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in Filmmaking
on Jun 20, 2004

There’s a great lead article in Variety this week by Dana Harris and Claude Brodesser — sorry, subscription only — titled “Films Buried Alive.” And although the headline might lead you to think that the piece is about the many long-delayed films on the Miramax release shelf, it’s actually a perceptive article about the politics involved in greenlighting a studio film. It confirms in print something producers have long known: despite the importance placed by studio execs on the development process, the scripts that actually get greenlit by the studios are often the least developed ones. And if there’s one piece of practical advice contained within the piece for working filmmakers, it’s this: if you’re a director brought on to an existing project, talk about the film, not the script. In other words, put forth a vision of the project that encompasses all the creative elements, and don’t get bogged down in deconstructing the tortured development path a project might have been on.

Here are a few salient quotes from the piece:

“Development has long been a popular topic for complaint, but the process has gotten worse in the past decade, thanks to the immense expansion of studio development teams and the growth of bureaucracy.

But, filmmakers argue, development troops with their script notes often are irrelevant, because the fate of a film depends on an almost mystical convergence of events.

A filmmaker has to have a vision for the project, a star has to be eager and available (and affordable) and a top studio executive has to register his support with a firm offer — and all of this has to occur at one brief moment in time…

A project’s greenlight also involve questions of timing and timeliness. Josiah’s Canon co-scripter Brian Koppelman says you have to seize the moment: ‘There’s a brief window of opportunity to breathe new life into a project when a director comes on and writers get hired.’

‘There is a window that opens up with a director and a star in place, and it starts to close with the passage of time,’ says Fox production prexy Hutch Parker. ‘Once you get to a certain precipice, you need to drive it home, or it falls apart.'”

Pick up the print edition — or subscribe online — for the rest of the piece, which tells seven development war stories, including that of the new Will Ferrell comedy Achorman.

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