Writers Software SuperCenter
   Writers Software SuperCenter LLC presents...
The One Stop  
for Writers Software & Writing/Editing Services
Writers Software SuperCenter

writersupercenter.com - Your Writing Partner Since 1997
05/25/2002 - Epilogue Of A Sale

Today's topic could fall under the category of "I should be so lucky to have such problems", but why does a screenplay get willingly snapped up for six- to seven- figures only to be torn slowly apart? Why does it sometimes seem that the higher on the development ladder a screenplay climbs, the harsher the criticism becomes?

Naturally almost every screenplay could use a few nips and tucks, but such obvious fixes are usually discussed soon after option, clearly laid out in front of the writer who usually understands or agrees with the suggestions. What I'm talking about today are the "problems" that "crop up" months or years down the line.

The Peter Principle doesn't just apply to people; screenplays also rise to the level of their perceived incompetence within an organization. As a screenplay evolves through multiple rewrites and development huddles, what at first seemed to be a wonderful story strangely becomes less and less wonderful as the execs find more and more fault with it. This decline in quality is noticeable as the screenplay passes from the reader to the story editor to the development exec, the VP of production and so on up the company ladder to the big traffic signal at the top with the fickle red, yellow or green light.

How does this happen? Well, say a reader enjoys a screenplay more than the others he typically reads, so he flags it. At this point the claim that the company seeks "Anything Good" is accurate. The reader does in fact promote "Anything Good", or at least calls attention to it. After the reader has spied the good in a project, successive company readers are inclined to look for anything wrong in the story. The higher that screenplay goes, the more exacting the criticism. This could be a subconscious process whereby the project's proximity to production triggers the underlying fear and self-doubt in the execs. After all, in hindsight a misguided "No" is easier to defend than a misguided "Yes."

But once you've been optioned, doesn't that mean that the company generally approves of your script? Well, no. In fact, they may just like the concept and intend to completely revamp the script, and never be truly forthcoming with you about this. In fact, the first changes you'll be asked to make will likely be cosmetic rather than structural. The structural changes will be pointed out to the new writer after you've been shown the door.

This is the key point: insightful structural changes can't get pointed out until the script arrives at the desk of someone capable of accurately identifying significant weaknesses. So there you are, your compensated rewrite steps completed and only then is someone suggesting that the plate tectonics of the story are where problems must be fixed. You realize that you've tinkered endlessly with dialogue to strengthen a character, only to be told that "maybe the character shouldn't be a hologram after all."

Obviously this sickening corporate illness is not going to change anytime soon. The best way to avoid this horror is to get as much input on your script from talented peers as you can - BEFORE you send it out. Slave over your structure, because someone else is going to once the script is optioned and there's no guarantee that "someone" is going to really know what he or she is doing. Development people display their talent by pointing out problems and we all want to show off by discovering new things to "fix". Let us fuss over cosmetic changes, but don't leave glaring structural problems lying out in the open, undefended.

If you know there's a problem with your structure, fix it now. Don't figure that you'll let someone else pay you for that last draft. Money comes and goes. Screenplay credits last forever.


Get your script read and evaluated by the same folks who read for the agencies and studios. Discover what's right and wrong with your script and how to improve it.

More Info...


Copyright © 1997-2015 Writers SuperCenters and StudioNotes. All rights reserved. PLEASE READ THESE TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THIS SITE. By using this site, you signify your assent to these terms of use. If you do not agree to these terms of use, please do not use the site.

  Contact Us | Coverage Ordering | Software Ordering | Disclaimer