Film production is a fascinating process. A raw idea is crystallized into a full-blown production with characters, set, and story. Film projects are also very expensive commodities by any standard – the average film produced in 2002 cost $58.8 million dollars, with print and advertising costs north of $30 million (see www.mpaa.org).
Sometimes film development and production are on a fast track. In other cases, the route to production may take a very long time. For example, in 1995 the acclaimed historical novelist Patrick O'Brian met in Hollywood with Charlton Heston and Samuel Goldwyn Jr. to discuss how his literary work could be translated into the language of film. Even though his books had been extremely successful, it took eight years (during which time Mr. O'Brian passed away) for the books to be turned into “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” released in December 2003.
Such a long and uncertain process is not very common in other industries, except for industries facing regulatory hurdles and/or requiring a long research and development process. In particular, one may be able to draw comparisons with the biotechnology and drug industries, which face both regulatory hurdles and a long development process with uncertain prospects.
In the studio era, which ended gradually with the Paramount decision in the late 1940s, studios controlled the entire decision process. Since then, the development process has become much more diffuse, with many ways in which films can come into existence.