Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Should I Apply for the Job?


So far, so good.
Seeking a professional screenwriter willing to collaborate on a WWII period thriller feature film script with an up and coming foreign director.
A WWII thriller? That sounds kinda fun. I'm a big fan of Old Time Radio and something of a history buff. It's been AGES since I read "rise and Fall of the Third Reich" so it would be grand to have an excuse to re-read it or listen to the audio book.
Must be non-WGA or if you are in the WGA, be willing to work for less than the WGA minimum.
Well, that's a bit worrisome. Still, it might be attractive as a second job. I'm not a union member.
Qualifications for consideration are as follows:
* Grabs pen and paper to take notes *
Must have BA/BS from a top 3 University or Liberal Arts College- for example Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or Williams, Swarthmore, Pomona
Close enough. I have a BA in English from Valpariso University, the Yale of the Midwest. (Or the Harvard of the Midwest, depending on who is doing the VU marketing at the moment)
Must also have completed graduate work at one of the nations top screenwriting programs- USC, UCLA, AFI, NYU, COLUMBIA
Since this is a job for below union scale, I'm going to write this off as one of those "nice to have" requirements they can be flexible on.
Must have read McKee's "Story," All books in the "Save the Cat" series, Voeglers "Writers Journey" or Campbells "Hero with a Thousand Faces," and preferably at least a dozen other books on screenwriting,
I've read the last two and my college minor was in writing. Really though, a dozen books on screenwriting? One or two good ones will get you where you need to be.
also prefer someone who has attended as many screenwriting seminars as possible- for instance the "Story" seminar and the 5 genre scminars McKee offers (Comedy, Horror, Thriller, Masterpiece, Love Story).
Reading between the lines of this ad however has me suspecting the director is looking for someone with too much book learning and not much real world experience. It sounds like they're searching for a fresh faced student too inexperienced to know when they're being exploited.
Must have read and analyzed 300+ high quality produced/award winning/or "black listed" scripts
This is another "training level" indicator.  A serious student who dedicates years to their craft may have done this. Between the education level required and the low pay, I suspect the director is deliberately seeking someone with a major "sunk cost" issue, a sap who has dedicated a decade of their life to learning how to be a screenwriter but never gotten a break. Too deep into the dream to turn around, too desperate to hold out for something better.
Must have reverse-outlined at least 50 movies by watching them on screen and listing scenes chronologically
This is another education / training level indicator.

Must have proof of standardized test scores (SAT/LSAT/GMAT/GRE) in the 95th percentile or higher.
Must have proof of I.Q. in the 130+ range.
Ahhh, the director wants desperate, but not stupid. If this isn't a parody, then I suspect the director is expecting people to lie anyway, and wants the "Well, My IQ is only 120" folks to apply, instead of ones with an IQ of 80.

Must have at least one produced feature credit that has won at least a few superlative awards on the festival circuit (audience award/best film/best screenplay/etc).
For less than union wage?
Must also have at least one unproduced feature screenplay that has attracted significant buzz and led to A-list actors attaching themselves to the project.
For less than union wage?!?
If you don't have either of the above, this requirement can substituted with a minimum of 3 produced short film credits.
Ahhh, the old Hitchcock trick. Hitchcock would get what he wanted into his movies by sending over the top scenes to the censors. By the time the censors were done being horrified by what he claimed he wanted, they were more than happy to let in what he really wanted.

Must be very analytical, knowledgeable, and generally gifted with structure.
Must be able to write visually with fantastic economy and a distinct voice.
Must have an amazing ear for dialogue and inherent understanding of pacing.
Must have an excellent grasp of grammar/mechanics/usage/style.
That would be me.

(Blogger smiles a toothy grin. His teeth visibly sparkle and an audible "ting" is heard)
Must have at least a few years of previous dramatic acting experience to better understand subtext and emotional arcs- prefer someone with experience taking on a major role in a serious WWII/Nazi play, for instance Martin Sherman's "Bent" (about homosexual persecution during the holocaust)
I'm going to count my college and high school acting for this.
Must have previous theater directing experience in order to be prepared to discuss specific blocking ideas with proficiency as we write the script.
It was back in high school, and the play was censored by the school board.
The script will be written for a single location- so again having experience with a play like "Bent" would let me know you understand how to make blocking interesting in confined locations- since the whole second act takes place in one location with 2 characters moving rocks back and forth across the stage.
 The banned play also took place in a single location. It's a lot of fun playing with a confined space.
Also prefer improv/sketch/standup experience to demonstrate you have developed an intuitive understanding of how material will play in front of a live audience.
My experience in this realm is not professional, but amateur.

Although you should be a highly capable solo wrier- you must have experience writing successfully on other projects with directors or other writers who prefer to mostly talk out their vision and bounce ideas off of you, while you sit in front of the computer to sift, organize, and smooth out the verbal exchanges- while also adding and enhancing their ideas with your own insight, and ultimately be responsible for polishing and proofing the screenplay before we send it out.
Sounds like a lot of  the technical and specification writing I've done.
Must be willing be credited as the second writer- potentially out of alphabetical order.
Perfectly reasonable under the circumstances.
Must be able to remain calm in the face of temperamental outbursts and be ok with occasional substance abuse by writing partner.
Again, that sounds like some of the technical and specification writing I've done. Of course, the writing partner must be comfortable with me laughing in his or her face or bellowing out "foam baby foam!" when they work up a good head of steam. I also reserve the right to quote Mark Twain passages about steamboat disasters and, if they get annoying about being high, teetotaler propaganda.
Location: Hollywood
It's the 21st century and I have a Skype account. This is still doable.
Compensation: $30,000 for 4 month contract with possibility to be considered for more projects
I'd have to do this as an evening and weekend gig, so we'll say this is for 20 to 30 hours a week. Assuming a 16 week contract, that comes out to 320 to 480 hours / $93.75 to $62.50 an hour. I can make more than that per hour with a technical writing or ghost writing gig, but this project sounds interesting, and could play well to a number of my existing interests.
Telecommuting is ok.
Excellent. I think the time difference between Boston and LA will work nicely for the co-writer. The evening work for me will translate into late afternoon / early evening work for them. If the writing partner is using mind altering substances, then being able to sleep in will be a benefit to them as well.
  • This is a contract job.
  • OK to highlight this job opening for persons with disabilities
  • OK for recruiters to contact this job poster.
  • Phone calls about this job are ok.
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
The last few lines are just boilerplate ad material.

All told, the ad does have a lot of over the top "I really want" requirements, but I'm used to that from the IT world. Everyone wants to hire the next Gates, Torvalds or Wozniak for a fraction of their value.  I'm willing to give the director a chance to talk about his or her project before I reject the opening out of hand. Most importantly, I want to make sure the impression that the director is seeking an easily abused footstool is a false one.