#screenwriting #studios #suck
“This post has been sitting in draft mode since April 25th which when you read it will drive home once again that age-old lesson: Don’t procrastinate!
As many of you are aware – and certainly after this message – the fate of myPDFscripts, and indeed any online screenplay resource is quite uncertain. After decades of ignoring the practice of sites hosting screenplays online, movie studios have begun aggressively asserting their legal rights to have scripts for which they own the copyright taken offline.
These moves have very real consequences. As I noted in my post:
What is an aspiring screenwriter, TV writer, or filmmaker supposed to do? Or educators? How are people supposed to teach and learn the craft of writing a screenplay if the studios decide to make all of their movie or TV scripts unavailable online?
And then I suggested this:
What if by making movie screenplays easily available so writers could read and analyze them, writers would improve at their craft, more and better scripts would end up on studio execs’ desks, more and better movies would get produced, resulting in bigger B.O. and more valuable titles in the studios’ libraries.
And to be clear, we are not talking about scripts in development for future movies, which studios justifiably have a concern about protecting in terms of content going public, but rather screenplays of movies that have already been produced.
Why not create eScripts and sell them to the public? Or perhaps that’s too obvious a solution.
That led to conversations with Franklin Leonard and Nate Winslow where I suggested posting a ‘modest proposal’. Here are the specifics I had in the aforementioned draft:
Let me begin with this site. This is called WBShop and here you can buy virtually anything related to Warner Bros. products. DVDs, T-shirts, comic books, coffee cups, soundtracks, collectibles, toys, games, costumes, and so on.
I say virtually anything. Warner Bros. has every goddammed thing available for sale… but no movie scripts.
So here’s is a modest proposal to the movie studios to try to find a middle ground solution re script access.
#1: Every script that is available for movies that is on the National Registry? The studios should just let them be available for open circulation. It’s a part of our country’s cinematic heritage! Plus good corporate neighbor policy.
#2: If a screenwriter requests a script they wrote to be available online, the studio should honor that request. As I understand it, if the writer has separated rights, they may:
a. Publication rights. The writer obtains the right to publish the script, or book(s) based on the script, subject to a holdback period. The Company, however, has the right to cause a novelization to be published in conjunction with the release of the film, for the purpose of……….”
#screenwriting #television #film
A few years ago (pre-strike, though it is impolitic to say so), studios developed lots of material. Many creative minds (that would be writers) doing lots of good work led to lots of options for the studios as to what made it to the screen. Even though there was a lot more development then, the costs were small compared to the rest of the movie-making process. Writers are, for better or worse, usually a tiny percentage of a major studio film’s budget. As the corporations that own the studios searched for ways to cut spending, writers became an obvious target. All of these writers being paid for things that never got made? Preposterous! Development funds were slashed and the number of good scripts in circulation cratered.
Ironically, although this has been difficult for writers as a whole, the ones hardest hit by this disastrous policy are the studios themselves. They have crippled themselves in their ability to make good films.
Screenwriters are essentially the research and development departments of the film industry. Like any other business, a quick way to boost profits is to cut way back on research. But that costs companies in the long run, because they’re unlikely to have innovative products down the road.
Television hasn’t cut back in the same way. Even with the rise of reality television, the number of pilots ordered has increased, reaching a high of 169 produced pilots last year.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that TV has hit so many home runs lately. They’re taking more swings.
Television pilots cost several million dollars each — more money than any feature is likely to spend on a script. But in TV, shooting a pilot that doesn’t get picked up isn’t considered a failure. It’s par for the course. It’s the cost of doing business.
Poirier wishes movie studios would emulate the TV mindset:
More writers working on more projects, with more freedom as to where the story leads, and with the knowledge that they have partners at the studio they can trust to see the solutions as well as the issues; this is what will return movies to their rightful place as the most fertile ground for good storytelling. The corporations that run Hollywood now and the MBAs that develop for them must come to see that writers are, in practicality, the smallest expense in the entire pipeline.
There’s always the risk of a golden-age fallacy — things were so much better back then— and truthfully, writing for television can suck in its ………..”