Update: Lots of people hitting this article from Google about The Bucket List. Go here instead, this article is not about the script, but about someone who was pretending it was theirs on the Usenet. There is still some debate as to whether it was Zackham or not.
A bit of a drama has been developing in the newsgroup misc.writing.screenplays.moderated over the past month. A person by the name of Scott Drake claimed to have a script in his possession that was currently in a bidding war. He seemed very eager to pass it around the newsgroup to anyone willing to read it, and unfortunately for some of us, just as eager to push it on people who didn't want it. I passed for creative and legal concerns, yet was sent the script anyway. Since it was already in my hands, I reviewed the first ten pages to see if it was any good. Drake has been bouncing around the group for several months now, and has displayed very little professional knowledge of writing, and has in fact cemented himself as a neophyte in every way imaginable.
The script showed promise with imagery and description in the first two pages that were actually quite good. The story was very slow to get going, and still wasn't moving when I closed the book on page ten. This set off a warning alarm in my mind, as it's seared into the mind of every up-and-coming that if you can't hook a reader in the first ten pages, it's going to get tossed. There was too much exposition in dialog that could have, and should have, been brought up later in the story. These things aside though, it was pretty decent. Whoever wrote it obviously knew what they were doing; it just needed another draft.
“The gauntlet had been thrown. Someone somewhere was going to find out what has been going on the past few weeks, and it wasn't going to be pretty.”
There was really only one serious problem with the deal: the name on the script was not Scott Drake. It was Justin Zackham. At this point in time, within the last week, many people seemed resigned to thinking that Drake had written the script, name discrepancy be damned. I personally had enough of his wild mood swings and the total disrespect he showed to anyone that dared to disagree with him. I aired my concerns as to the nature of Scott Drake, and within hours, Drake's house of cards came crashing down. That night, It became blatantly obvious that Scott Drake was in fact not Justin Zackham. He was first a writer, now some hotshot agent, and at all times a real jerk, and to understand why, we have to go back a few months to when Drake first showed up in mwsm.
Sunday, May 7th. It is not uncommon for people new to the business to have a hard time understanding that, in Hollywood, ideas have virtually no value at all. Any person can come up with an idea, but ideas aren't what you see on television or the big screen; what you see are scripts given form. Scripts are the execution of an idea, so that's where the value is. When you go to pitch an idea to a studio, producer, or whomever, what you are really doing is selling them on yourself, that you can turn your idea into a successful script. Yet there are people that think it's all about the ideas, and this is how I was introduced to Scott Drake.
Drake read an interview with Sean Sorensen from hollywoodmomentum.com. It wasn't anything more than your standard filler piece; How did you get started, what are your goals, your favorite color, etc. Somewhere within this tome of wealth, Drake had come away with the impression that you can sell pitches, ideas, or both, and that Sorensen had done this. At first it seemed like nothing more than a misinterpretation, but it quickly degraded into a diatribe on how unfair the industry was, and how pointless even trying is.
From: email@example.com Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: How can this happen? I need to know! Date: Sun, 7 May 2006 05:52:50 +0000 (UTC)
I thought people told me I couldn't make any money pitching my idea around town without writing it first?
What the heck is going on?
How did this writer?
1. Protect his pitch.
2. Get paid to write it when he'd never written a screenplay before in his life?
"I pitched it around town and garnered some interest, but nobody would let me write it without a writing sample. Finally, [a major studio] took a chance and I was hired to write the script and exec produce. Seems like their gamble paid off, because we just attached [a big-name director] to direct."
"Low to mid-six figures and with an extra mid-six figures to produce"
How the heck did this lucky mate pull this stunt?
It's pretty obvious that Drake hasn't done his homework. It was a lesson well learned far before I typed my first word, and is fairly inescapable. Ideas don't sell, people do. A number of newsgroup regulars took the time to try to explain this to Drake, and his response was typical of his character.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Re: How can this happen? I need to know! Date: Sun, 7 May 2006 15:27:10 +0000 (UTC)
It is his ONLY imdb credit.
I've had it.
Why even try, if some slick tongued mate can pitch, get paid before he even types "FADE IN"!
He got paid while we are all sitting on our ass paying.
Lucky fuck! Industry sucks!
I can always go back to working in the tire factory back in Akron, they're always looking for help.
For my part in this play, I told Drake that without specific knowledge of how Sorensen had landed his deal, there simply was no answer to his question. As nicely as I could, I told him not to expect to land a deal like Sorensen's anytime soon, unless he was willing to put pen to paper and prove that he has the talent to write. The thread came and went without fanfare, and it just seemed like another hapless wannabe that wants to come up with ideas, but have other people write them. He wants his dues, but won't work for them. I haven't seen very many in mwsm, but as we all have come to find, this one person more than made up for the lack of them.
“I sent it to him and now I am paranoid. It seems that Kathryn Bigelow sued him for stealing JOAN OF ARC. What the heck. Did I just let him steal my screenplay?”
The next message from Drake came three days later, when he asked what the best method of querying is (print, e-mail, telephone), though he didn't specify who or what the target was. Though it didn't mean much at the time, it is vitally important in understanding who Scott Drake is, and why he is nothing but a Usenet troll at best, and an outright fraud at worst. As of today, June 16th, Drake is representing himself as an agent with deep connections within the industry. A message posted to the group just yesterday states "You're thinking how you get fucked in the ass because you refuse to let a power agent take you to the next level. I've read you. We should talk. You have my email. Your move!" This is a pretty serious departure from the person who just five weeks ago didn't even know how to query an agency. Again, Drake was indulged by people who were genuinely interested in answering his questions, and the advice that was given is well worth taking -- but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here.
Saturday, May 13th. Drake posts a message to mwsm titled "Help. HELP! Agent background search! Anyone?", asking if anyone in the group has heard of the Kristine Krupp Talent Agency -- says they want to sign him. A debate ensues as to whether a beginning writer should sign with Krupp solely based on her being a signatory with the Writers Guild of America (WGA). There were points on either side, but the important thing to note here is the information about Drake that's been gathered so far from his messages.
He doesn't know how to query an agency, something you can learn in virtually any book on screenwriting.
He really didn't understand the nature of pitching.
Out of the blue, three days after receiving solid advice on soliciting an agent, he supposedly hits interest, without so much as a single spec in hand that we know of.
For my two cents, I told Drake to call the Guild, because if she is registered, they'll gladly give you information. So there were no excuses, I handed him phone numbers for both the Guilds, and we all waited to see what would happen next. The next day Drake started a new thread, panicking over his swelling representation problem.
From: email@example.com Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: God HELP ME! WHAT DO I DO?!? Date: Sun, 14 May 2006 21:10:13 +0000 (UTC)
Mates, Kristine Krupp, who is WGA? Or Rob Gallagher http://www.gallagherliterary.com?
What do I do?
They both like my material. I feel if I don't get on the train soon, it will leave without me!
Nobody else is interested, in case you are interested.
Do I go with a practically unknown WGA agent? Or known, but not WGA Gallagher?
I'm frickin' freakin!
Though I didn't notice it for a while, Gallagher is a self-described literary agency, which should mean that they primarily represent people who write books, not screenplays. Had I been paying attention, I would have stopped right there. Literary agents just don't do screenplays, they do books, and they do them on the East coast (typically.) A quick Google search on Rob Gallagher is less than flattering for his professional reputation, as Drake will later find out. Still playing the part of clueless-but-talented-new-writer who tripped and fell into a pot of gold, we learn that Drake (supposedly) has written a science fiction screenplay, to which he sent and got an immediate response from two different agencies within a few days time. He goes on to claim that he has sent out more than 100 query letters (remember he didn't even know how to query four days ago), and then disappears off the thread only to start yet another one. That's three threads all on the same topic, which is a really annoying thing to do on any forum, much less Usenet where people can get really anal.
Then the bomb drops.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: HELP ME! Will LUC BESSON steal my screenplay? Date: Mon, 15 May 2006 15:58:05 +0000 (UTC)
Will he steal my screenplay? I sent it to him and now I am paranoid. It seems that Kathryn Bigelow sued him for stealing JOAN OF ARC.
He didn't win but settled with her out of court in a hush hush mannner.
What the heck. Did I just let him steal my screenplay?
At this point, the troll accusations begin to surface. Every message from Drake is high-strung and smelling every bit of a troll with nothing better to do than annoy people. The group tries to calm him down, but to no avail. It's not entirely beyond reason that Drake, at this point, truly is just a new very inexperienced writer who is overly paranoid about his work. They exist, and you can talk some sense into most of them, but it's just not happening here. Drake comes back a day later claiming to have signed with Gallagher, and I can't help bit sit here and wonder how that could happen. He's paranoid, inexperienced, foul mouthed and obnoxious. But that's fine, it doesn't mean that he can't write. Good for him, hopefully his agent will tell him to chill out and get back to work. Right?
We learn that only after (supposedly) signing with Gallagher did Drake notice that being a lit agency, Ghallagher doesn't charge for services the same way a typical Hollywood agency does. Agents take 10% of a sale, and that's usually it. Gallagher takes partial ownership of the screenplay, which is an entirely different deal. Like a kid trying to weasel out of doing chores, Drake begins begging for a way out of his contract. Amusing as the notion is, he's stuck with situation whether he likes it or not. Maybe.
From: email@example.com Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Gallagher Literary wants to drop me! YEAH! Date: Wed, 17 May 2006 02:31:45 +0000 (UTC)
Wow... what a fucking week.
As luck would have it Rob saw (or somebody tipped him off, thank you *soooo much* if the person reading this was the one!) that I was slamming him and he said it would be best if we parted ways.
He offered to destroy the contract as long as I stopped bitchin and moaning, and as long as I don't contact him ever again.
If someone here had anything to do with it, I owe you big. Email me personally and I will make sure your are compensated for your efforts.
Thanks group for standing by me, even when I was an asshole.
Now if anyone knows Luc Besson and can take care of that situation I would be flabbergasted!
Probably too much to hope for... but I'm happy. I got my screenplay back!
At this point, I wonder if it would pay to send a letter to Rob Gallagher to find out of he has ever heard of Scott Drake, and to see if any of this actually took place. I suspect we would come to find that like everything else surrounding Drake, this story was a wash from the outset. I simply do not believe that an agency that's high enough on Drake's work to sign him would just let him go less than a day later, for much of any reason. It just doesn't make any sense, and it won't be the last thing that doesn't.
On the 24th, Drake reminds us that he has no clue what he's doing.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: FUCK! What do I do with a cover letter. Staple or Punch! Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 01:33:13 +0000 (UTC)
Do I staple the cover letter to the top of my screenplay?
Or three hole punch it and have the brads hold it on top of the screenplay?
I need to know in like two minutes!
This neophyte hyperactive crap is wearing thin. We're still 100% sure that Drake is a new writer, and a raw one at that. Then suddenly, from the ether comes another clue that Drake is most likely full of shit. In a post dated the 2nd of June, Drake writes in response to another post: "Time to "drop this identity"? What do you suggest I do, change my real name?" We've now established a point where Drake states matter-of-factly that Scott Drake is his real name. (Remember this, it's important.) Later that day, Drake claims to have received notification that he made it into the quarter finals of the Nicholl Fellowship. The problem with that, of course, is that virtually everyone else in the group says the notifications haven't even gone out yet. Drake never provided any proof to back up his claim, and the thread dies.
Scott Drake chimed in on various threads until the 6th, when the bidding war message surfaced. This was seven days ago.
From: email@example.com Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Anybody want to read a script that is in a bidding war? Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2006 17:30:49 +0000 (UTC)
Anybody want to read a script that is now in an actual bidding war?
E-mail me and I will sent you a PDF.
You will thank me! Believe me! ...
What is up with this group? Everybody working or sleeping?
I have a script that is in a bidding war, with two A-listers attached and not one person has asked to read it! The writer breaks all the rules but makes it work.
Wow, that blows my mind. Not one response.
Does anybody even care what is going on in the industry?!?
Shame on you all. Shame, shame, shame!
I said I wasn't interested, and he sent me the script anyway. I read it, and posted the following:
From: "Paul W. Tenny" Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Re: Anybody want to read a script that is in a bidding war? Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 07:02:38 +0000 (UTC)
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote: > You will if you read it!!!!!!! > > Can I email it to you? > > Scott
I thought I made it pretty clear that I didn't want it, and yet you sent it anyways. I don't appreciate that.
Anyway, the script is decent. I read the first ten pages and wasn't grabbed by it at all, so I'm not going to finish it until I have more free time. What I read was for the most part well written, though I have a couple of reservations and issues. Nothing that I'm sure won't be fixed during rewrites, should it gain traction.
Please do not send me anything else.
From: email@example.com Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Re: Anybody want to read a script that is in a bidding war? Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 12:45:55 +0000 (UTC)
Paul W. Tenny wrote: > I thought I made it pretty clear that I didn't want it, and yet you > sent it anyways. I don't appreciate that. > > Anyway, the script is decent. I read the first ten pages and wasn't > grabbed by it at all, so I'm not going to finish it until I have more > free time. What I read was for the most part well written, though I > have a couple of reservations and issues. Nothing that I'm sure won't > be fixed during rewrites, should it gain traction. > > Please do not send me anything else.
Not even a thank you card?
After this sells for high sixes/low sevens by the weekend?
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are formally attached.
It sure the fuck grabbed them.
I'm so sorry it didn't grab you.
You are heartless.
I guess the work is only accepted by people who let themselves feel things.
You, like Edward Cole, are not an island. People aren't built that way.
I feel so sorry for you.
I really do.
This is where I think things started to get twisted around. The way Drake reacted, it's hard not to believe that he wrote it. I can't imagine someone going on such an immature rant unless they had something personally invested in the script. The petty personal insults, the assumption that if you don't agree with him, then you are simply wrong -- it was just amateur hour all the way. A message came later that the script had been sold, and that Drake was now getting seriously drunk in celebration. We're beyond strange, we're into the the twilight zone now. Who would get drunk over the sale of another persons script? It must be his, right? So Scott Drake is the scripts author; Scott Drake is Justin Zackham. Case closed.
Or is it?
I looked into Zackham's professional past a little bit because I've never heard of the guy, and was more than a little surprised to find he's not exactly fresh meat to the vultures. Zackham has a verifiable history in the industry, which on it's face is a terrible contrast with what we now believe we know about Scott Drake.
Drake doesn't know know what to do with a cover letter.
Drake doesn't know how to query agencies
Drake just now got his very first representation, Gallagher, only to talk shit about them and dump them.
Drake is a new writer.
Drake acts like a 14 year old.
So what do we really know about all of this? Zackham knows his craft, and undoubtedly has solid representation already. So what's the deal? Why is Scott Drake getting drunk over the sale of Zackham's script? I put the question on the table.
From: "Paul W. Tenny" Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Re: Going one more time... and... SOLD! Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 01:42:19 +0000 (UTC)
nmstevens wrote: > Scott, I have no idea whether you're a bullshit artist or not. If > you're not, you're certainly doing everything possible to make yourself > seem like one. > > However if, on the off chance, you actually have made this sale (and > no, I don't want to read your screenplay), then I must give you some > advice.
Nothing about this makes any sense. Scott hasn't claimed the script to be his own, so I'll give him that, but he's very much acting like he wrote it. He came in here trying to put heat on it, threw a child's fit when he got a little bit of negative criticism, and then supposedly got drunk celebrating it's sale. Why would anyone do that for a strangers sale?
Zackham undoubtedly has solid representation given his professional achievements, which we know is not the case with Scott. So it seems pretty solid that Scott is, in fact, not the author of The Bucket List.
It's beginning to feel like a wash here..
A group regular had had enough, and "In light of this thread I have forwarded your email and the attached script to Justin Zackham." The gauntlet had been thrown. Someone somewhere was going to find out what has been going on the past few weeks, and it wasn't going to be pretty. Less than 24 hours later, every message by Drake in the newsgroup had been canceled. They were gone. Drake himself didn't disappear, but the message record had been wiped clean.
Remember when I said it was important that Scott Drake himself claimed the name to be his own?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Newsgroups: misc.writing.screenplays.moderated Subject: Re: "Scott Drake" and the script Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 20:56:09 +0000 (UTC)
email@example.com wrote: > Well the WMA-repped author of the script has never heard of Scott Drake.
No shit sherlock!
You don't have a fucking clue how business is done! Do you?
Scott Drake isn't my real name fuckhead!
Did the script sell? Did the writer get paid? Do your homework before typing anything in the future, okay? You listening?
Drake had nothing to do with the script, as far as anyone can tell, and now he's not a writer but an agent, and his name is not Scott Drake. So there it is, the lies continue. Nobody knows who Scott Drake really is, and at this point in time, I'm positive that nobody cares either. He's a troll desperately seeking attention, and it's time this story came to an abrupt and much deserved end.
While Drake has deleted most of his messages from the Usenet, I as well as another person were quick enough to archive them. I had no concrete plans for the archive, other than to hold on to them to see if they may be useful in the future. That time may be now, because they exist as testament to the ridiculous lengths some people will go to get attention. Drake is a fraud and a joke, and this post as well as this archive will serve as a permanent monument to his failures, whatever they may really be.
I personally plan on letting this fade into the past, though I felt there may be some people that might find this interesting, or at least entertaining. Perhaps not. Either way, I have real writing to do.