March 21, 2003, we had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Bob Sobhahi, director of
literary acquisitions for Zide/Perry, to our chat room.
Welcome to Two Adverbs, Mr. Sobhani.
Sobhani] Hi everyone. It's a pleasure to chat with you all.
Would you please give us an overview of what you do?
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.
Do you rep writers yourself?
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.
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.
Thanks for the input.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What about seeking rep? Can't get
through to many agents/managers.
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?
Sobhani] Submissions are not seasonal. We
always welcome them.
How many writers does your company manage?
Do you anticipate a limit with 4 managers or will you hire more managers?
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.
Adverbs> Are your managers involved in production as well?
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.
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?
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.
Who reads the queries at Z/P? Who approves submissions? And who reads those
Sobhani] Our development staff, including assistants and such, read the queries
and Inzide submissions first, then they get passed up the pole.
Is the market any tougher for a high concept, Christmas movies or specialized
movies like these in general? They
are genre specific by nature.
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
What are the consistent problems you see in spec scripts (i.e. structure,
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.
What kinds of stories do you wish people would never send to you again (not
talking about badly-written stories:))?
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.
We have time for one more question - Karenp, it's yours.
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?
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.
Thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Sobhani, and for answering our
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.
you for having me. Thank you Jacinthe for being a great host. God bless Chris