Good Advice for Screenwriters
Once again, we're hearing from new writers who want to write scripts
that stand very little chance in the marketplace. They say things like,
"COLD MOUNTAIN got made and I have a Civil War love story, so I have a chance
too! Or, "TITANIC cost a zillion dollars to make and so will my script.
It's practically a done deal for me!"
Sorry to rain on your parade, but the sad reality is that many movies
get made because they were a hit from another medium such as a book or a
play or they were produced because of the credentials of the people behind
them. COLD MOUNTAIN was a best selling novel and TITANIC had mega
moviemaker James Cameron behind it.
Let's look at ALL THE KING'S MEN, a period drama that made about a
nickel at the box office. It was based on a best-selling book that was
initially translated into a film in the 1940s. It won the Best Actor Oscar (tm)
for its star, Broderick Crawford.(tm) If you, Mr. or Ms. Unknown Writer
wrote a similar story as a spec script, fuhgetaboutit. No way you're going to
sell it unless Spielberg was your uncle and he owed you a favor.
So what's an unproduced, unsold spec writer to do? Study the
marketplace and see what the newbies are selling. Most likely you'll find
contemporary comedies, thrillers and action scripts that are high concept, which
means a story that can be explained in a few sentences. Then do some
brainstorming and come up with something that is contemporary and
commercial. The more you understand the marketplace, the better you'll
understand what "commercial" is.
If you want to write a screenplay that's not commercial such as a
period drama, consider writing it first as a novel or perhaps a short story.
Then you'll need to get the novel or story published. Tough no doubt but
easier than first trying to sell an uncommercial spec script without any track