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Survival Strategies for the Unknown Screenwriter: Selling Out Your Brother

October 3, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Originally posted on

Paul Peditto

The thing about a life lesson is… it’s not butterflies, Pooh Bears or honey pots. You have to pay a price to learn the lesson.

Here’s a story about education the hard way.


Back in the day I was represented by Writers And Artists. My agent was, oh, let’s call him Mickey Loveless. I was mid-20′s, blissfully ignorant. I wrote a good script that garnered interest and got me signed.

It was based on a play titled: A Fire Was Burning Over The Dumpling House One Chinese New Year. For obvious reasons, the screenplay had a name change to Pictures Of Baby Jane Doe, and finally Jane Doe. My brother had acted the lead and produced three theatrical productions of it. It was understood—at least in the cavernously ignorant recesses of my mind—that he was attached as lead actor. He had steered this project for years in the play’s genesis, was great in the role, and was going to play the male lead, period.

Enter my agent, Mickey Loveless, who called:

We got a bite. Lilly Taylor read the script, she loves it. She wants to play the lead with her boyfriend, Michael Imperiole. This is great news!”

My response was not enthusiastic. “Yeah, that’s great, but…”

“My brother is playing the lead.”

On the other end of the phone–silence. A kinda… LA silence. Then: “Maybe we should rethink our strategy, Paul.”

“How so?”

“Getting a bankable star will get us financing. It’s your first credit. Your brother can be part of your next picture…”

“Yeah, Mickey, I hear ya, but I’ve seen my brother make people weep in our theater in Chicago—”

“Paul, this isn’t your little theater in Chicago.”

“So you want me to sell out my brother?”

“This isn’t about selling out. It’s about selling a script.”

“Can’t we just take her, and not her boyfriend?”

“Lilly won’t come in without Michael.”

“Well…I won’t do it.”

Paul Peditto

Things were never the same with Mickey Loveless and me after that conversation. Less than a year later I was with William Morris. Eventually we sold the script and made the movie but, for many reasons I don’t need to rehash and truly don’t matter, my directing the movie and my brother acting in it was the worst choice we could have made.

The professional thing would have been to talk with my brother, relate the situation, and make the deal. If the movie had been a commercial success with theatrical release and reviews, there might have been a second or third project to come from it, a career launched.

Didn’t work out that way.

Should I have sold out my brother? At the time, it seemed like I made the right choice. That’s the thing about a life lesson: Ain’t no do-overs.

If you rise from the ocean depths to taste that dizzy Hollywood air, even in your amazement as you drink it in, I encourage you to do as Kipling suggested: Don’t lose your head. The decisions you are about to make will impact your life for keeps, and there’s no going back.

PAUL PEDITTO wrote and directed Jane Doe, an A-PIX Films release starring Calista Flockhart. The film was awarded Best Feature at the New York Independent Film & Video Festival and grossed over 2 million dollars.

Six of his screenplays have been optioned, among them Crossroaders to Haft Entertainment (Emma, Dead Poet’s Society).

His screenplay for Roundabout American is currently in pre-production, scheduled to shoot in July, 2011.

He teaches screenwriting at Columbia College and Chicago Filmmakers, professionally consulting on thousands of screenplays since 2002. For Peditto’s complete bio, click here.


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