I’m sure many people reading this blog have looked at my IMDB link, but if you haven’t have a look at it. You’ll notice my first writing credit is a film called Dish Dogs starring Shannon Elizabeth, Sean Astin, Mathew Lillard, and Brian Dennehy.
Dish Dogs started out as an idea I had in college – a sort of modern day Easy Rider about two guys who would drive around the country washing dishes at local restaurants, never staying at one place for more than a few days. I washed dishes at a Chart House Restaurant in high school and I saw firsthand how easy it was to get a job as a dishwasher and thought this was a romantic and somewhat plausible premise for a script.
I had told my college buddy, Nathan Ives, about the idea and he liked it. After sitting on the idea for several years he asked if he could take a stab at writing it. After we talked about it for a while we decided to try and write it together – it became the first script we wrote together and has been an enduring writing partnership.
So Nathan and I wrote a draft of the script and we started to pass it around to our contacts. Nathan worked at Digital Domain (a special effects company) so he gave it to a few people down there. While no one wanted to buy the script, people seemed generally pretty positive about it.
At the time I was working on a master’s degree at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in communications with a screenwriting emphasis. One of the other students, Stan Williamson, had recently optioned his script Just Write. I asked him how he had optioned it and he told me he submitted it to an ad in The Hollywood Reporter. I had occasionally seen these ads placed by producers looking for scripts and even submitted a few times, but I had never gotten a reply so I had never done it with any consistency. He told me that he had been submitting to them for 10 years and had optioned quite a few scripts that way. So I too began to submit with extreme consistency.
After 9 month of consistently submitting (probably hundreds of submissions or more) to every post in The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety where someone was looking for a script I started to get a few replies from people. One guy was thinking about hiring me to re-write a project he was working on. One company was looking to hire writers to write their ideas. And finally a production company liked Dish Dogs and wanted to option it. They paid us $500 for a 6 month option and told us they were going to make the movie for around $2 million. Nathan and I were ecstatic.
It turned out to be quite lucky that I was able to sell the first script that I optioned and it ended up getting produced. Usually options don’t turn in to actual sales. Since then I’ve probably had 25 options that never went anywhere.
I’ll leave the actual process and the re-writes of the script for another post – it didn’t exactly go as planned. Hopefully there are some lessons in my experience for you. I still occasionally look in the trades for posts but it doesn’t seem like producers post there any more, most of the equivalent postings have gone online to places like Craig’s List. Check out my post about submitting to Craig’s List.