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When they say "It's all about the script, the script, the script", why are so many bad independent movie made?

In Hollywood, this phrase is said but I believe what they really mean is "it's all about the money, the money, the money".

I mean I see some terrible British indie genre movies on the shelves of my local HMV each month, basically variations of London gangsters, soldiers, zombie and hooligan movies starring z-list actors and 80s pop stars. They show them on London Live. It seems these films are getting made because the money was available at the time, definitely not because the scripts were great.

  • It's all about the money. It's only ever about the money. It's like when TV people say "we love hearing new ideas" what they really mean is "what we want is something identical to (current hit on other network)" - the words aren't the strict truth!

    1 month ago
    • I wouldn't say only ever about the money. If it were, more people would invest in weapons and tobacco. Politics has a big part to play, so does glamour (or the perception of glamour, the "prestige" picture.)

      Sadly, these days there is an extreme conservatism to the point of cowardice, but there are still people who want originality. Even if they are copied.

      1 month ago
  • What one learns with age is just how truly mediocre, despite being lauded by their peers, are so many who have, by diverse caprices, been given the reins of power. So much decision making could be just as effective by throwing dice.

    It does mostly come down to money. Perversely the skill of money making is too often falsely claimed to be comensurate with good taste and nuanced appreciation. Happily though, we still get some great films and factuals despite them. It's not all trite and banal with technological effects.

    1 month ago
  • I recently had a big shock.
    To me the script is the "I.P" of a film. If the writer hadn't had the idea, researched and written (and re-written) the script then all the other jobs, money, income, profits etc that flow from the script couldn't have happened.
    But I recently introduced a writer and his excellent script to a well known casting director, in order to get her interested, in order to attract a few names, in order to attract investment; packaging basically. And when we met around her over-sized table she grandly announced - "You know, you have nothing right now, all you have is a script" I said "Please don't say this, he's taken 10 years writing and refining it! Look at his little face!"
    Maybe she was right, but it struck me as depressing. What does anyone else think?

    1 month ago
    • I'm not sure the casting director is the right person to go to in that case. Look at how others do it. You can try agents.

      Casting Directors are generally below the line, and below the line talent usually only gets involved when there's money (or at least significant above the line.) They are like recruitment agencies, not venture capitalists.

      1 month ago
    • @vasco de sousa

      you can try agents; of course you can, but I knew this casting director and she knows all the agents - so when she recommends this script to the agent it is not just another script - it is tagged as being worthwhile, because of her reputation, PLUS she knows the talent that would work, so her approach to the agent is also focussed and not just random "hey we have a script if you care to read it". As I said it's "packaging" and it has worked for people - you get a high profile lead actor or support, and other talent will follow in through the door. PLUS once there is a name associated by letter of internet, then you can start to approach money - either investors or producers who know investors.
      I am sure there is no one way of doing this... but my main point, made some time ago now, is that I was disappointed that an excellent script - one that has been shortlisted [to a final five] on Scriptapalooza and got excellent feedback from 'The Black List' etc - got the response that it was worth "nothing". I disagree. Sure if you've got the dosh in your back pocket you can haul in talent for your film, but without it I had hoped, and I still do, that a great script will be recognised and WILL attract talent.

      4 weeks ago
    • @graeme holmes

      Sorry... that should, of course, have been "letter of intent"...

      I also forgot to mention, that one of the main reasons we approached a casting director was to explore the possibility of a filmed table read. The casting director was to help with the casting of parts for that, then we would film the read on multi cameras [it's a very funny comedy script, so I wanted the audience reaction] - and the idea is to edit it and upload some "teaser clips" - so producers investors, agents, other actors etc - could have got a couple of easily digestible 5-10 min slice of the table read highlights -[in my opinion - just read the script os it's all there and it works on the page- but we felt this extra bit of casting and bringing to life would maybe tempt a producer more than just bunging him/her a script.

      This discussion has meandered off Matthew's original posting - which was actually about why a lot of cheap, bad British knock off gets made [answer: vanity and/or tax right offs], but as ever, it all starts with the script!

      4 weeks ago
  • "Why are so many bad independent movie made?" Sturgeon's Law.

    1 month ago
  • With regard to Graeme's post. That casting director is a pompous ass. But that's often the nature of the beast. It is of course merely a negotiating stance. It has no empirical force other than whether its grandeur is unique. Could that script find a better deal? How needy was its author?

    It underlines how valuable it is for creatives to be their own producer. It's the producer who adds value to IP

    Courage mon braves. Start at the top and don't let the bastards grind you down!

    1 month ago
  • Wouldn't worry too much Graeme, you can give great cast a stinker of a script, and they can't polish a turd. Making a film is collaborative - give a great cast a great script and you're on better ground than either without the other.

    1 month ago
  • Sorry I was just reading, and it asked me to submit, but as a fairly humble actor, I sometimes see scripts that leap off the page, and I say YES! and others where I go, hmmm, or even what? One of them, I didn't get the role, but I loved the script so much that I asked for a copy when they finished it, and it was every bit as good as I'd imagined!

    1 month ago
  • I don't know why there are so many "bad" films made, but then it's only a matter of taste and there are films to suit everyone as there are books. Me and my mate Stephen Spielberg say its all about the story. In my view, if you don't have a story, then you don't have a film worth watching. If you have a story then at least you have a book. If you turn it into a script, have some actors say the lines and apply some music judiciously then at least you have a radio play. If you put the actors on location then at least you have a stage play and if you film it, then and only then do you have a film. I think "bad" films come about because too many are obsessed with the moving image and forget all the other elements.

    1 month ago
  • I agree with Norman in that it's a matter of taste. I'm not sure I agree with the rest of it. A book involves much more than a story. I've seen some terrible renditions of classic fairy tales. (Some academic journal articles have great stories, but they are poorly told.)

    Koyaanisqatsi doesn't have a story, but it has its fans.

    Okay, I could go into tastes of music, or food (frog legs anyone?) but I've done that before.

    However, I'll go with the food analogy again. Just because you have a great recipe, that doesn't mean you'll have a great dish. If it was, then you could pay chefs minimum wage and hire anyone off the street without an interview or training.

    Ever go to McDonalds and get served by a student who was too good to be there? They don't mix the McFlurry properly. I've been to a KFC where the guy ruined a porridge oats. Go eat fast food, or mexican food, in a student town sometime, and you'll see that recipes ain't everything.

    Cowboy builders can have great blueprints, but still make a mess of things.

    A script is merely the starting point. However, it's still important. But, the script is much more than the story. Much, much more. (Otherwise, they'd pay people minimum wage to adapt Harry Potter.)

    Then, take amateur Shakespeare. Great script, but acting, directing, acoustics... sometimes one element can ruin the rest of it.

    ... now, as far as grade z actors, well, everyone starts somewhere. Brad Pitt's first acting job was wearing a chicken suit. Jack Nicholson did black-and-white grade Z films (when black and white meant low budget.)

    1 month ago
    • I'd like to apologize for conjecture in part of that response. I have no idea why students sometime mess up fast food.

      I did some side jobs as a student too, and sometimes we were just thrown into the job without training, some of us might have been preoccupied or tired from exams, and so on. I have no idea how well I did, but I appreciate all the people who try their best.

      Perhaps I should have chosen another metaphor.

      1 month ago
  • Oh, and by the way, you can raise money without a script. It has been done before.

    Usually, you option the script before buying it outright, putting a down payment to reserve it. Or, you can option source material.

    The money people will look at a script, business plan, team, and any other attachments. Sometimes, your enthusiasm might be enough.

    4 weeks ago
  • This a perennial discussion. Without getting into the merits of individual films and personal tastes, it's a systemic problem. The British film industry is very geared toward production, especially when it comes to tax breaks and various financial wheezes (you get a break for *filming* in the Isle of Man, not for writing a script there.)

    Due to under-capitalization, the money just isn't there for development (and possibly there a cultural tendency to undervalue the development process.) Consequently, many films are rushed into production to get the cash flowing when really they need one if not two or more new drafts before they're ready to be shot.

    I have read scripts for a number of production companies and schemes and I cannot tell you the number of potentially good scripts I saw made before their underlying story problems were solved (you can just hear the conversation: "We'll fix it in the editing. No one will notice.") The result was a mediocre, forgettable film instead of what could have been a really good one.

    4 weeks ago