Dying of Encouragement

In Hollywood, it is a not uncommon situation to make money and yet never get anything produced...


Ken Schafer

11/21/20232 min read

black digital device at 0 00
black digital device at 0 00

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I have had so many projects fall apart after I've been hired, and often even paid, that I cannot count.

One particularly galling instance was a TV MOW that I was brought in on to write an outline.  I spent quite a good bit of time on it and was pretty excited about the project.  I handed in the outline, got a couple of minor notes which I dealt with and then handed in a revised outline.  And then we waited for it to make its way up the food chain for approval.

Which never came, and never came, and when my agent finally "rattled the producer's cage" (as she was wont to say) he reluctantly admitted that he'd screwed up and had missed the deadline to get it into the decision queue, and rather than admit this to his boss, he said he hadn't gotten it from me in time and the project was shelved.

My most disappointing one was for Disney, where they were trying to do a prequel or sequel to Sleeping Beauty with the mandate that Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) be the hero of her own story.  After months of trying to figure out the story in-house, and being unable to crack it, they decided to bring in some outside writers to see if we could do any better.

The problem, as I saw it, was that Aurora is so incredibly naive at the start of Sleeping Beauty, that you couldn't possibly do a prequel for her with any real character growth, or you'd have to knock her over the head and give her amnesia at the end of the story to reset her to her naive starting state for the original movie.

And doing a sequel was also problematic as after the whole Sleeping Beauty story is over, and she wakes up she's just a random princess, and unless you put her back asleep, it isn't really a Sleeping Beauty story per se. And by the way, not only is she in no way the hero of the original story, she is barely even an innocent bystander, as she has no idea what happened or why because she's literally asleep throughout the whole thing!

So, as I said, they decided to hire four writers to write synopses of a proposed story--and note the strategic use of the word synopses as this is NOT an official Writer's Guild Term and thus did not have a standard price--and then choose the best one, if any of them worked.  I was lucky enough to be one of the four, and I came up with a rather brilliant solution (which unfortunately I can't tell you about here as Disney paid for it and thus owns it) and of the four writers, I was the one who they decided to hire to write a full outline at a decent rate... but before the contract was signed, the ENTIRE DEPARTMENT at Disney was fired, and the project shelved.   

I was so jazzed about this project that I did go beyond the scope a bit, and wrote some lyrics for a number of songs, which I never submitted to Disney, so I can share them in the "my writings" section here.  

Can you spell dysfunctional?