Industry Report: Produce - Coproduce...
The Developer job
by Chiara Nano
- New professions like developers and film editors are entering the modern film world as complimentary to the work of the screenwriter.
Hands on the script
Two new professions have joined the film industry. Developers and film editors, specific individuals who work for production companies and follow and facilitate the creative development of a story for the cinema. With special regard for the tradition, in the monetary sense of the word, of every screenplay. One of the first people to bring these new professions to the forefront was Stephen Cleary, the founder of Arista, a company that in 1996 started holding training courses in Europe for developers and film editors. Thanks to Graziella Bildeheim and Samatha Traxler’s Fabulafilm, Cleary will be in Rome on 5 and 6 December, when he will hold a workshop about development for industry professionals like writers, directors and producers.
“In the United States,” said Cleary, “production companies invest 12 per cent of their budget in this stage of their projects. In Europe, you only invest 7 per cent and that drops to 4.5 per cent if we exclude Great Britain.”
“The developer must be able to work in a functional creative atmosphere,” continues Cleary, “where he is the mediator between the producer and the director. He or she must have a good knowledge of drama and writing, as well as the techniques of screenwriting.” In France, the story developer is called “the director of writing” and must know how to evaluate the quality of the stories, the writing, the capacity of the writer and the value the story has on the market as well as its impact on the public and society in general. In Italy, the author “par excellence” is the director. Very few people train others to become developers, with the sole exception of television where this profession is essential for fiction or drama production.
Francesca Solinas is about to set up a company called Solidrama, in partnership with Roselida Porrello. This will be a consultancy for story development and this is her opinion, “The traditional training methods are out of touch with the way films are really made.” According to Solinas, the developer must be able to defend the project before the producer, and behave almost as though he or she were a co-screenwriter. Cleary disagrees. He feels that the developer must have “the capacity to ask the director the questions that will help him or her untie the dramatic knots of a screenplay.”
The Italian Example
Producers from all over the world are asking questions about new professional figures called developers and film editors who work together with screenwriters to enable to facilitate creativity and develop stories for cinema.
Cineuropa.org took a look at the situation in Italy and asked the opinion of a number of producers like Cattleya’s Riccardo Tozzi and Tilde Corsi and Gianni Romoli of R & C Produzioni. Two very different Italian companies, both in terms of turnover and number of projects they invest in annually. “On average I work on one film per year,” said Corsi. It is known that Tozzi produces more than one. Both have their respective developers. “I have two,” confesses Tozzi – alongside a staff of 20.” Tilde Corsi admits to rely on Gianni Romoli, “my partner and screenplay supervisor.”
Both, in their own way invest money in development.
Do your company’s developers do just that or something else besides?
Tozzi: “Just development.”
Corsi: “Gianni Romoli does other things as well. We don’t draw up prototypes, we’re not industrialists.”
Would you be willing to invest in training future professionals in this sector?
Tozzi: “To a degree I’m already doing that. I have a staff of 20 who work on development.”
Corsi: “Gianni and I are craftsmen. With international aspirations but craftsmen nevertheless. We invest money in development but on our own and we do it for one project at a time. Gianni takes care of development.”
Describe the developer’s role in your company?
Corsi: “Important. But I think that a story editor would never have taken on “The Ignorant Fairies” as it was presented. I don’t see why we have to separate the developer from the producer. That makes sense for television: they produce maybe 5 projects every 50. In any case I took every course going on development, including Atélier du Cinéma Européen promoted by the Media Programme.”
Tozzi: “Important. But I must point out the difference that exists between Anglo-Saxon and Continental European culture: in our film industry it is almost impossible to put the writing phase first. Cinema follows a representation that can separate from drama or even break away from it. My developers have to work closely with the director, it is their job to develop the text that incorporates as much of the representative potential of the director as possible. So they must know the director's thoughts. The developer does some of the producer’s work: he is a mediator.”