Off the bat, I want to apologize for the lack of blog entry last week. Bryan & I have been polishing a couple of new projects and are finally catching back up with things. We promise this won't happen often. On with the blog...
So a couple weeks back, I attended an event held by the Writers Guild of America. The topic of the night was the development process and they had several distinguished guests; moderator Michael Tabb (Screenwriter), David Beaubaire (VP of Production, Paramount), Navid McIlhargey (Senior VP of Production, New Regency), Derek Dauchy (President, Davis Entertainment), JC Spink (Manager, BenderSpink), and Jonathan Hensleigh (Screenwriter, Armageddon, The Rock, The Punisher).
Each of these guys were incredibly informative about the current state of the film industry and the ins & outs of film development. Here's a quick breakdown of what was discussed:
- Downsizing: Like most things in this economy, the film industry is hurting. Studios have cut their development budgets in half, meaning its more difficult than ever to get a project off the ground.
- Pre-branded material: Studios are more apt to pick-up a film that is based on pre-existing material, i.e. franchise pictures (Harry Potter), action figures (G.I. Joe), remakes (Arthur) or even board games (Clue).
- Marketing is king: Marketing departments can subject scripts to early scrutiny. If they don't pack much marketing material, then that's a huge strike against it.
- Slumdog's win means nothing to the market: Slumdog Millionaire defied the odds when Warner Brothers was going to dump it straight-to-DVD, thinking there was no audience for a movie without big stars about some kid in India that wins 20 million rupees. Even though Fox Searchlight released it to great acclaim, resulting in a Best Picture win, this won't change the market. Studios won't suddenly reform their marketing principles and release a bunch of lower-budgeted character pieces lacking recognizable actors. Slumdog was an exception... not the precedent.
- They'll put your script down on page one: Each of these guys admitted that they've stopped reading a script in the first five pages. So if you've written a script, make sure it's the very best it can be. Every word should engage.
- Concept is everything: A great, commercial script means the concept is concise, original, and exciting. Derek Dauchy said that if you can envision the poster, then that's good; if you can tell the story in a tagline, even better; if you can sell it in the title, you're gold.
So is that depressing? Yes. And No. I think that last bulletpoint hits it home. If you have a wonderful concept and it's well executed, then that's the most important thing, whether your project is a $150 million blockbuster or a $50 independent production. As each of these men said, if you have that, the good rises to the top.
Last movie Scott watched: Goya's Ghosts (Milos Forman)