Years ago I had the privilege of working at Walt Disney World in Florida. Aside from the tippy top customer service skills and cultural brainwashing I went endured, I came away with a couple of interesting urban myths about the Disney machine.
One that sticks in my mind is about death. The rumour mill ran this way – even if someone had a massive coronary in the middle of Main Street USA, regardless of what the witnesses said or frankly what the pulse the person grasping their chest indicated, this person would not be declared dead until they were outside of Disney property. Why? Because no-one dies at the happiest place on earth. Got it?
This came to the forefront of my mind recently as I was discussing with a friend what my next steps were for a script project of mine.
“How long have you been pitching it?”
“About 6 months”
“6 months. And you haven’t had any interest?”
“Some interest but they haven’t followed through”
“Then put the flogger down and step away from the dead horse”
When is your script dead?
It got me thinking, when do you actually declare your script dead? Or at the very least retired. When it falls down dead at a pitch meeting? When - no matter how much you try and revive it - the premise just isn't getting interest?
If you have been pitching it and getting no where, maybe there comes a point when you take the non-performing project off your "pitchable projects" list and make room for a new one.
But when? How long is long enough to see if there is interest in your project?
To my mind I think you have to train yourself to understand when the right time to let go is FOR YOU. Sometimes you might let go too soon, sometimes too late, but hopefully you will learn when to gracefully put the script down and mumble the last rites.
After all, it might be that the script is not dead, it's just awaiting an audience.
Dead Script, Learning Experience or Tomorrows HOT option?
Dead Script Example One – Let it die and never speak of it again - Oliver Stone, or so the story goes, wrote about ten screenplays before he sold one. He never did anything with the first ten screenplays but he sure as shit learned enough from writing them to get one sold!
Dead Script Example Two – The undead scripts of the overnight success - Quentin Tarantino waited until Reservoir Dogs made him HOT property before he pulled True Romance and Natural Born Killers out his drawer. Both scripts he had tried and failed to sell before, but this time with Dogs behind him they suddenly got traction and cemented his reputation.
And as to my script, you know, I'm not entirely convinced the horse has died...perhaps it has somewhat of a gammy leg but I've not actually gone hell for leather to pitch it. If I pitch it properly and by the end of the year it's still getting as much interest as a man in grey sandals at the Lib Dem conference then I'll put it in the pre-cycle pile. Deal?
Enough about me, I want to know what are your rules around when you stop pitching a script and retire it? Do you have any stead fast ways of knowing whether you should invest time and pitching opportunities in it? Care to share?