The Year of Living Famously

By VFS Web Team, on August 27, 2007

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We'd heard the rumours. We knew Writing grad Seth Lochhead had had some serious success. Phrases like "bidding war" and "against six figures" were tossed around. We were dying to know what had really happened with Hanna, the feature script he wrote during his year at VFS.
Well, Seth's been kind enough to tell us the whole story -- thanks, Seth! What follows is a little long, but if you're a screenwriter, you're going to want to read it in full. And maybe take some notes.
The Year of Living Famously
By Seth Lochhead

So I'm steaming soymilk for David Goyer's extra hot chai latte and I'm thinking to myself, "Do it, man. Do it. Tell him you're the same. Tell him you're a writer too. Tell him the best part of Blade 3 had nothing to do with vampires and everything to do with boobs. Tell him. Tell him now."
Instead, I poured his drink, avoided eye contact, and whispered quietly to my coworkers, "That's the guy that wrote Batman Begins."
I went home that night not regretful, but definitely feeling that I missed an opportunity. or maybe not. Maybe I would've told him of my fabulous idea for a movie (with a fully realized script sitting in a drawer at home) and it would've evaporated from his mind as quickly as the steam off his extra hot chai latte.
I convinced myself I wanted to make it on my own. I wanted to be the coffee shop phenom that launched into Hollywood's upper stratus from oblivion. I didn't want to ride in as the student of some "greater" screenwriter. I wanted to walk into Hollywood as master.

I set to task. I emailed 400 agents, producers, managers, executives, and assistants in the stubborn hope that it's not who you know, it's what you write that will define you as a Hollywood player. And boy was I right. sort of.
In one year of emails I got two requests for my script. One was from a kindly producer and the other was from a kindly management company called Circle of Confusion.
Now, this wasn't your run of the mill management company. These guys were the real deal. They launched and repped some of Hollywood's power players, namely The Wachowski Brothers, Simon Kinberg, and Iris Yamashita.
I wrapped my script in a manila envelope, sent it down to Culver City, and spent the next day and a half throwing up.
Six weeks later, I get a call. These boys loved and I mean lovedmy script and they wanted to rep me. Great. But what does that mean? I still have no idea. really.
My script is the violent tale of a 14-year-old girl raised in isolation to be the perfect assassin. This wasn't an easy film for the masses to swallow, so the boys at Circle decided to leak it slowly.
They got a whole bunch of nibbles and then suddenly they got a big fish - Focus Features. And that's where the proverbial shit hit the fan (and vomit, lots of vomit. I vomited a lot in those early days. now I just eat).
They optioned Hannaand, after a manic (on my part) phone call, they hired me to do the rewrite.
And this is where life got really crazy. The William Morris Agency starts calling my house. CAA, UTA, ICM and myriad of smaller, excellent agencies start calling my managers and they all want to rep me. Great. But what does that mean? Again, it's still vague. I choose WMA because they seemed the most evil (they turned out to be puppy dogs).
So at this point I have an agent, a manager, and, lest I forget, a great lawyer. I'm paying out 25% of my income and I haven't made a dime. But I'm living the dream (minus the coke and the whores and the money in general).
I fly down to L.A. and Circle has really pumped me up. I have a large fan base of creative executives (who are pretty much paid to be fans) at all the major studios. I'm meeting people left and right. I'm being put up for all the open action projects, a few kids' movies, and one romantic comedy, and it's great. But I have no idea what I'm doing.
You see, I skipped pitch class (in fact I was one of the organizers who staged walkouts of pitch class), so my verbal storytelling was lacking flair. As one of my executive buddies said of my pitching, "It was painful. I almost cried for you." I did cry for me.
Just as things started to wind down and I was preparing to do my rewrite of Hanna, more good news came my way. I was voted to the top ten of Hollywood's Black List (I am not a Communist).
The Black List is an industry popularity contest of the most liked screenplays of 2006. Bestowing this list with their awesomeness are some familiar names. PT Anderson, Stuart Beattie, and my new hero Seth Rogen (a BC-born Seth just like me). And I beat all their asses. Yippee.
So this meant another trip to L.A. and another round of meeting my adoring (paid) fans.
It's now a year later and after flubbing through hundreds of phone calls, reading stacks of material, writing hundreds of pages of speculative outlines, waiting months for the Focus deal to go through (Hollywood is the slowest moving machine of them all), I'm happy to say I'm still writing.
Somewhere between David Goyer and the Black List, I started to get lost in my own hype (you are now reading my timid VFS! True Hollywood Story). and I'm still lost. But I can tell you one thing: write and have the balls to show it to people and if it sucks and you know it sucks write some more. Be confident and don't give a shit what the world tells you (listen, just don't give a shit). All you need is one yes. I got my yes and I've had the year of my life. I also have insomnia and a slight addiction to caffeine. but it's been fun because, as cliché as it sounds, I get to do what I love. And, best of all, I got there by doing what I love.