Work In Progress

`Dead Broke,' a writer's big break

Screenwriter Adam R. Fein waited a long time to find the right project

October 21, 2007|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun reporter

The tale of Adam R. Fein is proof that talent and persistence can trump even poor judgment.

Twice, he turned down offers to write Hollywood screenplays. But this month, Fein signed a six-figure, multi-option deal with New York-based Lucky Monkey Pictures. He's penning a romantic comedy, Dead Broke, working off a story by Lucky Monkey President Lauren Versel and Los Angeles-based producer-writer Arleen Sorkin, whose last collaboration was on the Jennifer Aniston comedy Picture Perfect.

Fein took some screenwriting courses while at Syracuse University. He's been writing unsolicited scripts since the late 1980s, when he was director of corporate communications for Hunt Valley-based AAI Corp., a defense contractor.

Fein, 48, lives in Phoenix, Md., with his wife of 26 years, Linda. They have two children, ages 18 and 12.

Fein was loath to talk about Dead Broke, but he did clue us in to a few other subjects.

AIDING NATIONAL DEFENSE --I had spent a lot of time writing and producing corporate videos at AAI, and some of my friends there suggested, given the kind of writing that I did, that I should try doing some spec [unsolicited] sitcoms.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, TAKE ONE --[Tri-Star studios] actually offered me a spot on Roseanne. I had just had a kid, the job with AAI was going very well, and I really hadn't thought behind the initial send-them-in-and-see-what-they-say [stage]. I talked to a couple people who told me that Roseanne was a disaster, that the show maybe had a year left, that she was going into a tirade literally after every episode if the ratings weren't right, and firing writers on a monthly basis. ... So I turned it down, and [Tri-Star] fired me." (Roseanne would remain on the air 18 more months.)

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, TAKE TWO --[After meeting Versel], she offered me this script to write. I didn't know if I was being stupid or not, but I told her I wasn't comfortable writing it. I figured that was the end of it.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, TAKE THREE --Then she came back and decided to approach me again, to see if I would write Dead Broke. This one I liked a lot better.

NETWORKING, THE EASY WAY --Arleen Sorkin's father dated my mother a long time ago. My mother and her mother were talking one day, I guess about her former boyfriend, and my mother mentioned to her what I did. She [Sorkin] asked to see some stuff, which I sent over like a year ago, and I forgot about it. I guess when they were looking for a writer, they went through my stuff.

WRITING AS FORMULA --The woman who wrote The Brady Bunch Movie [Laurice Elehwany] was the most help I've ever had in my whole life. I ran into her down in Austin, [Texas], at the film festival there, and she told me that the only thing she has learned ... was to take the Aristotelian three-act structure, then take a sheet of paper, 8 1/2 by 11, and break up Act One into 20 plot points, or 20 action items, Act Two into 60, and Act Three into 10. You [write] a little item on each one, and you just see how it flows together.

ADVICE ON MAKING IT WORK --First of all, keep your day job. Secondly, it sounds like a cliche, but don't write something because you think it's going to sell. Write something because it's something you want to explore. You write because there's something in you that you have to get out, you physically have to, like you have to eat. It's a compulsion that you have to exercise.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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