questionmarkOn September 5th you had said that “most scripts don’t become movies, and a hundred things could go wrong in the process.” What exactly was meant by this, and of the scripts that you have written and you deemed worthy of the silver screen, how many actually made it there?

–Sweta
via IMDb

We’ll start with the second part first. By my count, I’ve written 18 feature-length scripts. I have seven produced credits, which means I have a 39% production rate.

That’s actually not bad. It gives the illusion of being prolific when in fact it’s just a combination of luck and careful picking. As I’ve said before, my favorite genre is “movies that get made.”

I’ve also done significant-but-uncredited rewrite work on seven other screenplays, five of which have been made.

Your question includes the qualifier, “[that] you deemed worthy of the silver screen.” I can honestly say that at the time I wrote them, I considered every one of my scripts worthy of the screen.

Now? Not so much.

But for the sake of example, let me list my never-made scripts and briefly explain why they won’t be playing soon at a theatre near you.

Here and Now
My first script. Nicely written but largely plotless.

How to Eat Fried Worms
Was actually made this year, but with a script by a different writer.

A Wrinkle in Time
Was made for television, with a draft that pre-dated mine.

Untitled Zombie Western
Will probably get made at some point, in some form.

Fenwick’s Suit
The studio didn’t like my script, and let the underlying rights lapse.

Demonology
The studio thought it was too expensive for what it was.

Thief of Always
The director and the author hated my draft. Hated.

Secret Project I Can’t Talk About
Will hopefully get made soon.

Barbarella
The two studios bickered and dickered until the underlying rights fell out.

Fury
Probably will get made at some point, in some form.

Tarzan
In a perpetual holding pattern at the studio.

Studios develop a lot of projects that never end up getting made. Every few years, an outsider with a lot of money will come to Hollywood and vow, “We’re not going to waste money. We’re only going to develop the projects we’re going to make!”

And a few years later, they’ll have a dozen projects in various stages of development, and maybe one or two movies. Because it’s not just the script that determines whether a movie gets made. You need the right director, the right stars, the right way to market the movie. You can be a week from shooting when a hurricane destroys your location, or a strike shuts down production. Or the exchange rate takes a dive.

As the screenwriter, there are hundreds of variables I can’t control. So I consider it a minor miracle any time a movie gets made.