The Big Lebowski is 20 Today… Samantha Horley recalls when worked in sales and read the script

This weekend we are running our masterclass on how to make your script more sellable and produceable, with Samantha Horley, sales agent turned screenwriter.

In this post she recalls selling ‘Fargo’ and then getting the script for ‘The Big Lebowski’… and reading with anticipation…

You can read more about the class here…

I sold The Big Lebowski, I lecture about it for this reason:

I was at PolyGram in my late twenties. I had absolutely LOVED Fargo which was just completed when I started selling, so I got to be part of the “Oh my god this is good” excitement in the office. I recall actually saying after the first internal screening “Frances McDormand deserves as Oscar for that performance but of course she’ll never get it.” It had also been modestly budgeted.

Before I got to PolyGram, while it was still Manifesto, they had made and sold The (very expensive and stupidly titled) Hudsucker Proxy, which had died on its arse and lost a shitload of money. In short, The Coens were in need of a hit and were no guarantee of success.

The script of The Big Lebowski came in. I read it. I found it completely unfunny, and so did a lot of the buyers, whose first language, by and large, wasn’t English. The budget was really high, something like $40m as I recall. It also had a stupid title. It was not an easy sell. Not by a long stretch. I worried it was going to die on its arse and lose my buyers money. And that it wouldn’t sell where it was still available.

Well you’ve seen the film. I got it wrong. What did I learn? I learned to read a script looking for nuance and to listen to the dialogue in my head. I learned to read a script considering both my knowledge of the director’s work and my imagination regarding an actor’s potential performance.

Also, I learned to explain this to up and coming filmmakers, I’m now a very experienced script reader. I look for nuance. I listen to dialogue.

But, if you’ve written something that relies on your specific directing style, or your unknown actors’ performance, don’t expect me to get it. And don’t be cross with me when I turn it down. If you haven’t a short to go with it which shows me both, go and make one.

You can read more about the class this weekend here…