script rewriteIt is very common for studios to rewrite scripts after purchasing the rights to the film.  Here are a few reasons why studios do this:

  • Scripts aren’t rewritten because the writing is bad. They are rewritten because somebody, if not everybody, involved with the film has “better” ideas. Once this many people input their changes, much of the original script has been changed.
  • Studios are in the business of making money. Ideas that are new and memorable can be extremely risky for the studio. It’s best for them to stick to ideas that have be tried and tested.
  • The original scriptwriter is often replaced with a new one. Can you imagine having your work completely changed to fit the studios “vision”? Writers are let go so revisions can be made with no resistance.
  • There is a high turnover with studio executives. Scripts are written to please one group of people and then have to be rewritten again for another group. This goes on.
  • The original writer is not considered the author of the film.  The producers, directors and executives consider themselves in this role. A scriptwriter gives up all rights to the film once the script is bought and usually has not say or power in the direction of the film or rewriting the script.
  • It’s advantageous for successive writers to rewrite as much as possible. In order to get credit the writer has to change at least half of the content of the original script. It’s amazing who gets credit on films: very often it isn’t the writer.
  • When one change is made, other changes are often necessary.  Even if the filmmakers and executives are trying to stay close to the original script, if one change is made at the beginning of a story, say for budgetary reasons, other changes will likely need to be made throughout the storyline.

Screenplays are often written poorly. In general, screenwriters haven’t a clue about the complex and difficult nature of screenplays. It takes many years to become a decent screenwriter.

As with scripts, most screenplays have to be rewritten.  There are many reasons for this but here are the top three:

  1. Culture is hard to understand. Producers stick to what they know. They produce what seems to work and what seems to be popular, or where there is a ‘hole’ in the market that a particular script will fill. Producers encourage screenwriters to write overused material. Often times these screenplays are rewritten and become even worse than the original.
  2. It’s all about who you know. It is common place to be hired based on who you know in the industry and where you went to school. Talent alone doesn’t get you very far.
  3. Everybody wants to sell their screenplay but few of them actually take the time and effort to make quality, much less, original screenplays. A studio might love the idea, but realize that the quality or quantity of the original script is poor. By rewriting the script, the studios are actually polishing the rough diamond.

Why are screenplays rewritten?  Simply because most of them are terrible. The result is necessary rewrites but producers often haven’t a clue how to fix them.