“Who Cares About Story? Let’s Make a Movie!”

March 9, 2011

Continuing our dialogue about the denigration of the art of story and screenwriting in The New Hollywood, I am excited to share a discussion below that was started by Lindy Cady on our community site:

“As a member of the conference committee for a writer’s group, it has been illuminating to hear ‘off the camera’ comments from  attending producers and development personnel.  Some admit to feeling bad about even listening to pitches, saying that Hollywood use to buy ideas but now goes for the fully developed story and script from a writer they’ve already worked with. (98% of the time)  They don’t really expect to find anything at conferences.  It’s more for networking and for some, partying. When they do hear something that sparks them they go through another filter titled “would I like to do business with this person” which if they don’t want to work with ‘Mom’ puts me out.  When I’ve asked panels about the importance of being able to pitch well the replies vary from “yes, absolutely” to “doesn’t matter cause I’ll do it,” to “not expected.”  Most of the lit people don’t even care about pitches.  They have staff who will create that  market intrigue.  They keep repeating, “The proof is in the writing. Just send me….”   Interestingly, one of the workshops proposed this year for the film track from one of the producers is about the demise of pitch fests.  Should film go more the lit way and forget pitching all together? ”

My response:

“What a relevant and piercing question/discussion!

Wow!–welcome, Lindy!

Sadly, what you’ve written here–and what you’ve been told–is 100% accurate. Hollywood has basically given up on developing pitches except from the most experienced and prolific screenwriters, and even from them, it’s now a very rare occurrence.

Way back when–in the 1990’s actually–a couple of the studios (Warner Brothers being one of them) did a study of how many films they were actually making that originally emanated from story ideas, as opposed to finished screenplays that they had purchased. They discovered that the percentage of original ideas that ultimately got made was extremely low.

Now comes the “you-must-be-kidding-me?” moment:

Instead of looking at their dismal failure in story development, and the industry’s headlong race away from story towards technology and Burger King tie-ins, they decided to basically stop the development of new ideas and depend on already-completed screenplays and star-driven packages.

That was a watershed moment.

Where they could have done some introspection and decided that they needed to hire people more attuned to story development, they decided to abandon it almost altogether.

And, as they say, therein lies the tale.

As I discuss in detail in Bringing Back The Old Hollywood, there needs to be a new Renaissance for screenwriters and original stories. The studios are where they are and won’t change. We, however, can make it a new day for storytelling.

And that’s what we’re going to do.

Thanks so much, Lindy. And welcome..WELCOME!…to the community!

Hugs

Stephen

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