By Rebecca Daniel, Senior Editor
In order to make a film, development is key. Is the key to development casting? Maybe writing? Or is it commitment to the craft? Maybe it’s all 3. Let’s hear from the experts to find out. Make it Work, a Creative Conference held at the Atlanta Film Festival, was centered on helping the audience understand the ups and downs of the development process.
The panel was made up of Fred Taylor, Nnegest Likké, Daniel Keller-Bradshaw, Adrian Dukes, and Brian Egeston. They were asked a number of questions about development, but perhaps the two most striking were, “What does development mean to you?” and “What is development hell?”
Fred Taylor (of Tomorrow Pictures) explained development as “understanding how to win and what the industry wants. In certain instances, you have to play by the rules, but if you’re gonna break them you have to know the rules to be able to expertly get to your end goal. So for me, development is a lot of the understanding of the business.”
Nnegest Likké (an independent filmmaker) called it “The ground level. The blueprint. Your story….You mentioned development hell. How many of you guys have done your GPS and then all of the sudden it gets stuck or changes route or tells you turn left just after you pass that left and it does all of that? That’s what development hell is. They tell you that you’re going to go here and make a left or a right with your story and then ‘ah that doesn’t really work’ U-turn, go back, go left. You’re the one actually doing it as the filmmaker. That’s what development hell is. It’s more common than not common and I’ve been through before and after being a filmmaker.” After explaining her experiences with the development process, Likké went on to add, “Whether you’re in an indie or working with a studio, the tidbit to make you successful is commit to something…if you believe in it stay strong and a lot of times the studio will go with you if you’re passionate and strong enough.”
Daniel Keller Bradshaw (of Crazy Legs Productions) explained that he believes development is all about casting. “Because I work in the world of non-fiction reality TV it’s all about finding great characters. It’s all about finding people who have great stories to be told and that’s where it all begins. I could sit here all day long and say we want to do a show about X, Y, and Z but if we don’t have the characters to do it we can’t really do anything. So it’s finding those untold stories that you can sell to a network.”
Adrian Dukes (film and television writer) spoke of his experience with development hell from a production company standpoint. He explained that he was hired by a production company to write a feature film that became stuck in development for years due to casting difficulties. After 18 drafts and 10 years, the film still hasn’t made it out of development. He said the project still gets him work, but explained, “From a writing perspective that’s another way that you can get stuck in that development hell because you want to divorce yourself from this thing, but it just never dies.”
Brian Egeston (television writer) described development as “sacrifice. What do you have to do? What are the compromises you have to make? It’s all about sacrifice and compromise.”
As I learned in this panel, development is critical and should not be taken for granted. Next time you watch a great film or TV show, remember there was an extensive development process that took place behind the scenes.