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:
  1. The main character needs to "change" over the course of the movie
  2. In the first few minutes, the main character's life has to experience an upset.
  3. The so-called B-story has to run parallel until it interferes with the A-story near the end.
  4. There should be three acts.
  5. The characters each need their "who am I" revealing moments.
  6. Scenes need to end with a mystery or propel the story forward.
  7. Scenes should last a certain length of time (usually).
  8. The number of scenes should fall within a certain range.
  9. 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 dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com. 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.

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Feb 6, 2014
At the risk of sounding like a no-nothing Hollywood suit, you may have missed the window:


Feb 6, 2014

[I'm glad you're doing a live-action movie. You know why. ]

Mind cluing the rest of us in? This wasnt an e-mail you sent directly to Scott you know but a comment you sent to all of us.
Feb 6, 2014
Of course #1 and #2 on your list are just good old Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. Most of the rest are probably just designed to keep an audience's attention.
Feb 6, 2014
I'm glad you're doing a live-action movie. You know why.
Feb 6, 2014
I am about as far from being a Hollywood insider as anyone can be. But having read of the problems professional writers have had with movie studios, from Hemingway through Faulkner and on to Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov, and Michael Crichton, I would think the frustration would not be worth it.

And how would Dogbert and Catbert be shown? With actual animals or as computer generated?

Your Dilbert cartoons are classics. I actually own the series on DVD, and I very seldom buy such things. For some reason, whenever my young son eats spaghetti, he has to watch those shows.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 6, 2014
If you want help for a movie project, ask an expect in either writing or movies. Harlan Ellison, J. Michael Straczynski, Josh Olson, and a host of others *might* be willing. Might. You'll need to have a compelling precis and be able to work with their schedules and monetary constraints.

If you are hell bent on using a local engineer, be prepared to fall flat on your face. Because your attempt will have good parts but end up awful. Like trying to build Marilyn Monroe and ending up with Sandra Bernhard.

Oh, and why do you say on one hand that you have all the money you could ever spend and then come begging for money on the other because you don't have enough to do this movie yourself?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 6, 2014
[This would be a re-boot, not an extension]

That is probably a bigger challenge than creating a more contemporary version. As a writer you may keep wondering if the characters are as global as you think they are.

If I were you, I would surely go for an all new image. Even risk a futuristic model.

+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 6, 2014
Sounds to me, based on your "conversation" between yourself and your engineer, what you really need is a project manager (many of whom have engineering backgrounds).

(Yes, project management is what I do for a living. Yes, I have an engineering background. No, I have no experience in moviemaking or script writing. No, I'm not applying.)
Feb 6, 2014
I'm not sure if live-action is the way to go, at least for a movie format. As cartoon characters, Dilbert, Wally, Alice et al are caricatures of people, which doesn't work well when you are trying to convert to a movie format. It comes off as campy.

A television show, on the other hand allows you to throw these caricatures into one-off gags, and doesn't strain peoples suspension of disbelief as much, as the plotlines are short.

I'd point you to two very different short-lived TV shows that did this well; the live-action version of The Tick, and a show called Better off Ted, which features a Dilbert-like workplace and cartoon-like characters.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 6, 2014
Don't you live just down the street from Silicon Valley, where funding and this Engineer may be found?

Interesting project, break a leg!
Feb 6, 2014
please tell me you're bringing Liz back & you have Tricia Helfer lined up to play her!
Feb 6, 2014
I agree with whtllnew in that you have an opportunity to break with formula here. You already have a reasonably intelligent fanbase, the kind that will get bored easily, spot formulaic constructon and react with derision.

I like your approach re: using an engineer, but I'd recommend getting one with an artistic flair. Writing is an art, no matter how badly Hollywood wants it to be a formula (I submit any Disney movie as an example). However, a "good" movie can be written despite any number of logic gates and structural holes - I give you JJ Abrams. The man can not construct a logic gate to save his own life, and he ignores structural holes completely. Look at Lost, Fringe, and both of the most recent Star Trek movies. All very popular. All fail miserably in terms of logic and plot holes.

My point is, an engineer might give you a bulletproof script with prefect structural integrity and verisimilitude, but it won't necessarily be good. For that you need the certain je nais sais quoi of an artist.
Feb 6, 2014
I had an ex who never figured out the formula for movies and TV shows. I continually amazed her by predicting plot twists and who-done-it endings within the first 1/4 of the show.

She was pretty. :)
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 6, 2014
Let me tell you how to do this movie.

- Main plot should be a conspiracy at a high corporate level. Possibly with links to the government, intelligence community or defense.
- Dilbert should be set up to be the scapegoat or perhaps things should be done to remove him so he won’t find out what’s going on.
- PHB could perhaps promote Dilbert to higher level of management and make him do public speaking training. Dilbert need to go outside his comfort zone.
- Dilbert experiences something that’s new to him in the corporate world.
- Similar stuff is done to Wally and Alice - but their buttons are pushed differently.
- Dilbert suscpects something is wrong and starts an investigation which takes him through the company.
- The story should mainly take place inside the company - Dilbert outside the company walls won’t feel right. No car chase or high rise fight.
- Limit the action and develop multiple subplots which are not that complicated and that allows for funny dialog
- Think The Big Lewboski meets Disclosure
Feb 6, 2014
I've got 9 weeks of vacation on the books - would that be long enough for me to live in your guest room while we work?
Feb 6, 2014
Scott, you really do need an engineer... You lack specifications on "local". I am within 1 light year. Is that close enough?

Also, have you considered crowd funding? I would totally throw a hundred bucks or so toward the project for a signed comic print. Heck I'd probably throw in a lot more to be a guest character in a public Dilbert strip. I know I gave money to Penn Jillette's movie.

Also, don't fret too much about the movie. Comic strip based movies don't exactly have the best track record. I mean you're competing with the likes of Garfield here...
Feb 6, 2014
There already was a Dilbert-ish movie with live actors. Its called Office Space. If you're going to do one, better make sure you can clear that bar, because that's what everyone is going to compare it to.

[Office Space is only half a movie. No one liked the second half. And the first part was a direct Dilbert ... um...homage. Is the bar really that high? -- Scott]
Feb 6, 2014
Are you still paying attention to this blog harrykrak? Sounds like maybe a job for you.
Feb 6, 2014
Hope you intend to break a few of those script rules you've been immersing yourself in. One of the big beefs I have with Hollywood movies is how formulaic, how alike, they seem.

And the live action idea strikes me as just begging for trouble.
Feb 6, 2014
You need external funding for this? Or are you intending to match that million dollars.
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