Some of the most coveted positions are those within a studio's Creative department. This tends to get a bit confusing, because the titles of the executives who run these departments state that they are presidents, executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents and vice presidents of "Production," but the division is referred to as "Development" or the "Creative Group." The president, the very head of the department, is the one who has the power to "greenlight" a property—to give the final "go" and commit the financing necessary to make the films that studio produces. Most networks and independent production companies have similarly structured development departments, and from the top to the bottom, the hierarchy of titles would generally read as follows:
• President (or Head) of Production
• Executive Vice President of Production:
This person has most of the same authority as the head of production, except he can't greenlight productions on his own. He can, however, initiate deals and oversee large projects.
• Senior Vice President and Vice President of Production:
These individuals oversee the development and production of films.
• Creative Executive (at least one):
Those in this position read scripts; write story notes; generate writer, director and casting lists and help supervise development and production. Independent production companies often call those in this position "development" executives.
• Development Assistant or Story Editor:
This person oversees the story department, which is staffed with a number of story analysts (or "readers") and is responsible for the administration, processing, reading and analysis of all incoming properties.
• Story Analysts or Script Readers: These individuals are either staff or freelance, and their job is to read and provide a written synopsis (or "coverage") of each script.
I've read articles stating that on average, studios receive any where from 300 to 500 submissions each month in the form of screenplays, books, treatments and pitches. Other sources indicate that many independents receive 200 to 300 submissions per month. Regardless of the exact number any one studio or indie accepts, we're talking thousands of submissions each year; and this is the department that evaluates and determines which properties are to be optioned and which are to be purchased (see Chapter 14 for more about pitching, selling and optioning screenplays). Once optioned or purchased, the scripts are "developed." Notes are given to the writers, changes are made and new writers or a succession of writers are sometimes hired to do rewrites on any given project. Budgets, director and casting possibilities, marketing strategies and the past history of similar types of films are evaluated before a decision is made as to whether to greenlight a particular property. The development process can take months or years, depending on the variables involved.
Once a project has been given a greenlight, the heads of this department will follow the project through to delivery, getting involved with creative decisions every step of the way.
If you think of yourself as a creative individual; understand proper story structure and what makes a good story; are an avid reader; think you would enjoy working with writers; have a feel for what would do well at the box office; and think you can get excited about the development process, this might be a good area for you to pursue. Just remember, the line to get in is a long one. Some suggestions for getting your foot into this particular door are:
1. First work for a literary agent and get some experience in the field.
2. Work through an employment/temp agency that's connected to one particular studio, and let it be known you'd like to temp for a development executive. Once there, impress the hell out of everyone in the department and make yourself indispensable, forcing them to want you back on a permanent basis as soon as there's an opening.
3. Read scripts and do coverage as an intern (for free), and impress the higher-ups with your brilliant and insightful coverage.
4. Have a great connection to someone in a position to hire.
All independent production companies, large and small, have creative (or development) departments, although in some instances one or two people may handle the same duties as would a multiperson department at one of the majors. And at most independents, the head of production is also the head of the company.
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