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Development executives (also known as script developers) are employed by film and television companies to discover fresh, interesting and marketable stories and scripts to be taken into production. They oversee the development of scripts and screenplays, from new or established screenwriters, ensuring that the finished product will be profitable in a chosen market.
Development executives have an in-depth knowledge of the film industry, and the international film market. They help to discover new writing talent and nurture screenwriters and scripts from a raw talent into marketable success.
With a good understanding of a given genre and up-to-date knowledge of the changing audience trends, a development executive will analyse a screenplay, spotting its strengths and weaknesses. They then compile clear development notes, with necessary changes and adjustments, to improve flaws in the narrative or development.
The responsibilities of a development executive may vary depending on the size of the employer. For example, for larger production companies, development executives may have to research and recruit teams of screenwriters to work on a script, or maybe even assist in the overall packaging a film for distribution. Sometimes the role can involve difficult decisions on how to change a script or alter a character, or even when to abandon a production.
In television, development executives often work with researchers to come up with suitable programming ideas, which they then pitch to executive producers. Being able to confidently pitch an idea to producers is very important.
Development executives must display a balance of passion for filmmaking and a commercial mind, being able to identify a successful screenplay from an undeveloped story idea. Work may involve attending film festivals around the world, spotting the latest story-writing talent.