Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Done With the System: a testimony of screenplay submission & creative independence

I debated sharing this publicly, but it's something very important that's been burning in my heart, so here goes...

A while back, I shared on social media that I had sent my feature film script to someone important that I admire. Big reveal, that person is Taika Waititi. Now, let me be clear, I had no expectation that he would even see it, let alone respond, but it was important to try and put myself out there. For me, this was about something larger I am doing for myself as a creator and it took a lot of guts. I am still knotted up just thinking about the day I sent everything.

Taika Waititi has been a huge inspiration for me, and I wanted to let him know it by creating a video letter and also sharing my script, The Guide, with him. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably heard me talking about this story during the writing process. Taika Waititi is basically New Zealand's film king, and I would love to make the film in New Zealand. This is all big, dreamy stuff, and it was irrationally crazy to even try, but I was compelled to reach out.

I sent it to the two agents he has here in LA. Each envelope contained a card addressed to Taika Waititi, my business card, and a flash drive with my video letter, original concept art piece, and my full script in PDF form. I sent these out on December 17, 2017, and then I sent a Facebook message to Taika Waititi directly with the video on January 7.

Last week, I received a FedEx package from the Creative Arts Agency in LA returning everything. (I still haven't heard back from the second agency, doubt I will). The card addressed to Taika Waititi had been opened, and though they claim they did not read anything, I could see the files on the flash drive had been accessed 3rd of January, and the rejection letter they sent me was dated 8th of January. However, I did not receive it until exactly a month later.

The contents of the letter were typical, but also gave me an icky feeling. It wasn't the rejection aspect that bothered me. I have been rejected before and it comes with the territory of doing things the traditional way. It was the overall tone that put me off. It was impatient and annoyed, yet laced with polite verbiage.

Before I say anything else, let me make this clear... Taika Waititi is amazing and this post ultimately has nothing to do with him. It's the system that's the problem. I know these agencies have to spew these lines. I know there are legalities and they have to cover their asses. But just because it is this way, doesn't mean it should be.

I went to an event recently where a man in the industry likened Hollywood agents to demons from hell. A tad on the extreme side, and it brought a chuckle out from the room, but maybe there's a deeper point to glean from the comment, which reflects the state of the entire industry.

This is just one instance in a collection of many recently that solidify my need to be independent. Hollywood is corrupt, broken, and sick. The recent news in the past year regarding sexual harassment and assault is enough to prove that, but this also reveals there are violations of a different nature happening--the violations of creators and their creation.

My stories are like my children. I welcome contributions and criticisms from others, but at the end of the day, I will raise them in the vision that came before I even put pen to paper. I will not be harnessed or muzzled in my work, nor should anyone else be. Yet, like sexual harassment and inequality, this creative invasion and restriction has become the norm for Hollywood.

We need less meddlesome formalities and more trust in creators. Yes, there is a business side to the film/TV industry, but the scales have tipped to the advantage of the business side for far too long. It's time to bring back balance by giving weight to ingenuity and collaboration. Doing so involves risk, but any great thing does. Otherwise, we're going to be stuck in a never-ending circle of reboots, remakes, and sequels until the sun burns out. I don't know about you,  but that's not the future I want as a creator, and I think many viewers would agree.

I am tired of these "traditional" methods of getting your work out into the world being the only methods which are accepted by society as being "official." Work is work. Let the receivers decide what is worthy. These agents, managers, and middle men can't be the only ones dealing the hands. Balance is everything.

It's sad to say it, but the system only wants to help the system--to fatten and sustain itself. If the system won't help creators, then creators will have to help themselves, and each other. The truth is, we live in an age where anything is possible. We don't actually need these studios or agencies to make content. We can, and should, stand and create on our own. It is a much harder path, but the giants aren't moving for us, so we have to go around them. If we believe in ourselves, and what we are capable of achieving together, we'll soon be on mountaintops--standing taller and seeing farther than the giants ever have.

And sorry, but I couldn't help myself here...😏

"Sony, Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount, Fox... they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground..."

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