Talking to the Studios

There’s an hilarious letter doing the rounds at the moment, purportedly from Stanley Kubrick to MGM. Unfortunately, it’s a fake. But, if you want a real example of how to write to a studio executive, here’s a copy of a fax that Douglas Adams sent to David Vogel of Sony, at a particularly fraught time during our negotiations over the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie. I can personally attest to the veracity of this piece.

This, by the way, is published in The Salmon of Doubt, the final compendium of Douglas’ unfinished works, half-works, nearly-works and random musings.

April 14, 1999
David Vogel

Dear David,
I’ve tried to reach you by phone a couple of times. Perhaps it would have helped if I’d explained why I was calling: I was in the States for a few days and thought it might be helpful if I came across to L.A. so that you and I could have a meeting. I didn’t hear from you, so I’m on a plane back to England, where I’m typing this.

We seem to have gotten to a place where the problems appear to loom larger than the opportunities. I don’t know if I’m right in thinking this, but I only have silence to go on, which is always a poor source of information. It seems to me that we can either slip into the traditional stereotypes—you’re the studio executive who has a million real-world problems to worry about, and I’m the writer who only cares about seeing his vision realised and hang the cost and consequences—or we can recognise that we both share the same goal, which is to make the most successful movie we possibly can. The fact that we may have different perspectives on how this can best be achieved should be a fertile source of debate and iterative problem solving. It’s not clear to me that a one-way traffic of written “notes” interspersed with long, dreadful silences is a good substitute for this.

You have a great deal of experience nursing major motion pictures into existence. I have a great deal of experience of nursing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into existence in every medium other than motion pictures. I’m sure you must feel frustrated that I don’t seem to understand the range of problems you have to contend with, just as I feel frustrated that I haven’t had any real creative dialogue with Disney about this project yet. I have a suggestion to make: Why don’t we actually meet and have a chat? I could be in L.A. for next Monday (4/19) or early the following week. I would invite Disney to bear the cost of this extra trip over. I’ve appended a list of numbers you can reach me on. If you manage not to reach me, I shall know you’re trying not to, very, very hard indeed.

Best wishes,
Douglas Adams Assistant (Sophie Astin) (and voicemail): 555 171 555 1700
(between 10 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. British Summertime)
Office fax: 555 171 555 1701
Home (no voicemail): 555 171 555 3632
Home fax: 555 171 555 5601
UK cell phone (and voicemail): 555 410 555 098
US cellphone (and voicemail): (310) 555 555 6769
Other home. (France): 555 4 90 72 39 23
Jane Belson (wife) (office): 555 171 555 4715
Film agent (US) Bob Bookman: (310) 5554545
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (office): 555 171 555 4100
(UK office hours)
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (office): 555 171 555 4112
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (home): 555 171 555 3030
Producer: Roger Birnbaum: (818) 555 2637
Director: Jay Roach (Everyman Pictures): (323) 555 3585
Jay Roach (home): (310) 555 5903
Jay Roach (cellphone): (310) 555 0279
Shauna Robertson (Everyman Pictures): (323) 555 3585
Shauna Robertson, home: (310) 555 7352
Shauna Robertson, cellphone: (310) 555 8357
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (office): 555 171 555 1707
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (home): 555 181 555 1672
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (cell phone): 555 7885 55 8397
Janet Thrift (mother) (UK): 555 19555 62527
Jane Garnier (sister) (UK) (work): 555 1300 555 684
Jane Garnier (sister) (UK) (home): 555 1305 555 034
Jakki Kelloway (daughter’s nanny) (UK): 555 171 555 5602
Angus Deayton & Lise Meyer Home: 555 (171) 555 0855
Restaurants I might conceivably be at: The Ivy (UK): 555 171 555 4751
The Groucho Club (UK): 555 171 555 4685
Granita (UK): 555 171 555 3222
Sainsbury’s (supermarket where I shop; they can always page me): 555 171 555 1789
Website forumwww.

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