Ken Rotcop is a Hollywood legend. If you haven't heard of him before, that's because most of his 40+ years in the movie and television industries have been spent behind the scenes, writing for game shows and television series' and heading up four film studios including Embassy Pictures and Hanna-Barbera. He also supervised production on films including The Lion in Winter, Charlotte's Web and The Graduate.
On May 15 and 16, Rotcop will lead a two-day seminar on the art of screenwriting and pitching your screenplay to studios at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort and Villas, 6333 N. Scottsdale Rd. Lest you think it'll be a dry lecture, Rotcop shared a few of the hilarious stories heard at previous workshops with New Times.
Early in his career, Rotcop was hired as a writer for a new talk show with a host from Australia who was extremely nervous. The premiere episode bombed. "After that first show, we had a production meeting and it was decided that from now on I would be under the desk where the host sat and as a guest would answer a question, I would write on a pad the next question to be asked and hand it up through his crotch," Rotcop explains. "For 12 weeks and 4 days, I was on my hands and knees under that desk!"
The worst part? The show was taped live. "I always wondered what the audience thought I did under there," he says. Trust us, you don't want to know.
Rotcop's next gig was a show called Images and Attitudes, which had a black producer, black hosts and black directors. Rotcop came in to a very cool reception. "They all stared at me like, 'who asked this whitey to come here?'" he quips. The group questioned him about Harlem and Martin Luther King, Jr., and asked him to research civil rights leader Medgar Evers -- after which, he landed the job. The series won an award, and a decade later Rotcop made an acclaimed PBS documentary about Medgar Evers starring Lawrence Fishburne.
Though many of his listed film and TV credits are decades old, Rotcop says he's still working. "I had a movie out earlier this year, I won't even tell you the name of it," he quips, chuckling. Apparently he wrote a great comedic script that everyone at his workshops loved. But when a Chicago producer got his hands on it, there were more than a few changes made. "The producer decided to turn it into a porno film! When my wife and I went to see a screening of it, we were horrified," he says. "I called the producer the next morning and said' take my name off that script immediately or I will sue you." His name was off the film faster than you can say "Jenna Jamison."
Twice a year, Rotcop conducts a PitchMart conference, where attendees get to pitch their ideas to tables of Hollywood execs. At the end of the day, the industry reps give Rotcop a list of the scripts they'd like to read, based on the pitches they've heard. Quite a few movies and tv series' have been made this way.
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Rotcop says writers need four things be successful at getting their scripts produced:
- Great script
The last one's the only one Rotcop can't provide you with. "If you can write a good story, there's going to be somebody out there who wants to buy it," he says. "You don't have to be a brilliant writer. You just have to be a good storyteller. I can teach you the format of a screenplay in three minutes. I can teach you how to write good dialogue. But you've got to have a sense of story when you start. I can't teach [that]."
Cost for the two-day Scottsdale Screenwriting Conference workshop is $175 per person. Visit http://scottsdalescreenwritersconference.com for info and tickets. Need individual help polishing your film? Rotcop reviews scripts for $3 per page and will literally go over your work page-by-page with you if necessary.