Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Are Good Screenplays So Hard to Find?

Good screenplays are like finding a needle in a haystack. Why is that? I know there are strong, successful screenwriters out there. So why isn't there more good product to choose from when we producers are looking for more material?

I'll speculate a little: 

1) Good Screenwriters don't have to write on spec. They can be hired onto projects by the studios or financiers or they can pitch their ideas and get the money to write them. This is where indie producers who usually don't have development money really lose out. 

2) Good Screenwriters command the attention of bigger, more successful producers who get the first pick of their work.

3) Good screenwriters are repped by agencies who ignore smaller producers, believing the project will not have a chance of getting made with a decent price tag or at all with a smaller producer on board. 

4) Good Screenwriters can write on spec and get their scripts sold or perhaps set up for development at a big production company thus leaving the smaller producer out of the loop entirely.

5) Once successful, Good Screenwriters aren't in the orbit of smaller producers. Or they choose not to be.  

Where does that leave the smaller producers who have no money or reputation to get a Good Screenwriter?

1) You find newer screenwriters to mold and shape into the Good Screenwriter. You make a film based on their freshman scripts and cross your fingers it's a hit. And when that Good Screenwriter grows up, you hope your relationship has them bringing their new projects your way.

2) You rattle the trees of agents and managers who will blow the dust off the scripts sitting on their shelves. Or take pity on you and throw a spec (usually one they don't love) your way. 

3) You spend the time developing mediocre material into a gem. 

4) You find and option books that the Good Screenwriters want to adapt.

5) You garner some success and go after the Good Screenwriters based on the heat from your success.

6) You befriend those who work at production companies with deals and you bring them material for Good Screenwriters. You then partner and they help you get that elusive Good Screenwriter on board.

7) You track winners of screenwriting contests and go after them to consider their material.

8) You hit up your friends in the industry for referrals to the up and coming screenwriters. 

9) You attend festivals and screenings of material from new talent. 

10) You come up with any and every idea to find sources of material. Your Aunt Gladys might even be a budding screenwriter. 

You just never know where that Good Screenwriter is going to come from. That Good Screenwriter might even be you. The best thing is to keep your eyes and ears open and keep looking and read, read, read!


Dan Ouellette said...

Why won't a good writer approach smaller producers?

Because the task of finding a smaller producer worth approaching (of which I'm sure there are many) is the time and effort it would take to do so.

Your examples reflect an even larger problem in the industry. And this problem is endemic and contagious: Laziness.

Why don't established directors try out "undiscovered" actors for their roles? It would take time to do so... not only with auditions but even selling the idea to investors... and that also means struggling to advertise a movie without a "name"!

Why don't big name actors read "nobody" scripts? The road less traveled...

The industry is fraught with short cuts. This is true even with below the line crew. How many crews phone it in?

Short cutting, in turn, allows room for liars and cheats, if no one is there to scrutinize the work being done, whether it be at auditions, writing, scouting locations.... and once the work is phoned in, everyone loses by allowing big talkers with little actual talent into the room.

And it is no surprise. Filmmaking is difficult enough without adding hinderances to complete the job. Nepotism is easy. Taking a chance is difficult.

I feel like most of the time the real aim isn't quality... it's ease. Who will take the road less traveled?

It has been said that good ideas often arrive more effectively from creative discord than from creative accord. Swimming upstream... going against the norm.... thinking outside the box... all these equal effort!

(PS: I really enjoy visiting your blog Jane!)

Jane Kelly Kosek said...

So true Dan! So true!!

Jason at Filmmaking Stuff said...

I've always been one of those filmmakers who focused on creating relationships with folks who are more talented than me. It's a simple business and artistic strategy.

When it comes to getting good material, yes - good screenwriters are out there. And if you are fortunate enough to build a relationship with them - it's possible they have a dusty passion project on a shelf somewhere.

In the event this project matches your artistic sensibility, then you may find a good fit. True - getting lucky enough to find great material is just the beginning, but it's an awesome start... And often a much better pitch than a blank page.

Unknown said...

Dan asks: "Why won't a good writer approach smaller producers?"

Well, because we - the great but yet undiscovered writers - all suffers from megalomania.