Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Here's a thing that happens quite often: some big geeky property, a comic, or tin of mints or wevs gets the film rights sorted, a writer is assigned, everyone dashes to imdb to check out the writer's cv, then posts annoyed comments on the internet saying things like 'How dare the writer of Slapdash Teen Comedy and Pisspoor Horror Ripoff be put in charge of our Beloved Geek Thing!'. I know, because I used to think exactly the same.

However, here are the scripts that don't show up on imdb, despite written by exactly the same writer:

Sensitive Yet Somehow Not Annoying Indie Romcom

Amazingly Multilayered Time Travel Comedy Thing

Ghost Story With Twist, But Not The Twist You Expected

Adaptation Of That Comic You Like, Done Just The Way You Would Have Done It If You'd Thought Of It

Mummy Feature That Somehow Makes Mummies Cool Again

Those script could all be out there, but they'd never show up on imdb because… they never got made. Any writer who's been around for more than five years will likely have all sorts of scripts that never got out of development, but are considered strong enough to get meetings, get more scripts commissioned, and the cycle continues. Even if one of those scripts does get made, it will likely be so neutered by the studios that the original script gains a kind of cult following, being passed around in a carved rosewood box that somehow feels heavier when you take the script out.

I've now built up a portfolio of scripts that never got made, but are solid enough to send out to various production companies as calling cards. Which is great and everything, but a script that never gets made is kind of a sad thing, like those Sunday supplements full of recipes you convince yourself you'll one day get round to making, but every six months end up gathered into a great bale and chucked into the paper recycling. Which lead to the following two confusingly contradictory conversations:


I am talking with a producer with whom I've worked for a few years on various projects, all of which have got right to the top of the commissioning pile… and then fallen at the final hurdle.

ME: So with this new one…

PROD: Mmm.

ME: Well if this were to get picked up, what happens to all the other scripts?

PROD: How do you mean?

ME: Well, if Dystopian Future Cornish Werewolf Series* happens, does someone with a big desk tell their minion to go and get my backlist, and take a fresh look at them, because it turned out after all, what the hell, the kid knew a thing or two? Could Snowboarding Victorian Elves** rise from the dead (which could also work as series in itself btw)?


ME: Oh.

PROD: It doesn't work like that.

ME: Okay. I mean, I didn't think it would.

PROD: Well you were right.




I am meeting another producer, of at least equal status, which is to say: at least three television series produced, at least two of which got awards.

PROD 2: … and if this one gets picked up, well…

ME: 'Well'?

PROD 2: Then some of the other scripts we've worked on stand a very good chance of coming out of hibernation.

ME: I didn't think it worked like that.

PROD 2: Why wouldn't it work like that?

ME: I don't know.

PROD 2: You have a very strange idea about how this industry works.





So basically, William Goldman was right, and no-one knows anything. Including William Goldman, have you read that thing where he goes on about it being a stupid choice in The Big Lebowski not to show the culmination of the bowling competition? He missed the point completely, the boy's a fool.

* Not a real series. ** Also not a real series, but I want it to happen one day, just to annoy Richard Preddy.


Todd Brown said...

You'll be pleased to know I have been introducing the lady to Green Wing. She approves.

James Henry said...

Hurrah! VERY important for her to know I did all the comic book references. Actually it's probably not that important.

asta said...

I would very much like to see Snowboarding Victorian Elves.

James Henry said...

One day. One glorious day.