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The market is changing. Because this is America, a company isn’t doing well unless it’s growing. Stock prices must continue to rise. Dividends must continue to… … divvy.  And that’s putting pressure on Hollywood to deliver product with more upside. Obviously, there’s only so much a single film can do. Only so many toys it can produce. Only so many tie-ins it can manufacture.

For awhile, the studios had a solution for this. They called them “sequels.” Clever idea, right?  Sequels allowed a studio to keep making money off the same property. But sequels can take 2-3 years to make. Growth, once again, was stagnated by a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Enter the “universe” phase. Universes not only allow you that original movie plus its sequels. But now you can have SPINOFF films. Have a super-hero or secondary character everybody loved? Give him his own movie! Conceivably, you can now release a movie from your franchise EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Marvel proved this was a viable business model with their Avengers franchise. Pretty soon, Star Wars jumped on the bandwagon, then Universal with their horror characters, and DC/WB with the Justice League, though they seemed a little confused by the whole notion (“Universe? Ohhhh-kaaayyy.  Yeah, we’ll do that.”).

Now whether this model will work for an extended period of time is another question. The reason they didn’t do this kind of thing before was because they assumed people would get sick of seeing the same old shit. But with Marvel’s dominance, we’ve surprisingly witnessed the opposite. People want more of this shit!

The result is that intellectual property drives the majority of studios’ decisions now. And if your intellectual property can spurn more intellectual property, even better.

Nipping at the heels of the “universe” IP approach are YA novel adaptations. Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver. Publishing houses are starting YA novel brands with the explicit purpose of getting movie deals out of them. So crazy has the YA novel craze gotten, you can’t even option YA books that have 5 reviews on Amazon anymore. Desperate producers have already beaten you to the punch!

After that, you have the toy properties (Transformers, G.I. Joe, The Lego Movie), the traditional sequel franchises (Planet of the Apes, Fast and Furious), high-profile book adaptations (Lord of the Rings, World War Z) the animation properties (mainly Disney and Pixar), and the occasional ultra-concept film (Godzilla, Super 8).

So what does over-dependence on IP mean? It means fewer and fewer slots on the calendar for original spec screenplays. Which is why you’re seeing less and less screenplays being purchased. Now I’ve been reading a lot of the specs out there, the ones making big enough waves to get noticed, and the biggest reason they’re not doing well, in my eyes, is because they’re not good enough.

This stems from the majority of writers assuming their scripts only have to be as good as the movies they see on a typical summer weekend. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The top films at the box office were all born out of intellectual property. In other words, the people on the other end of the pitch already knew what the writer/producers were talking about. When someone hears, “Godzilla,” they know who Godzilla is. They don’t have any idea what your script, Chocolate Frank and the Huckleberry Dancers, is about. It’s just a pile of digital paper.  That means the big IP project shoots to the top of the priority list while Huckleberry Frank gets stuck up chocolate creek without a paddle.  The only way your script is going to get picked over a project like Godzilla is if it’s exceptional, not simply “as good as.”

Intellectual property has taken over and you, the screenwriters with original ideas, are being pushed out. Should you throw in the towel? Give in? Of course not. Adversity is the harbinger for some of the greatest creations in history. We must adapt! We must change our tactics. But I shall warn you. Not all of this advice here is sexy. We’re looking at cold hard facts so we need to consider cold hard solutions. Throw all your preconceived notions about how to make it in this industry in a box and slide it under the bed. It’s time to put on your reality pajamas and make some tough decisions.

How to compete with IP…

Solution 1: Make your own movie – Far from earth-shattering advice. But this continues to be one of the fastest ways to break in because you bypass all the bullshit gridlock Hollywood’s famous for. Movies are getting cheaper and cheaper to make. The amazing Blackmagic camera can be had for under two grand. And since you’re on this site, you already have a HUGE advantage over your competition. One of the biggest weaknesses in any low-budget film is a bad script. But you guys are writers! You know how to write a script. So write something cheap and shoot it cheap and get it out there!

Solution 2: Write comedies or thrillers. These two genres seem impervious to the IP plague. The great thing about thrillers is you can write them in multiple genres (horror, sci-fi, action, psychological), so you have a lot of range there to find subject matter you like. And comedies don’t need IP to be funny. Again, if you can come up with a clever concept (Neighbors), you can be looking down at the rest of us from your house in the hills at this time next year. These two genres are the best genres to write in if you’re writing specs, point blank.

Solution 3: The “spec universe” – The next option is one that hasn’t been proven yet, but with the “universe” approach gaining steam, I think it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the next big thing in spec screenwriting. It’s basically what “Moonfall” writer David Weil did. Off the buzz of Moonfall’s success, he used his meetings to pitch a 7 movie franchise based on The Arabian Nights.

Now there’s two things going on here. First, Weil is using an “IP” property that’s in the public domain. This allows the studio to get all the benefits of IP without having to pay for it. Secondly, he’s using the “universe” approach here to pitch the property. He didn’t come in with a single tiny spec to sell. Remember, studios have to think bigger now. They need more to bring to their investors. They want properties that are going to deliver over a longer period of time.

So look back through those public domain properties and see if anything sparks your imagination. The Count of Monte Cristo, a great book, is a popular older property that keeps getting remade. Can you come up with a franchise version of that? Of something else like it? I mean obviously you don’t want to force a “universe” onto an idea that can’t support it. But if the opportunity’s there, why not take it?

Solution 4: True stories, known quantities and IP sneak-arounds – Hollywood loves true stories. They love’em! So go out there and find a captivating true story to tell. You have 10,000 years of recorded history to draw from. I guarantee there are a few thousand amazing true stories that haven’t been told yet. Another option is a “known quantity IP sneak-around” approach. You find something that’s real and that everyone is familiar with, and you build a story around that. This is how Aaron Berg sold Section 6 for a million bucks (about the origin of MI-6), and I’m sure it played a role in F. Scott Frazier’s recent sale about an agent who worked for the agency that would later become the CIA. The idea here is to find sexy subject matter that people have heard about, and build a story around it, so it’s an easier sell, both from writer to studio, and studio to moviegoer. Once again, this is a way to write about something known without paying an IP price for it.

Solution 5: “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.” – Basically, throw out the idea of selling a spec. Instead, figure out which kinds of movies you love above all others, the kind of movies you’d die to get paid to write the rest of your lives, and write a script in that genre. So if you love movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, write a big crazy space opera. If you like Godzilla, write or make a movie about big monsters. The script will serve more as a writing sample for what you’re capable of doing, and get you out on meetings with the kinds of people who make the movies you want to write. You may not get that big splashy sale, but you get to play in the sandbox you always dreamed of playing in, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Solution 6: If you can’t join’em, leave’em. And write a pilot. – Pilots are so much easier to sell than specs these days. Everybody wants them. I heard even the Weather Network is jumping on the original programming bandwagon. Anybody have a spec titled “Light Rain?” As a movie lover, this used to be unthinkable to me. Who cares about TV! But TV keeps getting better and they treat writers like kings compared to the feature world. So pour through all of your movie ideas and see if any can be adapted into TV shows.

Solution 7: Write a great script. – No, I’m serious. If all else fails and you don’t like any of these options, write an awesome script about anything you want and I PROMISE you, you’ll get noticed.  Just keep in mind that if you go this route, the script has to be better than if you go any of the other routes.  You have to knock it out of the park.  To achieve this, make sure you are BEYOND PASSIONATE about your idea. Because if you’re not passionate, you won’t pour your soul into it, and if you don’t pour your soul it, there’s little chance of it being great.  If it’s not great, you’ve got no shot at competing with all those big IP properties.  Also, make sure there’s a good story here. Don’t write about an entitled 25 year old white male who’s depressed because his trust fund was taken away from him (unless it’s a comedy!). Give us a real story and tell it well.

What about you folks? What do you think writers should be writing in this new era? Is there something I’ve forgotten? A future trend you see coming around the corner? Share and debate in the comments section!

  • Casper Chris

    Any (registered) screenplay is an intellectual property. You mean established intellectual property. Let’s call it EIP from now on.

    • carsonreeves1

      That’s true. I was wondering if I should distinguish.

      • Casper Chris

        Doesn’t matter. Just wanted to clarify. Good article.

      • Scott Crawford

        Terry Rossio came up with the term “Mental Real Estate”. The Curse of the Black Pearl was an ORIGINAL pitch, but he and Ted Elliot added The Pirates of the Carribean franchise to it in order to sell it to Disney.

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      That’s what I call “ball-busting definitions.” Stop making life more complicated than it is.

      • Casper Chris

        ??

        • Scott Crawford

          I think he means that if our IP became our EIP, then our USP could be MIA. Then we’ll all be FUBAR!

          Seriously, I could easily lose track of some of these new acronyms. How about “established elements”, “familiar elements”.

  • Midnight Luck

    There’s also the fact that they are now doing the “Universe” approach to TV as well.

    Since BREAKING BAD was such an enormous Juggernaut of a hit, they decided to extend it out to other characters. BETTER CALL SAUL is coming. I have heard a number of other ideas for characters from BB might become shows as well. And when asked if Walter White might return, Bryan Cranston said something to the effect of – I won’t say No, Anything is possible –

    So now, as they are rolling out the “Universe” idea for TV shows, the market for writing for TV might start to slim as well. If the audience takes a liking to popular characters from their favorite shows getting their own spotlight, what will that mean?

    Who needs new work or new writers anymore?

    • Casper Chris

      BETTER CALL SAUL sounds like a terrible idea. Hopefully they can prove me wrong.

      • Midnight Luck

        When I first heard of BETTER CALL SAUL, I honestly thought it was a joke. I mean I laughed and enjoyed everything about Saul during the show, but I couldn’t imagine an entire show about him. After time though, I started to see the appeal, and that in fact, it could work. Especially with what they did with Breaking Bad. That was the best writing I have ever seen on TV. So, I am intrigued and will gladly give it a chance.

        • Casper Chris

          Do we know more about it at this point? All I’ve heard about is that it’s a spin-off show centering on Saul from BB. Which sounds terrible to me. And reeks of desperation.

          • Scott Crawford

            From 30 Rock: “I haven’t seen such a unanimously negative reaction since the Frasier spinoff “Hey Roz”.

      • Scott Crawford

        Three word. EVERYBODY. LIKES. ROBERT.

        Didn’t happen.

    • Brainiac138

      “Who needs new work or new writers anymore?”

      That is going to be a question asked more and more as auteur television becomes bigger. Why pay for a whole writers room when you can just brand a single writer as a genius and have them write every episode. Not that I have anything against some of the folks who that has happened to, but I do see a future where that could happen to the wrong writer on the wrong show.

      • Scott Crawford

        Well, we’ve done that for YEARS here in England. Dozens of episodes written by one man, or a writing team. Limits the number of episodes: 13 episodes of the UK Office versus… how many of the US? Over 200 by now?

        Two words: Downton and Abbey. Julian Fellowes (Academy Award winner), writes every episode. Not my kind of thing, but I wish them all luck.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      They’re doing this with The Walking Dead. Either next year or the year after, there will be a spin-off series set in another part of the country with all new characters. I suppose the big payoff might come when they do an Avengers style “meet up” of both casts sometime in the future.

      If Walking Dead 2.0 is a hit I expect we’ll see a World War Z television series in conjunction with a possible big budget Brad Pitt sequel. There is certainly tons of material they could mine from the novel. Things that weren’t even remotely hinted at or included in the movie adaptation.

      I can only imagine how many Game of Thrones spin-offs they’ll make once all of the novels have been adapted and the initial show has concluded in a few more years.

  • witwoud

    Solution 8: Write a novel.

    • ripleyy

      Novelization is the way to go. You find a script you like, write it up as a novel, put it up on Amazon. It’s also a REALLY good way to know your story inside out. I’ve done the same thing with a script of mine and I can safely say I know the story a lot more because of it.

      • Scott Crawford

        How many books are there on Amazon? I mean the cheap e-books written by someone with no track records? Thousands. (If anyone has a more precise figure that would be interesting.). I think for some time it’s been difficult for anyone to get a book, not only published, but with the heavy promotion necessary for success unless they have some interesting back story.

        I think it’s slightly different for SCREENwriters; the people who go and see the movies made from our screenplays (yes please!) don’t care who we are. And I don’t really care who wrote a good book, so long as it’s good, but the morning shows, the radio shows, internet webcasts, whatever, won’t interview authors about their books unless they’re famous (the Kendall sisters “wrote” a book!) or were a former Navy SEAL.

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          “the people who go and see the movies made from our screenplays (yes please!) don’t care who we are. ”

          This is why I can’t understand why some times the producers make deals with writers not to give them credit for their work. It’s like “we like what you wrote; we just don’t like that YOU wrote it.”

          Anyone has a good answer to that? I’d love to wrap my head around it.

          • Scott Crawford

            I think you’re talking about WGA arbitration which is a MINEFIELD. But really it’s unfair to take attention away from the guy who did all the heavy-lifting vis-a-vis story and character, in favor of a well-know writer who just did a dialogue pass.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            I just don’t get why they would do that? I’m sure the writer of the original material would have no problem sharing the credit with the star writer that did the dialogue pass instead of not receiving credit at all.

            So, is this just a way to keep the star writer happier?

          • Scott Crawford

            No, Panos, it’s not about credit, it’s about money. Writer’s get paid maybe half the money if they only get half the credit, and half the residuals. It’s really, really complicated.

            Say you’re paid a million dollars to write a script. You might get $400,000 for the first draft, $200,000 for the second draft, then – if they still want you and you’re still available – $100,000 for the third draft and $50,000 for the fourth draft. That’s $750,000. The last $250,000 is a bonus, if the movie gets made.

            If the movie gets made, AND the writer gets solo SCREENPLAY credit (Written by Panos Tsapanidis, or Story by Scott Crawford, Screenplay by Panos Tsapanidis), then you get $1 million MINUS any money you’ve already been paid. So you can get paid $1 million for writing just two drafts. Plus you’ll get FULL residuals, that means every DVD that’s sold or rented or Netflixed (I’m not an expert!) you get a small amount, and that could add up to MILLIONS.

            If you get SHARED SCREENPLAY credit (Story by Panos Tsapanidis, Screenplay by Panos Tsapanidis and Scott Crawford) you’ll only get paid for what you’ve written – the first two steps are guaranteed, so that’s at least $600,000 – plus half the bonus, so $125,000. Plus you only get half the residuals.

            If you get NO SCREEENPLAY credit (Story by Panos Tsapanidis, Screenplay by Scott Crawford), you get your $600,000, but no bonus, and NO residuals. That’s a HUGE difference.

            I told you it was complicated! I’m not even too sure if I’ve got it 100% right, but that’s how I think it works or worked.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Scott,
            It turns out it’s not so complicated or you did a really good job explaining it.

            So, could the company own the 1st or 2nd draft the original writer wrote, and then have the “right” to tell him that he won’t receive any final credit?

            Could the writer refuse right there and then and tell them to give him final credit or they don’t get the work he made up to that point?

          • Scott Crawford

            No, if a writer is PAID to write two drafts (or one draft in some case) that work belongs to the whoever paid that writer for it. Since some A-list writers will get $1 million for those two drafts, they can’t grumble too much.

            If the writer disagrees with the way he is credited, he can go to arbitration and the credits might be changed or they might not be – it can get bloody. Joss Whedon wrote at least HALF of one of my favorite films, Speed, but didn’t get the credit. Even the writer, Graham Yost – who now has a successful career in TV – says Whedon should have got credit. But that would mean Yost giving up millions in residuals (Yost was only paid SCALE – about $90,000! – in the original sale).

            If the writer objects to the way his material has been used but STILL wants to be credited, he can use a pseudonym. Richard Weiss (David Mamet) for Ronin.

          • Panos Tsapanidis

            Gotcha. Thanks, Scott.

          • Casper Chris

            Allen Smithee style.

          • Scott Crawford

            “Eibeen Scrood”. WGA didn’t allow that one.

          • Malibo Jackk

            WGA residuals were 5 cents per DVD sold
            but I believe they raised it 2 cents or so in the last negotiation.

          • Scott Crawford

            That’s what I thought, but I don’t know about Netflix and Amazon Prime and so on. MINEFIELD!

          • Franchise Blueprints
          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, explaining how arbitration works makes explaining how a screenwriter gets paid seem simple! But see how important it is; Dave Callaham gets $125,000 from The Expendables 3… and he didn’t write a word of it. Same with The Expendables 2. He only got a credit on The Expendables because Stallone suggested buying his original screenplay (forgot the name of it) for $250,000 and merging its ideas with what Stallone was writing. And the studio want to take Callaham’s name off the “Based on characters created by” credit to save themselves paying him more money. Especially if they do an Expendables TV series.

          • Brainiac138

            Branding is important to Hollywood.

  • Midnight Luck

    #9
    Write a script, then turn it into a Graphic Novel, and / or a Book.

    • Scott Crawford

      That’s more like storyboarding your script, and you’re right, it worked for Oblivion. Then again, once Tom Cruise agrees to do your screenplay, it has a much better chance of getting made.

    • leitskev

      Yes…and also explore starting with the E-book instead of the script, but using your screenwriter’s perspective and keeping the story visual and compact.

    • Franchise Blueprints
      • Hadley’s Hope

        Isn’t the entire point of the graphic novel route to take a script that didn’t generate interest in Hollywood, and take it to a different medium and new audience where it might take off? Same thing with adapting a spec into a novel and self-publishing it online (Amazon, B&N).

        I don’t see the logic in whipping up a shoddy graphic novel, yet you have no fanbase and then take it to Hollywood trying to squeeze out a spec sale. Why would they ever have cared about that anyways?

        Basically, why let a story you love and believe in die in the spec script arena? Maybe you make money on the graphic novel yet it never gets popular enough to gain the attention of Hollywood. Except you just made money by writing something and generated a fanbase. However small that may be, it is still a fanbase. It is something that can be built on. Perhaps the next self-published book or graphic novel is the one that takes off and becomes a hot property that Hollywood wants to offer you lots of money for the film rights?

    • Mike.H

      If anyone has F.Scott Frazier’s latest works such as

      –Day One

      — Berliner,

      –Metro 2033,

      — Heatseeker

      — Embassy.

      May1msg AT gmail dot com. Thanks in advance~!

    • Brainiac138

      This is so true. Steve Niles couldn’t get the 30 Days of Night script off the ground to save his life. He turned it into a bestselling graphic novel, Hollywood turned around and said they were ready for the film.

      • Scott Crawford

        That was how many years ago? Sure, it’s worked a FEW times, but it’s done now. If you’re scripts good enough, people will get it (most of the time) without the pictures.

    • fragglewriter

      I totally agree and with E-book and the ability to create your own blog to promote your writing, it’s much easier in this generation to promote onself and write from the heart.

  • Scott Crawford

    Maybe it’s belt-tightening, but the trend towards screenplays having cover art seems to have faded (exception: recent AOW entry Crash Forward. It’s a way of showing what the poster of a movie made from your screenplay might like.
    http://scriptshadow.net/concept-artists/

    • r.w. hahn

      Umm…Crash Backwards…and thank you Scott…my brother did the poster…www.wraithlight.com….JW Wraith….

      • Scott Crawford

        Sorry, f#’%ed up the kind shout-out! Maybe Crash Forward could be the second film in the franchise!

        I’ll crawl back into my hole.

        Lucky to have an artist for a brother.

        • r.w. hahn

          I love it! Thank you for that…Yes very blessed to have him especially as a brother…. Come out any time you want…:)

    • Brainiac138

      It’s still around. It just better be good and polished.

      • Scott Crawford

        It’s gotta look like a real movie poster, minus the stars and other credits. I’ve seen some pretty good ones on this website, and nobody in the industry has said don’t do it so far. In the age of interwebbery, we can’t just keep submitting black text on white backgrounds… can we?

        • Brainiac138

          Exactly, and it is a very good way to say, this is kind of a snapshot of the tone I am going for, more than anything. I haven’t seen the “interactive” screenplay that much recently, with hyperlinks to google maps for location, amazon lists for costumes, and things like that.

          • Scott Crawford

            The “interactive” screenplay sounds horrendous, but let’s be honest, everyone’s reading scripts off their computer or tablet, so they’re all online at the same time. I don’t think “interaction” will become the norm’, but imagine if George Lucas’ original Star Wars script had links to Ralph MacQuarrie’s concept art.

        • Cuesta

          Some people here said that they automatically pass on a script if it has anything non Courier 12 just on the title.
          So if a mere typography change makes them pass, you can imagine an image.

          • Scott Crawford

            As far as I’m aware, the poster is for pitching and wouldn’t be attached to the script itself.

  • Scott Crawford

    Probably your best bet (in every respect) if you want a franchise is to create great characters, maybe focus on them rather than a once-only high-concept plot, like Indiana Jones (four movies), Rush Hour (three movies), and even The Expendables (yes, theThe Expendables; three movies and none of them have lost money. Yet.). The other way is to focus on a WORLD, obviously Star Wars, but also the world of street-racing in The Fast and the Furious (six movies, and a seventh (possibly last, although you never know) next year).

    True stories about true people (from HISTORY, otherwise you could be talking $250,000 for “life rights” (e.g. The Terminal)). Of course, that means doing the research and getting the period dialogue right. ‘Cause again, you don’t OWN the rights to those events, so your version better be definitive (and if you lean too heavily on one source book, like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” for Lincoln, then you’ll have to buy the rights to that book or be sued).

    I write action so I like to think about the POSSIBILITY of toys and other memorabilia. I mean, all likelihood, never gonna happen, but it reminds me of when Schwarzenegger was going to star in a Randall Wallace script called On Wings of Eagles, the true story of a German army officer who turns against his country and frees POWs. Joel Schumacher (not attached to the project) remarked that the film was unlikely to happen because modern movies (like his Batman and Robin were based on toy sales, and he couldn’t imagine them selling many German army helmets. Smart-ass remark, but then a few years later Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and many WWII-related video games, and people want to know all about World War Two. (I’m writing a World War Two script at the moment as it happens, but more The Eagle Has Landed than Saving Private Ryan.).

    So, characters, world, toys.

    • Nate

      (I’m writing a World War Two script at the moment as it happens, but more The Eagle Has Landed than Saving Private Ryan.).

      Same. It’s The Dirty Dozen meets The Expendables.
      I’d like to see more WW2 and Vietnam / Cold War films released. You don’t really see many these days.

      • Scott Crawford

        Vietnam seems a bit bled dry, although I’m sure there’s some great stories there. Cold War’s big at the moment – all those files just being opened up.

        My story (hush, hush for the moment) started out as a contemporary action story but it wasn’t working, and it realized it would work better if set during WW2. More original too.

        • Nate

          Well if it ever gets put up on AOW I’ll definitely read it.

          I’ve just realised that my idea is basically The Dirty Dozen 2. It is the exact same idea.
          ”An OSS Operative leads a covert unit of soldiers, spies and criminals on a suicide mission to eliminate a secret cabal of Nazi officers before they can assassinate Adolf Hitler.”
          The only part I thought I was taking inspiration from was the premise of the original. Criminals recruited into a secret Army unit. I didn’t even know there was a sequel. I don’t know whether to rethink the idea or go ahead with it and see how it turns out.

          • Scott Crawford

            I’m not totally au fait with wartime history, but I know the Sicillian Mafia helped the allies (for their own ends) and France’s Union Corse helped the allies too (for their own ends). Soldiers and gangsters is a combination that’s been less used.

            Assassinating Hitler was not a good idea. F’#%ed up little p#*&! that he was, life would have been worse with Himmler in charge. Dirty Dozen 2 and Jack Higgins’ sequel The Eagle Has Flown both had the idea of STOPPING Hitler’s assassination, though that was twenty-three years ago. Don’t let precedent stop you – I’ve done that and it’s stupid, someone else will come along and write that script instead.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            “Don’t let precedent stop you – I’ve done that and it’s stupid, someone else will come along and write that script instead.”

            And they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank while we bitch and moan here in the comments about how we also “had that same idea and didn’t write it because we didn’t think it was unique enough”. That darn high concept mindfuck that has made me sit on cool ideas with the notion that it was done before in some slightly similar way. Only to see someone come along and do something similar and make a big sale.

            This is not to say a cool concept guarantees success, but it sure burns when you sit on something good and get beat to the punch by someone else. Especially when that other writer doesn’t do as much with the idea as you would have done, had you written it and gotten it out there.

          • Scott Crawford

            Into the Blue is basically The Deep with mismatched bikini bottoms – young couple searching for treasure get mixed up with drug smugglers, lady left on boat stabs man with spiked-pole(?) while her other half fights a guy underwater, drugs are destroyed, but the heroes get the treasure – only not as good. But screenwriter Matt Johnson sold it $500,000 and didn’t have to pay Peter Benchley a penny.

      • Randy Williams

        The problem with war scripts is not offending any party, or mostly, not appearing to desecrate the memory of the lost. I have an idea for a thriller, horror type script based on the Christian street children of Nazi Germany conquered countries who were rounded up, subjected to having their blood drawn on a regular basis to supply the German military and eventually drained to death.

        It’s like, maybe I shouldn’t even go there. Then again, it’s HISTORY and fair game.

        • Scott Crawford

          That’s not so much a “war” script as a script about the Nazis. My script is pure fantasy – though based on stuff that did happen during World War Two, a sort of “what if…?” – and therefore fair game.

          I think if Fury is a success in October it could lead to a wave – or a deluge – of similarly-themed stuff.

          • Randy Williams

            The Black List script, The Imitation Game, that’s coming out soon might aid in that wave building, too.

          • Nate

            There’s an idea I’ve got for a period script set in Victorian London. It’s a ”what if…” story, but the story could offend a lot of people, so I’m a bit reluctant to put pen to paper. I’ve mentioned it on here before and got a few replies about it.
            The story basically kills off Queen Victoria’s family which in turn kills off the royal family as we know it and introduces her fictional daughter who tries to thwart a coup d’état with the help of a criminal turned assassin.
            It might be a bit controversial, I guess.

          • Scott Crawford

            No, not controversial. Don’t forget that Queen Victoria was the grandmother of Kaiser Wilhem II, our enemy during World War One!

            If the story works, great. Let someone else decide if it’s controversial.

  • leitskev

    Great article.

  • r.w. hahn

    This is why I love your site. Your “insight”! Got my juices flowing better than my morning cup o coffee…

  • Magga

    I keep imagining what a better generation would have done with the opportunities available to us. Cheaper, awesome cameras, editing on your mac, a whole world of social media to spread the word and show trailers you can upload online for free, and we get corporate adaptations of what we liked as kids? Surely there must be a market for a company that makes 10 million dollar movies? Instead of spending 250 mill plus another 200 on advertising just to release one movie that will be a disaster if it doesn’t hit the jackpot, why not make 25 movies with the expectations that one or two could break out, while the others could break even after streaming and TV rights have been sold? I’m not talking about the established studios, they’ve been sold off to non-movie people who make decisions based on stats, but surely some benign venture capitalist could see the wisdom of betting on a company that made story-based movies? Is there a possible model for making streaming-exclusive films? Something has to happen to feature-length stories soon! I really hope there are smart teenagers plotting a future that’s better than what we made, because as audience members, who are always the real decision makers in the entertainment industry, we blew it.

    • Scott Crawford

      What you’re talking about, Magga, is the 1970s. Low(ish) budget gritty crime dramas, Disney family films, a few big budget blockbusters. Some things changed.

      1). The rise of the four-quadrant, money-making blockbuster. Out goes Quincy Jones and his jazz quartet, in comes Johnny Williams and the LSO.
      2). The rising cost of “talent”. Blame Cannon and Carolco, two INDEPENDENT production companies who offered large amounts of money to stars like Stallone and Bronson to star in their movies. They paid directors more too. And screenwriters (though we deserve every penny). Difficult for the above-the-line cost of some blockbusters to be less than $60 million, before a foot of film (gigabyte of disc?) is shot.

      Two things have changed that would support your suggestion:

      1). DVD revenue. GONE. Forever. Studios would make MILLIONS from movies. Without that revenue, films have to get cheaper.
      2). Movies can not only be shot cheaper, but promoted through “social media” (God, I hate those words – ptup!).

      • Franchise Blueprints

        1). DVD revenue. GONE. Forever. Studios would make MILLIONS from movies. Without that revenue, films have to get cheaper.

        Not true.

        Redbox kiosks are doing quite well. They also have perfect placement. Right at the exit of a big box retailer or grocery store. Best Buy sells recent releases at decent prices, and older releases at a discount bundle. You also have specialty independent video stores renting and selling rare import dvd’s.

        I would even argue some people prefer to wait for the dvd release to watch on their home theater systems.

        • Scott Crawford

          I’m definitely of the DVD generation and I can’t my head around all this Netflix, Amazon Studios stuff but I think insiders will tell you that the amount of money studios used to make in the “secondary” market – like $800 million for Pearl Habor, twice what it made in theaters – has diminished considerably to the extent that some films that were once made like, I don’t know, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I don’t think they could do something like that now, not for $150 million.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I have a minor dvd collection maybe 200 titles. As a kid I remember my neighbor had maybe 600 SVHS tapes with 3 movies recorded on each one. I have Netflix, but I also believe in having a physical copy of something I purchased. I’ve yet to purchase a mp3. I’m not saying I’m into piracy. I’m saying I have maybe 500 music cds. I accept DRM only on the basis of protecting profits for the creators. I don’t accept DRM when the creators want to keep my paid content on their cloud servers to limit the channels in which their works are distributed. I also don’t support DRM that tells me what I can and can’t do with something I paid for. I also will never buy an apple product and their proprietary restrictive system itunes.

          • Scott Crawford

            I’ve got maybe 300 to 400 DVDs, including TV and other stuff. I thought DVD was great. I don’t watch much stuff on my computer and I don’t have a HD TV yet – perfectly happy with the one I’ve got. I don’t “binge watch” with a few exceptions and I still check the TV listings to see what time a program is on. I’m 36, can’t change me that fast.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I binge watch on Netflix. Its actually a convenience to watch tv series when you actually have time as oppose to when it airs. I doubt the millennial generation has the patience to flip through a tv guide.

    • mulesandmud

      The big advertising budgets aren’t going anywhere for now; they’re the only thing keeping Hollywood relevant.

      The studios know that they have more (and better) competition than ever before, and so are circling their wagons around mega-blockbuster franchise strategies. The phrase ‘event film’ gets thrown around a lot. The hope is that they can keep people going to the movies to see characters/worlds they already know, and will choose movies over television or web content purely based on the largeness of the spectacle.

      On the marketing side, this demands an aggressive, concerted attempt to lower the lowest common denominator to the absolute bottom floor, minimizing expectation while maximizing visibility.

      Hollywood could make a lot more money per project if they only spent $10 million per film and kept the marketing budget the same, but studio bureaucracy is inherently chickenshit, and can’t bring itself to routinely justify a $100 million ad campaign on such a low budget project. However, commercials have been doing this for decades: the cost of ad space can easily be a factor of ten or a hundred times the cost of the spot itself.

      Companies like Blumhouse are starting to apply this model, making hordes of little genre movies and betting big/cashing in when one breaks wide. It’s only a matter of time before the studios fully catch on and join that bandwagon, sacrificing production value the same way they’ve sacrificed story and character. Revenues will soar, and the bar will plummet even further.

      Shortly after that, Hollywood will bottom out, and just like in the 70’s a window will open for a different way of doing things. Until then, the system is the system, and the only choice is whether to work on the inside or outside of it.

      • Scott Crawford

        This year’s Godzilla is your classic example of an “Event Movie” – and yet, taking into account 16 years of inflation in made less money than the 1998 version.

        And yet I think Jurassic World will make more than $400 million domestic and over a billion worldwide.

        If you’re spending $100 million SELLING a movie, no way is the talent involved going to do the movie for peanuts to keep the budget low. So you’re talking at least $5 million for the script including all the rewrites, $10 million for an A-list director, $5 million for the producer, and there could be several producers, so say $10 for ALL the producers, $20 million for your movie star, $15 million for his co-stars. That’s $60 million above-the-line. Half-a-million to a million PER DAY during the shoot, anywhere from a month to six months. Anywhere from $15 million to maybe $60 million. Another twenty-something million for post-production, unless it’s VFX heavy, in which case it could be a lot more. Add 10% for insurance.

        So, Adam Sandler in a romantic comedy? $85 million. Adam Sandler in space? $150 million. Can’t quite get those costs down.

        • Magga

          They could if people showed up to smaller movies with no stars, if they read reviews etc. We get the movies we deserve

          • Scott Crawford

            Yes, but once people show up to see those non-stars then those non-stars will become stars… and then they’ll want to get paid. The cycle continues.

    • Mallet

      If, instead of making one $250 Million, a company was to twenty five $10 million dollar films, they would need 25 times more PA’s, 25 times more office space, 25 times more lawyers, 25 times more dev people, 25 times more Business affairs staff, 25 times more directors, 25 times more actors, 25 times more catering staff etc, etc, etc… And have 100 times more headaches.

      The base logistics for a film (staff, floor space, security, drivers, etc…) are pretty much set. If you make one large budget film you still only have to deal with one director. If you make 25 lower budget films you have to deal with 25 directors.

      It might be logistically impossible for a company to make that many films in a year.

  • Randy Williams

    I’ve just begun to write with a partner. We’re in the process of writing or outlining several ideas we feel cover a few bases.

    1. Original thriller story but a familiar premise. Mother with child in jeopardy.
    2. Thriller based on a familiar bible story.
    3. An original thriller rock stage musical in conjunction with a budding video game designer that can be easily adapted to many mediums. It also takes place in China!

    • Scott Crawford

      Good China or Evil China?

      Bible stories were sooooo 2013. Got to look for the next big thing. We’ve had pirates, how about pilgrims? An action-packed story of the Mayflower (that would actually be a really good idea if someone wanted to write it). Lots of sequel potential!

      • Randy Williams

        Our China story is not a political story. It’s a monster / love story.
        I disagree about Bible stories, particularly if it isn’t a strict telling but
        is a fun retelling.

        • Scott Crawford

          No, I was just joking around. I think this Biblical epic phase might continue for some time, maybe not to 1950s levels when film was competing against TV (much as it now, I guess that’s why they’re coming back). A lot will depend on how well Exodus: Gods and Kings does. If it tanks, or disappoints like Noah, it will be back to Tru Entertainment for the lot of them, sorry to say.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        After watching the documentary Cleanflix I now know the religious community is a huge market. They definitely vote with their pockets.

      • Hadley’s Hope

        Vikings? Ninjas? Samurai?

        Vikings versus samurai, with ninjas pulling strings from the shadows?

        • Scott Crawford

          Vikings has a TV series on Amazon. The biggest box-office bomb of all time is 47 Ronin, so no more Samurai, like, EVER.

          Ninjas… I remember when I was a kid you could buy ninja toys, including plastic knives and throwing stars! Crazy 80s, right? That was the height of ninja mania. I remember a really good movie with Michael Beck called The Last Ninja – I think it might have been a pilot for an unproduced TV show. But it was very clever, told in flashback.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I remember the ninja flicks of the 80s: Enter the Ninja, American Ninja, and of course Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the end of the decade and in the early 90s. I dropped so many quarters to the TMNT arcade game.

            Then there were all the mid to late 80s Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal martial arts action flicks, all while the Die Hard phenomenon took off around the same time and started to usurp the big hero action flicks primarily made with Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Poor Dolph Lundgren was kind of left out in the cold and relegated to the dtv market.

          • Nate

            I’m glad Lundgren made his comeback with The Expendables. He’s one of the best parts about it.
            And if you like ninja films check out Ninja with Scott Adkins.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Dolph was underrated in Universal Soldier. He should play the villain more often. He is of course best known for his role of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

          • Scott Crawford

            The Expendablesmovies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Shame about the stories, but I like how Stallone has played to the individual strength of his actors – what he did with Lundgren, referencing his Swedish roots and academic background, made me chuckle.

          • Scott Crawford

            But Lundgren got the chance to DIRECT his own movies.

  • Mike.H

    In the future, I plan to self publish a graphics novel to preface my script regarding Aliens… hope it works out.

    Related note: Purely for research, If you have F. Scott Frazier’s latest Pdf’s such as:

    –Day One

    — Berliner,

    –Metro 2033,

    — Heatseeker

    — Embassy.

    please send. May1msg [AT] gmail dot com. Thank you!

    • Scott Crawford

      I was disappointed to find out that Berliner was not the story of a jelly doughnut.

      • klmn

        “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Please tell me Metro 2033 isn’t based off the video game. It doesn’t matter it probably is.

      • Charles Walters

        The good news, I guess sort of, is the video game was based on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. I say “sort of” because it’s still IP rather than a pure spec.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Talked to a woman in the graphic novel industry.
      She seemed to insist that you had to divide your work
      and offer it as a comic book series first — in order to build an
      audience, it being the only way your graphic novel would be profitable.

  • Sullivan

    Typo: “For a while” is 3 words. “Awhile” already means “for a while.”

    • Scott Crawford

      Easy mistake to make. Just don’t put it in a script you’re trying to sell – “War is eminent.”

      • Sullivan

        It’s Carson’s most frequent mistake.

  • jw

    This is definitely the case, but I’d be interested in Carson’s take on how the explanation correlates to the box office? Just taking a look at Box Office Mojo and the top 20 films this past weekend (and obviously this is just domestic), but in terms of “budget to gross” what I see as “profitable,” again from just a domestic box office standpoint (they don’t include action figure sales – ha!), is actually something that speaks to the opposite of what has been written.

    Hercules – $100 million budget, Gross – $52 million
    Lucy – $40 million budget, Gross – $80 million

    Sex Tape – $40 million budget, Gross – $34 million
    Tammy – $20 million budget, Gross – $80 million

    Even when we look at Sequel versus Sequel, we see that the lower budgeted film (without the action figures) actually looks on paper (or screen) to be more profitable.
    Planet of the Apes – $170 million budget, Gross – $189 million
    22 Jump Street – $50 million budget, $188 million

    And, obviously the huge winner in all this is The Purge: Anarchy with a $9 million budget and so far more than $63 million at the box office. As far as I know, there are no action figures – YET. Tent poles and sequels will always be around, but it would be interesting to look at “profitability” of a film across the board – including action figure sales & international, because from a domestic standpoint, what I see from numbers like this is an audience base that is craving originality and, at the very least, a departure from the “status quo”.

    • Scott Crawford

      OK, Captain America 2 has made $714 million worldwide on a $170 million budget. Add $125 million for prints and advertising all the way to DVD and beyond, and it cost $295 million. We’ll double $714 million to get the total including video and TV sales, say $1.4 billion. 40% of that (average) goes to the studio, that’s $560 million. Minus $295 million for a net profit of $265 million. Of course, everyone’s got to get their gross points and residuals.

      By my reckoning 22 Jump Street, at $50 million negative cost plus, maybe, $90 million for advertising, total, maybe less. Net profit of $92 million. Very, very rough numbers, but you get the idea. CA2‘s ENORMOUS gross far outweighs the cost of making and selling it.

      • jw

        That is the successful of all successful examples though. Do we need to mention Lone Ranger? Even the Planes sequel hasn’t been as successful. And, there are numerous others to that list. There are obviously successful examples, but I’m not talking about the highest of the high, I’m talking about the real world of right now and what the box office is telling us on any given Sunday. I’d argue what it’s actually showing is that creating an “original” premise that asks a question to the audience they WANT to know the answer to and keeping your budget at around $20 – $40 million actually allows you to fare much better in terms of risk / profit.

  • Mr A

    Solution 8 – Try writing for other mediums: video games, comics, books, etc.

    • Scott Crawford

      For a lot less money. Long time ago, Pilar interviewed a guy on her podcast, can’t remember his name, who wrote video games. Really smart guy, hope he’s doing well.

      Just looked him up: Micha Wright, and he is doing well.
      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1061418/?ref_=tt_ov_wr

      Pilar deletes her old podcasts, which is a shame as it was a great interview. But he said the most he’s got paid – then – was $80,000, $100,000 shy of big-budget feature scale for a lot more work.

      • Brainiac138

        That is crazy, considering how much earning potential video games have over movies. Are they WGA?

        • Scott Crawford

          No. Hardly anyone is who isn’t TV or feature. Animation writers I think are a fairly recent addition.

          (On The Simpsons audio commentaries, the older ones, the writers often joke that they would get more money from ASCAP for writing a song in the episode than for writing the episode because that was their only residual payments at the time!).

          No reality TV, no video games, no web content.

          • Brainiac138

            So sad.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Writing for video games is something I’m contemplating. Even that avenue is limited. I remember passing Sony Santa Monica studios on vacation. I also saw EA when traveling south on the 405.

  • Brainiac138

    It wasn’t quite that easy. He also had a spec script for Justified that taught him about the form, then he wrote as a staff writer on The Killing’s first season. When he proved he could write for TV, then he started having meetings with HBO, and they weren’t initially interested with True Detective until he attached its stars.

  • Brainiac138

    I can’t emphasize “Solution 1: Make your own movie –” more. I have worked for a couple of different companies that are looking for writers and I have to say the spec pile, grows and grows but doesn’t really get mined. However, every short film submission and low budget screener gets watched, notes are taken, and are discussed at meetings. Maybe its just who I’ve worked for, but being able to see “how” a written story is told visually is almost more important than just having a good script.

    • Steffan

      Hey Brainiac,

      I’ve been a screenwriter for a bunch of years, but am completing my first short presently. How would I go about writing a query letter to pitch myself as a writer/director? Do I send them the link to the film and then tell them about my latest script (I’d like to direct)? Do I send them the script along with the film? Thanks for the input.

      -Steffan

      • Brainiac138

        Honestly, I wouldn’t go the query route with a short. I would do everything to get it into festivals, find theaters having short film showcases, and things like that. Anything that you can do to get the film in front of a theater and crest buzz is the best way to get reps’ attention. A query gets read and deleted, but talent displayed from a short with some heat, even from smaller or medium sized festivals is harder to ignore.

  • Scott Crawford

    Sacrilege, I know, but it doesn’t really matter who plays Batman. The suit and the gadgets are what matters. I think Affleck’s low-key approach will work well. Now, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor – how come he gets a pass?

  • Poe_Serling

    Here’s a timely article from Indiewire/Playlist discussing the current glut of superhero movies… with nine major releases slated for 2017 alone.

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/discuss-how-much-is-too-much-9-major-superhero-movies-scheduled-to-be-released-in-2017-20140807

    • Linkthis83

      I’m one of those who do not enjoy all these superhero movies (and I can throw in most of the re-boots/re-makes as well).

      There’s was a week earlier this year where I thought “Hey, maybe I’ll go see a movie. I wonder what’s playing?”

      X-Men (20 showtimes)
      Godzilla (19 showtimes)
      Captain America (21 showtimes)

      Me: (groan) – guess I will see what’s on Netflix

      Please, Hollywood, bring back the movies – I want the VHS era back. There were more studios with more money to greenlight films because they had a constant stream of money flowing in from VHS sales. I think I might even miss movies being on actual FILM – I guess this is what the LP era was like for my dad. Loves his LP’s (those are record albums for those who don’t know ;)

      Hey Poe, you going to be around commenting tomorrow? I’ve got a post specifically for you :)

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, I’ll be around tomorrow. I have a few notes for the Black Autumn script review.

        And I look forward to your post.

      • Midnight Luck

        I as well.
        Miss the good times of film.
        I seriously already miss Film Stock as well. It has a depth, a warmth a soul, which digital doesn’t. Digital is getting close, but can’t match an unlimited number of pixels like Film stock has.

        I am so not a fan of the million and one reboots, nor the Super Hero onslaught we have had to endure now for what? Ten Years? More?

        It is sooo boring.

        I want my Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Rodriguez, and all. I want the age of Sundance and Miramax.

        All we get now is canned, reprocessed, bland, and regurgitated into our mouth with lots of Caffeine (CGI) and Sugar (loud noise) refuse to try to fake us into being happy with the drivel they have given us.

        I know, bitch, bitch, bitch.
        But it really does suck, we have so very, very little unique and interesting work to choose from.

        • Scott Crawford

          When I see a film, I like to laugh or cry or grip the side of my chair. If my reaction is “that was unique and interesting” I’ve not had a very emotional experience. There’s nothing wrong with being entertained by a film, big or little.

          • Midnight Luck

            but that is EXACTLY what I am talking about. I guess I didn’t explain it well enough.
            None of these big (supposed Awesome) movies make me laugh, cry, or grip the side of my chair.
            Iron Man 2? Nothing. Guardians of the Galaxy? Ok, there was a laugh, maybe 2 in there, but they were pretty forced, otherwise, nothing. Maybe it IS just me, but these overblown CGI fest’s aren’t capable of anything which might cause a person (this person at least) to feel.

            The movies I was talking about, from that fabulous time, made me FEEL, FEEL, FEEL, in all kinds of odd, fun, crazy, interesting, cool ways. I laugh, I cry, I grab my friends and scream with joy, and then scream at the screen, full with adrenaline. Those times, those films, killed (in the greatest ways).

            The last ten years have been so filled with geriatric dogshit. Like I said, plain like puffed rice cakes, not sizzling and steaming hot like your favorite Thai dish turned up to a burning 10.

            I just read one of those stupid linked articles posted on Disqus , or somewhere, about “10 movies from the Eighties that could never be made now”. And they were RIGHT! about most of them. Things like HEATHERS (Columbine fears) or WEIRD SCIENCE (Sexism, etc). It is just crazy that no one will take a chance on anything, and I am not just bashing the ProdCo’s, I also mean the lame audience. No one will pay to see cool stuff. They have to be spoon fed their Tripe after it has been passed to them and approved of by everyone else. Everyone is jumping off the CGI’d bridge into the CGI’d canyon below because their friends OK’d it.

            Would a movie like FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH get made today? No. Too bad. Or BREAKFAST CLUB? No way. UNCLE BUCK? PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES? No, no, no. But those were fun, funny, awesome, hilarious good times. Everyone would think they were lame, boring, snooze’s. (if no one has seen them, they should check them out, especially if you write comedy). Where’s the CGI, where’s the spandex, where’s the HUGE Killer Idea? everyone would sing. What to do if you can’t understand the premise in 3 words? (kill bad guy).

            getting. down. off. soapbox.
            again.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The grand irony to all this political correctness in the media and arts is that kids these days have easy access to insanely wicked porn and other oddities via the internet.

            It’s like we are moving back towards the 1950s.

          • Midnight Luck

            “Golly gee, have you seen the antics of that grumpy cat on the infotron?”

            I just spewed Tang out my nose.

            I totally agree. The Irony is incredibly thick. Anyone can download as much crazy Porn (or anything else for that matter) as anybody wants, but oh no, can’t say anything unsavory. Can’t have a nipple show, or the American Dream might collapse. The whole structure of how America is built is just hypocritical and stuffy.

            The English don’t think their kids need to go through years of therapy or be put in an Asylum if their kids see a boob or laugh at an improper joke. (key the George Carlin 7 words you can’t say on TV bit) (or spin up anything from Benny Hill)

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I’ve never tasted Tang, but I’m picturing it as something akin to Sunny D. Sort of an orange juice type beverage, but it really isn’t orange juice.

            http://cngtimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/sunny-delight.jpg

          • The_Shadow_Knows

            Oh no. Sunny D tastes like freshly-squeezed OJ in a Florida diner compared to the hideous flavor of Tang.

            Tang tastes sort of like orange Koolaid crossed with baby aspirin. Only worse.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Sunny D is actually pretty good. Now I’m craving it.

            To the store (tomorrow at a decent hour).

          • Malibo Jackk

            8 oz of Sunny D contains 27g of sugar.
            (The World Health Organization recommends limiting sugar intake
            to 24g/day.)

          • Franchise Blueprints

            Can somebody please tell me why Everfresh 100% Orange Juice is stocked on the shelf and not in the cooler?

          • Midnight Luck

            I was just going along with the ’50’s-60’s references and vibe. (I wasn’t actually drinking it. Don’t even know if you can get it anymore).

            It is a powder you add to water whereupon you get an unnatural orange taste and color. It was made for astronauts way back when, as it was light, easy, just needs water added, and comes all fortified with a bunch of vitamins and minerals.

            It’s more like a dumping a packet of Orange Jello in water and drinking it.

            It really isn’t Orange Juice.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_(drink)

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Tangs for the info ;-)

            Seriously though, I could use some Tang in one of my sci-fi scripts.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yes, I believe Tang hasn’t been used enough in film.
            It needs another 15 minutes.

            I think it was used in Poltergeist or maybe it was Gremlins or Goonies.

            Either way, it would definitely be Retro Cool to use it in a Sci-Fi flick.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            Ask Al Bundy. Peg use to make Tang Sandwiches all the time.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I have a theory why those type of movies aren’t being produced. Only 4 films in the top 100 all time worldwide box office on boxofficemojo.com weren’t cgi fests. The Lion King (traditional cel-shaded animation), The Da Vinci Code, The Passion of The Christ, Mamma Mia.

            The major studios aren’t going back to minor profit margins. We’re currently in the era of film BUSINESS. CGI’s greatest strength is whatever your imagination can envision can be programmed. We’re also getting what everyone in Hollywood tells every screenwriter far and wide. SHOW it don’t tell it.

            Films that make you FEEL are either animations, indy, limited showings, foreign, or simply not made.

            If you want to see certain types of films vote with your pocket.

            OR even better WRITE the type of films you want to see.

            If you write the next Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I promise you I’ll buy the expensive rumble seats 3D movie tickets.

          • Midnight Luck

            I so agree, and I understand how the industry is working.
            I get it is ALL about the $$$.
            I get that when it comes to Hollywood being a BUSINESS it makes sense to go after all the money and make as much of it as possible.

            The thing is, I am not sure why all the PEOPLE of the world are also voting with their dollar for the heavy CGI, no story (at least no compelling or interesting story), and bland regurgitated fare? I guess everyone is so afraid right now, everyone is so hard up money wise, they think if they just go zone out and don’t have to think AT ALL, it will all magically go away. So wars are upsetting…. let’s go see a movie where everyone kills everyone else and blows up cities, countries and ENTIRE planets! That should take my mind off it.

            Anyone who has seen any of the FERRIS, UNCLE BUCK, SAY ANYTHING, PLANES, TRAINS, BREAKFAST CLUB, VACATION or anything in that vein, would tell you, those are some of the FUNNIEST, “take your brain away from your worries” movies they have ever seen. I am sorry, but watching FERRIS BUELLER takes you into the story so much, out of your worries, you laugh (and possibly even cry) and have no thoughts about what else is going on in the world.

            Why aren’t people going in droves to something like that?

            Instead they are piling on top of each other to see a rebooted reboot of a reboot of GODZILLA, or a boring movie (with EXPLOSIONS!) about a Transformer beating up another Godzilla! (PACIFIC RIM).

            I DO NOT want to be bored when I go to the movies. All these movies do not interest me. The characterization in them is so thin it’s like no one is there. Just a big tech monster, or reptilian monster. So the movie doesn’t fold me into it’s warm embrace. I don’t lose myself completely into it. I’m still hearing my neighbor check his Facebook account and smelling the guy behind me munching on a Nacho Cheese thing that smells like it came from a backed up toilet.

            I want to vanish into whatever story is being told.
            Movies today….Don’t do that.

          • Magga

            Do you really grip you chair and get worried during stories that are not unique? When you watch a movie where you know after ten minutes what everything’s gonna feel like, when you know that act one is about thirty minutes long, that there’s a lowest point before the comeback, where there’s yet another “point of no return”, where you know the guy gets the girl and the antagonist makes a “surprise” return or the main character is a coward but then finally gets tough, do you really engage?

    • klmn

      Maybe we can look forward to fratricide – similar films killing each other off.

      • Scott Crawford

        There haven’t been as many “flops” this summer than usual. A few disappointments, maybe. I think they’re getting better at spreading movies apart, even putting a big blockbuster like Captain America 2 well outside the summer season. No, sorry, I’m not big on all the movies that come out, but people seem to like them.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Not only those, but also some remakes and revivals of big IP coming next year.

      Jurassic World
      Star Wars Episode VII
      Terminator: Genisys (yes, that is the title of Terminator 5)

      Then more Godzilla, more Star Trek, more Pacific Rim, more Prometheus, maybe a Blade Runner sequel, Tron 3, Avatar 2-4, etc.

      • Scott Crawford

        Sounds fine. Why not? If you enjoyed Godzilla, you gonna watch the next film. If you didn’t then you won’t. You’ve listed a pretty diverse group of films – I’m sure most of us can find one or two of those sequels we’d like to see.

        Nothing everything can “start from scratch”. Sometimes you have to build on what you’ve got. That’s the point of Carson’s article; instead of having LOTS of DIFFERENT ideas – lots of specs that are completely unconnected, say – it might be better to have a few ideas that are capable of generating further assignments for you.

        Clumsily put, but let’s say you write about Genghis Khan, and then you tell the people you’re pitching it to that there are more stories you have involving Genghis Khan. So if Genghis the Conqueror is a success, then you can write sequels, rather than pitching a new idea from scratch.

        • Hadley’s Hope

          Well, it isn’t bad really. It just seems like the superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genres are going to be really tough arenas to enter into over the next few years. It’s going to be a real challenge for us spec script writers to get in on that action while the mega IP movies and sequels are soaking up so much of the audience’s attention. Yes it’s always been hard, but much more now than ever before.

          I’ve already been thinking about expanding my own ideas into “worlds” beyond just a single entry. Not just screenplays, but also novels. I like the grittier material. I’m more of a Terminator or Aliens man than I am a fan of Iron Man or Star Wars. I’m not really looking to write Marvel or DC movies, but if 2000AD ever takes the “universe” movie approach, I’ll be jumping for joy.

          • Scott Crawford

            Agreed, completely. I like a bit more grit – oddly, that’s why I think the old Star Wars works so well. Maybe the new Mad Max might dirty things up a bit.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I think the new Mad Max is interesting. It seems to be what I would call a “seqboot” (sequel + reboot at the same time). I think this is another trend that is growing in the realm of the remake or reboot fixation that studios have nowadays.

            Tron Legacy basically took this same approach. Make a sequel that appeals to the original fans, but really it is more of a reboot of the property that spawn more sequels based primarily off of the new film, not the original.

  • Subtitle writer

    I would like to see more scripts that place very high in the bigger script competitions get made into films or at least get properly looked at. It is one thing to get an agent off the back of a competition win but it would be another to actually have your film get made. It has happened before and continues to happen such as “Stockholm Pennsylvania”. If the winning scripts potentially were say – actually getting made, the GSU of a writer would increase to submit to more competitions which is a good thing anyway, you at least can get some feedback! If the film festivals are markets where films continue to be picked up by distributors, why not the competitions also? At least if you can purchase a script from there – a studio or production company would have much more control over how it turns out.

    • klmn

      I think they all do get properly looked at, and some do get made. A number of Nicholl winning scripts have been made, but then the question is, “How do they do financially?” I’m trying to think of any that have been blockbusters.

      In a blockbuster driven industry, do the Nicholl readers reflect the taste of the movie-going public?

    • Malibo Jackk

      Some screenplay competitions are more writing competitions than script competitions.

      Most screenplay competitions are JUDGED by how well they touch all the bases.
      When that happens, concept plus story may account for as little as 20 to 30%.
      In other words, you are being judged on how well your script conforms — instead
      of how good a movie it would make.

  • andyjaxfl

    NPR had an interesting radio bit yesterday about the future of TV and the revival of anthology TV. Might be worth having a season or two outlined…

    • Hadley’s Hope

      I would love to see an intrepid producer take another crack at The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Those could be fantastic with the increased production value that is available to television productions these days.

      Maybe adaptions of some classic episodes mixed with new stories, and the occasional short story adaptation from the usual suspects (Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, etc).

      • andyjaxfl

        Showtime aired an Outer Limits revival a few years ago that was pretty solid and worth checking out. And it’s an IP with brand recognition…

        • Hadley’s Hope

          The 90s one? I liked that one and the original Outer Limits from the 1960s. There was also a pretty good revival of The Twilight Zone in the 1980s.

  • jw

    Scott, I’m not sure what you’re talking about, because I even reference Tammy above and it was a $20 million film that has turned around to gross $80. Anyway, doesn’t really matter. If you had the cash, you’d bet big, and if I had the cash, I’d diversify and go after smaller budgets with original concepts. No harm, no foul.

    • Scott Crawford

      Sorry, forgot Tammy. But yeah, I think if I had studio money and could make blockbusters and you were making modestly budgeted movies, I would (probably) make more money than you. And, for all the talk of Lone Ranger and John Carter, very often it’s a surfeit of medium-budget FLOPS that bring down a minor studio like Revolution.

      So, if you have a great comedy – not Tammy – and you only need $50 million for it, great. If you have a great sci-fi thriller and you need $150 million for it, great. And that mix of big and small has been there since Star Wars and will continue to be there.

      I don’t think going small is going work when people are watching so much TV.

      Oh, and I’m not sure what I’m talking about half the time. These comments are written on the fly – I haven’t outlined them, rewritten, polished them and so on! This is unfettered access to my brain.

      • jw

        I think there’s enough here to put plenty in either of our boats…

        http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2014&wknd=31&p=.htm

        • Scott Crawford

          Some people don’t like to talk about box office, they think it’s anathema to art. I don’t; I just think it’s being realistic.

          A lot of people think that they can sidestep the whole business of showBUSINESS by writing something low-budget – two people in a cafe discussing politics, or sitting in a basement being frightened by a ghost – or by making a video with their friends and posting it on youtube. And I can’t dismiss either of those suggestions, but I think by going that route, you’re actually entering a more crowded market place than writing a Gravity clone.

          Specs do sell, if they’re good. People are hired to work on TV shows, it does happen. Knowing the market, realizing how successful a film or TV show has to be, and then aiming HIGH, that’s the way to go.

          I think I’ve realized what I’ve been trying to say, sometimes takes a while: AIM HIGH. If you AIM LOW, you’re probably gonna get trampled. If you AIM HIGH, you’re probably gonna get trampled as well, but you’ll go out in style. Aim high: never write something thinking it’s going to be a lesser product, and (sometimes) writing low-budget is cursing yourself to write a lesser product. Don’t do it – just write good.

          • jw

            I think my first piece of advice would be to just write. Not in the form of “aiming” anywhere, but realistically looking at what your script needs and then feeding it what you can to support the story. I wouldn’t necessarily say that something like The Hangover was “aiming high” and yet the box office return on that spoke otherwise (obviously). Seth Rogen has made it known that his entire game plan is to come out with comedies in the $20 – $30 million range. That’s not because he’s not making money from them (again, obviously). So, I think if you’re approaching this from the standpoint of a writer, I would say write what your story needs to exist on a screen. If you have something that is a contained thriller, don’t start putting in international Bourne locations because that means “aiming high,” which I don’t think you’re advocating, but for those potentially reading our take-over of C’s blog. Additionally, not sold on the “TV is taking away smaller budgeted film revenue.” As a matter of fact, on the contrary as we saw with the Weinstein’s Snowpiercer, or even Arbitrage, making some cash going VOD same day as theatrical release. There is definitely a new paradigm shift here in the consumption of art, but that doesn’t really have to be dictated by budget size. The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, Pompeii, Jack Ryan and Edge of Tomorrow (to name a few) are pretty crap films, no matter which screen you watch them on. Thanks for the chat!

          • Scott Crawford

            Can’t argue with that. I panic when people write something they’re less than passionate about – as Carson was mentioning above – but argue that the good thing is it can be made cheaply. As you say, just write the things you really want to write. And with that, I think I’ll say Good Night!

  • Hadley’s Hope

    Is that Charlie Kaufman’s latest spec?

    Sounds like a perfect fit for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Almost a spiritual sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  • Hadley’s Hope

    Solution 8: Find an interesting premise. Make it unique by tweaking it to go down a new or un-explored path. Add interesting characters, and then have a ton of fun exploiting the hell out of this premise. The more high concept the better.

    Exhibit A: ORPHAN BLACK

    This show is just a ton of fun. No it isn’t as well written as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. It isn’t as deep as True Detective. You know what though? It is more fun than any of those, except for maybe Breaking Bad. Orphan Black is about clones. This is a concept that has been done before, but this show runs with that idea and exploits the hell out of it by not only having fun with the characters and their predicaments, it also takes its time. It doesn’t rush into things like most shows would do in this situation. It’s almost like Lost, where they took their time and developed the characters and set up these big mystery boxes.

    Tone is another element this show has going for it. There isn’t zany colorful antics nor are they stuck in the mud and filth and depravity of Game of Thrones or True a Detective. Sometimes we just want to have fun. More shows are becoming darker while forgetting the audience wants to have fun too. It’s about balance I guess. Don’t forget that it isn’t a sin to pepper in some fun factor while showing us how clever you are with all these complex brooding characters.

  • klmn
  • Hadley’s Hope

    What about something like a Lethal Weapon sort of concept? It has comedic elements, but also is a cop movie with action too. Maybe like Carson suggests with thrillers, graft another genre onto a comedy (sci-fi, action, buddy cop, light horror) to make it more than just a comedy.

    • Scott Crawford

      I think there are probably more Lethal Weapon-type scripts out there than you might think, especially after The Heat and Ride Along.

  • Hadley’s Hope

    Section 8: Screenwriting makes me crazy! Must. Not. Blurt out dialogue in public! TOO LATE!!! Cops pursuing! DUCKS INTO ALLEYWAY. Must get home.

    DISSOLVE:

    INT. HOME – MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

    The Crazed Scribe cackles as he hammers the shit out of the keyboard on his Macbook.

    Scribe: My protagonist is also the antagonist. That means his character will arc twice!