by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis|
DEVELOPMENT : A significant event, occurrence, or change. Determination of the best techniques for applying a new device or process to production of goods or services. As in music: Elaboration of a theme with rhythmic and harmonic variations.
PROCESS : A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result: the process of digestion;
DEVELOPMENT PROCESS : Hell
You've heard the word(s) development, development process or development hell before. Some of you probably have war stories about what happened to your project when it's been sold to a studio and/or production company - how it languished on the shelf or the many rewrites you had to accomplish and yet it's still sitting there with new writers possibly rewriting your baby. You may wonder why it takes so long to get the greenlight and why it takes so long in general for something to get made. It's all a mystery to you.
For better or for worse, having a project in development is the only way for your movie to get made. The writer will receive notes from a producer and possibly their development executive and once it's set up at a studio, the development process continues with notes from a studio executive and the creative movie group at that studio. When talent is attached, the writer may receive notes from a director and even actors who come on board will put their two cents into the mix. As a writer, this may drive you crazy. But you have to understand that someone is footing the bill for your 5 million, 10 million, 80 million dollar movie - they have a right to make the script as good as it possibly can be before they write a check for the movie to be made. Afterall, it is called Show Business not Show Art. And above all, it is a collaborative business - we are all working together to make the best possible movie we can. No one sets out to make a turkey!
There are all kinds of genres that help to fill up a movie studio's slate including high concept films (concept driven-does it have a hook to it that can be described in one line?), action/adventure, horror or thriller, romantic comedy, sci-fi or fantasy, western, musical, docudrama, specialty films, art house films, or independent films (those that have limited releases but are strong character-driven stories - most studios have their own unit which specializes in what is deemed "independents") ...and the list goes on. And with all those genres and all those projects in development, there is a great need for creative executives, sometimes called development executives, not only at the studio level but at each individual production company as well. These are the people who identify new material, work with writers to elevate the screenplay in order to move it towards a greenlight, and to help package the project with talent. They should not be viewed as antagonistic - they want to make a movie just as bad as you - they are on the same team. If the movie gets made, they look good and so do you as a writer and/or producer. If the movie does well at the box office, they get a promotion and you get a studio deal. It's a win-win situation.
The process of development has been around for nearly a hundred years when movies were in its infancy. You start with a good screenplay, but in order to make it great, you may need to fill in the holes, dig deeper into the characters and make sense out of the structure and the plot - that is the basis for development. It's like raising a child - you hone it, instill in it some heart and moral centers, and help it reach its full potential before sending it off into the world of production and eventual release to the public.
You can contact Rona and Monika via their website: www.esentertainment.net
Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis are the co-authors of "I Liked It, Didn't Love It: Screenplay Development From The Inside Out" from Lone Eagle Publishing. They have worked as development execs and producers, and collectively have 25 years worth of experience in Hollywood.
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