Friday, August 29, 2008

Conception vs. Execution

I was playing a puzzle game last night, and I kept getting stuck on one problem. I understood the mechanics on how to get the problem solved, and had a brilliant way to solve it, but I just could execute the moves to make the solution work. And it got me thinking about the difference between having an excellent concept and being able to EXECUTE it.

See, a lot of people have great concepts for scripts. They write great synopses, cover letters, treatments, and queries. They get a producer interested in the idea, and that person requests the project. But, when the producer gets the project, it's poorly executed. Terribly executed, actually. Anything from the dialog being bad, the structure being poor, to the complete lack of formatting.

This is why there are throngs of irritated, antsy, and bitter development executives and readers in this town. Because almost everything they request is shite. The statistic I like to throw around is 9 out of ten scripts I'm going to know in the first ten pages is a pass. Of those 10, at least 5 and usually more like 8 others fall apart in the second or third act. Which leaves 2-5 out of 100 scripts that MAY be useful to me. Of those 2-5 many have budgets that are out of my range, or genres I'm not looking for. So, if I'm lucky MAYBE 1 in 100 scripts are worth going forward on. In the past three years, I have only recommended 3 scripts, none of which ended up getting a contract due to various reasons. And I've read in the ballpark of 500-1000 scripts. That is NOT a good average.

People ask me all the time why I'm passing on their project when I was excited initially to see it. Almost 100% of the time its because the project is executed poorly.

See, there is are two major factor in dealing with a writer. The first is that they have a great script. But the more important factor is that they can handle a relationship with the producer. And, if someone can't execute a script, they certainly can't handle executing competent re-writes. And if they can't do competent re-writes I have to find a writer who can execute them. So, why don't I just hire that other writer to begin with? It'll cost me less, in the long run.

As far as developing a career in the entertainment business, it's important to show you can EXECUTE a concept as well as you can IMAGINE a concept. If Steven Spielberg shot Raiders of the Lost Ark on a Handycam, he can have the best script in the world but the execution would not work. On the other hand, if he shot a terrible script for $100 million dollars, the shots, acting, and direction may be brilliant, but the terrible script would lead to terrible execution.

So, it's important to DELIVER on the concept you are pitching. Yes, you can spend $30k on the one-sheet, design, trailer, epk, etc to get the investor excited, but if the script is executed poorly they will look at the script and pass. Of course, if Angelina Jolie says yes to your could greenlight Everybody Poops, the Action film written by Little Timmy.

Which is just like solving a puzzle in a video game. If you know how to solve the puzzle, but can't make the little men do the tasks that are required to solve it, you'll be stuck on the same level for an hour. But, don't cry for me. I finally got through it.

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