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Monday
Aug052013

PAYING FOR SUCCESS 

Robert Rossil's imagination percolated, forming a story he hoped would transport him from his workaday life - which had so far included stints working for a florist and selling homes - to Hollywood. It was an idea for a movie about the Brazilian football team's shock defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup. He called it Maracanazo.

Rossil just needed to get his unsold script into the right hands.

Enter Little Indian Films. The company told Rossil it could make his dreams come true. For a fee.

Rossil paid Little Indian $7000 to market Maracanazo.

In the intervening time, he was forced to sponge off a friend and sleep in his car, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Tens of thousands of aspiring screenwriters are clattering on laptop keys, fiercely guarding their own earth shatteringly unique ideas. They are gripped by the buzz of expectation, but paralyzed by the fear that anyone, at anytime, might steal their idea and sell it to Tinseltown for bookoo bucks.

If only they guarded their wallets like they do their stories.

Aspiring screenwriters are easy prey for the dozens of self-styled gurus and consultants charging fees for their services. These people don't discriminate. If you have the cash, someone will take your money. Regardless of whether or not you have talent.

Talent, though, is a slippery term. Stephen King defines it in his best-selling memoir On Writing.

"If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented," King wrote.

If I recall correctly, he never measures a writer's ability by how much he forked over to a screenwriting guru.

That's why writers, good and bad, would do well to keep their checkbooks in their pockets. Every time we handover these fees, we're not just propping up a dubious cottage industry, we're encouraging these people to fleece more writers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for writers in the motion picture and video industries in 2010 was $62,000.

But it's not all about money. If it was, Rossil would surely be bitter.  Instead he chalks up Little Indian's trifling results to executive Alexia Melocchi not quite getting his script.

“I do believe I have a great story to tell. I believe she believed in the story, but the way she was presenting it was not the way to go," Rossil told the Times.

Maybe Rossil's experience is less about money, and more about hopes and dreams.

He says a Uruguayan production company has breathed new life into the project, and that an Academy Award nominated cinematographer is attached to direct.

Let's hope he didn't have to write another $7000 check to reel them in.

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