March 29


WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE? (Classic Post)

Trev asks:

How do you feel choice of subject matter influences commercial success. Do you think Hollywood is more interested in another LETHAL WEAPON or SCREAM 3 rather than another AMERICAN BEAUTY?

If you were starting out–what genre would you write for spec?

That’s really three separate questions, so here are three answers:

How does choice of subject matter influence commercial success?

Subject matter per se has little to do with commercial success. Unlikely subjects often turn into successful movies. E.G. “Shindler’s List” (Holocaust), “A Beautiful Mind” (life of an obscure – at least to the public – economist), “Sideways” (wine tasting). The real question for the spec writer (and probably any writer) is whether you can make the subject accessible to your audience. If you desire to write for mainstream Hollywood, then you want the subject to be accessible to mainstream audiences. At the risk of getting a parade of horrible subject matters, I can say that there is almost no subject that, with the right story treatment, cannot be used to create a marketable spec screenplay.

That having been said, the more uncomfortable the subject matter, the more difficult you may find it to create the right story treatment. You will walk a fine line between honoring the subject matter and telling an accessible story.

Do you think Hollywood is more interested in another LETHAL WEAPON or SCREAM 3 rather than another AMERICAN BEAUTY? Continue reading

January 28


WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? (Classic Post)

Michael Blake
Bruce Joel Rubin
Alfred Uhry
Christopher Hampton
Mark Peploe
Bernardo Bertolucci
John Patrick Shanley
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Kurt Luedtke
Earl W. Wallace
Peter Shaffer
Robert Benton
John Briley
Ernest Thompson
Colin Welland
Alvin Sargent
Bo Goldman
Steve Tesich
Nancy Dowd
Waldo Salt
Robert C. Jones
Alvin Sargent
Marshall Brickman
Lawrence Hauben
Frank Pierson
William Peter Blatty
David S. Ward
Jeremy Larner
Ernest Tidyman
Edmund H. North
James Goldman
Stirling Silliphant
William Rose
Robert Bolt
Claude Lelouch
Frederic Raphael
Edward Anhalt
S. H. Barnett
John Osborne
James R. Webb
Abby Mann
William Inge
Richard Brooks
Neil Paterson
Nedrick Young
Harold Jacob Smith
George Wells
August 22


What Does Paul Haggis Know? (Classic Post)

Know your screenwriters. Paul Haggis is an interesting and complex character; he is a screenwriter. His credits span from Walker, Texas Ranger to the Oscar nominated screenplay for Million Dollar Baby to the Oscar winning screenplay for Crash. He was a writer on Casino Royale, the first James Bond reboot, and its follow up Quantum of Solace. He is one of the few important Hollywood figures to publicly renounce Scientology. You can read his interesting bio here, and/or listen to him discuss screenwriting in this interview….

August 3


THE WAITING PLACE (Classic Post)

Carolyn from Los Angeles asks:

I submitted a revision 12 days ago, with agent’s permission. What is a reasonable time to follow through?

There is no standard time, but a couple of weeks is usually not unreasonable for a follow up call. I have had revisions considered immediately, i.e. I got a call back hours after submitting them, and I have had revisions languish for months, which is an unmistakable signal that there was no real interest in the first place and my work revising the material was a waste of effort. I recommend that you ask your agent what he or she thinks.

Also, if your agent submitted the material and you do not personally have a working relationship with the producer, make the agent do the follow up. If you do follow up directly and your revised version has not been covered yet, ask the producer (or whoever you submitted it to) when you should follow up next. Always be professional and courteous in your communications, but do not hesitate to ask when you should follow up again.