Walt Morton, Novelist & Screenwriter, shares tips with JJ Marsh
Tell us a bit about yourself, Walt. How did you get involved in the movie business?
In 1988, I had just moved across the country to Los Angeles. I knew nothing about Hollywood but I thought I could probably write and sell an original screenplay because many screenplays I paged through seemed dumb, wooden, or the work of a chimpanzee. How hard could it be? Over the next eight years I wrote seven screenplays. I even earned some money and had one script bought outright. I worked for a producer as a writer-for-hire like in the old Hollywood days.
Movies based on original screenplays have become rarer and rarer. To make this clear, an “original” screenplay is a screenplay that is not based on a novel or TV show or toy or comic book or anything else. It just starts as a writer’s idea for a movie.
Starting in the 1990s the average cost of making a Hollywood studio film skyrocketed with the associated costs of marketing and global distribution. Today, any big studio movie with star actors represents an investment by the studio of over $100 million dollars.
Scared studio executives almost never have the guts to make original material anymore, so seek ideas already vetted in the consumer marketplace. They’d rather bet on something already popular as a book, novel, TV show, comic, etc. This is not rocket science.
The realization almost nobody was buying original screenplays put me on the slow road to being a novelist. That, and a conversation I had with Michael Crichton, back in 1997. Crichton said: