development hell Noun, e.g., A movie based on The Front Runner, a 1974 novel about homosexuality in sports, was in development hell for four decades until its movie rights reverted back to the novelist.
Definition: A lengthy period of time in which a project is stalled in development mostly because the script continues to be rewritten to accommodate new producers, director and/or stars.
History: Many predicted Hollywood would have hell to pay when studios were no longer run by moguls controllng stables of contract producers, directors and actors. Turns out hell’s price is nine out of ten projects undertaken by today’s producers. Many of these projects languish in development hell for years. Some are never produced.
The devil of it is, unlike yesteryear's studios, most modern producers can't afford to have one project fail. But while you can be damned if you do, you can be damned if you don't, i.e., delays cost money, which means a project is under greater pressure to succeed.
People ask: How can publishers quickly turn around best sellers while producers so agonize over simple screenplays? One big reason: Sell 10,000 novels the first week and you’re on the New York Times Best Seller List. Sell ten times that many tickets the first week to a $20 million film and your next gig is producing "Real Housewives of Atlanta."
Related Terms: good movies make money master scene script production value
script doctor turnaround Ulmer Scale