Thursday 3 November 2011

Write for yourself

Life is a journey, not a destination. As someone smarter than me once said: Take time to smell the flowers. Many of the wannabe screenwriters I know are desperately hoping to break into Hollywood with their next script. They keep one eye on the page and the other on the market. In the latest Done Deal Pro newsletter, Dave Trottier (author of the helpful The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script) was asked about what sells in the market? He responded by saying this:
First of all, almost nothing sells. That fact tends to skew the data so it’s hard to make any real statistical analysis of what sells. If you exclude sequels, remakes, book/video game/comic book adaptations, and other branded properties, the original material that sells shows no real trend other than this: buyers buy scripts that are like the most recent surprise hit movie. Everyone wants Bridesmaids today. When I broke in, everyone wanted the next American Pie. These scripts don’t always translate into movies that get made or successes at that, but that’s the way buyers think. Again, the key is the surprise hit. Everyone knows that Transformers will perform. But when a movie comes around that surprises the studios, it forces them to reconsider their buying pattern and chase the trend.

Note, however, that this applies to the very small number of original scripts they buy. Statistically speaking, the odds of you writing that trend-capturing script is so small that you are better off writing something that interests you and making sure you have a good sample.

"Almost nothing sells." Life is short. Don't waste it.

Why would anyone be crazy enough to write a screenplay in a genre they don’t like? There are plenty of reasons, most of them stupid. Writers sometimes get weird notions in their head, like “Hollywood is only buying comedies right now, so I have to write a comedy to have a chance on the spec market” or “Horror is cheap to produce, so there’s a chance a small production company will buy my script if they think they can shoot it for nothing.”
Here’s why that makes no sense:
It’s a waste of time. At least a month to develop the idea, the characters, and the outline. Probably at least two months to write the first draft. Let’s be generous and say two months of rewrite work to get the script up to a decent standard. That is five freaking months. Do you really want to be living and breathing a project you don’t like for five months? That’s five months of forcing yourself to be funny when you don’t feel funny, or forcing suspense when you’d rather just kick back and write a romance.
I don’t know about you, but that would drive me insane. And at the end of it, all you have to show for your efforts is a script you don’t love.
Screenwriting (any kind of writing, actually, even blogs) is time-consuming. It takes over your life. If you're going to give yourself to something, it might as well be something you enjoy. Don't write to please others, write what you find interesting and rewarding. Maybe it will sell and maybe it won't. Truth is, it probably won't. All the more reason for you to have some fun along the way.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

This is very sensible advice, Henry. I was a bit worried about the implied difference between keying yourself to write suspense when you'd rather "kick back and write a romance". To me romances are nail-biting affairs. But hey, thanks for the post.