When people ask why I stopped writing screenplays, I tell them about MEG.
MEG was the ultimate high-concept picture. Box office gold in two words: "Jurassic Shark." What studio exec or marketing department wouldn’t chomp at that? Total no-brainer. A global slam-dunk.
All it needed was a good story. I was writing scripts at the time and was hired to write the book/movie pitch, based on Steve Alten’s well-researched but flabby unsold manuscript (his first) called “White Death.” It had been turned down by over forty publishers. Steve’s literary manager and I re-titled it “Megalodon,” then MEG, re-wrote the first 100 pages, and re-structured and outlined the remainder of the story. Instead of taking it to New York first, he sent it straight to the studios.
Chomp, chomp. The 100 pages + outline sold overnight to Disney for “seven figures”--the writer’s Holy Grail. Took that to NY and made a two-book deal for another seven (double what it fetched in Hollywood).
Pop the champagne!
That was back in 1996. We thought the movie would be in theaters in a year. It's taken twenty-two.
Twenty-two years in development hell. Endless succession of producers, directors, screenwriters, stars. World’s longest slam-dunk. To the point that the movie--out this weekend--is nearly unrecognizable to me.
Imagine how many years you can waste trying to get your not-high-concept screenplays produced. (I don’t have to imagine. I tried.) Meantime over those decades, Steve Alten wrote a shelf-full of books and built a successful career.
Moral: Life’s too short. Want to tell stories? Write novels.