2017 is an interesting year for followers of Marvel Studios, as it has offered a deeper look into how this small studio tackles their costly film projects. Just recently, a look behind the scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 revealed many of the security measures implemented by the studio. Now, we also have a bit more information on the writing process at Marvel Studios, including the resurrection of the Marvel Writers Program, the rigorous process Marvel first used in 2009 to develop scripts for new properties. The program produced scripts for Runaways (which has now been adapted to a TV series), and a screenplay for Guardians of the Galaxy written by Nicole Perlman.
In a recent interview on the Great Big Beautiful Podcast, Perlman offered a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes process of how Marvel features get written, and revealed that the program has been revived:
Interestingly enough, they restarted it a few months ago. I’m surprised to find that out because I sort of assumed they wouldn’t have a lot of extra bandwidth or room in their slate but it looks like they’re starting it up again. My experience [in the program] was a good one especially because of Guardians.. it’s a different program than a lot of these … Warner Bros or Lionsgate, which have their own kind of program. Marvel’s is less curated. I think its a lot of “Here’s a list of projects. If you like one of them, go around with it and then show what you’ve got when you’ve developed it,” with no guarantee that it will get made or that it will move forward. But it’s actually a safe space to experiment and play with these characters. And honestly, some of my best friends I made in Hollywood I made from my time there.
The revival of the program likely means that Marvel is looking to generate scripts for new properties that haven’t yet made an appearance in the MCU, suggesting that Phase 4 will be far more than just sequels of existing properties. But before you pack your bag to move to LA and write the next great Marvel movie, keep in mind that there’s no open application process:
Marvel handpicks people [to invite] for the program. It’s not an open application. The way that I got into it was I had a general meeting with Marvel because they liked my writing samples and had seen other projects I had sold, and they just had a general meeting with me and I told them how I really wanted to get into writing more fun blockbuster action adventure genres that I enjoy so much. And they were “Oh that’s fantastic! We’re running this program and if you wanna apply for it..” They invited me to apply and it was a pretty rigorous process, and you show them that you’re nimble in your ability to take notes and do all the stuff you have to do in the program. It was great. That was back in 2009. I was in the program for 2 years, and then they brought me back to do more freelance on Guardians after the program ended.
While we do know some of the details about the Writers Program, many details are shrouded in the usual Marvel secrecy. One of the things we still don’t know is what other properties were developed in the program, and which ones we might see come out of the revitalized version. Unfortunately, Perlman wasn’t willing to spill any secrets:
Some of the characters on that list ended up being brought to screen by the people, but I don’t think I’m free to say what those characters were.
It will be interesting to see if this pays off for the studio in the long run and what characters might be added to the ever-growing roster in the coming years, but for now we can take it as a sure sign that the Marvel train isn’t slowing down any time soon.