Yes, I’m the Secret Disciple Guy, or: How I Thought I Had “Made It” in Hollywood

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You’re the Secret Disciple guy?” My friend said as he nearly screeched to a halt in the middle of the 405 South while traffic was actually moving (and, if you’re not from Los Angeles, let me tell you, that would be a big mistake).

We were carpooling home from a TV writing group in Encino and had been discussing feature screenplays we had written. When I started explaining the first feature script I finished, and how it had won and placed in a bunch of contests (including the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship), his expression turned to one of recognition. He asked me the title, and when I told him it was called Secret Disciple, that was when he freaked out.

“Yeah… why? You’ve heard of it?” This seemed weird. Had I told him about it before?

“Man, I used to read scripts for [Unnamed Production Company] a couple of years ago, and everyone was talking about your script there. I can’t believe they never made it into a film.”

Now I was the one who was shocked. “Really? I mean, I knew they were interested in it, but they stopped contacting me, and after a while I gave up.”

He started shaking his head. “I can’t believe that. I mean, it was a huge deal. All the readers would come in and talk about the scripts they had read that they liked, and yours was definitely in line to go to [Production Company President]. What happened with it?”

I told him the story from my side of things. I had never written a screenplay before (just one comic book script and a spec for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and I did a ton of research on both the subject matter and screenwriting. It took me about two years to finish it, then I sent it off to contests. Before long, I started getting a bunch of good news about it doing well. The Nicholl Foundation sent me a list of production companies that were interested in reading it, and more that I should contact and let them know about my script, which would probably interest them in it as well. I started sending them off–a much more difficult task back then, when I had to make copies and actually go to the post office, since nobody was accepting scripts by email yet.

One day, as I was about to drive back to Colorado for my dad’s retirement party, I got a call. It was the assistant to the president of [Unnamed Production Company], and she sounded like she was in a panic.

“Is the script still available? It hasn’t been optioned or anything?”

“No, not yet. It’s still available.” I started to get a flutter in my chest.

She sounded extremely relieved. “Oh, that’s great! Our readers really liked it and sent it up to the development exec, and she loved it and passed it on to me. I’m almost done with it, and I’m so into it that I’m getting annoyed whenever I have to answer the phone. I’m going to give it to [Production Company President] to read this weekend, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Does that sound okay?”

“That sounds great.” Now I had full-fledged butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t believe it was happening. During the entire drive to Colorado and the whole trip, I was walking on air. It was unreal to think I was so close to getting my script made into a movie.

Unfortunately, I was new to Hollywood and the way things worked. While I had done a ton of research on the writing part of the job, I was really naïve about the business aspects of screenwriting and the entire process.

I was tempted to call as soon as I got back to California the following week, but people told me to hold off a couple of weeks. Things can move slowly in Hollywood, and writers often have to “hurry up and wait.”

Finally, after a couple of weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore. I called [Production Company] and asked for [Assistant to the President].

“I’m sorry, she’s no longer working here. Would you like [President]’s new assistant?

“Uh…sure.”

I told the new guy who I was and explained the whole conversation I had with his predecessor, and asked if he knew what the status of my script was.

“Well, we’ve had a lot of turnover in the past couple of weeks, and things are kind of unorganized. Let me look into it and I’ll get back to you.”

I gave him my number, and waited. And waited. About a week later, I called him back.

“Well, we actually weren’t able to track down your script. We’re not sure what [President] did with it, so would you mind sending it again?”

I made a new copy, made sure I was clear in my cover letter what had happened earlier, and sent it off. The next time I called, I was told the assistant would call me back.

He never did.

The script did get optioned later by someone else, but it was never produced. In fact, I had pretty much given up on it completely by the time I had the conversation with my friend on the 405, which dredged up all the hope and disappointment I had felt back when it happened.

Since then, I’ve written many screenplays and teleplays that have also been successful in contests, I recently finished a YA novel, and I’ve had a book and some short stories published. But nothing ever matches the feeling I had after I got that phone call, when I was still innocent enough to think I had just about “made it” in Hollywood.

Yep. I’m the Secret Disciple guy.

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~ by christophervalin on July 27, 2015.

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