Scott Rudin’s company. The coverage came back and it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t bad. It was okay (which is terrible). It would have hurt me. It was clear that this coverage was “This is okay. Nothing special. Nothing great here.
And then on the writer it said “Recommend, consider.” It was low marks on the writing. And you can’t hide from that. The manager said “I’ll work with you if you’re willing to put your ego at the door and do this training.” I did and it was like 14 months. It was grueling. He was…he was not a good person. But his training was good. It was much rougher than it had to be but okay. And at the end of that time he said “I now think the script is where it needs to be. I’ll pay for coverage.” And he paid for three coverage reports with three different people (real actual readers). And it was all just exactly what he wanted (exceptional coverage). Literally three weeks later Ridley Scott hires me to write METROPOLIS. He flies me to London. Literally my whole world changed. My whole life changed. And it never would have happened if that manager hadn’t sort of forced me to pay for coverage. Because at some point the fixed mindset can’t hide. That’s what I always tell people. The biggest mistake you can make is to go out to marketplace before you’re ready. Just because your friends think it’s great. Just because your teacher thinks it’s great. Just because the script consultant you hired says it’s great…and I don’t do it anymore (I used to do script consulting) but I say don’t listen to those people because they often…they are running a business and a business wants happy, repeat customers, so they will always tell you what you want to hear. And even if you find a script consultant which has incredible integrity (which is rare but does exists), they are not in the business of breaking writers into the business. And I wouldn’t listen to their advice, per se. I know people who are like “The script consultant said this, this and this. I went out to the marketplace, look at the coverage, it stunk!” It happens all the time. I say hire actual readers under the table in TV or feature or wherever you are and get the actual coverage report that they would get. If all three coverage reports come back “Recommend! Recommend! Highest marks!” Then you’re ready to go out…highest mountain…pound your chest and get everybody to read your script. If that’s not the case, stay off the radar. You don’t want people reading material if it’s going to hurt you. And figure out how to train yourself to get better.
So (sorry for a long answer) but no, I was very fixed mindset and if that manager hadn’t done that for me, I’d be taking classes today. I wouldn’t be teaching them.
Question for the Viewers: Have you ever thought to hire real readers to read your script?
Learn the screenwriting secrets behind successful cinematic stories in the world of film & television script writing.
Paul Castro the original writer of the Warner Bros. hit movie, AUGUST RUSH.He is a produced, award winning screenwriter and world-renowned screenwriting professor. Success leaves clues and so do masterfully crafted screenplays that sell for millions of dollars.