Tag Archives: low-budget

To trend or not to trend… writing in the “hot” genre

What is “hot” in Hollywood? What kind of screenplay does Hollywood want?

Surely, the cynical starving writer thinks, if I find out what genre is hot and I write in that genre, Hollywood will want my screenplays? The simply law of supply and demand will do my marketing job for me. If “found footage” scripts are hot, simply write one and riches will await.

But hang on, says the artist (who doesn’t mind if he or she starves or not), isn’t that betraying your art? Isn’t it selling… out?

Well, I have no problem with someone writing for a living. Even Leonardo da Vinci had to eat. And although I could do without yet another “disaster mash-up” movie (SyFy channel, I’m looking at you), I remember one of my earliest instincts was to find out what Hollywood wants in a screenplay. After all, they are the buyers and I am the seller.

But there are several problems with trying to write in the “hot genre”. First of all, Hollywood is a long way away. Not just in space, but in time. Studios frequently undertake test screenings to gauge the popularity of a film before it is finished. People in Hollywood know what the outcome of these screening are. Hence in your newsletter you might get an inexplicable slew of requests for stories about “dogs verses aliens” from producers anxious to copy the newest surefire hit.

And therein lies the problem. Because by the time you write said screenplay, the trend will be over, and “Buster Saves the World” will be yesterday’s movie news. Writing for the latest hot trend is like trying to hit a constantly moving target. By the time you’ve nocked your arrow and written your screenplay, the movie world has moved on to the next “hot” project.

Having said that…

Certain types of script always stand more of a chance of getting made. They are generally as follows…

– Female driven

– Limited location

– Low budget

– Horror/thriller

– No SFX

These are the calls for screenplays you will encounter most frequently in newsletters and advertisements.

BUT.. and this is a big BUT!

I personally have found that I have less success trying to write in low budget genres. For some reason I naturally (and unfortunately) gravitate toward big action set pieces, usually sci-fi or horror. And yet I have more success selling these type of stories than when I write my one-location character-driven drama.

So if anything can be drawn from my limited experience, it’s this… write in the style and genre you love AND which you are best at. Whatever the budget. Whatever the genre. And THEN worry about rewriting it so it can get made. Maybe you can reduce the budget without losing that great scene with the giant ape climbing the Empire State Building.

This is a strange business. As Dan Ackroyd once said: “I write ’em big, and they keep making ’em.”

Here’s hoping you can write big too!

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The demise of low budget horror…

Strolling through the virtual aisles of my online video rental site (the real video store in my neighborhood was torn down years ago), I happened to notice something strange.

When I first started renting movies, in my teens, there were lots of videos that would never have seen the light of day but for the limited collection of obscure treats in the back of my local dodgy grocery store.

I’m talking about such cult releases as “The Stuff” (a black comedy about killer yoghurt), “Society” (a bizarre tale where a boy discovers his rich relations are all shape-shifting monsters), and “Re-Animator” (a hysterical horror comedy very loosely based on HP Lovecrafts serial). Sure, these films were cheap and cheerful. But they were also GOOD movies. Heck, some of them are now hailed as classics.

The Stuff  - killer yoghurt on the rampage!

The Stuff – killer yoghurt on the rampage!

But looking at the new horror releases, I was depressed to see that so many look like the hybrid offspring of some poorly-conceived and executed SyFy channel monster /disaster mash-up. There are , for instance, innumerable takes on “Shark Night” (“Shark Week”), the woefully bad “Sharktopus” series (“Pirhanaconda”, anyone?) The poster to “Back From Hell” looks suspiciously similar to the “Cabin in the Woods”, while there are too many “Dawn of the Dead” and “Saw” rip-offs even to list.

Zombies - a lot more common nowadays.

Zombies – a lot more common nowadays.

I understand that sometimes distributors put pressure on small studios to come up with something that they can actually sell. But does the world really need another Shark/creature combination? What’s next,”Sharkgerbil 2″, “Sharkplatypus” (and if that gets made I want my share of the royalties)?

I know at least one microstudio that continues to put out highly original films as well as satisfying the distributors. So it can be done. Come on indie producers, give us the next generation of “Evil Dead” movies, give us our Jack Deths.

You can be that filmmaker who has adoring fans thirty years or more down the line. But to get there, you have to dare to be original.

Herbert West is about to get ahead in his medical studies.

Herbert West is about to get ahead in his medical studies.