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
One way into a writing career is to make a splashy spec sale. However, it is rare and not the only way. Another way is to get a movie made, even a small movie with independent distribution. Every major agency in town (that would be L.A.) has a department to help you do this. They call it “packaging”. Packaging means taking a great script, finding a director, talent, money and distribution, and bringing them all together. Yes, that is what a producer is supposed to do, but the agencies realized some time ago that they have ready access to all the elements and can charge huge fees for doing the same thing as long as they don’t call themselves producers.
The rub is, there is tremendous competition for the attention of packaging agents just as there is for all other agents. However, unlike in ordinary spec sales, elements you bring to the table besides the script itself can help in packaging. For example, if you have interest from a bankable director, if you have raised part of the budget, or if you have interest from a bankable actor, you have a good chance of at least getting the project reviewed by a packaging agent. And remember, what is bankable to the indie market is much broader than what is bankable to the studios.
Packaging is particularly suited to quality scripts that can be made on a budget. Quality genre scripts are very popular for packaging. There is also a fairly strong market for schlock genre scripts, but because there are so many of these mediocre scripts out there, you really need to bring some other strong element to the table to get your mediocre script noticed.
The money for packaged scripts is typically not nearly as good as for studio projects, but you are launching a career. It pays to consider packaging as another avenue into the biz.