Development Executive

  • Development Executive

A development executive must be able to search through a maze of scripts, project ideas, and stories, finding those precious few that may become the next Oscar-winning movie or Sundance Festival jewel.


Development executives handle the acquisition and development of stories, scripts, and screenplays into successful theatrical films. This process can take a minimum of three years; some screenplays spend as long as 10 years in development before going into production. The development executive must intimately understand the genre and tone, the fundamental construction and phraseology of film stories, along with the emotional effect various films have on an eclectic audience mix. As well, a great development exec can simultaneously read a script and estimate the budget required to produce the film. It is imperative that development executives be able to pinpoint a project with genuine possibilities and then manage the screenwriter(s) while they massage and cajole the screenplay into an optimum version. To facilitate this, the development executive must be able to read the story or script and understand its advantages and flaws vis-à-vis the production process, in order to create concise development or script notes for the screenwriters to use during rewrites. The development executive may employ script readers to help with the sorting process and script editors to work with the writer, helping them cultivate multiple projects. At times, development executives may be required to raise funding for projects from various sources including government, public, and private sectors.

Skills & Education

The key skills required of a film industry development executive are the abilities to discern a viable and profitable story, to create a team capable of turning the story into an excellent screenplay, and to secure financial backing to ensure the completion of the project to its fruition. This must all be handled with a depth of understanding, tact, and good will in order to please and placate a variety of individuals with enormous personalities and egos. Education advantageous to the development executive would be script and screenplay writing, some psychology courses on human behavior, and basic finance study.

What to Expect

The world of a development executive is one endlessly filled with script-reading, project development, and meetings to procure financial backing. A highly sought-after development executive is one who has a nose for a good story, can keep the entire process on an even keel, and can fill the project coffers with more than enough funding to sustain the entire production.


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