This week, we are fortunate to have as our guest manager-producer Adam Kolbrenner from Madhouse Entertainment, an L.A.-based production and literary management company that works with screenwriters and writer/directors in the areas of film, television and new media.
I will be posting the whole interview over the course of the week. Today in Part 3, Adam shares his assessment of the spec script market and the value of a spec script for a writer.
In a 2009 Hollywood Reporter feature, there’s this: “Kolbrenner is known for taking time developing scripts and being discriminating in what he sells. ‘I’m not a literary manager who goes out with a spec a week,’ he says. ‘If you throw stuff against the wall just to see what sticks, you’re going to end up with a messy floor.’” Could you explain your rationale behind this philosophy?
Madhouse clients understand what is at stake with every piece of material they write. They know that we will never send out a piece of material that we have not worked on together extensively through our development period. Why would they want a piece of material to be read with their name on it that isn’t all the way to the finish line? Why send out a piece of material that I don’t fundamentally believe in? If the answer for a writer is they just want to “get it out there,” our answer is “We won’t represent you.” Being rewritten when you had the opportunity to do the work, and you decided you didn’t want to, is going to really suck. I see it all the time, read most of the material that sells, if there’s a great idea, they are just buying the idea and will hire another writer to execute it. That’s in large part of what a messy floor is. Ultimately, I only send out material when it’s ready to be looked at by everyone in town and we’re both proud of it. That way people will want to read material from me and my client again next time.
The spec script market has rebounded the last two years. What is your take on why that has happened?
Spec scripts are opportunities for the marketplace. A hungry marketplace embraces the great ones because buyers need to make movies, otherwise they don’t exist. But specifically, the trend in the marketplace is rooted in great ideas, great stories, and great voices. Can each spec script wrap those 3 traits together into one? Can you write the perfect spec script that every buyer in town would make? You start with a great idea and develop the spec with us.
Action, Action Thriller, and Thrillers have been at the top of the spec script sales chart the last two years in terms of genres. Why do you think that is? Is that a trend you think will continue? Any new trends you see emerging at present?
Those films are built for movie stars. If you can write a great movie star role, you can get a movie made. Yes, this trend will never die, it will only flourish. I don’t believe I know what trends will emerge, we live in a world with complicated reasons audiences go to theaters today. But I believe this is the good news for writers. If audiences are more picky of how they spend their money and time, they will demand better quality. Quality control happens to be one of the best assets of the motion picture business. When you have a great product to show off, you promote the hell out of it because you are proud of it.
Beyond the major Hollywood studios, there seem to be a lot of more financing entities around nowadays active in the acquisition and development market. Aside from creating more buyers, are there unique benefits for a writer to work with a smaller, independent production company as opposed to a major studio?
If all the companies out there were legit, we’d all be making a lot more movies. The direct advantage for a writer though is passion behind a project but it ultimately must be based in clear understanding of the parameters and strategy to get the film made. Writers will often mistake that passion with a proper business relationship though. You wouldn’t lend your car to that dude who hangs out in front of the 7-11 talking to himself. You must understand who this person is, their background, and simply asking around if a person is legit, doing research is a necessity.
Obviously a major goal for a writer working on a spec script is to sell it, but isn’t it true a spec can be an asset to a writer even if it doesn’t sell? If so, in what ways?
Who are you as a writer? That’s what a spec will show. Can you write great characters, can you write an excellent story, that will show in the spec. Will they all sell? Absolutely not. But will people remember you for what you wrote? That’s the quest. To write the piece that puts you on the launching pad as you begin or navigate a long term screenwriting career.
Tomorrow in Part 4, Adam reveals some insider details on two big movie deals with which Madhouse Entertainment was involved.
Please stop by comments to thank Adam for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have as he has agreed to answer them.
To read press articles about Madhouse Entertainment, go here.