Continuing from last week’s post: now you, your agent, your
publisher and your film lawyer are all happy – you’ve signed that option
agreement and have a nice little chunk of money, probably 10% of the sale
And you’re going to get the rest of that money very soon,
because the movie’s going into development!
Well, they say Hollywood is made of dreams, and that’s one
Even if it goes straight into development, and the rights
aren’t simply locked into some mysterious vault until it’s too late for anyone
else to want them, there are a few steps in between.
The script. Unless you’ve got screenwriting
experience, the studio is unlikely to want you to write the script. They will
choose someone they want. If you want to be involved, you may be able to be a
consultant to the script, which should also earn you another small fee.
|A bright spot: traveling to Santa Monica to meet the producer and studio execs|
If you are involved, be prepared: writing a screenplay is not anything like
writing a book. This is not your baby any more: there will be many, many
meetings and quite a lot of compromises. Only when everyone (ie the studio) is
satisfied with the outline can the script can be written.
Firings. If the studio isn’t satisfied with the
screenwriters’ attempts, the writers may be fired once they’ve submitted the
negotiated number of drafts. The whole procedure will start again with new
writers. This is true even if the independent screenwriter is the person who
took the project to the studio.
The independent director or producer can also be fired. So can studio
executives. Their replacements may make more changes. Any of these changes will
stall the process to some extent, may take it back to the beginning, and
possibly stop it all together.
|Santa Monica beach|
Nim’s Island, my first contact from the producer Paula Mazur was 3 June, 2003;
we agreed the terms of the contract with Walden Media Christmas Eve of that
year, and I think I signed the final version of the contract in March 2004. We
got the greenlight to go ahead around March 2007 – so that was three years of
development. I had no idea how lucky we were! During that time there were three
lots of screenwriters, and one change of studio executive. And much angst. Return
to Nim’s Island I think took a year longer, with much more complicated changes.
This is why it’s popularly known as development hell.
Funding. Movies cost a lot of money,
incomprehensible amounts. Apart from changes that need to be made to the
storyline to meet the budget, changes in funding will obviously affect whether
or not it goes ahead.
4) Casting. This is intertwined with funding, and unless you are so amazingly successful and famous already that you probably aren't reading this blog, you won't have much to do with either. There needs to be a certain level of funding to get the right actors - but the right actors will also influence the funding. They'll also influence who else wants to get on board. (And yes, I'm talking about Jodie Foster. When she said she wanted to play Alex Rover the writer, good things happened, though not as easily as I would have thought.)
A bit of advice: It’s a lot of fun to be thrown into a
totally different creative world, but going back to the question of whether or
not to quit the day job – you could probably write another book, or two, during
that time. I was a consultant on the Nim’s Island film, and I think there was
only one week during the three years of development that Paula Mazur and I
didn’t have at least one phone call or email each day. It was very intense, and
very rewarding but I don’t know if I would feel the same way if the film
hadn’t been made.
Just a reminder again that everything here is my personal opinion and does not constitute any form of legal advice.