TV and Film Development
1. What is Film and TV development?
Film and Television development is the process where the script is developed, new writers are hired, rewrites are done, talent is attached. Often this is after a project is bought or optioned, but you can be in development on a project that is owned solely by the writer with the hope that by developing the script or attaching the proper talent, the project can be sold or financed.
While in development many things can occur including sending your script to an actor’s agent so they can read it and consider one of the roles in your script. Or a producer trying to secure financing to make the film. If the producer is working with a studio production, getting the money usually isn’t a problem. But if they are producing the film independently (outside of the studio system), securing funding is more of a challenge. The more established independent producers have relationships with investors and banks that will lend them funds to finance their projects.
MovieHatch Competitions: In the MovieHatch competitions, the top selected pitch and accompanying script will immediately go into development. In some cases, multiple scripts will go into developement. This all depends on the quality of the scripts and the joint decisions we make with our partners.
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2. How long does the process take?
The process could take months or years. Movies like VARSITY BLUES and FORREST GUMP were in development for over 8 years. There are so many factors that go into getting a movie made that are beyond your control you can’t even worry about how long a project might take to come to fruition. Financing can fall through. The actor you have cast as the wholesome male lead can get caught with a prostitute and you need to replace him. A real event can occur that is too similar to your movie and all of a sudden the plug is pulled. There are an infinite amount of reasons why a movie doesn’t get made and far fewer as to why a movie does get made. But all you can control is to write a great script and develop your relationships.
A really hot project may speed through development, especially if a big-name star is attached to it. However, it’s not uncommon for a great script with some money attached to it to languish “in development” for years before getting that last bit of financing or that interested actor who will jump start the project into production and ultimately, onto the screen. THE NUMBER 23 was in development until Jim Carrey decided he wanted to do it with Joel Schumacher directing and then it was an immediate go movie.
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3. How does it differ from Production or Pre-Production?
Pre-production and Production take place after development.
1. Pre-production is the period where filming locations, production offices, equipment and permits are all secured. A long, thoughtful pre-production period will set a strong foundation for a smooth production. Often the majority of the movie is cast during pre-production. Usually a movie goes into pre-prodcution when a director is committed, at least a few of the stars are on board and the financing in place. Some movies require rehersal time, and that is part of the pre-production.
2. Production is the period where the cameras are rolling. The movie is being shot, the actors act and the directors direct. Believe it or not, there are often script rewrites during production as well. There can also be production delays (actor breaks a limb, everything is overbudget and the financier pulls the plug, bad weather, crazy directors, etc).
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4. Does being in development mean my pitch will be produced?
Not even close. There are many, many more projects in development than projects that get made. Maybe 10 times as many. The goal is to get all those projects made, but as we said there are so many factors to get a movie made that there are no guarantees. That’s why producers and studios have so many projects in development. They’d love to get them all made, but the NEED to get at least some of them made to stay in business, so they hedge their bets by having many projects in development.
A producer might try his hardest to get investors, studios and talent interested in your project, but it might not work out. If this is the case and your option period is about to end, you and the producer will have to consider whether the producer will re-new his option or let it lapse.
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5. What is “Greenlighting” a project?
This is a term that refers to studio and network executives who have the power to “greenlight” or OK a project for production. This is when the real money is committed. The money spent in development is on the writing. When a project is greenlit money is committed to the director and some of the bigger name actors. These deals are called “pay or play” which means that the money for these players is guaranteed whether or not the movie gets made. Also, as soon as a movie is greenlit crew is hired and sets are built so every day after greenlight money is being poured into the movie. The plug can still be pulled. An actor may pull out (Brad Pitt in THE FOUNTAIN set that movie back a couple years and cost Warner Bros a ton of money) or a director may not be working out or whatever else. But, once a movie is greenlit and money is being spent, usually pulling the plug will mean losing money so it’ll only be done if it has to be.
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