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Posts Tagged ‘The World Is Changing’

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“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king. Stars, directors, writers, hardware, special effects, new sound systems… all of these can have a role to play in the success of a film, but they all serve as humble subjects to the supremacy of the idea. If a movie begins with a great, original idea, chances are good it will be successful, even if it is executed only marginally well. However, if a film begins with a flawed idea, it will most certainly fail, even if it is made with ‘A’ talent and marketed to the hilt.”
Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94) & current CEO of Dream Works Animation
1991 Disney Memo The World Is Changing

Again, file this 22-year-old memo under— We need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. The thing that sticks out to me re-reading this memo after more than a decade is where Kazenberg says, “even if it is executed only marginally well.” When I did a concept consultation with Adam Levenberg last week he said I had a good idea now I needed to write “a decent script.” You won’t find too many people telling you to write a decent script.

But perhaps words like decent and good need to be reclaimed. Strip away all the hyperole. Here are a couple of  definitions found in Merriam-Webster:

Decent: Appropriate, satisfactory, well-formed

Good: Bountiful, attractive, suitable, well-founded, commendable, skillful, commercially sound

But perfection is really unattainable and can be paralyzing. I think Anne Lamott’s phrase is “perfection is the enemy of the good.” There are many examples in Hollywood where a writer’s script is sold mainly on its idea and shaped into a successful film.

Even Sylvester Stallone says only 10% of his original Rocky script made it into the finished Oscar-winning film. He did the rest in the re-writing stage working with producers after the script had sold. What got Stallone on the producer’s radar is he wrote a “decent script”/a good first draft…in six days. Script readers and producers mention time and time again that there just aren’t that many good scripts out there.

“Why do imperfect (for lack of a better term; no screenplay I’ve ever read is perfect) screenplays finish high on the Black List? You have to understand that most of the scripts out there range from terrible to mediocre.  It’s not just that a lot of scripts are bad, it’s that they’re blandly bad.  In that sea, a script that makes bold choices will stand out more.”
The Bitter Script Reader
If this script is flawed, how did it end up on the Black List

So avoid writing a blandly bad script and go write a good and decent script with a great idea.

P.S. Check out the post by WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart called The Right Script:
“‘Great’ is a buzz word…I suggest writers write the ‘right’ script. The notion of the “right script” selling is just a more realistic approach to the way the business operates.”

Related post:
Concept, Concept, Concept (Tip #80)
Writing “Rocky”
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 1)
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 2) “Movies are all about rewriting.”—Garry Marshall
Coppola & Corman Aiming to make a living on the way to the Oscars
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 1)What make a script a “right” script?:
1) CONCEPT
2) EXECUTION
3) MARKETING

Scott W. Smith

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