Engineering a Dilbert Movie Script
Engineering a Dilbert Movie Script
February 6, 2014
Someday I plan to write a Dilbert movie script.
I anticipate your questions. Let me answer those before making my fascinating point
Q. Will it be animated?
A. No. I’d like to reimagine Dilbert’s world with live actors, modern day, no neckties and suits. I have an idea for Dogbert’s character but I’ll keep that to myself for now. This would be a reboot of the brand, not an extension.
Q. Why haven’t you already made a Dilbert movie?
A. I’ve tried for years. But every attempt hit a different wall. I’ve had A-list directors and producers say yes. I’ve had major studios lined up. I’ve had signed contracts. One time the project died because lawyers couldn’t agree on a split of licensing revenues (which is not a hard problem to solve). One time our A-list director backed out because of issues in his personal life. The list goes on.
The solution to every movie-making roadblock is a great script. Studios, directors, and actors flock toward great scripts. You’ve seen lots of examples of top actors working for scale just to be associated with a well-written film.
But writing a great script is hard.
Or is it?
The interesting part of this post is coming. Stay with me, please.
You might not be aware of how structured a movie script is. Virtually all movies follow a common formula. Here’s a quick look at just some of the elements you need to engineer into a script:
- The main character needs to “change” over the course of the movie
- In the first few minutes, the main character’s life has to experience an upset.
- The so-called B-story has to run parallel until it interferes with the A-story near the end.
- There should be three acts.
- The characters each need their “who am I” revealing moments.
- Scenes need to end with a mystery or propel the story forward.
- Scenes should last a certain length of time (usually).
- The number of scenes should fall within a certain range.
- Humor movies should be about 90 minutes long. Drama can be longer.
The list of script requirements goes on and on. Books have been written to describe the architecture of a movie. It’s complicated stuff.
Do you know where I’m heading with this yet?
For years I’ve been thinking I needed some sort of writing partner to get this done. I can write dialog on my own, and obviously I know the characters. I can even come up with a good story arc, and have. But I need someone who can figure out all the scene complexity because frankly that part has been holding me back. If I had no other jobs, I’d love immersing myself in the story and working out the complexity of it. But I don’t have that type of freedom. (I’m working about four jobs at the moment.)
Interestingly, it’s almost impossible to find a writing partner for this sort of project. For starters, successful humor writers are rare. The best ones are booked with projects for years. And picking a newbie writer with talent is a crap shoot.
Then one day it hit me.
I don’t need a writing partner.
I need an engineer. An actual trained engineer.
Scripts are complicated systems. They need architecture and planning. A writer needs to hold all of that complexity in his head and understand how each part connects and influences the others. It’s not a writing job; it’s an engineering job.
I can write the general story (already done). And I can populate scenes with dialog because I’m good at that. I need an engineer to make sure all of the logic gates are in the right place and there are no structural holes in the script.
My idea of a script meeting goes like this.
Engineer: “Today you need to write a conversation between Asok and Alice. It needs to happen in a hallway. It needs to reveal Asok’s personality and be 30 seconds long. And it needs to foreshadow the upcoming reorganization.”
Me: “Okay. See you tomorrow.”
You have to admit there’s something that feels right about an engineer creating a Dilbert script.
Before you apply for the job, you’d need to be local to me. And ideally I’d like to have external funding to pay for the script before doing any hiring. A million dollars should cover it.
Most movies are funded by traditional studios. I think a Dilbert movie should be funded by a tech company or by a wealthy individual in the tech industry. It would be a strong combination. Crowd funding is an option too, but messier.
If you’re interested in funding a Dilbert movie project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I can arrange funding, I’ll look to hire an engineer.
And I couldn’t start until this summer. CalendarTree.com is keeping me too busy at the moment.