Selling my first screenplay
by Heidi Ferrer
My screenwriting dreams would eventually lead me into a room with two men I just met and a naked woman bound in chains. Ahem.
After I met my husband Nick, I wanted very badly to impress him that I had deep and important talent. I jotted off a short story and gave it to him to read. He acted impressed (maybe that was because I was having wild sex with him several times a day).
We co-wrote one thriller spec, then for the next four years, I wrote scripts on my own, mostly romantic comedies. I wrote long hand on yellow legal pads, then I taught myself to type with one finger, “hunt and peck” style, which I highly recommend, if you hope to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
My first solo script got me an agent, Lawrence Mattis, who discovered the Wachowskis. That first one didn’t sell, but I kept writing spec scripts, treating it like a full time job while I slaved as a waitress and hostess.
I had a windfall of $1,000 a month of option money for one of my projects, so I had precious time to write a romantic comedy spec called The C Word. (Unrelated to the Showtime series.) It had the subtitle “Commitment is not a four letter word.” The one liner was, “Four women, who’ve had their hearts broken by the ultimate womanizer, hire the ultimate man-eater to bring him down.”
The C Word went out to producers. It was tense, man. I was unemployed at the time, my 1982 Nissan Sentra was breaking down, and Nick and I lived more or less in “the hood.” My option money had run out, I literally had about twenty dollars in the bank.
That Wednesday morning, I woke up early and began pacing the apartment. I sat alone on our futon couch while Nick was still sleeping. I read all of my poetry I’d written about my nine years of struggle in L.A. I prayed and cried.
I stacked birthday greeting cards from my family and loved ones and placed the phone on top of the stack, so any phone call that came through would be filled with love, positive energy and good karma. The phone rang once before noon, a wrong number, a heart attack.
At noon, Lawrence called, screaming “Put Heidi on the phone!!” He said we had an offer from producer Arnold Kopelson (Academy Award winner for Platoon). The offer was three hundred thousand dollars upfront, three against six.
It was like winning the lottery, but it had been for something I’d done creatively, starting from just a blank page.
On my way to meet my new lawyer at the Four Seasons hotel, the driver’s side window of my car literally fell down inside of the door and broke into pieces with a loud crash.
Arnold’s offices were glamorous and intimidating, in the building from the Bruce Willis movie Die Hard. I was nervously led to Arnold’s office, which was behind a glass door with a security code. His shiny gold Academy Award was displayed prominently by the door in a case.
We met in a room with his executive and that giant painting on the wall of a naked woman, bound in chains. They might’ve been handcuffs, but she was naked and bound. Arnold joked to me that “She was one of our writers.”
Hey, it’s nice work if you can get it and I’m beginning a new spec now, because we writers keep dreaming, anchor our hearts and take leap after leap in the dark.Tags: Arnold Kopelson, Heidi Ferrer, Hollywood, Lawrence Mattis, Romantic comedies, Screenwriter, Writing first script