December 8, 2017

Is it Time To Shelve Your Film? Ask Yourself These 9 Questions

Here's how you know when to say when.

As much as we hate to admit it, there are certain times it is necessary to "murder your darlings" or, as it is more politely known in industry terms,  "trim the fat from your development slate." These two statements mean the same thing: you've wasted time, money, and energy creating a project, and now isn't the time for it to come to fruition. It's important to stick with projects you believe in through the inevitable tough times, but we've also seen plenty of folks become obsessed with projects that are doomed to fail, at least in their present state. The good news is, leaving a project for a while can also mean that you can return to it with renewed vitality and fresh ideas later.

If you think you might be in that place with a current project, here are nine questions to ask yourself to help make a decision.

1. Is the team you're working with less motivated about the project than they were on day one?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

2. Is your project moving along much more slowly than you had planned?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

3. Are you now realizing you will face several costly legal challenges to get your project off the ground?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

4. Did a key subject drop out of the project? 

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

5. Has the conflict eroded from your project? 

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

6. Is another team, perhaps with better access, further along on a similar or related project?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

7. Have you lost interest in your project?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

8. Has the market for your project gotten significantly smaller?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

9. Are you working on better/faster/stronger projects?

If the answer is yes, consider moving on.

And of course, if more than one of the above questions is yes, you may want to seriously consider killing the project.

Practical Steps

If you do decide to shelve your project for the time being, here are a few guidelines for how to do it:

  • Ethically, it is proper to tell your participants you are killing the project. This may free them to work with other filmmakers. You should also let them out of any exclusivity agreements you have.
  • Pay anyone who has done work for you who you owe money to. (You can write this off later.)
  • You needn't write a public obituary for your project, as you may want to revive it later on. So move on, don't kvetch about it, and know that deep down you saved yourself a heckuva lot of time, money, and energy to pursue other projects.

Do you agree with the list of questions above? Or will you stick with each project no matter what? Let us know in the comments.     

Your Comment

1 Comment

In this industry it's wise to always have multiple projects in various stages of development (or even limbo) so you can focus energy on the right ones given external influences. I think about Luc Besson shelving Fifth Element for 10 years because in pre-viz it became apparent the technology wasn't ready yet to deliver the vision; in the meantime he made Leon and that drove interest & invest in Fifth Element and made it the iconic film it is.

December 8, 2017 at 9:27PM

Daryl Irvine
Director/Creative Director

If you've put in the time, money, relationships don't bail. Pain is temporary, film is forever

December 18, 2017 at 7:34PM