Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conversations with Marilyn Atlas, Film Producer/Personal Manager

Part IV
Conversations with Marilyn Atlas regarding Hollywood, Being There and What’s Comfortable for Them.

Thanks for tuning in to these amazing conversations with Marilyn. Today is our final conversation. Tomorrow check out her bio.

Leslie: It seems that Hollywood want films from well developed franchises or films that feel familiar to them, familiar themes. My mentor Robert Gosnell (WGAw and WGC) uses a term, Uniquely Familiar--

Marilyn: Interesting, I like that.

LA: Uniquely familiar is what Hollywood is comfortable with, yet different enough to make them take notice. So it seems to me that when you risk trying to write something that is off mainstream, you have to rein it in a little bit so that Hollywood is comfortable with whatever off-beat subject you’re picking up.

M: Exactly. Exactly. That’s the whole power of being able to get actor attachments.

Because it comes down to, how am I marketing this? I mean there are a lot of movies that do very well at film festivals and they never get distributed because they can’t find a market for them.

That’s a great phrase (uniquely familiar) and it’s true. It’s what I said about baseball or anything. It’s something that is uniquely familiar, but to me the writer’s creativity is how you spin it and make it slightly different so it’s not what you expected. Did you see the movie Tell No One...

LA: No, but I’m making lists. I’m going to be busy watching all these.

M: I see over 12O movies a year. This is a stunning French thriller. Very different than what you usually see.

Did you see the movie Mongol? Epic and beautiful.

Here’s an interesting movie, not stereotypical characters, Frozen River...a blue collar woman whose husband has left her, he’s a gambler, she has two kids and lives right on the border of Canada, desperate to make a better world for herself and her kids. She’s Mohawk and becomes involved in smuggling immigrants. It’s visually arresting and a compelling story. Because you understand the measures people take when they’re desperate. And the other thing I thought was so wonderful about this, and kudo’s to Melissa Leo the actress, she didn’t glam makeup. You rarely find blue collar characters in movies that are not kind of "done" a little bit...that are really willing to be raw.

LA: I’m hoping everyone reading this is going to go to their computer and Netflix all of these. I am. I want to see why they intrigue you so much.

Watching movies for screenwriting is as important as writing...and reading screenplays. And I think one has the tendency to watch movies that are in your comfort zone, so these will be great for me...out of my comfort zone.

M: What movies did you watch that you enjoyed so much this year?

LA: Charlie Wilson’s war...

M: That was last year.

LA: Oh! Well I Netflix almost everything, now.

M: I go to the movies. I love the experience of seating in a movie theater. I’m afraid if I rent it, I’d read and watch the movie at the same time. There’s always a book, or mag or newspaper near me, and I just have to multi-task if it’s available to me. In the theater I can concentrate on what’s in front of me.

(Then Marilyn asked a bit more about Robert Gosnell. I told her he’s a structure guru and can almost instantly find the theme in my work, where I’ll go round and round trying to find the dang thing.)

M: Oh, that’s a gift. You get both structure and someone who can see theme in one person. Great.

LA: I’m not in Hollywood and I can’t take meetings. I could jump a plane and pitch, but just how much difficulty are we non-Hollywood dwellers facing?

M: Well, I think it’s hard. I mean it’s one thing if you’re established, or have a best selling book and can come for a few weeks and people want to meet you. I think it’s hard if you’re not here, because so much happens serendipitously. Again, though, if there’s something that has heat on it, it doesn’t matter where you are.

While the world is smaller because of the internet, I do think when you’re trying to establish yourself, people need to see you and have a sense of who you are. They need to meet with you and get your sensibility.

LA: I enter contests for exposure.

M: And you’ve had some great successes.

Another thing I think your readers should check out and I think is invaluable is InkTIP ( There are a lot of managers, agents, indie producers that are coming up and may not have a lot of money, and are looking for material and I think it’s a great way to get exposure.

LA: I love InkTip and subscribe to it. They have a free newsletter with a few leads, but I decided to pay for their Preferred Newsletter and at $150 a year, ($50 every 4 months) consider it invaluable because I’ve been able to submit.

LA: Are there are any projects that you want to talk about, that you can talk about?

M: Doing Real Women Have Curves as a musical, with the idea that it will get to Broadway in two years. I produced a workshop of it that did very well and now the Goodman Theatre in Chicago wants to do it next summer.

My next project...which due to the economy is on hold a called Suburban Turban. It’s a multi-cultural, coming of age story set against the world of Bhangra Music. The two leads are a young Sikh boy and his African American friend
. The music is the metaphor for fusion and coming together. Does the young Sikh boy become Americanized or become a Sikh? It’s a comedy, yet makes a lot of poignant comments.

I’m going out again with a pilot to Showtime....I have various things in development all the time.

LA: Marilyn, honestly I can’t thank you enough for your generous gift of time to talk with me.

M: It was my pleasure. I can’t wait to come to let’s see if we can get a class or something scheduled.

: You bet.

And so it ended. A magical conversation with a savvy woman, Marilyn Atlas.

Her bio follows tomorrow.

And Marilyn, I will try to find a way to get you to Colorado and teach a class. How many people want to come? Email me at and let me know. We’ll see what we can do.


Audra Harders said...

Thanks for sharing this 4 part interview with Marilyn. As you've said many times, Leslie, novelists can learn so much about pacing and timing from scripts.

Interesting too, how unique scripts go the way of unique novels. The publishing houses are asking for new concepts and ideas, then when you submit them, they don't know where to market them so they get rejects. Sheesh. Small press, like Indy films might just be the way to go.

Thanks for the interview, Leslie, and thank you Marilyn for sharing your insights!!

Nancy said...

Leslie, I'm trying to get Marilyn to Florida, too! :)

Thank you - Leslie and Marilyn - for the fabulous interview! This was insightful and great fun besides!

Nancy Haddock

Leslie Ann said...

You're right, novelists and screenwriters have so much to share with each other In fact it used to be and still maybe, that novelists turned screenwriters were courted by Hollywood because they understood story and all that encompasses.

Pacing and finding ways to show not tell are but one screenwriting trick that novelists can embrace.

Thanks for joining us, A, a fellow scribe.


Leslie Ann said...

Nancy...Colorado is between Ca and FL! LOL.

Really, if we can't get her here, I'll try and come there.

Thanks for joining us.