It’s hard to believe that Transformers movies have scripts or that anyone would even bother to care about the story at this point, but Paramount is heavily invested in their cash cow, and have put together a writers room for the future of the franchise. Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale) is functioning as the head writer and working alongside Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk), Jeff Pinker (Lost), Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man), The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), Christina Hodson (Shut In), Lindsey Beer, Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down), Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil TV Series). The current mandate is for this writers room to come up with an interconnected universe for the series going forward.
DeKnight is currently at the TCAs for Daredevil (he’s an executive producer on Season 2, but not the showrunner), and commented on the experience of trying to write movies as if it were a TV series:
STEVEN S. DEKNIGHT: You know, it’s that wonderful thing where features are now taking a page from television and getting people together to plan things out, and it was a wonderful experience. Akiva Goldsman was fantastic, and Jeff Pinkner, who’s co-writing the 5th movie with him, was phenomenal — Zak Penn — it was just a room full of brilliant, funny, amazing people. We spent two and a half weeks in best — psychically, the best writers’ room I’ve ever seen in my life. Paramount pulled out all the stops. It was phenomenal. We laughed, and joked, and told stories and plotted out — I can’t say what we plotted out, but it was all very exciting. In the next few months we’ll see what moves forward and what doesn’t move forward. It was a fantastic experience. One of the best experiences of that was when Steven Spielberg popped by to just sit, and talk, and hear what we were working on. Everybody was about to throw up they were so excited.
DeKnight was enthusiastic about Paramount trying a television-style approach to their film franchise, although he thought it works best for mapping out multiple films rather than just a single blockbuster:
What do you think that franchise learned from the experience of having a writers room with a lot of TV writers?
DEKNIGHT: It remains to be seen. I think the biggest thing that does when you’re dealing with a franchise that is so global and makes so much money, is actually taking a moment to think things out. Because a lot of the time, you go into production and you don’t have a finished script, the script is still being worked on. It’s very difficult to work that way. I can’t imagine — especially with the second movie when the writer’s strike happened and Michael Bay has to start prepping anyway — I can’t imagine trying to prep a movie of that size and complexity not having a locked script. It happens all the times in movies, you just have to start because of people’s availabilities. So my hat’s off to Paramount for trying something new in this way and really giving this writers room thing a spin. For me, it was a fantastic experience. I loved it.
Would you use the writers’ room method on a feature film?
DEKNIGHT: If it was one feature, probably not. For one thing, I don’t think they would ever pay for it, because writers are kind of expensive to get them all together. But if it was for a bigger franchise that was a trilogy? Absolutely, I think it’s a great way to go.
I’m not inherently opposed to a writers room approach to a film franchise, but it’s difficult to be optimistic on the Transformers franchise when the movies are consistently awful and make tons of money despite being utter garbage. But if there’s this much investment at the script stage, then maybe there’s hope for the future of the franchise much like there’s hope you can get rich if you buy a lot of lottery tickets.