What Is Project Development?
Put simply, project development means sanding off the rough edges, polishing the chrome, and getting all the details perfect before beginning preproduction. But project development is never simple. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong from script to screen, and the best thing you can do is be prepared and extremely flexible.
Seems obvious, doesn't it? It's only a matter of getting everyone from the agent's assistant to the studio president to agree that your project is ready to go in front of the camera. The problem is that there are a million little problems. While it's true that “development hell” is not part of official movie industry terminology, it is a common enough experience to get its own nickname.
It would be naive to think that everything related to the production process runs smoothly. It doesn't. Once a studio or production company agrees to produce your film, they immediately begin expressing their opinions. Then you have the typical problems that any industry newcomer will inevitably face. For example, executives leave and new ones come in, bringing their ideas and opinions with them. Actors or directors will want script or production changes made to suit their personal style. Once those changes are made, the actor gets a better offer and leaves the project. Then a new actor is found who has suggestions of his own. You get the picture.
Though usually associated with a “corrupt Hollywood system,” these types of difficulties are not limited to big-budget studio pictures. Everything can be going along smoothly for your small, independent medical drama, until the abandoned hospital you had negotiated to use for very little money is sold to a developer who's tearing it down next week.
Another typical development problem can occur after your film is complete. Let's say you've filmed a romance and are showing it to an audience at a
Focus groups have a considerable amount of pull. A good illustration is the test screening of director Peter Weir's 1998 film
If you're the filmmaker on a studio project and you want to stay the filmmaker on that project, you have to continually sell yourself to the studio. Not in a demeaning, obsequious way, but like the positive, creative team player that you are. If you disagree with their decisions, express your concerns in terms they'll accept — namely, story viability, shooting schedules, audience response, and profits. Maintain professionalism whatever the circumstances. In the end, you'll be given a “green light” not only to produce your work but to continue developing future projects.