Chiming In on The Debate
Firstly I'll say that, though not 100% the case, my opinions lie closer to Devin's here. I, of course, respect you and your opinions, Joshua. I just primarily disagree. Let me explain.
When we say "this is a business" in relation to the movie industry that is not being used as an excuse for not making movies out of some well-written scripts. It is the actual reason for not making them. It is not that movies are an art second and a business first. It is that they are a business period. Art doesn't much enter the equation. Sure, good art will sometimes equal good box office, but it often will not as well. (I am of course referring to large budget studio type pics, not indie arthouse fare, which is vastly different.) There are plenty of well-written screenplays that could not possibly make money and thus would be bad business.
True, there is no sure thing, but D-people (and I should add that I am a D-person, in a sense, albeit a lower level, and freelance one) are not concerned with making art. It is not what they are being paid to do, so to claim that they aren't doing their job when they overlook such art is an invalid claim. They are looking for their best chance at profitability. Now of course, many D-people will be wrong at their choices in this regard as well. But that remains their primary goal in evaluating a screenplay. And more importantly, remember that many of those failures actually started as good scripts and were ruined along the way. I've said it before and I'll say it again:
There are many ways to make a bad movie out of a good script, but it is very diffcult to make a good movie out of a bad screenplay.
I will also disagree, Joshua, with your statement that "any film that makes a hundred million is a commercial movie, regardless of the subject matter." I believe I understand the context in which you said it (Brokeback Mountain), but I still must disagree. You can have a $100 million commercial bomb, and you can have a $1 million tremendous success.
A commercial movie, simply put, is one that turns a profit.
And this is what I referred to when I said that "there are plenty of well-written screenplays that could not possibly make money and thus would be bad business." I've read well-written screenplays that, due to subject matter or style would be unlikely to pull in over $10 million, for example. Now $10 million is not peanuts. Hell, I'd like to have 1/10 of 1% of that in my pocket right now! But films are an expensive medium. So if that $10 million grossing film was made for $1-5 million, after the marketing and print costs it would still likely turn a profit. But what about the ones that will gross that amount, but would cost $10 million to make, or those that would cost $30 million? Those are films that no matter how artful they are, should not be made in the mainstream Hollywood system.
All of this being said, it is mostly irrelevant. What I had originally responded holds true. I don't believe there is that much good-to-great writing that is not being overlooked. I believe that the discrepancy between the percentage of quality plays (10% by Joshua's reckoning) and quality screenplays (1% by my reckoning) may be attributable to other factors. Check my first response in the comments to the previous post for some of those possible explanations. I honestly don't believe there is much high-quality material being overlooked (and by high-quality, I mean commercially viable as well as well-written).
Most importantly, it doesn't really matter to us if there is. We can do nothing about it. All we can do is our level best to write something that doesn't get overlooked, and actually sells. And though you mentioned, Joshua, the meeting between writers and D-people in which the D-people couldn't give you any idea of what would make a script more likely to sell, I can tell you what most of the "good-to-great" scripts that I have read have in common.
- An at least moderately unique concept, though not necessarily a ground-breaking one
- A cohesive, unified, and strongly stated voice
- A budget that was in line with what would make the film profitable in terms of its likely box-office draw
Tags: screenwriting, screenplay+development