Magazine article Variety

Development Hell Freezes Over

Magazine article Variety

Development Hell Freezes Over

Article excerpt

Remakes and sequels dominate smaller slates as studios ditch the pitch

The art of the pitch is fast disappearing in the movie business. No longer can a nimble storyteller pop loglines like Godzilla meets Dr. Dolittle or Bulworth marries Catwoman and depart with a fat fee.

In fact, development budgets have shriveled so much that even superhero funding is hard to come by. While studios are eager to keep pushing their metallic metrics - Man of Steel or Iron Man - the specter of another Green Lantern hovers darkly. Warner Bros, has effectively spent the budget of another Harry Potter in trying to jostle DC Comics characters back to life or to bring the much-cancelled Justice League into the big leagues.

Thus, even a revered storyteller would think twice about spinning the outline of a drama or comedy to an ADD-affticted development team. As one high-priced writer told me, "Even if they like your idea, they'll probably ask me to knock out a free draft."

On one level, the studios' wariness is understandable. Five years ago I got my hands of the development slate of a major studio. By 2013, only three of the 50 projects on the list had found their way to production.

Development once held the key to a studio's future. Stars and filmmakers were under contract and most studios even had a writers' building to house artisans laboring on the screenplay assembly line.

In recent years, however, studio development teams have become scattershot in their approach. Here are random loglines of current projects: There's Earth Dick, in which an alien race thinks it's found a savior from planet Earth, only to discover he is really an actor who plays superheroes. Then there's the high-concept story about a man who saves a stray cat after it's hit by a car, only to discover he now has nine lives. And the girl who hires a dog trainer to re-program her boyfriend, only to find - I'll spare you the details. …

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