Don’t Let Stories Like This One Give You False Hope

Back in October, Variety posted the following story (By Jeff Sneider, Dave McNary):

Here’s one way to make it as a screenwriter: apply online.

Warner Bros. has preemptively purchased the high-concept pitch “Rome, Sweet Rome” from first-time scribe James Erwin, an author and two-time “Jeopardy!” champion from Des Moines, Iowa.

Erwin’s pitch sale came about as a result of several postings on the website, an online community and social news aggregator where users vote to determine which posts land on the site’s home page.

Erwin set out to answer the question: “What if a unit of current U.S. Marines are suddenly transported back to ancient Rome and forced to do battle with the Roman legions?” Pic will follow the Marines as they’re flung into the past where they encounter one of the world’s most legendary villains and disrupt history. To return home, they have to set history back on the track they altered.

Madhouse Entertainment’s Adam Kolbrenner spotted Erwin’s “Rome, Sweet Rome” posts once they reached the top of Reddit and moved quickly to contact the writer and begin working with him to develop the concept. When it came time to find a home for the project, Kolbrenner brought it to WB’s Chris Gary, a young exec who encouraged the studio to move aggressively to acquire it.

Kolbrenner will produce with Gianni Nunnari (“Immortals”) of Hollywood Gang, where John Ridley will oversee the project for the company. Madhouse’s Robyn Meisinger will exec produce and Gary will shepherd the project for Warners.

Erwin’s next book, due in 2012, chronicles the history of U.S. military actions. He’s repped by Madhouse Entertainment and attorney Bruce Gellman.

Things like this DO happen, but they don’t happen often. I see too many writers convince themselves they don’t have to move to LA to make in Hollywood because of stories like this.

For some aspiring writers, relocation simply isn’t an option. But if it is, pack your bags. And in the meantime, YES, post your stories on the internet like Erwin did. But don’t hold your breath for your big break. You can be a writer from anywhere, but you can only be a Hollywood writer if you live in Hollywood (or in some cases, New York City).

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Stories Like This One Give You False Hope”

  1. I’m not arguing against your point, but if this is true, why does anyone in the industry even bother to let non-Hollywood residents even pitch to them? From what you say, writers who live elsewhere have nearly zero chance, so why bother? In fact, why am I even bothering to READ Hollywood University blog?🙂 I don’t live in LA and have no plans to move there.

    1. For the most part, executives DON’T hear pitches from non-established, non-represented writers. Most writers have worked on the staff of a show before ever landing a pitch meeting. Occasionally, an executive or a producer will discover a writer online (such as Erwin or #ShitMyDadSays) but it’s very rare. In a previous post, I compared it to an actor being discovered via You Tube. Yes, it can happen, but they have a much greater chance of being cast if they’re in LA, actually auditioning.


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