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The Commissioning Process
Transcript of The Commissioning Process
There are many job roles within the commissioning process. This includes:
One method for selling your script is getting represented by an agent. The agents main job is to therefore represent the screenwriter, and for example, find work for them. It is important for screenwriters to find agents who they are comfortable with and trust, so it is best to meet them before deciding to work with them. In order to get an agent, you need to approach them and show them who you are and your work. The best way to do this is by sending a little about who you are, first getting a reply, and then sending off one writing samples (usually by post). When you get represented by an agent, your work will look more professional and your work will have a higher chance of getting seen.
There will always be a percentage of money received from the sales of a writers scripts, and this payment is known as a royalty payment. This payment is generally split between the producers, agents and writers. Usually the amount of money received will vary.
It is very important to make sure that your script looks professional and is presented in the correct way, otherwise this may mean an automatic decline from producers etc. You need to make sure that your script is written in the correct format with the correct conventions, and that is also follows any rules given, such as the quantity of pages. The front page of a script should have a title, the authors name and contact details. The format of the rest of the script should be like in this image below.
When you're a screenwriter, you have to make sure that you manage your time correctly, otherwise your script may not get anywhere. I believe it is best for screenwriters to take a small idea and build it up with research and actual writing. There are obviously many different aspects of a script that should have time spent being researched and thinking about, such as the narrative, characters and plot itself. Screenwriters should spend an equal amount of time on the beginning, middle and end of the script- and all should be thought about carefully. They need to make sure they know information about deadlines and set out their time wisely in order to meet them.
Legal and Ethical
Aspects of Writing
Image by Tom Mooring
The Commissioning Process
Working as a Writer
The Role of the
The producers are overall extremely important as they are responsible for all aspects of a production. Generally, the producer is the first member to become involved in a product, and will still be working on a product even long after it's been released.
The producers role is to turn the story idea into a product and they must remember the goals to reaching that stage. They must bring together the production team itself and are extremely responsible for how the product turns out and altogether, the success. There are 4 main stages that they are involved with:
Post-production and marketing
They are firstly responsible for securing the necessary rights for the product and then supervising the development after selecting and bringing together screenwriters, directors, cinematographers etc.
They also help with raising the finance, approving locations and the production schedule. The producers are always working close with the directors, and will also deal with much of the marketing and distribution.
The commissioning editor is involved with the product at every single stage, and they are there to respond to proposals and find possible new authors/writers. This is so they can mainly commission or in other words 'buy' their work.
The commissioning editor's role is the key link to getting a product to a published stage as they have the power to establish whether a writers script should be used or not. They also help with issuing the contracts and making sure the deadlines are met.
The commissioning editors work closely with the marketing and the actual production of the product also.
Kim Shillinglaw commissions approximately 200 hours of television in the Science and Natural History genre for BBC One, Two and Four. This includes shows such as Planet Earth Live, Springwatch, Wonders of the Universe and many more.
Script editors, who are generally freelance workers, are hired to judge and make an overview of the screenplay. They overall help the screenwriter find problems that may of occurred and show them any consequences of choices that they may make. They therefore mainly assist with developing the screenplay, to help strengthen the final product.
They must help the screenwriter with critical opinions and detailed explanations, which overall supports the screenwriter and helps the producers etc. realise the full potential.
The script editors responsibility is also to make sure that screenwriter develops the narrative well. This is by reminding them of the 'route' for their story. They also negotiate contracts, set out delivery deadlines and any fees.
This overall means that script editors have a keen interest in all components of a screenplay, including the genre, plot, dialogue and structure and should be experienced script readers. They are helpful to the writer, by also providing them with different perspectives of their story while reminding them of any company requirements and keeping them organised.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Next, is the director. They are responsible for turning the screenplay into the images and sounds that we see on screen, which means they must be creative and visualise the structure of the film and make it a reality. Their duties include script editing, shot selection and editing and they also work closely with the producer. Directors are able to commission a script to be written or even be hired to develop a vision for the finished film after an early draft of a screenplay is complete. They make a practical route, also selecting the right crew, cast and locations while managing the technical aspects also, such as the lighting, sound, special effects and camera work. They lead and communicate much with the crew and cast while also making decisions, making sure that the production is successful and they are getting the best skills and quality out of the film making team.
An agents main job is to find work for their clients, by securing suitable deals and staying organised with their contacts. They negotiate deals and support their clients careers. This means that they must keep up to date and be knowledgeable about what is currently in production, so that they can establish work. They also negotiate fees and supervise the contracts, meaning that they have to keep up to date with industrial agreements and rates. They also spend time looking for new clients, so they can help them develop their career by promoting them. An agent needs good research skills in order to make sure that their client is successful and their work is effective. Also, the agent and commissioning editor will often work together about contracts. Getting an agent means your work has a higher chance of getting noticed as it will look more professional.
Even though it can be very difficult for new writers to get an agent, there are many opportunities and places where you can submit your work, such as the BBC Writersroom etc.
Lastly, the screenwriters (who are, the majority of the time, freelancers) are responsible for developing the narrative, writing the screenplay, researching and delivering the finished piece in the required format. They must pitch their ideas and intentions to the Producers, in hope of getting commissioned, and also attract the attention of agents. If their idea does get commissioned, then they are overall setting a 'blueprint' for the Director, Producer, Composer and Editor etc. and they can then begin translating the film onto the screen. The screenwriter must be able to write in a way so that the reader can 'see' the film visually within their mind. The screenwriters obviously have the in-depth information and understanding of the story, characters and plot but they must be able to write visually while also being creative and entertaining the final audience.
The Curious Case of
Independent Production Companies
A film corporation is a company that releases films. Currently there are 6 major corporations, known as the 'Big Six'.
The 'Big Six'
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Walt Disney Pictures
20th Century Fox
Sony Pictures Entertainment
1918 as C.B.C. Film Sales
Renamed in 1924.
Harry Cohn and Joe Brandt
California, United States
Men in Black, Big Daddy,
Stuart Little, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,
The Karate Kid
Albert Warner, Harry Warner,
Sam Warner, Jack Warner
California, United States
Police Academy, Gremlins,
Beetlejuice, The Secret Garden,
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Harry Potter
The Walt Disney Company
California, United States
Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Aladdin, Hocus Pocus, Finding Nemo, Tangled
Carl Laemmle, Mark Dintenfass,
Charles O. Baumann, Adam Kessel, Pat Powers, William Swanson, David Horsley, Jules Brulatour
Universal City, California,
Psycho, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,
Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, American Pie,
Bruce Almighty, Johnny English
21st Century Fox
Joseph M. Schenck, Darryl F. Zanuck
Los Angeles, California,
Die Hard, Hot Shots!,
Glee, Mrs. Doubtfire, Fantastic Four, Ice Age,
The Simpsons, Planet of the Apes, Avatar
Hollywood, California, United States
Transformers, Mission: Impossible, Star Treck, Jackass, Paranormal Activity, School of Rock, Titanic
Apart from the big corporations, there are also many independent production companies which are more beneficial to unknown writers. These smaller film companies generally do their own scripts however, sometimes they can receive financing from larger corporations to develop them (in return for revenue generated). This also links with the 'Big Six', where the majority of the films were also 'co-productions'.
Independent production companies generally have limited resources and money, so if financing is received from a larger company this can be very beneficial.
Personally, one of my favourite studios is Laika, who are a famous independent animation studio from Portland, Oregon who produce stop-motion animation films. Coraline and Paranorman, which they are known for, are their only current feature films.
If you have the money and are able to afford producing your own screenplay into a product, then you can become an independent director. If you are an independent director then you have the complete power over what your product will turn out to be, but on the other hand, if you are an independent producer, then you have the freedom to, instead, finance a screenplay. Being an independent producer means you have more responsibilities as all the decisions are made from you, and that means that getting to the point of having a finished product is much more difficult. There are currently many famous independent directors/producers and this includes Robert Rodriquez and Paul Thomas Anderson- who all write and direct their own written works.
There are many organisations that can help
eager new screenwriters and people that work with them. Even though they don't offer
contracts or financing etc. they do offer
assistance and help aspiring writers to get noticed. The BBC is a major example with the BBC Writer's Room. Other websites include:
The Script Factory, Industrial Scripts
When you think that your script could possibly win a competition then there are plenty of competitions in Britain (and also America!) that you could enter. They often run to find new aspiring writers with talent. Again, the BBC Writersroom is an example of this, and they have held many competitions running nationally and internationally.
There are many competitions that run online and they practically run all the time, all year round. There will probably be a range of prizes from a variety of different competition, but you may also get offered an 'option'. When a screenplay is optioned it means that is it taken by a company or even an individual for a certain amount of time and also usually for a certain amount of money. This basically means they are buying your script and they can also edit the script themselves, however they would not be allowed to sell it to anybody else during the time of possession.
Screenplay competitions include:
BlueCat, Scriptapalooza, Words on Screen, Big Break and Fresh Voices.
Writing and Pre-Production Planning
Pre-Production and Editing
Shooting Script Production
and Shooting Stage Adjustments
This is basically the act of stealing somebody elses work and claiming it as your own. An example of this in the industry is when it was revealed that Shia LaBeouf's 11 minute short film heavily plagiarised dialogue and plots from Daniel Clowes' "Justin M. Damiano" which is a short story. Both the story and the film opened with the same monologue, and there are many similar happening throughout the whole short.
Copyrighting your work means that you are protected against plagiarism, and that you then have proof of ownership over your work, and then if anybody does, for example, steal your script, then you have the right to sue them over plagiarism.
Being bias means that you are favouring one side of a concept, without considering another side. If a writer wants to inform their audience, for example, of a moral issue, they must make sure they present this in an unbiased way. Being unbiased means showing ideas from both sides of an idea, and therefore you are not forcing others to change their views which would be morally wrong.
Censorship in the film industry means rating products and seeing what is not appropriate for public distribution. Censorship includes classification guidelines (for example, from the BBFC). For an example, any product which shows any signs of sexual content, violence, swearing, graphic imagery etc. must be reviewed properly and given a classification or in other words an age rating. Linking this to writing, you must make sure that you write within the guidelines, to make sure that you don't harm or offend the audience you're targeting at.
Linking with censorship, any adult material which is being distributed must follow strict rules as to what time the product should be broadcast. According to Ofcom, "the watershed begins at 9pm and material unsuitable for children should not, in general, be shown before 9pm or after 5.30am.".
Libel is creating and distributing a product which you know will affect them either in a harmful way or in an emotional way. This is why screenwriters usually make characters not based solely on real people, in order to not harm them and create any legal issues.
There are many different factors what make up the 'pre-production' planning of a screenplay. There are three main stages of writing that writers will most likely generally use overall, and this is:
During the preparation, the first factor that you may complete before beginning to write your script is research. The research can include interviewing an audience, reading books, searching the internet etc. and this research could carry out for over a month before an idea is developed. There are many different methods you could then use to try and make an outline of the basic plot/characters etc. and this could include making cards and trying to figure out practically 'A to B'. Trying to find the right characters is also important, and you may write out a biography so you have a better understanding of the characters. After researching and figuring out the main elements of your screenplay then you can go onto writing the first draft. Usually the first draft will conclude of mostly dialogue, and this also helps with developing characters as you can somewhat hear their voice as they interact with others, and this helps with finding their inner presence and what their context is. From the first draft there are some stages of rewriting. The second draft is usually written with stage directions and the action, with as little dialogue as possible and this means that you should be able to write more visually, which will help when translating the screenplay to the cinematic experience.
When you're editing your screenplay, you may do another two, three or even more drafts. Generally when writing a second draft, you would write it without looking at the first. By writing another draft without looking at the first, this will mean that there will be lines, characters and scenes forgotten- but this means that this should be omitted as it is not essential as you can't remember that factor. When the second draft is complete, you can then go on to merge the first with the second, overall merging the dialogue and screen directions together and amending it and fixing any flaws. At this point getting some feedback on the script can be vital, as you need to make sure that the script is conveying information properly to the audience.
After the script is finished you may send it off the be commissioned. If it does commissioned then you will start becoming involved with a script editor, producer and director. The screenwriter may receive some opinions on the screenplay and this will overall help see how the screenplay can be made stronger and fix any identified problems. Changes to a script can occur a many stages of a production, and this can include at the pre-production process as mentioned or even during the production. During a production a script may be changed due to difficulties, such as with the locations.
When the screenwriters project is finished, commissioned and ready for production, their involvement in the production process can be quite rare, depending on the situation. Once a screenwriters screenplay is sold, then they only have the rights that were agreed with the buyer. When the screenplay is commissioned then there is a lot of involvement with the producers and directors.
The producers overall role is to find the screenplay first, to then obtain the rights and edit and make changes before the shooting can begin. After the script is selected then they choose the story editing team crew who help the screenwriter edit the script. When upon reaching the production process, the producer then approves all the changes made and shooting can begin. The producer can also commission a script to be written, and this means paying for a script to be written.
The directors involvement with the screenplay is the actual process of translating it to the screen. They use the script and then visualise and create the images. They can therefore be part of the script editing at any point, and they make sure that the screenplay has been written to its full potential. Directors may also be their own screenplay writers.
In conclusion, the director practically overlooks a script while the producer selects the script to begin with, and organises the other crew members involvement.
When a script is finally in production, it will be edited to have scene and page numbers to make scenes easier for shooting to be more organized. Even though some changes can be made to the script during the actual production (as mentioned previously, such as difficulties with location), this is linked with strict guidelines and how it is distributed is done carefully.
The script will be revised and updated like this, then the next procedure is then to get organised before shooting, such as deciding on dates and locations which will be sorted out partly with the producer. This also includes the order in which the script will be shot, as generally films are not shot in chronological order.
Once the stage of shooting the script comes into place, page lock-down is essential if you want the process to be filmed successfully and effectively. Page lock-down means that if any adjustments are suddenly needed to be made, they will be made on a separate, individual page and will be coded differently and added into the screenplay as somewhat like extra pages. For example, if a short passage of scene direction is omitted or a line of dialogue, then that entire page will be removed. In it's place there will be that page number, for example page 20, and then 'A' would be added onto the end, so it would be page 20A. If any extra pages are needed then pages 20B, 20C etc. would be added and then distributed.
The 'adjustment during shooting stage' is the stage where the company will alter any factors of what they have produced. It is basically a quick evaluation over what has been made, and what could be done to possibly improve it before any further stages of development.
When working as a screenplay writer there are many ways that they have to work to try and create a successful living. This includes the:
Finally, there are also many legal and ethical aspects of writing. These include: