The Conveyor Belt
Imagine a magical conveyor belt in the sky that carries every story that’s heading for the screen. Your goal is to somehow get your story from the back of the belt, where “naked stories” lie, to the very front of the belt where fully-clothed stories are about to leap into “principal photography.”
What do the fully-clothed stories at the “stardust point” of the conveyor belt look like? At the very least, they have
- A perfected script that has been vetted numerous times by dozens of highly-critical technical and creative industry readers, and rewritten accordingly. It’s not unusual for a script to have gone through twenty or more revisions.
- A finalized (and “bonded”!) budget that has undergone even more revisions than the script.
- A “start date” agreed upon by all parties to the filming.
- A location that works for the best interests of the film.
- A solid legal foundation that provides contracts for everything from the “underlying rights” to the services to be provided by every member of the cast and every member of the crew.
- A director who understands the story enough to “enhance the flame” created by the screenwriter (who enhanced the flame the original storyteller created), and who the financers and “completion bond” executives trust to deliver a completed film.
- A committed cast suitable not only to the script, but also to the distributors, sales agents, and finance representatives.
- An international sales agent who has agreed with the producers on selling the completed film to every possible market.
- A “domestic distributor” who has shown interest in distributing the film in the United States and Canada.
By contrast, stories at the far end of the conveyor belt lack any or all of these elements, the farthest from stardust being, in this approximate order,
- a “great idea for a film,”
- a written “pitch,”
- a book (fiction or nonfiction),
- other source material (like a magazine article, or life rights),
- a “treatment,”
- a stage play, or first draft screenplay.
They aren’t ready to be filmed until they gather all the other necessary elements.
One of the nearly infinite “Catch 22s” of show business is that every story on the conveyor belt risks being leapfrogged over by a story that has more of the necessary elements. No wonder it takes forever to make a film. I recently saw a film into production that I’d been working on for twenty years. It sold to networks twice, but always got stopped along the way by “regime change” or “policy change.”
But first you have to find your way on to that conveyor belt. Go for it!