It began in midsummer.
I’d been with my first literary manager for about five months, and spent most days beating my head against the wall in frustration over what to work on next. I had plenty of ideas, but Suit 1.0 discouraged me from investing time in any of them. “It’s just not high concept enough.” “What’s the concept here?” “This concept is too familiar.” “Concept concept concept.”
In an effort to spark something, he sent along ideas of his own that were met with similar disdain from me. “You call this high concept?” “I’ve seen this movie a thousand times.” “What does high concept even mean?” “This movie is literally in theaters right now.”
One morning, after another round of ideas had been summarily shat upon, I just started wailing on my keyboard in a haze of rage and despair. Blindly pounding those smug little letters until my fingertips hurt and I realized several hours had passed. When my vision cleared, I saw that I had produced thirty pages of words. A first act. But of what, exactly?
I read them over.
They were pretty okay, describing a handful of quirky, likeable characters who very quickly became entangled in a mighty grim situation. I’d never considered myself a writer of crime thrillers, but I very much wanted to know where this thing went. So I kept typing.
I didn’t mention what I was working on to Suit 1.0 until well after it was finished. I figured he’d hate it, would rail on how it wasn’t high concept and therefore unmarketable and blah blah and my momentum would be killed. But sometimes, goddammit, you just have to say screw marketability. Sometimes a story simply needs to be told!
Sometimes, I look back on that summer and wish I’d let the suit kill it.
I’d finally finished what turned out to be a fast-paced, character-driven, and oddly charming heist thriller. It was like nothing I’d written before. I liked it.
After a few rounds of feedback from my trusted circle of confidants, I sent the script — let’s, for the sake of this tale, call it Accessory, because that sounds vaguely crime-related and I haven’t had enough coffee to come up with anything better — off to Suit 1.0.
I also submitted it to an online script-peddling service, as a preemptive measure, knowing that when I got the inevitable “pass” from the suit I’d have a motivational crash if I didn’t already have another iron in the fire.
Thus Accessory joined the ranks of other optimistic writers and their scripts, all lined up like wide-eyed puppies, hoping against hope that a producer would wander by and, charmed by a catchy title and clever story and disciplined writing, decide to take one of them home. It felt a little like a step backwards, career-wise, but at the same time, sometimes you just have to pound the pavement yourself. (I actually got my start by trolling one of these services, but that’s a story for another post.)
Then something unexpected happened.
Suit 1.0 called me up to congratulate me on a script well done, and inform me he’d already attached a producer, who’d read it and “flipped out.” He told me to sit tight, as they were preparing to hit the streets with it very soon.
“Um. Great! Glad you liked it,” I said, thoroughly whiplashed.
I decided not to mention that I’d already, in a way, hit the streets with it.
So, real quick, the way this particular script service works is, you (pay money to) upload your screenplay or treatment, then write up a one or two sentence logline and a more detailed synopsis of the story. Industry people, whose credentials grant them access, browse the listings. If the logline catches their eye, they can read the synopsis. If they dig the story progression, they can access and read your entire script to get a sense of your writing and whether or not they want to pursue the project.
And who gets access to a script and when can be a very touchy subject, for a number of reasons, a few of which I would soon become well acquainted.
I quickly logged onto the site to pull my listing before anybody had a chance to read Accessory. I, predictably, was too late.
Somebody had already read all three: logline, synopsis, and script. Shit! But it was just one guy, I told myself. That wasn’t so bad. Only one guy, and he might not even like it. I’d likely never hear a word from him. This was by no means a disaster.
That’s when the phone rang.