So, you want to work in story development? Development jobs range from script readers and editors to consultants, coaches, and production company executives. But everyone who works in story development has the same goal: to help other writers make their scripts better, more marketable, and ready for sale or production.
Today, we’re talking specifically about development executives, the highest rung on the ladder of story development positions. A development executive usually works within a studio or production company to manage creative talent and help move stories from script to screen.
If this sounds like a job you’d be interested in pursuing, you’re in luck. Because below, we’ve interviewed former development executive and current Oscar-nominated screenwriter and producer Meg LeFauve. Meg is best known for writing Pixar’s “Inside Out,” “The Good Dinosaur,” and Marvel’s “Captain Marvel.” She’s also produced Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated films and spent earlier parts of her career teaching master’s level story and development classes at UCLA.
What Does a Development Executive Do?
Great development executives have an eye for excellent storytelling and the heart of a mentor to help writers take their projects from good to great.
Development executives are expected to stay on top of industry trends so that their studio or company is the first to develop a hit television show or film before the competition beats them to it.
How to Become a Development Executive?
While there’s no one path to follow to become a development executive, there are some skills you can start building now to put you in a better position to take advantage of a job opportunity in the future.
Below, Meg describes how she worked her way up into development by reading many scripts, watching video editors, asking the right questions, and landing an assistant job.
Read a Lot of Scripts
Other writers we’ve interviewed have compared the process of comparing different versions of scripts to a “mini film school education” because you’ll learn so much seeing how a script improves over time.
Get Into the Edit Bay
You can learn a lot from the other crew members considered storytellers on a television show or movie, even in the cutting room!
Work Well With Writers
Meg suggests giving other people notes on their work for practice. You’ll learn and get better at it with every script.
When sorting through story issues, Meg suggests you avoid dictating and instead ask questions.
The trick is, Meg continued, that you don’t go through this process just once.
Become an Assistant
Many creatives successfully break into Hollywood by taking the assistant route, and Meg specifically suggests becoming an assistant at a talent agency. But hope is not lost if you can’t land an assistant role.
The essential skills to learn to become a development executive involve drawing the best possible story out of a writer and knowing how to spot talent when you see it. You’ll also need to keep up with industry trends and be an avid reader; there are a lot of scripts out there to sort through!
The best way to develop these skills is through practice. Lucky for you, there are a ton of writers out there just waiting for great, thorough feedback on their scripts. How rewarding would it be to help them take their work to the next level?
Cheers to developing that skill,