I subscribe to several screenwriter’s newsletters.  One of the more interesting is put out by Marvin V. Acuna.  I enjoyed reading his newsletter because he clearly knew the business, and he wrote about other subjects.  He knew something about life as well as art.

 At the conclusion of each newsletter was an invitation to join his Business of Show Institute (BOSI) and pay him $497 to read your screenplay, that’s right, the Hollywood Man Himself.  I felt that I had neglected the screenplay branch of my writing in favor of e-books for too long, so I was interested.  I looked him up on the IMDb (International Movie Data Base).  He was legit alright, with shared producer credits on a number big budget films, most recently Lovelace, the story of porn star, the late Linda Lovelace (1949 – 2002), with an all star cast.  The man was in the know.

 Feeling that I had money to spend, though not waste, I did the deal.  The deal was a half-hour phone call with Mr. Acuna.  Via email, we set up a time of mutual convenience for the Big Call.  I would have much preferred written notes; you can always reread notes to get the exact wording.  However, I could see that from his perspective, with a newsletter to produce, he might well prefer the phone.

 Mr. Acuna had already made it clear, in writing, that he was not an agent or personal manager.   BUT, if he really really liked your screenplay, he might show it to two or three of his pals in the business.  In other words, he put that hope out there along with plausible deniability.  So, he was sort of a stealth agent, you could say.

 I called the number he provided for me from home, on my cell—I had dispensed with my land line.  He joined the conversation; we had a good connection.  He congratulated me on recognizing that screenwriting was a business.  Thus far, the business was funds from my account traveling into his account.

 First off, he launched into my title: The Bullet.  It was too short, he said, it needed to be more explanatory.  This confused me because there are scads of movies with two word titles, and I had sent him my logline.  Everyone knows that the title is always read in the presence of the logline, but, apparently, not Marvin Acuna.

 The rest of the conversation went all over the map.  He asked me if anyone had said a kind word about The Bullet and I said, yes, and gave examples.  He tried to characterize The Bullet as a road film, when it’s much more of a quest drama.  I said: “If I can sell one screenplay, then I can sell two screenplays,” which impressed the Hollywood Man. 

 Toward the end of our conversation, which went well over 30 minutes, Marvin mentioned new, more expensive deals to come, and hung up.

 I waited to see if there would be a follow-up email.  Something, a thanks-but-no-thanks note, would have been appreciated.  The introductory Hi Hudson emails continued, to what purpose, I wondered.  Did Mr. Acuna expect me to sign up all over again to have a new conversation?  Finally, I replied to one of those newsletters, reminding him of our phone conversation and the name of my screenplay.

 Tick tock, tick tock.

 Some semi-producing, semi-referral organizations that read screenplays for a fee will offer a reduced charge for a re-write.  That does not seem to be forthcoming from Mr. Acuna.  In the fullness of time, he might offer me a package to do lunch for a couple of thousand, air fare included.  I am not holding my breath, but I am holding onto my money.

 One more thing: There was a package in the phone deal.  I chose the producers’ package, which never came my way.  So, as to the question: is Mr. Acuna a scam artist—well, you decide. 

 The moral is this: If you want an agent or manager, then address your query directly to them.  They will not charge you a big fat fee at the top.  Agents who belong to the Writers Guild of America are regulated by them and charge standard fees only after they make a deal.  The truth is, you do have access to the film and television industry.  You can post scripts online with a reputable organization like Ink Tip, based in California.  They hold a large pitch festival annually in the Hollywood area, where you can meet execs in person.  There are other such pitch festivals.  You can grab a camera and make your own movie, a short short, and post it on YouTube.

 You can pitch your script online or blast it to an impressive list of studios and production companies.  You might get lucky.  Just like you might win the lottery.  I already knew this.  Once I had a West Coast agent.  Nothing came of it.  He turned out to be a crook.

 My big Hollywood dream is on hold for the moment, as I assess my marketing strategies for the New Year.  No need to re-work my Oscar acceptance speech.  Not for the time being.  I’ve already have it memorized.

 

Copyright by Hudson Owen.  All Rights Reserved.

 

UPDATE: Mr. Acuna subsequently read this article, apologized profusely for not supplying the promised producers’ package, and had one of his assistants email me the same. So, in answer to my question, no, Mr. Acuna is not a scammer.

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