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"Development hell" is media-industry jargon for a film, television screenplay, computer program,[1] concept, or idea becoming and remaining stuck in development and taking an especially long time to start production, if ever. The film industry buys rights to many popular novels, video games, and comics, but it may take years for such properties to be successfully brought to the cinema, and often with considerable changes to the plot, characters, and general tone.[2]



In the case of a film or television screenplay, the screenwriter may have successfully sold a screenplay to a certain set of producers or studio executives, but then new executives assigned to the project may raise objections to all the scripts and casting decisions they oversee, mandating rewrites and recasting. As a director and actors become "attached" to the project, further rewrites and recasting may be done, to accommodate the needs of the new talents involved in the project. Should the project fail to meet their needs, they might leave the project or simply refuse to complete it, causing further rewrites and recasting. At any point, a project may be forced to begin again from scratch.

This process can last for months or years. More often than not, a project trapped in this state will be abandoned by all interested parties or cancelled outright. Hollywood starts ten times as many projects as are released, so many scripts will, of necessity, languish.[3] Many times, this "hell" is caused by the lack of foresight and competing visions of those involved. This revolving door in the film industry happens most commonly with projects that, to some, may have multiple interpretations and affect several points of view.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Related concepts

In software development, unreleased products that have been in long-term development are considered a type of vaporware. A well-known example in video game culture is Duke Nukem Forever, which was in development for over a decade before the studio laid off most of its development staff.

See also


  1. ^ "Interactive development: The new hell," Marx, Andy. Variety. New York: February 28, 1994.Vol.354, Iss. 4; pg. 1
  2. ^ "How My Novel Was Almost 'Developed' Into Oblivion," By WARREN ADLER, New York Times. New York, N.Y.: October 3, 1999. p. AR11
  3. ^ "Cover Story: Writers Paid for Movies Never Made," Spillman, Susan. USA TODAY. McLean, Va.: January 16, 1991. pg. D1
  4. ^ "Dept. of development hell," Kerrie Mitchell. Premiere. (American edition). New York: February 2005.Vol.18, Iss. 5; pg. 40
  5. ^ "Development hell," Geoffrey Macnab. Sight and Sound. London: September 2004.Vol.14, Iss. 9; pg. 4
  6. ^ "Dog days in development hell," Peter Bart. Variety. New York: August 28-September 3, 2000.Vol.380, Iss. 2; pg. 4
  7. ^ "Books Into Movies: Part 2," Warren, Patricia Nell. Lambda Book Report. Washington: April 2000.Vol.8, Iss. 9; pg. 9. (Best selling novel The Front Runner has spent over 25 years in development hell)
  8. ^ "Movies: You've Read the Book... --- Now Watch the Movie Rot in Development Hell," By John Lippman. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: May 10, 1999. pg. B.1
  9. ^ " I know what you're doing next summer, Mr. Studio Executive," Bart, Peter. GQ: Gentlemen's Quarterly. New York: March 1999.Vol.69, Iss. 3; pg. 151. ("the strange process known as development hell")
  10. ^ "Development Hell," Horowitz, Joy. American Film. New York: November 1987.Vol.13, Iss. 2; pg. 53 (The novella "Forever" has spent over 50 years in development hell.)

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