Recently a student asked me the following question:
Can I write a synopsis/storyline, complete with time era, scenery and plot for a movie, and have someone else develop the characters and dialogue?
This is essentially what producers do in Hollywood. But it’s very, very hard for young writers to sell movies this way. And it’s even harder to actually develop a script that captures the spirit of your idea in the way you imagined it unless you’re writing it yourself.
The Long Road To Development Hell
As much as we all dream of the magical writer who can sweep in from the sky and make our ideas come to life, if you know much about the development process in Hollywood, you know this hardly ever works. Hollywood is full of great ideas. And producers spend millions of dollars paying professional writers to turn these ideas into scripts. But no matter how glowing the writer’s past track-record, scripts that are generated this way are rarely successful. Projects end up being written and re-written by dozens of writers, and seem to get worse with every re-draft. These scripts end up languishing in what producers like to call “development hell,” that eternal purgatory of screenplays that will never be made.
Create The Script You Really Want
It’s a safe bet that if writing someone else’s script is this challenging for a million-dollar-a-script writer in Hollywood, it’s certainly going to be even harder for the young writers you can afford to hire as a young producer. Most writers do their best work when they are writing from the heart, exploring themes that are resonant for them, and discovering their character’s journey as they write it. Not when they are “painting by numbers” and filling in the gaps of someone else’s story. So most likely, if you want to see your project come to fruition, you’re going to have to write it yourself.
Take a class. Grab a pen. Sit down, and start searching for your character. Tell the story you wanted to tell, as only you can tell it. You’ll be happy that you did.