February 27, 2014

Book Club: Development Hell

I've always been fascinated by the behind the scenes making of movies. Hell lot of people are or movie studios wouldn't add extras to their home movies. Some behind the scenes adventures I find more fascinating than the movie that was created. I've watched 'Heat of Darkness: A filmmaker's Apocalypse' more than I have watched 'Apocalypse Now'. It's a wonderful look at the long and destructive making of that movie.

Continuing my reading about behind the scenes making of movies, leaving off after yesterday's reading of Fiasco, I read 'Tales from Development Hell' by David Hughes.

It's amazing to me how much movie studios and TV production studios buy projects that they either neither develop or take a very long time to develop. Hundreds of scripts are bought each year, worked over through production, and then never see the light of day.

Movies alone in development hell have their own Wikipedia page. And that's just a small example. And to be honest those examples are more interesting than the examples Mr. Hughes uses in his book.

'Tales from Development Hell' left me feeling cold. Mr. Hughes either used examples that I knew were in development hell like the 4th Indiana Jones movies (which should have stayed in development hell) and the Lord of the Rings. And the examples he did use were known weren't all that interesting like the Richard Preston story about the Ebola breakout in Washington DC.

I guess my expectations were too high for this book. I expected juice back stage bickering or tales about movies going over budget. Instead it's just one story after another about how movie needed to be rewritten or how one script just wasn't that interesting. My own fault for expecting something different.

My other issue with this book was that Mr. Hughes used examples of movies that I don't qualify as development hell. To me for a movie to be in development hell it has to be one movie in mind that is either too expensive to be made or has so many rewrites that it takes years to develop.

Mr. Hughes used the 5th Batman movie as an example but he talked about 10 different versions of that movie that people wanted to be made. There wasn't one script that had to be rewritten or that movie was too expensive. There were multiple ideas on how to make that movie and Christopher Nolan was the winner. That doesn't count as development hell to me.

Whole 'Tales from Development Hell' won't kill my taste for behind the scenes making of movies it certainly left me feeling cold. Going to have to read William Goldman's books now to get that taste out of my mouth.


  1. Speaking of behind the scenes movie documentaries, I can't recommend "Lost in La Mancha," about Terry Gilliam's trainwreck in trying to make a version of Don Quixote, highly enough.

    1. I'm going to have to pick up that one next. I see he's trying to make that movie again.