Monday, 30 July 2007

Fun With Marchmont Films

Back in the vague mists of 2006, you may recall a Feature Script Invitation thrown out by Marchmont Films. Myself and hundreds of others all piled onto their online submission form and battered them silly with loglines and sample pages. Memory fails me, but I must have done this around the end of July 2006, as I received an automated message stating that my entry would be reviewed by their ‘team of readers’.

By the time they emerged from the logline pile last year, I received this email on 26th October:

Thank you for submitting your script material to Marchmont Films.

I am writing to inform you that your entry has been reviewed by our script readers and has now been successfully recommended for further consideration. I am therefore writing to you to request that you now send us two bound copies of your full script.

Upon receipt of your full script, it will be read by our senior developers who will consider its potential against our original script brief. We shall contact you to notify you of the outcome of this within approximately 8 weeks.

OK. Two bound copies of the full script in the post - tick in the box. I can’t say that I’m massively excited at this point, but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.

January 2007 comes round and I’m getting a little keyed up (no news is good news, right?). So, I drop Marchmont a line. No reply. Fair enough, I guess. My wife tells me to call them. I check the website, no contact number – unless you discount this one of course – 0800 234 6368.

So, on 17th January, I give them a call. Despite protestations that they only ‘share an office’ with Bloomsbury Weddings, I got the following e-mail within half an hour:

I just had a call that you have tried contacting us - I apologise, but we have been very busy and get 100's of emails! (Your script) will be read in the next few weeks (we only finished reading the 608 entries last Friday and yours is one of 23 selected). I expect to be able to come back to you in 6 weeks at the most.

I experience a pang of guilt (but only a tiny one ;-)) for burdening them with further workload when they are so obviously drowning under a landfill of scripts. Suitably chastened, I go back to banging randomly on my keyboard in the hope that something of undistilled genius will somehow materialise.

On March 12th 2007, the following email arrives:

Thank you for submitting your script material to Marchmont Films.

I am writing to inform you that your script has now been read in full by two of our senior script developers. I am pleased to inform you that it has been recommended to our producers for final consideration.

Although we are unable to comment on the likely outcome, we do feel that it is an exceptional achievement to have reached this stage and would like to express our sincere appreciation for your writing work.

Our producers will obviously be considering this against other recommended projects, but will endeavour to advise you personally of the outcome within approximately 6 weeks.

By this point, I feel as if I am trapped in a never ending circle of Reader’s Digest Prize Draws, where the dubious Tom Champagne breathlessly informs you that in order to be considered for the grand prize, you have to purchase books with titles such as ‘A Spotter’s Guide to M25 Roadkill’, and ‘Etch-A-Sketching for Fun and Profit'.

A few weeks later, I chase Marchmont again (just for the fun of it, you understand) . I receive the following on 19th April:

Hi we are nearly finishes (sic) reading so you should hear something in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah, whatever! The website hasn’t been updated since July 2006, so I guess there isn’t a lot going on in the world of Marchmont (apart from those cinematically themed weddings of course).

At the end of May, I chase them a bit more. This is becoming almost fun now in a gruesome kind of way, and I do it purely because I feel I have to rather than the fact that anything interesting is going to come out of it. Marchmont subsequently goes into deep slumber mode, and I consider ringing Bloomsbury Weddings again – however, I’m already married so I’m not sure what I’m going to say if they offer me the ‘Director’s Package with live webcasting’ (here’s that number again in case you missed it first time round: 0800 234 6368).

After hassling one of their development executives, on 17th June I receive the following email:

Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, however we are extremely busy at the moment with several projects and strategic developments. (Your script) is one of about 16-20 scripts which made it through to the producers desk, but I am afraid you will have to bear with us for further progress. In the meantime, we appreciate you may want to pursue other avenues, so please do not hesitate to keep us informed.

OK, so nothing happening any time soon.

From initial ‘pitch’ to date, it’s been nearly a year. I don’t really have an opinion on this, as it’s entirely up to Marchmont as to how they spend their time and money. Getting a script read in the UK is hard enough – getting a script read by someone interested enough to do something with it is obviously going to be harder still.

Since the great Marchmont showdown kicked off, I have received two consultants reports on the script and undertaken what I think is a relatively successful page one re-write. I informed Marchmont of these facts. They responded with another email, as follows…

Just kidding! They didn’t respond at all. But, as above, that’s their prerogative. And good luck to them. I would no doubt do the same in their position.

As for the genesis of my poor, neglected script, that will be the subject of a future post. It’s not such a frustrating read as the above (but I’m working on it, believe me). Suffice to say, if you want to know where NOT to send your speculative scripts, then stay tuned – I seem to have an almost supernatural knack for ferreting out production companies for whom procrastination is a profitable pastime!

If you happen to be in the same position with Marchmont, drop me a line – perhaps we can form some kind of mutual support group (either that, or a suicide mission). Don’t forget that elusive number – 0800 234 6368. Tell ‘em I sent ya!


Anonymous said...

Funny, I’ve had exactly the same experience. Mine is another of the 16-20 script on the producer’s desk.

I think the reason it’s gone quite is that it’s wedding season. Marchmont don’t just share an office with Bloomsbury Weddings / Bloomsbury Films, they also share a director in Andrew Cussens. See link here.

‘Bloomsbury Films captures Asian weddings like no other’ apparently. I bet the other 14-18 films are Bollywood themed.

Chip Smith said...

Thanks Anonymous, I thought the same myself (I may well have even spoken to Andrew Cussens when I rang Bloomsbury Weddings back in January).

They share the same offices and to my mind are one and the same company, not that there's anything wrong with that of course - it's just that their response times could be a little quicker (it's now 14 months and counting - I wonder what the record is?!).

Anonymous said...

They are. On the link above Bloomsbury Films/Weddings say they are 'Part of an independent film production company'.

Needless to say now I wouldn't trust them to produce it even if the script was accepted.

Chip Smith said...

You're probably right, but I'm content to hang in there, mostly for the entertainment value, and partly to see what happens next (not a lot I suspect!).