Friday, December 23, 2005

Development only FEELS like Hell

OK, it's been about a month, but I've been busy busy busy! I optioned a book, had a writer turn in about 3 drafts of his outline for a rewrite, and I'm in the middle of developing two stories internally myself before I go out to writers.

One thing I've noticed visiting writer blogs like John August, Joss Whedon and Josh Friedman
is this perception of Development as a monolith. Some projects make it through the studio system very quickly, others dally for years, there seems to be no rhyme or reason and many writers, directors, actors, and producers who live outside of the system get confused about the purpose of development. Development means: shaping a narrative to improve it, shaping a project to make it more commercial, shaping a project to make it fit the market elements available at the time (e.g. an actor, director). More often, there isn't a clear agenda for a project, and the project does not move forward -- THAT is Development Hell. The best way to avoid it? Have an agenda! Know what movie YOU are making, and be clear about what movie YOUR FINANCIER is making. If your dream is to make the next AMERICAN BEAUTY, but the studio (or your indie backer) thinks you're making YOU'VE GOT MAIL there will be a few rings of Hell with reservations in your name. I've heard people complain -- "when they bought my pitch they KNEW what I was planning to write!" True and not true. A particular idea might shape an entire slate -- these are called TENTPOLES. Movies like KING KONG, HARRY POTTER, MI:3 -- these are tentpoles. Studios build their entire 3 years of movie development and production around tentpoles. If you aren't working on one of those then you need to understand where in the hierarchy of studio production priorities your film falls.

I'll be posting soon about understanding markets and an effective way to decide between your REAL demographic and that delusion stuff people tell themselves when they are desperate for a piece of the Hollywood dream.