I’ve been looking at posts on Reddit’s r/Screenwriting area for a while and seeing so many fellow writers trying to understand why their brilliant scripts (who knows if that’s true, but I expect at least a number are) fail to get any interest while crappy scripts (which is certainly true, though, as always, poor directing, acting and/or editing can screw up a brilliant script (though the reverse is highly unlikely to be the case)). Having studied show business for a while, with the intent of getting into it (why I’m making a movie in a month), I understand why they’re confused.
Scripts are only one small part of what makes a movie happen. Granted, it’s an important part, many would argue vital, but ultimately what gets a movie made is money, pure and simple. To get the money, the script needs to be part of a package. The package includes the director, a dedicated producer willing to get money, often (almost always) a ‘name’ actor and money. While the producer has a lot of unsung tasks that are critical to the success of the process, their primary job is to find the money and then budget it to ensure the process gets complete (filming is just the start, then there’s editing, but equally, if not actually more, importantly, promotion and distribution). When producers are considering new projects, the more complete the package, the more interested they’re going to be in it. Just a script might mean that they’re just 10% of the way to having a package, with the hardest part remaining: getting the money.
Thus, when a producer (typically, producers are only ‘paid’ if the movie is a financial success; they’re typically the ones with the most to lose) is presented with a ‘crappy’ script that is, nonetheless, packaged with an effective director, name actor, and, most critically, much, most or all of the necessary funds, the producer is likely to very seriously consider the project.
So, if I always package my own scripts, how will I ever be validated as a good writer? (Assuming I am a good writer.) Clearly the marketplace will have something to say about it, but the marketplace is deciding on the finished product, which has so many moving parts that the original script is almost an afterthought. As a writer/director/producer, if my project is profitable for my investors and puts enough money in my pocket that I can continue making movies, then the project is a success. But is the script any good? Actors work for money, though the more successful an actor gets the more picky they’ll be about their scripts. So for an actor to willingly take on a role doesn’t say the script is any good. Obviously, if I’m directing and producing, the strength of the script isn’t any sort of deciding factor. Clearly investors will be weighing in with their impressions, but there are plenty of investors at the level I’ll be targeting that aren’t in it just for the financial return, they also get a return by being part of the project itself.
I can try and get validated via contests, but I don’t know that I want to shop around a script I intend to package. And very few contest winners have their scripts turned into movies, because, as mentioned, scripts are just a small part of the whole project. What often happens is the writer is invited to write on other projects, ones further along in the package process.
Of course, at this point in my ‘career’ (hard to dignify it with that term at this time), this is much ado about nothing. But it makes me wonder. If I’m successful, will I ever really know if I’m any good at writing. Even directing is more about management than anything else; the DP is the one that ensures the imagery is beautiful and the actors bring the characters to life, so with a good cast and crew, ‘all’ the director does is try and keep the ship steered in the chosen direction. One could argue that it’s a figure head position, except it is where the responsibility lies. Exactly like the captain of a ship.