Thursday, July 26, 2012

Walk before you run

Hina asks:

"Say you come up with a highly stylized world that has genuine merchandising capacity, is highly commercial and possesses multiplatform potential, but feature script-wise you're a total newbie, would you wait until you've completed your other projects and hopefully get those commissioned so you have a sufficient standing in the industry to then launch the multiplatform project you have written? Or would you just pitch it, guns-a-blazing?"

My advice, I'd go with the former. For more than one reason.

Look at the people writing and directing the big blockbusters.  Odds are they cut their teeth on smaller-scale projects before working their way up to tentpoles.

- Before he was huge in movies and TV, J.J. Abrams first script sales were the smaller movies Taking Care of Business, Regarding Henry and Dying Young.

- Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci spent years in TV making a name for themselves before they started selling big movies.

- The Dark Knight Rises' co-writer Jonathan Nolan had a huge boost by having a brother in the business, and his first work was the short story that became Memento.

- The other TDRK co-writer, David S. Goyer, got his first writing credit on a 1990 Van Damme movie, Death Warrant.

Prometheus's Damon Lindelof's early credits include MTV's Undressed and CBS's Nash Bridges.

And those are just the works that sold!  They still had to develop their craft and break into the business before that.  What do you think the odds are that the first scripts they wrote are the ones that opened the doors for them?

You have to walk before you can run.  George Lucas didn't jump right to doing Star Wars.  He did many short films, the low-budget THX-1138, and American Graffiti first.  Also, if you've ever seen the early drafts of Star Wars, you'd know that it bore little resemblance to anything that ended up on screen and that George spent years rewriting it and refining his ideas before it was in any state to be shot.

If you have an idea that's that unique and that marketable, experience can only make it better.  Develop your craft on more managable ideas first.  Not only will it be easier for you to break in on something that isn't in the tentpole catagory, but you'll grow as a writer so that when you do finally work on that golden idea, it'll be better as a result of what you've learned.

Jumping straight to writing blockbusters is like saying, "I like the piano.  I want to have my first recital in Carnegie Hall."


  1. I think you meant to say that you'd go with the former, not the latter.

  2. This is probably one of your best posts by you. It really put things into perspective for me. I think you keep hearing about making sure your scripts are high concept and making sure the concept is strong, etc, etc. that you might forget that starting with something smaller to gain experience might not be such a bad thing.

  3. So many people get really angry when you suggest this to them, but it seems like common sense to me.

  4. HUGE advice to another newbie. huge. thank you for addressing this and saying what you said in the manner you said it.