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CHARTING THE MURKY DEVELOPMENT WATERS

More than a few producers and their development execs are discreetly relying on a weekly report that tracks more than 3,000 projects at major studios and indie film companies. Called “The Development Source,” the two-volume set is hand delivered on Thursdays to offices around town by its author, Casey Hoelscher.

The listings show the status of current films in development at studios, indies, and mini-majors, along with producers, directors, casting, start dates and a short synopsis. Hoelscher charges $75 per week and has agreed with her sources not to sell her listings to writers, directors or actors.

Working out of her West L.A. home, where she lives with her actor husband and two children (a third is in college), Hoelscher is a computer expert who put together similar script-tracking software for the Triad Agency. When Triad merged with William Morris, Hoelscher was allowed to stay on long enough to merge Triad’s computer files with WMA’s, then was laid off.

Most agencies and studios maintain their own inhouse tracking systems. But the demand among indie producers who knew of Hoelscher’s work at Triad was strong enough for Casey to continue her work as a cottage industry.

Constantly updating and revising her list, Hoelscher’s sources are agents and lower-level execs all over town, along with the frequent – and often anonymous – fax. This past week, she says, a lot of post-Cannes housecleaning resulted in 118 projects being tossed out, while 224 new listings went into the books.

A quick perusal of her list by Variety reporters shows that about 10% of the projects listed in “The Development Source” are not up-to-date in respect to directors and casting. Many of the projects have fallen off slates and wound up in turnaround (another listing provided by Hoelscher, along with a roundup of scripts that have reverted back to writers from expired option deals).

Nevertheless, the huge undertaking gives a reasonably complete picture of Hollywood’s intentions in the feature film arena.

If a project sits on her list for six months without a “hot” or “pre-production” or “production” notation, it usually means the film is dead in the water. Then again, Hoelscher tracked an inert “Forrest Gump” for 2 1/2 years, she says, even though “I heard it was a bad script.”

According to Hoelscher, who has cross-referenced her system to track trends, a lot of scripts were showing up a few months ago concerning Cuba. Genies are currently big. Three other hot script topics at the moment: pirates, chimpanzees and space.

Put together a pic about a Cuban pirate on Mars who falls for a cute genie with a pet chimp and you’ve got yourself a deal.

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