What 3 Things Does A Producer Want In A Screenplay? by Mark Heidelberger

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: What 5 things does a screenplay have to have for you to be interested in it as a producer?

Mark Heidelberger, Producer: What 5 things? I never thought about breaking it down to 5 things.

First and foremost for me, the script has to be (in my eyes) well-written. It’s got to be a story that…I don’t care what the story is in terms of genre. You know people ask me “Do you care about a certain genre? You seem to work in all certain genres.” Because to me good story transcends genre, it has nothing to do with genre. Genre is just a set of conventions that allow me to identify what a movie is and therefore whether they want to see it or not. Genre has nothing to do with whether you can tell a good story in any genre.

And to me working with different genres is part of the excitement of working in this business. That’s why so many of us love being in this business, right?

We don’t go to the same office every day and we’re always pursuing something different and so having different genres to work in is great.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

And so for me, it’s just a well-told story. Is there some sort of character, some sort of protagonist that you identify with his journey in some way? I’m going to use the word likable. I’m just going to say is it a protagonist I can identify with in some way? I want to follow him for some reason. You know, does he have goals, does he have flaws, is there an antagonist that is creating conflict with this guy or girl or whatever the situation is.

But is there something I can get behind and is there a strong theme? Like why are you telling this story? So I mean just in terms of just being well-written.

And then I would say Number 2 is then what is the budget range and is there a budget range that’s reasonable?

So a lot of people they come to me and I get a lot of “How much would it cost to do this script?” And I’m like “Okay, well I’ll answer that question if you can answer a question for me. How long is a piece of string?” That’s what I like to ask them. You can’t just give me a script…how much does it cost to make? Is Matt Damon in your movie? Your budget just went up by 10 million dollars. I mean, I can make an argument to do this movie for a million bucks or ten million bucks.

So really it’s more like how much can you raise? Or how much do you have? Or if they really don’t have a good idea of this – who do you see in it, how wide do you see it being distributed? But I have to get an idea of what range and how big they’re seeing this in their head. And a lot of times I might read the script and go well “That’s not going to happen on this. You’re not going to do Avatar on a $500,000 budget” or whatever?…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Image courtesy of MarkHeidelberger.com

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