Matt Allen’s “Pot of Glue”: The Writing Posse!
Our guest blogger, Matt Allen, has been a working screenwriter since 1999 when he and his writing partner, Caleb Wilson, sold their first spec script, Manchild, to New Line Cinema. Since then, Allen & Wilson have worked steadily for Universal, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Fox, Lionsgate, and many others. Matt and Caleb are best known for their original Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon comedy, Four Christmases, as well as their adaptation for 2010’s surfing drama, Soul Surfer.
Want to create great content faster? Form a writing posse!
Let’s face it, writing can be a slow and isolating process. Most of us have more ideas than we have the time to write them. That said, if you had a group of writers working with you toward the same goal, you’d be able to end that isolation and write a hell of a lot faster.
Think about it: television writers write fast and often with great quality. How do they do it? Episodic television is written with groups of writers who work out story, character, and dialogue in the writer’s room. A team of writer’s can brainstorm, analyze, outline, and write a story much faster than just one writer. Wouldn’t it be great if you could create your own writer’s room like they do in television? Oh that’s right — you can.
Myself and a group of five other screenwriters founded a writing team, The Job Factory, back in 2003. The experience has made me a much better screenwriter, and created opportunities that never would have existed before.
The group formed organically when our literary manager began hosting writer gatherings in his conference room after work. We’d get together once a month and pitch each other ideas that we were working on, and give notes on each other’s scripts. Some of us became fast friends, and one night we got the idea to write a movie together — six of us at the time.
We met the following weekend, talked about the movie we wanted to write, and quickly wrote a (Save the Cat!) outline for it. We liked what we came up with, and decided to write the first act right away. Saturday night we all went to our respective shitty apartments and wrote five pages each, then one of us stitched the pages together. By Sunday morning we had a 30 page “Frankenscript.”
That afternoon we had a notes session, made some adjustments and BAM! We had the first act of a feature script that was pretty damn good. So good, in fact, that we sent the pages to the Wayans Brothers. Long story short — they loved it, and three weeks later we sold the project to a studio.
The Job Factory is comprised of myself, Josh Cagan, Jon Davis, Rob McKittrick, and Caleb Wilson. Since writing that first Wayans’ script, we’ve gone on to write a couple of feature scripts for Disney, two TV pilots, and a slew of rewrite gigs. Most recently, the Job Factory wrote a short film/promo called “Bananapocalypse” for director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 3,4,5, and 6). The promo was directed by Justin to announce the launch of his new Youtube network, YOMYOMF – You Offend Me You Offend My Family.
On top of that, we just completed our web series for YOMYOMF entitled, “Jon Davis Gets a Sex Robot,” which will premier this summer. As you can see, aside from all of our solo careers, the Job Factory has generated a lot of extra work, and it was only made possible because we are a part of the team.
Going forward as development dollars shrink in Hollywood, I truly believe that more and more movie studios will employ writing teams to speed up development and save money.
ADVANTAGES OF WRITING IN A TEAM
Most of us can write at least four or five “good” pages a day. If you’re a part of a five-person writing team, that’s 20 pages a day — minimum. Using this process, you can have a workable first draft in less than a week.
Kills the Urge to Procrastinate
For us procrastinating writers, I find it infinitely helpful knowing that if I don’t complete my task, I am letting down more than just myself. I don’t want to be the guy who doesn’t get his pages in on time. Knowing that a team is counting on you forces you to not slack off — as much.
Do you like fun? Me too. If you’re writing with people you like and respect, you’re going to have fun.
Become a Better Writer
Being forced to discuss your craft as you problem solve with other screenwriters will only help you become a better writer. On top of that, you’ll be exposed to writers who have different skill sets than yourself, and be able to learn from them.
DISADVANTAGES OF WRITING IN A TEAM
You’re Like a Band
Writers can be passionate about their words and ideas. If your group is not creatively in sync, it could be a nightmare. When you join a group or form a group, try to make sure you have similar sensibilities, and aren’t teaming up with people who are too egotistical.
You’re Splitting Up the Money
Know that you’re doing it for the love, because splitting money five ways can be depressing.
The minor disadvantages aside, aligning yourself with other writers and forming a team is almost always a good idea. Aside from the career benefits, it will force you to keep fresh and continue to learn. Just choose your writing posse wisely, my friends.