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The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market Paperback – March 17, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (March 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688161715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688161712
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,352,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

So, you want to write a movie. You could do worse than read The Big Deal, a collection of funny, horrible, and/or inspiring stories of Hollywood break-ins by former Oliver Stone employee Thom Taylor.

What's most striking about the book is the madly random nature of films' gestations. Allison Anders got her break (and off welfare) via the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Nicholl Fellowship (one of several competitions Taylor recommends). Total Recall was optioned for $1,000 16 years before it got made. The Elephant Man script got to its producer because the coauthor's girlfriend baby-sat for him. Alien only got made because Steven Spielberg liked it.

Andrew Kevin Walker, the Tower Records clerk who wrote Seven, wrote a letter to then barely known screenwriter David Koepp (Bad Influence), who improbably hooked him up with a deal that collapsed partly because the studio's co-owner was distracted by becoming the president of Italy. Various moguls rejected and almost destroyed the story; Brad Pitt saved it, and it grossed $340 million. Dustin Hoffman cleverly added the hero's guilt over failing to save JFK to In the Line of Fire, then exited; Tom Cruise's people demanded this be deleted, because a 28-year-old hero wouldn't have been around for JFK. The dead-broke writer spurned about $100,000 from Cruise, and just when he would've settled for Bob Denver, wound up with Clint Eastwood and about $1 million.

"If Hollywood scoured the earth looking for the world's top furniture designers," Taylor writes, the studios "would bring them all to Los Angeles to design $6 plastic chairs to sell at the local Wal-Mart." But it's the only Hollywood we've got, and Taylor has got its number. --Tim Appelo

Review

"If you want to know how that million-dollar fantasy comes true, read this book and laugh, weep, and wonder." -- Jeremy Kagan, award-winning director

"Next to talent, The Big Dealis the best ammunition for a new screenwriter entering the Hollywood wars." -- Paul N. Lazarus, producer, Westworld and Capricon One, and director of the Motion Pictures Program, University of Miami School of Communications

"Reading The Big Deal is like overhearing a spec script power lunch at Morton's. To be successful in the spec market, read this book." -- Tom Holland, writer and director of Child's Play and Stephen King's The Langoliers

"The title grabbed my attention. The book held it. An excellent portrait of not just the US script market, but the whole business of writing, THE BIG DEAL is thoroughly researched, well-organized and crisply written.... Besides describing quick auctions at inflated prices, the book chronicles sales that took years.... LAST ACTION HERO gets the longest chapter, and is a harrowing portrait of development hell being driven by the worst of the Hollywood blockbuster mentality.... It's not the only perversion on show.

The book describes an industry where "the decisions are pushed down to the very youngest people in the process [the trackers]." Trackers are the junior story people hired to track writers and their spec scripts. Trackers can kill a good script. The book quotes an anonymous studio producer saying that because trackers "talk to each other all day long they make decisions largely based on whether or not their friends are in so you end up with insecure young children with no real guts protecting their jobs."

At the same time the book totally endorses the spec market as an empowering development for screenwriters. It stresses that a script can be crushed at the bottom of the system if the person placing it isn't connected. If you want to crack the L.A. market, this book is indespensible. If you'd rather avoid the whole mess and stick to the Canadian scene, the THE BIG DEAL is a fun read, except for all those big numbers." -- Bruce McKenna -- "Canadian Screenwriter," magazine of the Writers Guild of Canada

"This entertaining insider's look at the real, painful, pathetic, and ultimately random process by which Hollywood's power elite attempts to predict 'the next big thing' makes stock picking look logical by comparison." -- Douglas Rushkoff, author of Media Virus and Ecstasy Club

"This entertaining, anecdotal, and personalized book takes an amusing look at the business side of selling screenplays in the glitter capital of the world. . . . Thom Taylor has accurately captured the flavor and serendipity of this bizarre marketplace of literary madness." -- Peter J. Dekom, entertainment lawyer and co-chairman of American Cinemathequea

"Thom Taylor's book, The Big Deal, is a most comprehensive and knowledgeable look at the subject of marketing scripts for motion pictures. It is an evening read." -- Robert Wise, film producer and Academy Award-winning director of The Sound of Music and West Side Story

"[Thom Taylor] tells of a Hollywood so desperate for new material that ideas -- in the form of independently written "spec scripts" -- become million-dollar plus propositions. Unlike scripts written by writers under contract with a major studio, specs can be bought and developed by anybody. With a clever agent and a few interested stars or directors, a spec can quickly become a hot property, with dozens of studios bidding for the rights to put it into production.

Taylor... tells the stories of several scripts, all of which sold for big bucks. After sale, however, a spec's path is in no way guaranteed -- some become hits, some flops, and many more never get made at all, becoming mired in what is plainly referred to as "development hell." Although ostensibly a guide for writers themselves, thanks to the depth of its research, The Big Deal becomes a revealing look at the whole Hollywood filmmaking process ." -- Mark T.R. Donohue - The Daily Californian

Author Thom Taylor mixes keen observations with telling insider testimonials and in-depth case studies to vivdly illustrate just how damned difficult it is to not only make a spec sale, but to then actually see your work reach the silver screen. The result is an intelligent, take-no-prisoners assault on the Hollywood Dream Factory that serves more as a cautionary tale than a blue-print for launching and maintaining a screenwriting career." -- Allen B. Ury - "Fade In: The First Word in Film"

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
In fact, this book warns against the pitfalls of doing this for money.
Robert
As screenwriter, just starting to hit my stride, I find Thom Taylor's book work's as a "how-to" as well as a "how-not-to" book.
TravelGal
I highly recommend anyone who wants to be a screenwriter to spend a few hours with _The Big Deal_.
Brendon M. Macaraeg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hundreds of aspiring writers flock to LA every month. Their goal: to make a name for themselves in an industry that is as mysterious as it is naked to the public.
Well, wonder no longer as Thom Taylor does a magnificent job of removing the shroud when he takes us on a tour of the inner workings of America's favorite industry. (Sorry dot.coms)
Mr. Taylor, an insider himself, brings his first hand experiences and personal stories to life on the page in a way that can only be described as motivational.
Aspiring artists, such as myself, should all give this book a read as it sheds some much needed light on the politics and behind-the-scene processes that make Hollywood work.
We as Americans are conditioned to place people of fame and notoriety on an invisible pedestal, yet by reading and understanding Thom's book we are able to see that these same people are no different from ourselves.
And to me, this is the greatest gift a book could ever give to an aspiring artist.
If you have ever chased a dream, thought about chasing a dream or even just had a dream, this is a book for you.
Take my word for it. It doesn't cost a lot of money and it's written so clearly that it's guaranteed not to take a lot of your time. Unless, of course, you do as I do and read it over and over and over and... You get the picture.
Now get the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Big Deal helped me to become familiar with some of the big names in screenwriting marketing (i.e. Peter Scott), who can get MORE than a foot in the door in Hollywood. I learned about valuable screenwriting competitions, which allow a writer safe exposure to experienced "inside" readers. A MUST for all screenwriters!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By TravelGal on April 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
What a jewel this book is! As screenwriter, just starting to hit my stride, I find Thom Taylor's book work's as a "how-to" as well as a "how-not-to" book. It is fascinating to read about the evolution of such films as, "While You Were Sleeping," "In the Line of Fire," "Seven," and others. The detailed stories of heartache and passion make for more then just a good-read. He makes you appreciate the process.
As a founder of a non-profit organization, I found a strong connection with first-time writers trying to get someone to recognize their exceptional work. (Jeff Maguire's 9 year struggle with "In the Line of Fire" had more ups and downs, twists and turns, than the film!)
This book makes you want to rush to your video store and rent the movies mentioned, to look at them again from a technical aspect.
With my goal of writing a winning spec, and keeping a non-profit organization going, I don't find much time for sleep. I gladly give up an hour a two a night just to read another chapter, another story of hollywood dreams.
I almost walked past this book. I'm glad I didn't.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
My friend gave me this book as a gift, and I can't thank her enough. This book was like an adrenaline rush. The way Taylor weaves his behind-the-scenes tales held me for every page. Taylor inspires writers to press on with their craft, and paints an intriguing picture of the script sale world. For screenwriters looking for a great book that goes beyond the usual How To information, you have found it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Thom has the access that only industry insiders have, and he openly shares it with the readers of his book. This access got him interviews with REAL players in the biz, who disclosed invaluable insights that outsiders would not have been privy to.
The reader is shown the odds against getting a script produced, and ALSO the potentially wonderful rewards of winning the "spec script lottery." Subjects include the role of agents, and the horrors of "development hell."
There's even a chart detailing the successful efforts of superstar and lesser-known screenwriters who prevailed with their spec scripts, and how much they were remunerated for efforts that did NOT result in produced works.
For less than what the average tank of gas costs, readers are provided a thorough and enjoyable education - WITHOUT having to move to Los Angeles!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an absolute must for anyone serious about writing for Hollywood, but not because it tells you how to land the million-dollar deal hinted at in the title. No, this book gives hope to those who live by the old industry adage 'good writing will be discovered.' In fact, this book warns against the pitfalls of doing this for money. Through all the amazing tales of double-dealing, poor decision making and strange coincidence that goes into these deals, this book reminds us that as a writer you must write what you love. Do that, and not only will you survive, but you will succeed. Should be required reading in film school.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a screenwriter with four projects in development hell and still not able to quit my day job, The Big Deal reassured me that all the work and sacrifice can pay off. I've just finished my best spec script - romance. comedy. adventure - VERY castable. Reading The Big Deal I have a much better understanding of "the rules of engagement" and I'm now prepared to confidently take the offensive with my soon-to-be-hot project. Thank you for this timely book. I great read for anyone interested in knowing more about the Hollywood process and especially those trying to break down those tightly-guarded Hollywood doors.
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