“There Will Always Be A Market For A Script We Can’t Put Down” Says Seth Renshaw
Seth Renshaw worked in PR, media sales and then with CAA’s Marketing department before transitioning to film and television with David Dobkin’s Big Kid Pictures at Warner Bros. He is currently the Director of Development at Benaroya Pictures, a writer of various pilots and features – and always looking for the next great movie trailer. He spoke to Creative Screenwriting Magazine about the state of the industry and how screenwriters can navigate it all.
What is the specific role of a Director Of Development?
It varies slightly from company to company, but my role tends to focus on the shepherding of internal projects and those that come to us at various stages of development to the point where we feel ready to share with future partners and talent.
How does this role differ from the role of a Script Reader or Creative Executive?
A Creative Executive has more involvement in projects from beginning to end, taking the lead on certain projects, working directly with writers we’ve hired and finding writers to hire for specific jobs. A Creative Executive has a bit more freedom and responsibility.
How do you acquire screenplays?
Mostly through managers and agents, as well as relationships with people we’ve worked with in the past. We are always open to finding great writing any way we can.
What proportion of your time is spent developing scripts vs developing projects?
How big is your development slate? It’s always shifting, based on how much attention each project needs and its respective timeline. I’d say we’re actively developing about a dozen projects, in various media, (TV, feature, comic, IP) at any given time.
At what stage do you acquire projects to develop?
We acquire a project at any stage, depending on what we feel we can do to help. It could be a concept or a screenplay. Basically, anything that lends itself to an exciting pitch and would make a great movie trailer.
How much script development drafts are typical for you?
It’s very much dependent on the stage we join the process and the unique challenges of the material, but three drafts seems to be about the minimum.
How do you balance your creative tastes with market need?
When they are not one and the same, I try to not let one recklessly overpower the other. We also have a few pet projects in development.
Describe the development process.
Firstly we find/create a project that we’re excited to fight for for many years. Then we do whatever is needed to give it the best chance of success before providing talent the space and resources to do their best work.
How do you categorize the state of the market right now in terms of types of content and how can screenwriters capitalize on it?
It’s always changing, but one constant a screenwriter can capitalize on is that there will always be a market for someone who can write a script we can’t put down.
What are you watching now?
Theaters: Roma, Shoplifters, They Shall Not Grow Old, First Man, We The Animals
At home: Gunga Din, Hobson’s Choice, The Big Chill, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, In the Fade, Hanna, Citizen Four, Duel, Moneyball, Three Days of the Condor
TV: Bodyguard, Killing Eve, Succession, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Americans, 7 Days Out, Review
Screenwriters should watch whatever gets them excited and whatever they feel they can learn something from.
You’re also a financier. How does this uniquely position you in the marketplace?
We get projects in all stages of development, from rough pitch to films days away from principal photography. It provides a great cross section of opportunities to tell stories we believe in and help filmmakers overcome their unique financial and creative obstacles.
What advice can you give emerging screenwriters to crack the business?
There are so many different approaches that work for some and don’t work for others. But, I would say that finding a strong mentor and writing the story you can’t stop thinking about is a good place to start. After that, keep in mind that someone is going to have to pay to make it, people are going to have to want to say those words you write and capture the images you describe.
It’s your story, but it’s also a sales tool. You’re always trying to win the attention of your reader on every page. Focus on making it undeniable.