Should I Write The Movie Script First?

Written by Martin Shapiro on Friday, 01 February 2013. Posted in Comic Book Writing

Should I Write The Movie Script First?

When I optioned the movie rights to my horror comic book series Chopper, the movie screenplay was already finished because in my case the movie was written first and then adapted into comic book format. However, it was my choice as to whether or not to let the producer know that fact. I chose to be upfront about it, so basically the producer was getting two assets for the price of one.

That is not usually the case with most comic books such as Sin City or Road to Perdition, which when published typically don't yet have a screenplay associated with it. In other words, they were conceived at the outset as comic books first and the creators were not professional screenwriters.

Nevertheless, for the Chopper deal, my agent did add a clause that the producer would have to pay me extra at WGA rates to do an official "rewrite", so in essence I would be compensated for my extra time to "adapt" the comic book into movie form.

I was fine with this because rarely does a first draft of a screenplay get financed and shot. Usually, production companies and studios do multiple rewrites anyway that eat up a lot of time, especially when a name director or actor becomes attached to the project at a later date.

If you are just starting out with a new story idea from scratch, I would advocate that you NOT invest the time in doing a full movie screenplay upfront. That is a huge undertaking for an amateur part-time writer with a real world job sucking up their creative time. Just do the comic book first, and sell the rights to it, and then negotiate to have the producer hire you to do the movie adaptation of your own book. That's potentially 2 paychecks! :)

It would be the equivalent of Stephen King doing the script for one of his novels. That's what Steve Niles did for 30 Days of Night and Kevin Grevioux did on the upcoming film I, Frankenstein. In my opinion, this approach is the fastest route from point A to point B.

About the Author

Martin Shapiro

Martin Shapiro

Martin Shapiro created the horror comic book series Chopper, and sold the movie rights to it. The prequel to Chopper was produced as a web TV series starring Tyler Mane (Halloween, X-Men). Mr. Shapiro’s action-thriller screenplay Lair of the Fox was optioned by Ilya Salkind (Producer of Superman). Mr. Shapiro has written and developed projects for MGM, HBO and numerous production companies including an adaptation of Dragonlance, the New York Times bestselling series of fantasy novels with sales of 22 million copies. He received a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from UCLA and now teaches classes at New Hampshire School of Film and Television.

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