You pitch a lot in Hollywood. Films. Shows. Ideas. My first efforts at pitching didn't get me any sales. But they did get me my first professional writing gig -- a rather terrible Grade Z movie. Still, it got made. Even if I barely recognize what made it to the screen.
For a few years, I'd been pitching HERE TV! several scripts / ideas. One, PARIS came very close to getting made. (They went with the Donald Strachey Mysteries instead.) They liked my work enough that they called me in to write a project for them. The guaranteed it would get made. All I had to do was have a draft ready for them in two weeks....
A few other issues. It had to be a disaster film. It had to involve stock footage. It had to be a female lead. And it had to be written so that the protagonist / hero was both gay and straight -- and by that they didn't mean bisexual.
At the time the movie was made, gay films were very much of a niche. Gay characters were a rarity in film and TV. They weren't typically the hero. They didn't tend to show up in an action or scifi film. In order to finance their features, Regent Entertainment, owners of HERE TV!, created two versions of their films: a gay one for HERE TV! and a straight one for Regent Entertainment. Regent would release the straight one outside the US as a theatrical and direct to DVD. The gay version would air on their gay network and might play in a few chosen cities. One of those cities was Los Angeles. Regent owned their own small chain of theaters here.
Newly graduated from UCLA with my MFA, I couldn't say no. Hell, if I had never gone to UCLA, I still wouldn't have said no. I spent the next two weeks worth of nights and weekends (and a few sick days) pounding out a script called "BURN." I decided that the protagonist was indeed bi. In the real version of the story, she was into whomever she was into -- motivating a lot of mixed emotions in her once the villain was revealed. What they cut together from that was on them. That said, I tried to have the script make sense any way they'd cut her orientation together: as a lesbian hero, as a straight hero, or as a bisexual hero.
Well, as much sense as one can when you have two weeks to write the script and another week to incorporate studio notes into the revision. I tell my students that you can create a "puke draft" in two weeks, essentially where you vomit everything out and onto the page. Cleaning it up into something great? That takes a more time. The more experienced you are at writing, the less disgusting that first draft is. Decades later, I could now pound out a decent script in two weeks. I'm just surprised what I turned in wasn't as bad as I remember.
True to their word, Regent paid. Regent produced the film. Regent released the film. It was my first credit. By the time it hit that screen, there was an additional writer -- never met them -- on the project and multiple uncredited drafts. For all that extra work, it still reads like something written in two weeks and filmed on the third. That's Hollywood, baby. Well, at least my tiny corner of it.
Original Beat Sheet
This is the most preliminary of outlines.
After I'd done more work fleshing out the story, this is the treatment -- a quick prose version of the story that anyone can read and understand -- that resulted.
Viola. What resulted after two weeks of pounding out pages.
These were the notes, the comments, that came back from the studio. I think everyone from the head of production to the intern weighed in.
This is the revised script I produced from their notes and my own rewrite. See how it compares to the final film.