Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How do readers get hired and do they get in trouble for recommending scripts that bombed?

Glenn asks:

I'm curious how studios, production companies, etc. hire script readers they feel have the skill set to determine film worthy material verses those readers that are more apt to be relegated to second-tier screenwriting competitions. I often hear about interns and fresh out of film school students getting these positions in both venues so what sets a good reader from a mediocre one? Beyond the years of experience and who you have worked for, how does someone with a high level of expertise get hired? Does anyone ever track or question the number of films a reader placed under a recommend or consider status that made money verses those that bombed? 

Let me clear up something here - if interns are ever reading anything, it comes from the slush pile and from the lower-priority scripts that aren't expected to be any good.  The stuff that comes in from the reputable agents always goes to the execs, their assistants and the experienced readers.  The interns and the PAs who are new to the biz usually cut their teeth on that lesser priority stuff.  In my direct experience, the execs these interns/PAs are reporting to will usually mentor them and help them learn the ropes of writing coverage.

Agencies have their own methods of training their mailroom employees.  I can't speak to that too directly, but again, they're not reading the priority material.

How does someone with a high level of expertise get hired?  The same way they get hired for any job.  Job postings go out, assistants and readers with some experience under their belt send out resumes, have their personal references call in, and so on.  Often the company will want to see some coverage samples.

This also sometimes leads to something I really hate, which is when the person doing the hiring hands you a script and says, "We'd like you to do coverage on this script."  I get the logic behind this - they'd like to see how you break down a script that they already know so they've got a good way to size up how well you are at accurately summarizing a screenplay and giving insightful comments on it.

On the other hand, you're basically asking the person to do for free something that they'd get paid for.  You wouldn't hire an assistant by having them come in for a day or two and run the desk for free, would you?  So then why is it acceptable to get free coverage for someone who has a strong resume, solid samples and references willing to vouch for them?


As far as your last question, in general, it hasn't been my experience that someone will keep track of a reader's suggestions and punish them if their recommendations subsequently bomb.  Let's not forget - a reader is just there to thin the material.  It's not the reader's CONSIDER or RECOMMEND that got a movie made - there are always plenty of development people above them who make that call.  If the project got as far as being made, the blame is out of the reader's hands.  It's more likely that a reader recommending subpar material will find themselves out of a job simply because their bosses keep having to read terrible scripts, thereby proving that the reader is useless to them as a "first filter."

I also have found that - with production companies - there's also little risk to you if you panned a script that the company later decided to make.  Agencies are another story - owing to the fact that some agents are incredibly thin-skinned crybabies when it comes to the slightest bit of criticism directed at projects that their clients have even the most tenuous connection to.  If you think an agent isn't capable of overreacting to even a mild PASS, you haven't written coverage for them long enough.  (And if you happened to be an agent and those last few sentences have pissed you off, thank you for proving my point.)

A few months into my first job as a PA at a production company, I was given an assignment to read an important spec for the company President.  By this point, I'd been doing coverage for all the other development execs for at least three months and I'd gotten pretty good at it.  But this was "the show" - my chance to impress.  Fortunately, I had an entire weekend to read this script.

Just my luck, it was a sci-fi film with a fairly complicated premise and story.  Even though the writer had been around the block a few times, it still was dealing with some fairly heady concepts and tricky plot twists.  I read the script once and wasn't sure I understood it all, even after taking notes.  So I read it a second time, and then a third time as I wrote up my synopsis.

After I had my synopsis done, I kept rewriting it until I trimmed the length by an entire half page.  It took me the better part of the day to read and write up, but I eventually distilled the story down to its most essential components and actually made some sense out of the story.  I dare say that even the script's writer couldn't have wrung more coherence out of the story.


I made a nearly incomprehensible script make sense.  And when the story made sense, it was easy to see the stuff in there that could be cool.  The comments were critical, but not especially cutting.  It was a PASS, but it read like a gentle PASS.  I think you can guess where this goes.

Long story short - the synopsis I wrote was later used to entice buyers for the foreign presale.  For a while, I worried that my critical comments would come back to haunt me.  As it turned out, no one cared in the slightest that I spoke ill of a project that we made.

They cared less when the film was (eventually) released and it bombed.  Hey, I tried to warn them.

In another instance, a script I was assigned to read ended up being one of the worst professional scripts I had the displeasure to write up.  It was only through sheer force of will that the words "sucks" and "shit sandwich" did not appear in my coverage.  Instead, I aggressively pointed out every last plot hole and conceptual flaw.  I didn't flat out state it, but it was impossible to not read this review and not question everything about the script, including the writer's own proficiency.

Here's where you probably expect me to tell you that they went ahead and bought it the very next week.  Well I'm not going to say that.

That's because they had already bought it just days earlier.  Did they tell me that when they sent me the script? No.  Did I know beforehand?.... Does it matter?

This particular film crashed rather hard in wide release.  The reviews were intensely unkind.  The box office was worse.  There were no reprisals, unless you count the fact I had to sit through the movie.

Now you're probably wondering, did I ever recommend a script that subsequently bombed? Not exactly.  Nothing I endorsed to a company was later made AT that company and bombed FOR that company.

I did, however, recommend DOMINO.  My bosses at the time passed, frankly, in large part because of the director.  As much as I loved the script, I hated the movie.  But for more on that, read this entry.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Based on a true story."

Jeff asks:
My question has to do with when is a story "based on a true story" and when is it not. I imagine it's a fuzzy line that varies case-by-case.

Here's my case. Some years ago, I wrote a magazine article about a family that survived a life-and-death experience. A producer I respect is encouraging me to write the story as a script (no, he's not offering money for that). He wants me to get permission from each of the three people involved so they're on board. The trouble is the mom divorced the father and neither she or the daughter want to have anything to do with him. They say that if he's involved, they won't grant me permission. So, I'm left with these options: (1) write the script but replace the father's character with a fictional one, nothing like the real guy, or (2) forget the whole thing. I think it would make for a hell of a story even with a fictional husband, but I'm wondering if doing so means the movie wouldn't qualify as "based on a true story". Am I right in thinking an action story is an easier marketing sell if it can claim to be "true"?
First off, I'm not a lawyer, so I can't speak to specifically when the "based on a true story" disclaimer becomes invalid.  I would think that if you have the permission and participation of one of the principals, that makes it valid.  Not knowing the particulars of this specific story, I can't really offer an opinion on how much it would harm the accuracy to change the characterization of the father.

If you've got a producer who's interested, this should really be a question for him.  He already knows the story and he'd be better positioned to tell you how much it hurts his marketing angle.

Not knowing the story itself, I can't say how much of a difference the "based on a true story" tag would make for the marketing.  My gut reaction is that it becomes more valuable to you the more fantastic the story gets.  A good recent example is Argo.  The notion that the CIA would use a fake Hollywood movie as cover for a hostage rescue operation seems so unlikely and so absurd that you can't help but have your interest piqued once you know this really happened.

(Of course, many of the complications in Argo's third act are entirely invented and the script takes some other liberties along the way, but the core of the story really happened.)

In the case of Argo, the fact it really happened undoubtedly intrigued the producers who eventually made it, and I'd be shocked if they didn't use that fact to sell the studio on an idea that might have otherwise seemed to absurd to be plausible.

On the other hand, if you're dealing with something slightly more run of the mill like a family fighting back after a home invasion, perhaps the "true story" tag is less essential.  This is one of those case-by-case basis things - but as I said, your producer is probably the guy to give you a real answer on this.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

You don't have to take every note

I recently had the experience of giving my latest script - a thriller - to my writing group. I've talked before about writing groups, so I won't waste much space discussing why I find them useful. That said, it's always great to know that I can give these guys a script and have a reaction within a week.

 Notice that word: "reaction."

It's sometimes funny how scared we are as writers of critical opinions. When I worked at one agency, they made certain that none of the readers' names appeared on the comment section of the coverage. This was because they'd had incidents in the past where writers had gotten their hands on negative write-ups of their scripts and then tracked down the writers to confront them directly.

I honestly don't know what they thought they were going to accomplish. You can't argue against someone's opinion. Further, my experience is that if you confront someone about a review like this, they're only more likely to dig in because you've essentially just challenged their credibility.

If someone doesn't like your script, you're never going to argue them out of that reaction. You might be able to have a debate about what led them to that conclusion. It might even be valuable to understand why they didn't like it, but that's where it ends. You will never turn a PASS into a Consider by debating it - because it isn't a debate.

Subjectivity is just something that you have to accept if you're going to work in the creative arts. The truth is that no matter how brilliant a writer you are, SOME PEOPLE WILL NOT LIKE YOUR WORK. If you're a hack, you'll meet a lot of those people. If you're brilliant, they'll probably be in the minority.

This doesn't change the fact that the law of averages says that at some point, you're going to run across someone who isn't in love with your writing. This is the most liberating thing to remember when you're getting notes from a non-fan: You don't have to take every note.

I'm not saying you should ignore anything critical. There's nothing to be gained by closing your ears entirely to negative reaction. I always assume that if this one person comes to me with these issues, some other readers (and eventually filmgoers) will have the same bones of contention. So why not try to understand the negative reaction?

When I'm getting notes from someone, the most important thing I remember is to listen. If I'm talking more than they are, I'm doing something wrong. I also make it a point to speak less to defend the work and more to provoke the reader into discussing their response. I might jump in and explain what my intent was, for then they might be able to assess where I was and was not successful with that.

The people who give me notes often attach a lot of suggestions to them. Some are helpful, some are not, and some would turn the script into an entirely different story from what I want to tell. I cherry-pick the notes that make sense to me and reinforce my vision of the story, and I discard the rest.

So the note that pisses you off because it takes the edge out of one of your characters? You don't have to take it. The suggestion that you cut a particular joke because one reader finds it offensive? You don't have to take it.

 By the way, this isn't a license to be a jerk about it. You asked someone for their opinion, so be polite when they give it to you. Even when you know you plan on disregarding their suggestions, thank them. In fact, it should be easy to be polite because if you know it's not a direction you want to explore, why get all worked up over a hypothetical.

The more comfortable you are in the face of criticism, the more you grow not just as a writer, but as a person.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Will I read more Black List 3.0 scripts?

Twice this weekend I got emails from people asking if I ever was going to do another free-for-all where I read scripts that people have submitted to Black List 3.0.  I'd like to, but I unfortunately have had issues of time committment lately.

When I made my first offer, I was overwhelmed by how many people replied and how fast the queue filled up.  I think I expected maybe fifteen people to take me up on my offer to read at least ten pages of their script.  I think in the end, 75 people made it in under the deadline.  I have a hunch that if I was to offer it a second time, the participation would be even more overwhelming. 

I'll be honest.  That scares me.  I don't want to get to the point where I'm treating reading these like a chore.  That's not fair to the people who submitted, even if this is an unofficial exercise that they're not paying for.

Related to that is the fact that I know from months of reading the weekly emails from The Black List that there are some scripts where right off the bat, the concept just doesn't appeal to me.  If the goal is to find a script that I can give a good rating to and champion, I think I need some way of thinning the herd.  This way, perhaps I could read fewer scripts, but be picking from concepts that I'm more predisposed to liking. 

If I was to do this again, how would you feel about my limiting the period for open submissions to, say, 24 hours?  And how about if I then picked through the submissions and decided which queries intrigued me the most?  I think maybe I could also make it a lesson in what makes a good logline, which extends the benefit beyond the writers being read - it makes this a learning experience for everyone.

This might also mean picking some of the less effective loglines and using them as a lesson in how to make certain pitches more effective.  Would anyone have any objection to that?

If you guys have any suggestions that could make this process even better, please let me know.  I can't promise that I'll implement this anytime soon.  Between my job and the script I'm rewriting, I don't have as much free time as I did back in October.  Even then, I underestimated what I was getting into.

So I hope I can do this sometime in the near future, but I'd also caution everyone that it still might be a ways off.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Five things THE FOLLOWING needs to fix

Remember a few weeks ago when I noted my concern about The Following becoming a one-tricky pony?  It's safe to say those fears haven't abated in the ensuing weeks.  If anything, they've grown.  Considering this was one of my favorite pilots from this season, I'm quite dismayed and concerned.

This is my list of things that need to be fixed immediately:

The sheer preponderance of cult members. I touched on this a bit in my earlier entry, noting that the show kept trying to shock the audience by revealing each episode that a character we thought we trusted was actually "one of them."  While the scripts have dialed back on using that as an episode's climactic twist, every episode we're meeting more and more cult members.  This most recent episode not only introduced a small-town cop who was basically a charter member of Carroll's cult, but it revealed he's been recruiting others to "the cause."  At this point, serial killer Joe Carroll probably has more devoted followers than Community.  (And they're probably slightly less zealous than Dan Harmon fans in trying to recruit others to the cause.)  Why is this so crazy? Because....

The cult members are poorly motivated.  I don't understand why anyone would be so devoted to Carroll.  He's handsome and he has an accent.  In some circles, that passes for seductive, and why not, let's spot him a few impressionable co-eds who passed the time in his class on Edgar Allen Poe by writing "Mrs. Joe Carroll" in their notebooks.  But falling for someone and killing for them are two entirely different things.  Not to mention we've seen a lot of male cult members who likely aren't there for Carroll's dashing good looks.

This might be what disappoints me most about the show because when the series started, I really was interested in hearing what creator Kevin Williamson had to say about the psychology of serial killers.  This is the guy who wrote the line "Movies don't create psychos! Movies make psychos more creative" in Scream.  Considering the meta nature of the premise, I was eager to see Williamson explore this territory in more depth.  Eight episodes in, I'm starting to doubt that we'll get much below the surface.  This also leads to my next point, which is...

Joe isn't as compelling as the shows wants us to believe he is.  Despite the best efforts of James Purefoy, Joe isn't especially charismatic, nor does he seem to be espousing any kind of philosophy that I buy as reaching these lost people and convincing them to hand over all agency.  I'm sure there are people out there with lurid, perhaps unhealthy fascinations with serial killers, but to date, I haven't seen anything that really shows me Carroll is capable of weaving a spell that completely overtakes one's moral code.  I buy him converting one or two damaged people and reshaping their psyches.  But as the cult membership gets larger and larger, I'm less willing to cut slack on that particular point.

The FBI is deeply stupid.  We've been shown that just about every cult member Carroll personally groomed (not an insubstantial number) paid him a visit in jail, right?  So why have the FBI not combed the visitor's logs and detained everyone who saw Carroll until they can clear those people?  I think some lip service was paid to this in the pilot, but it's ridiculous that half a season in, the show is still bringing in Carroll's visitors and playing it like the FBI doesn't have them on their radar.

Last week, Carroll contrived a prison transfer.  As soon as this was announced, every viewer knew this was going to end with Carroll's escape, and had it been done right it could have been as thrilling as Hannibal Lector's escape in Silence of the Lambs.  Instead, the show merely revealed that Carroll's people had the warden's daughter kidnapped and forced him to facilitate an escape.  It was far too easy.  Given how resourceful Carroll had been up to that point, I don't buy that there weren't double or triple redundant security procedures.

Time and time again, Carroll's plans only seem to succeed because the good guys are stupid and the bad guys have the deck stacked in their favor.  It's too easy for the cult, so no victory feels earned.  Instead, it's contrived.

The show needs to reign in the bouts of pretension.  One of this week's final scenes was so overwrought that it was ridiculous.  A cult member believes he's failed Carroll, so he hands Joe a blade and essentially puts his life in Joe's hands. And well, observe....

There's a lot I could say about this scene.  However, I'm a big fan of Williamson's other work, so I'll reign in the adjectives that would ensure I'll never get a meeting with the man.  I'll just say that I hope this was an anomaly.  Every writer has an off-day, no one bats a thousand.  I genuinely hope that this isn't a signpost of what to expect from the show.

There are still seven episodes left in this season and the show's already been picked up for season two.  I plan on sticking through the rest of this season at least, with my fingers crossed that the remaining episodes right the ship.  The Vampire Diaries got off to a rocky start in its first half-dozen episodes before finding its voice and improving in a major way.  I've still got faith that Williamson can work the same magic here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My thoughts on OZ: THE GREAT & POWERFUL and the origins of villains

Like many of you, I saw Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend.  While there was a great deal that I enjoyed about it, I felt there was one plot point that could have used a little finessing - the moment where Theodora becomes the Wicked Witch of the West that we know from all the other incarnations.

Up until that point in the movie, Theodora is played very naive.  She's got an almost child-like innocence about her and is instantly taken with the Wizard.  It's a little like watching a schoolgirl get her first crush on the bad boy.  Because of this, her heart is easily broken when she learns that Oz now seems to have moved on to wooing Glinda.  She's so deeply hurt that she accepts her sister's offer of an apple that will remove her heartache, basically by snuffing out any capacity for goodness in her.

This triggers not only an emotional transformation, but a physical one which turns her skin green and makes her features more hideous.  From that moment on, the good-hearted Theodora is now a cackling, vengeful hag who's pretty much devoted to evil.

Here's my problem with this: the Wicked Witch is one of the most iconic villains in film history and the origin we get for her is basically that she was tricked into becoming evil.  That doesn't sit well with me.  She doesn't make a choice to go bad, nor is her becoming evil the end result of a descent down that path.  Instead, the transition from good to evil is about as instantaneous as flipping a light switch.  Perhaps the creators' intent was that there'd be sort of a tragedy to this outcome, but the thing is - we don't WANT to feel sorry for the Wicked Witch. 

I remember some people had similar issues with Anakin Skywalker's descent into evil in the final Star Wars prequel.  The idea that one of the Jedi's best and brightest could crossover to the Dark Side is a compelling one, but it demands a compelling execution.  Several people came away with the sense that Anakin had been so manipulated along the way to the Dark Side that the choice was taken out of his hands, and thus, was less compelling.

In that case, I see where those critics are coming from - but at least there, Anakin is presented with a clear moment where he has to make a choice between his Jedi compatriots and Palpatine.  When it comes down to it, he cuts off Mace Windu's hand in order to defend the future Emperor, betraying everything he stands for.  True, Palpatine has stacked the deck a little by misleading Anakin into believing he needs the power of the Sith to save Padme, but Anakin dives in willingly and with little hesitation.

Unfortunately, Theodora isn't even that responsible for her own transformation and it undercuts what should have been one of the bigger moments of the film.  I think there are a lot of things the movie does right (in particular I really enjoyed the third act), but if there is a sequel, I hope the creators use the opportunity to give the Wicked Witch a little more agency on her own path to the Dark Side.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How do European script writers break in?

Harvey writes in with a question that I've gotten from a few other people recently:

Do you feel European scripts to be well-represented in your reading? According to the folk at Scriptapalooza last year, mine was the only UK script to make their last 100. I felt the combination of UK setting, European story tone (magical realism, after a fashion), and a central conceit from the US but globally-loved would offer plenty of incentive, but the script didn't seem to generate any interest from their shopping around. 

The two features I'm shopping around at the moment are movies I believe in as high-end indie pieces, particularly my 'other' script which is a character-driven sci-fi piece and culturally red hot (it is, also, something that has to play out stateside). I feel in both cases that I'm suffering a little for writing outside of my home territory, yet on the other hand I'm getting great responses from readers and peers the world over. Frustrating, all told, but the case for many I'm sure. 

What advice if any would you give to people working outside of the US, but pitching content which wouldn't play out anywhere else? I am assuming some folk are less turned off by remote contact than others in the early stages of negotiation over work.

Last question first - I have zero advice to give for people breaking in from outside the U.S.  That's pretty much outside my sphere of knowledge so rather than fill your head with misinformation, I'll just say I haven't got a clue.

I don't read a high percentage of European scripts.  When I have read them in the past, I do recall that the fact they didn't "feel" like typical American specs might have counted against them, but most of the time that was either a function of the pacing being too slow or the concepts not feeling strong enough.  I don't know if it's really wise to generalize based on the few that I read, though I feel like a European indie might have more issues because it's hard enough to get an American indie movie made!

I'll be honest, I can offer advice about how American writers might get their submissions read in large part because I'm right in the thick of it and I've seen how people pull that off.  I have zero practical knowledge of how the few European scripts that have reached me managed to end up there.  This is probably a better question for some European writers.

I got a recent question about how UK writers can break in over here, and my answer is pretty much the same for them as well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesday Talkback: Dialogue

Okay, I've tried answering this email a number of times and I honestly don't know where to begin.  So I'm pushing it off on you guys.

Despina writes:

i hate to ask this question as i'm sure i'm revealing my freshman status as a screenwriter, but i have to ask... i am having serious problems with dialogue and character development and i have no idea why. i realize that sounds elementary and more experienced writers will scoff, but please keep the eye-rolling to a minimum and bear with me. i have always been a "scene" person - i think and conceptualize based on a single scene my brain conjures up based on a real life scenario or incident or music... and whether that scene is something pivotal, an action scene, or something seemingly simple and understated, i have that scene and try to create a story or plot to make that scene a reality. most of my scenes come from a vibe or feeling a piece of music creates (rock, opera, jazz, whatever) and i think "wow that would be a killer/cute/poignant scene in a movie." i'm essentially basing a movie off of what my idea of a great soundtrack would be. sound looney toon yet? i promise i'm not shallow.

it's come to a point in my life where i finally want to write this stuff down and see if i can knock out some screenplays based on those little scenes. needless to say, all those little scenes are sitting, lonely, in their own files on my desktop in hopes i eventually circle back and love on them. these little scenes have no real character development or dialogue, so i've yet to practice this or give anything or anyone a voice within these little scenes.

now that i've given the craft more study and thought, i'm trying a different approach. i found a logline and a 'call' to write a screenplay based off that logline. at first i brushed it off, but i had to go back because some exciting ideas unexpectedly came from it. so now i've just had two days in a row where i literally just threw up a multi-page story and rough plotline, breaking it up (as an outline) into scenes and acts with little pertinent bits of dialogue along the way (nothing really substantial, however). i understand writing as a craft with archs and subtext and whatnot, and i've been able to break these ideas down, but now that i have to put a voice and words to these characters' mouths... i'm blank. i'm holding myself to such lyrical gangsta levels of those i admire (Coen Bros, Wes Anderson, Tarantino) that i doubt myself completely in doing this.

i've read many of your blog posts and interviews and roundtables (i only just discovered your blog last night and have been obsessed for the last 24 hours) and i've been able to fully connect with what they're describing in their own ways of screenplay development, but i can't, for the life of me, find anything to grab onto regarding dialogue. should character development be one of the first things you do before going into the story? am i just ignorantly lacking the intellect to create good characters? why don't i have the capacity to give my characters dialogue? honest to goodness meaningful dialogue? should i go ahead and jump off of the screenwriting ledge?

i swear i'm not a dull creature... this just vexes me so. if you have any archived posts i've yet to discover or know of any good resources i'd be much obliged for the direction.

apologies for the long-windedness of this.

Dialogue is hard, and for me it's been the most-strongly self-taught aspect of the craft.  I feel like you need to just write, then say it out loud, then keep rewriting.  You're probably going to write a lot of bad dialogue before you write good dialogue.  Really it's something that comes with trial and error.  I'm not bad at identifying bad dialogue, and sometimes I can even offer suggestions on how to improve a scene.

But straight-up telling you how to write good dialogue? It's a more elusive lesson.  It's not that I haven't touched on dialogue before, but the full context of your question reads like you're really looking for the theory of writing good dialogue, and I confess I don't know if I have the capacity to give that broad of an answer.

What I will say is that you can't let this paralyze you.  Don't feel like your first-draft dialogue has to be brilliant.  Just get it on the page and give yourself something to work with.

What do you guys think?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reader question: 9/11 scripts

Sand Man asks:

Is Hollywood receptive to 9-11 scripts.? Think Murder/Thriller, separate from the attacks, but happening on the same day.

This is a harder question to answer than I thought at first.  I was ready to say, "If the 9-11 elements are integral and the script is brilliant, yeah, go for it." But then it occurred to me that there's probably still a portion of the audience that would take offense to 9-11 being "exploited" in a genre pic.

I first came out to L.A. a little more than a year after 9/11.  At that point, I was a low-level intern who was just learning the basics of coverage by reading the slush pile stack that was one step ahead of being recycled.  And I swear that not a week went by when I didn't read SEVERAL 9-11 scripts.  Some of them were what I call "therapy scripts" where the writer was clearly working through their own trauma at having lost someone that day.  Others opted for a more serious "from the perspective of the police and firefighters" angle.

The bottom line is - there were a lot of 9-11 specs floating around.  Most of them felt exploitative, rarely going beyond a surface level retelling of events unless it was to wallow in melodramatic misery.  All of these were easy passes because at that point, no one was sure how to treat the subject with the appropriate reverence, to say nothing of the fact of how fresh the wound was at that point.

A decade later, we've seen a few films that manage to pull that off, like UNITED 93.  So have we come far enough that we're ready for a murder/thriller that uses the events of those day as a backdrop?

I honestly don't know.  It's all going to come down to execution.  If you really wanted to play it safe, I'd say explore any way of telling the story without that 9/11 connection.  But let's assume it's necessary.

For some people, it'll probably be a loaded subject. I say just accept that now.  Others might like it and immediately begin scheming how to remove 9/11 from the plot.  And then there will be readers who might have more open minds - your job is to make sure that nothing else in the script gives them a reason to say no.

So is Hollywood receptive to it?  I haven't seen any of those sorts of scripts get far with the people I work for/with.  I'm sure that at some point, this won't even be an issue.  Without knowing just how the events of September 11th weave into your story, I'm reluctant to be too strong of a naysayer, so I think the best value I can give to you is what I have done - take you through the thought process that my reaction to that concept triggers.