Screenwriting : A curious question by Omnia Mahmoud

Omnia Mahmoud

A curious question

Why are there bad movies and series get produced even though there are good scripts that don't get produce?

Tony Ray

If I had to guess, it's because there's 2 main reasons to make a film (or, on a smaller scale, to tell a story). Reason 1: to entertain. Reason 2: to teach a moral or valuable lesson. And these days, most studios I see couldn't care less about the art of it all and just want to make films that are entertaining to viewers. And even then, you could dive deeper into the more grand reasons why viewers want entertainment now more than art. Just my opinion.

Eoin O'Sullivan

Hi Omnia,

'Bad' is a relative term. Making movies or series is a BUSINESS. Entertainment purpose aside, if a movie or series isn't profitable, that's the only real business criteria for it being bad - what one person considering entertaining, another will not.

In relation to the 'good scripts that don't get produced' - I'm curious why you assume there are so many good scripts out there!? Most data sources will tell you that of the unproduced spec scripts out there, only about 5% are at a professional level.

Movies and series are commissioned by producers - they come up with a concept they think will serve a market and audience and hire a professional writers or writers - selling a spec is rare. Your concept has to have a market and your work has to be as good or better than a working professional writer.

Dan Guardino

Omnia Mahmoud. People who make bad movies don't know they are going to be bad. There are millions of good screenplays that don't get produced because the competition if fierce and it is pretty much of who you know business we are in. So always keep making connections that can help you launch or advance your career.

William Martell

1) You can't judge a script by its movie, so those "bad movies" may have all began with brilliant screenplays.

Example: hot script several years ago called DEADFALL about the CIA's version of the old Gadget Guy from the James Bond movies Q. He notices that a Democratically elected South American President, a good guy, has been assassinated by one of the gadgets he created and goes to his boss - concerned that someone has stolen gadgets and are using them for evil. Boss says they will look into it. Then, CIA assassins attack old Gadget Guy and his adult daughter, armed with gadgets he created! Now, old Gadget Guy and daughter are on the run, having to create gadget weapons out of common items as assassins hunt them, using his own inventions against him! Must uncover CIA conspiracy.

Sold for a lot of money.

Made into the movie CHAIN REACTION where Keanu Reeves plays a welder who outruns a nuclear explosion on his motorcycle. Terrible film, nothing at all like the script that everyone loved.

So you have to judge a script by the original version sold.

2) What is a "bad movie"? More than half the time people call some movie "bad" it was incredibly popular and made a lot of money and opening night CinemaScore grades (actual audience response) is good. So "bad movie" can be a matter of taste, and since movies are a mass audience medium, the majority taste is more important than yours... and you can learn from popular films that you do not like.

3) As I said in one of my Film Courage interview segments, a great script travels. Since most screenplays stink, if you have a good one anyone who reads it will give it to their best contact... and before you know it you'll is call from a studio wanting to buy it (happened to me). So if there are good scripts out there, they can be discovered.

4) There are contests like Nicholl and Austin and a couple of others that take a great script by an unknown and get it noticed by everyone in the business. So if you actually have a great script, enter it in a top contest and you will be discovered. A friend entered his script in Nicholl, was a semi-finalist, and got a ton of studio meetings resulting in an option and some writing jobs. So any great script will be discovered.

5) The most difficult part is writing that great screenplay.

Good luck.

Doug Nelson

Define what you mean by a 'bad movie or series'. To me, 'bad' is in the eye of the beholder (audience)... you know; those people who buy tickets.

Dan Guardino

The good thing about being a screenwriter is if the movie turns out to be great you can take all the credit. If turns out bad you can blame the director and or the producer. LOL!

Steve Cleary

Just watched some episodes of "Sweet Magnolias" last night. If I had read the scripts not knowing they had been given the green light, I would have given them a hard pass :^P

Richard Buzzell

Dan - I think it normally works the other way around. If a movie succeeds, the producer takes all the credit, and if it tanks, the writer and director take the blame.

WL Wright

Everything is a guess and some guess better than others. But what is bad for one person might be a great experience for another. Everything rises or falls on the fans in the end. Cult movies have become classics though considered bad by the general public at first release.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

Not everyone knows what they're doing. We get hints of it from stories like all the people who passed on something like GOOD WILL HUNTING. We all have a different idea of what would make for great entertainment. Many decisions are made financially, many under the gun, creative clashes can happen, rewrites mandated from producers, cast, or directors. You've probably heard the phrase "it's a miracle anything gets made." It's true. I'd love to live in a town where the trust is on the writer, but not many writers earn that. It's the clash of business vs art.

Dan MaxXx

Goldman's entire quote: “Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”

But they must know something to have jobs- jobs that we (unemployed writers) think we can do better.

Craig D Griffiths

I would rather eat road kill than watch “Sex and the City”. But I am not the target audience I know that.

Some people may love it. I remember some describe the show “Scorpion” on Scriptnotes Podcast and Craig said “That would never be a show”. John pointed out it was in its seventh season. Craig laughed and said “what would I know”.

I am an atheist but the Catholic Church seems to pull a good crowd. My daughter (24) loves Disney, I watch them with her, not enjoying the process.

Just like when people ask i here “what’s your favour film?”. Only some overlap.

William Martell

Nich Assunto - You are completely wrong.

GOOD WILL HUNTING was a hot script that everyone wanted that sold in a bidding war for top dollar. Everyone loved it. They loved the big action scenes and the janitor vs. the NSA story. Castle Rock beat out all of the other studios / production companies.

Everyone wanted that script.

Damon: the span of just four days, kind of whipped the town into this frenzy. We sold it to Castle Rock, which was our very first choice. They had a great reputation.

The problem was, there was a similar script called SIMPLE SIMON going into production... with a genius autistic kid code breaker on the run from the NSA. So Castle Rock shelved it.

"Good Will Hunting: An Oral History with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and More"

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

William Martell I mixed it up with Stranger Things. My mistake, I've been running on fumes this week. I have two sale things I bring up, the one where they wanted to find the one person who was actually reading (who shall not be named), and the one where they got turned down by everyone, which was Stranger Things.

Dan MaxXx

William Martell Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services Anybody have an original copy of "Good Will Hunting" screenplay that went out to Buyers? So, William Goldman didn't ghost-write GWH? (He said he didn't but... )

Julia Petrisor

great question! My good is your bad might be one reason. I can't help but thinking that a script will have big market response might be another - i.e. letting go of the really good but possibly too cerebral/ whatever it is script in favour of the stupid yuks script because they think it will sell more. Who Knows!?? But man, it grinds my gears that's for sure. :)

Tony Ray

I don't know if this is an original copy of Good Will Hunting, but I figured it's worth a shot.

Tony S.

I thought ...HUNTING was written by Terence Malick; some sort of relation, or friend of a relation, to one of the boys. Or he gave notes. Something like that.

Christopher Phillips

Tony S. Damon and Affleck wrote the screenplay. But there is a story that Damon tells that they were going to have dinner with Malick but he didn't read the script. Instead, they described the story to Malick and he gave a suggestion about the ending.

Tony S.

Potato, potato.

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

Someone read it and liked it, and said, "Yes."

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