On March 21, 2003, we had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Bob Sobhahi, director of literary acquisitions for Zide/Perry, to our chat room.
Jacinthe/TwoAdverbs> Welcome to Two Adverbs, Mr. Sobhani.
[Bob Sobhani] Hi everyone. It’s a pleasure to chat with you all.
Jacinthe/TwoAdverbs> Would you please give us an overview of what you do?
[Bob Sobhani] I am the director of literary acquisitions here at Zide/Perry, essentially a scout to bring in writers for our management side, and projects for us to produce, so I read a lot.
Jacinthe/TwoAdverbs> Do you rep writers yourself?
[Bob Sobhani] I do rep some myself. Our management team consists of four managers but we work as a team. There are some writers and projects that I feel closer to.
[y2kfool] Mr. Sobhani – What genre would you consider hot or cold at the moment? For example, with the comeback of musicals and the cross-over appeal of rap artists like Eminem to film, would a rap musical be an item of interest?
[Bob Sobhani] Horror is hot, thrillers, and comedy and romantic comedy will always be hot. Musicals are tough, unless they are based on a classic story or Broadway play. They never sell as a script. They almost have to come with a filmmaker with a great vision attached to them.
[y2kfool] Thanks for the input.
[Tami] It’s been said that you’re not serious if you can’t move to LA, and you’ll never have a career. Also that specs are often just doorways to assignments that you obviously can’t get if you don’t live in la… do those of us not there have a chance?
[Bob Sobhani] Being in LA helps because half of what gets people a career is networking and who you know, so being here will help you meet people who are already in the system. But again, writers who live in other areas have also succeeded after finding the right representation. Just write a good commercial script that has a great story at its core. Execution is everything.
The letters work sometimes but usually don’t. It’s always easier to get your script into the hands of an assistant or junior person because they are ambitious.
[karenp] Would you take someone as a client if you thought his/her writing was strong, but you didn’t think you could sell the spec he/she submitted?
[Bob Sobhani] Yes. We have signed people only because of their writing. If we see the potential in what a writer can do down the road, that’s all that matters to us. Can’t say the same is true for other companies though.
[Pickel] With war now, does that impact acquisition?
[Bob Sobhani] Not acquisition of scripts, unless they are war scripts. People will always need entertainment and this town will always need products. So I guess war will not affect it that much. If something is really good and commercial, it will be bought.
[kgoodnermacy] I have had a ridiculous amount of luck with my teen comedy, it gets a request almost every time (even from inzide.com), but I am not getting much response to my other 2 scripts. (Coincidentally, I just moved to LA and have found that it makes all the difference.) What do you recommend for getting a script out there that is not as high concept?
[Bob Sobhani] It’s a catch-22 situation. You almost need the high concept to have the necessary appeal to get some interest. For a less commercial script, you need to get it to the companies and people who just want a great story regardless of how much it can make at the BO. Getting it to a filmmaker with a vision always helps.
[manvscat] I have a script in development with a production company – what should my next steps be?
[Bob Sobhani] Keep writing new ideas, treatments, and scripts because once that script is set up or made, you need ammo to back up the existing script. Writers should always be writing new projects. If that company loses interest in your project, you should try to take it elsewhere as long as it’s not legally bound.
[manvscat] What about seeking rep? Can’t get through to many agents/managers.
[Bob Sobhani] Getting a rep is tough. One way to expose your script is entering them into fellowships and competitions so that way if it places high up, it will automatically get some exposure and people will call you to read it.
[zeljim] Are there good and bad times for submission?
[Bob Sobhani] Submissions are not seasonal. We always welcome them.
[zeljim] How many writers does your company manage? Do you anticipate a limit with 4 managers or will you hire more managers?
[Bob Sobhani] We manage about 30 writers and no, our managers can handle a lot. We’re actually proud of how much we can accomplish. We also have a great support staff, etc.
Jacinthe/Two Adverbs> Are your managers involved in production as well?
[Bob Sobhani] We produce films. We have a separate production side too with its own staff. We produced American Pie 1 & 2, Final Destination 1 & 2, Cats & Dogs, The Big Hit, and the upcoming American Pie 3.
[JLogan] You stated earlier that horror and RomCom where hot. But the box office year in and year out is ruled by large-scale action adventure tent pole type scripts. Are those scripts and writers found through development as opposed to spec? What reason do you and your fellow coworkers cite for such a disparity?
[Bob Sobhani] Yes, tentpole films are huge but they are also riskier and unless they are based on a book or some other source, they are hard to sell. Rom Com’s are generally lower budget and castable. Horror usually is very affordable and people love to get scared. But if you do have a tentpole idea, go for it. You should never be genre specific when you write anyway. Write what you are passionate about.
[Jyro] Who reads the queries at Z/P? Who approves submissions? And who reads those submissions?
[Bob Sobhani] Our development staff, including assistants and such, read the queries and Inzide submissions first, then they get passed up the pole.
[BubbaD] Is the market any tougher for a high concept, Christmas movies or specialized movies like these in general? They are genre specific by nature.
[Bob Sobhani] Market is not tough for high concept. But execution of high concept is the most important thing. X-mas movies are tough because they have to fit into a studio’s slate and that’s tough since they all have compiled so many holiday movies over the years.
[elephino] What are the consistent problems you see in spec scripts (i.e. structure, concept)?
[Bob Sobhani] Story and characters. Most writers out there write about nothing appealing. You have to write about something and people that audiences will pay to see in a theater. What would you pay to see? Tell a story that is both entertaining and compelling. Never try to copy other recent successes at the box office. At the end of the day, the story, the characters, and the execution of them has to come from you, the writer. Don’t try to write something others do. Find the story that suits you but at the same time it is a movie, not just something without an ounce of entertainment in it.
[HConn] What kinds of stories do you wish people would never send to you again (not talking about badly-written stories:))?
[Bob Sobhani] Stories about people trying to get over their relationship/love life problems. I also hate scripts that start in a coffeeshop with Genexers contemplating life and love and career. That is not a movie. Write a story in which the potential for great dynamics and surprises exists so the story almost writes itself.
Jacinthe/TwoAdverbs> We have time for one more question – Karenp, it’s yours.
[karenp] In your opinion, are bets (i.e., one guy bets another guy he’ll win the girl) too cliché now to be used as a plot device in teen comedies?
[Bob Sobhani] I thinks so. Unless you find a way to give it a fresh approach. But again, if it’s brilliantly executed, perhaps the characters are so well written that the bet aspect of the plot does not matter.
[karenp] Thanks, Bob
Jacinthe> Thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Sobhani, and for answering our questions.
[Bob Sobhani] It was a great pleasure. I wished I had more time to answer more questions, but we can do it again for sure. My advice to you all is to write and keep writing and persistence is everything in this business.
Thank you for having me. Thank you Jacinthe for being a great host. God bless Chris Lockhart. BYE!!!