Saturday, April 23, 2005

Q&A with Done Deal

Done Deal is one of the most important resources for writers around the country ( Holly Shorts recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A with Will Plyler, co-founder of the site. Done Deal is made up of over 350 pages of sales, examples, interviews, contact information for agents & production companies, columns, contest info, advice and more.

HS: How and when did you go about launching this wonderful resource?

WP: The site was started in September 1997. While I was working at Centropolis Entertainment I became interested in this "new" thing called the Internet, which had websites on it.

Jennifer, who co-founded the site with me, sat near me and was tracking sales of projects for the company for internal use. I'd always kept an idea list for films and usually a few times a year I'd read about a sale in the trades and think, "that was my idea that just sold." I thought it would be great if there were a resource to track all this. I asked her to give me a disc each week with what ever deals she’d found and I'd try building a website so others could see what was being sold too. It just went from there.

When we first started the site was basically one long page. It was white text on a black background. As our list of deals grew I realized we needed to build a second, then third page, and so on. Over time we added links, news items, agency, manager, attorney & production company lists, columns, reviews, and advice. In addition, I interviewed friends who were writing and also talked with writers & other industry people that had contacted the site directly.

Along the way the site has gone through a few re-designs as I learned more programming and also saw what did and didn’t work well on other sites. But there was never any plan to it or goal; except for trying to provide the best information we could as quickly and accurately as possible.

HS: What is the biggest challenge from your perspective writers are faced with these days?

One, really two, of the biggest problems writers face are themselves and thus fellow writers. I feel writers many times can be their own worst enemy. I see to many queries in which writers claim they have the greatest story and/or idea in the world and it will make everyone millions. You read the logline and you wonder, does this person even understand basic grammar, much less storytelling? As a writer, you need to get feedback on your work – solid feedback. In this day and age, there really is no excuse for not being able to have someone read your work or "listen" to your idea and be able to give you some helpful advice.

Also, there are so many people out there trying to write and wanting to be a "writer" that the market is overwhelmed. With the advent of the Internet it’s made it even tougher for Hollywood to wade through all the material.
There was no Internet ten years ago. There were no websites for writers or submission services, etc. All of these things have made it easier for writers all over the world to send out queries, and that’s great, but at the same time it overwhelms "Hollywood" that much more.

HS: Any interesting screenwriting competitions you'd like to plug?

I don’t actually participate in contests so I don’t have any first hand experiences to recommend. Most of the major contests that writers seem to enjoy and the industry respects and pays attention too, continue to be consistent like the Nicholl Fellowships, Walt Disney Writing Fellowship, etc.

There has been a rash of new contests popping up so writers should do as much research as they can before entering by asking friends or doing research on message boards to get feedback about who is actually running the competition and what their success rate is like.

HS: Do you recommend any software or any interesting new books for screenwriters to get their scripts covered?

WP: As with the contests, the major software makers like Final Draft and Movie Magic get the job done. Final Draft hit a few bumps in the road with their release of 7.0 but they are slowly making fixes it to it. Also, I know many writers like programs like Sophocles too.

We see a lot of discussions about the various software available and what writers like to use most. At the end of the day, simply pick out the one you like best and feel most comfortable with. One person will love what you use and another will hate it. It’s the script/story that matters. Find what makes your life easiest as a writer and just go with that.

HS: Where do you see Done Deal in 5 years?

WP: I have no idea to be honest. We never expected to be where we are today and still doing this. We know how difficult it is for people, especially writers living outside of Los Angeles, to track all the deals and find all of this information, so we want to do our best to continue to help them realize their dreams.

We recently opened Done Deal Pro ( to offer a higher end version of the site with a searchable database, more detailed & updated contact information for the various companies, agencies, management firms, etc. We are of course focused on providing all we can to our subscribers there.

We hope to be around for as long as we can.

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