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This has been a strange year at the box office. Did you know that the number 1 comedy of the year so far is the geriatric knee-slapper, Going in Style? Which has made 43 million dollars?

Surefire hits like Pirates of the Caribbean have imploded. Dusty superheroes like Wolverine have come back to life. And mega-franchises like Fast and Furious are doing two-thirds of the local business they used to, with studios not giving a shit since all they care about now is global.

Now, if we’re being honest, none of these movies I’ve mentioned affect you, the screenwriter reading this website. The writers who write these films have fought their way up a Game of Thrones like ladder that, hopefully, one day, you’ll find yourself climbing as well.

But right now, all you want to do is get your foot in the door, preferably in as little time as possible. And there are three ways to do that. The first is to write a great script that features either a great concept, an exceptional understanding of character development, or a unique voice, and parlay that into a high Black List showing. This will get you an agent and get your script out to a bunch of people so that everyone knows your name.

The second is to write a spec in one of the big genres (action, adventure, sci-fi), which might get you a starter writing gig on one of the franchises your script is written in. You probably won’t get a credit but you will be working. This is what happened, for example, with Nicole Perlman. She wrote a spec about the Challenger shuttle crash, and that allowed her to get first shot at another “space” gig, Guardians of the Galaxy (Perlman did manage to get that credit and is now scripting Captain Marvel).

Finally, there’s the third – and fastest – way to break in. Write a horror spec and direct it yourself. This is, by far, the quickest way for a screenwriter to get into the industry. I’ve seen it time and time again. The Duffer Brothers, the guys who did Stranger Things? Their breakout spec was a horror flick called “Hidden” that they directed right before the now famous Netflix show.

Even if directing doesn’t interest you, consider making it interest you. It’s so freaking cheap to make a movie these days. It’s still relatively expensive, I guess. But if the wannabe writer-directors of the 90s who had to scrape together a million bucks to shoot a film on 16mm time-traveled to today and saw how cheaply we could make a good-looking feature film? They would scold us for the excuses we make not to.

All of this is somewhat roundabout to today’s article focus. But I promise it will come together at the end. In regards to writing horror films, there were two horror films this year that took big risks, each coming at the genre in a unique way. One of those went on to become one of the most profitable films in history. The other didn’t even make it to its second weekend. And I want to discuss why one sailed and the other failed, despite the fact that both scripts were good.

The surprise hit was Get Out (script review), which has currently grossed 175 million dollars.
The unfortunate dud was A Cure For Wellness (script review), which made 8 million dollars.

2017-2-28-06926adf-adbc-4c32-b2a8-45dc13825b04

Here’s another shocker. A Cure For Wellness was directed by a 20 year veteran director who had helmed some of the biggest movies in Hollywood. And Get Out was directed by someone who had never directed in his life. Not even a short movie.

Both of these projects did what I tell you guys to do: Find a fresh angle into a genre. The horror genre has ghosts, zombies, vampires, torture porn, contained horror, and they play those cards over and over again. What are you going to do that makes the genre feel fresh?

A Cure For Wellness is about a businessman who goes to a faraway bizarre treatment center to retrieve a co-worker for the company and gets stuck there. Get Out is about a black man who goes to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. As you can see, the stories share some DNA. Hell, they even both have a scene where a car hits a deer (seriously, screenwriters, please stop writing this scene).

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So why is it that 20 times as many people chose to see Get Out as did A Cure For Wellness? Don’t give me the cheat answer. “A Cure For Wellness looked dumb, Carson. Get Out looked good.” One of your jobs as a screenwriter is to understand SPECIFICALLY why movies do well and why they fail, so that you can use that knowledge to make a more informed decision when coming up with your next concept.

The number 1 screenwriting mistake I see, by far, is misconceived concepts. Concepts that aren’t movies but that screenwriters, for some reason, think are movies. You guys see a few of them every Saturday on Amateur Offerings. So the large majority of you reading this have made far worse miscalculations on your concepts than A Cure For Wellness. Why is Get Out the better concept? Why is it that when people saw the Get Out trailer, they wanted to see the movie whereas when they saw the A Cure For Wellness trailer, they didn’t?

I’ll give you a hint. There’s one other film this year that defied expectations in a big way. Logan. The Wolverine franchise was dead. The movies sucked. No one was showing up anymore. Then Logan comes out and does 100 million more than the last film off a much smaller budget. How did it accomplish this? What did it do differently? Think…

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The answer, if you guys haven’t figured it out yet, is that Get Out focused on character. A Cure For Wellness focused on plot. When you watch the Get Out trailer, you see a human situation, a loving but difficult relationship, then later that relationship in danger. When you watch A Cure For Wellness’s trailer, there’s a wall between you and the characters. Hell, you don’t even know the main character after you’ve finished the trailer. You see his face. You know he has to get somebody. But you don’t know anything about him. Therefore you don’t care about him. Therefore you have no interest putting up your hard-earned money to find out if he succeeds or not.

I said I’d get to the point eventually so I will. If you want to break in as a screenwriter – the fastest way to do it is to write a horror spec EXPLORING THE HUMAN CONDITION IN SOME WAY and then direct it yourself. Plot is important. But audiences don’t connect with plot. They connect with people who experience the same life problems that they do. Which brings us right back to yesterday. Vivien is such a dark script. It has its own challenges in drawing an audience but that is exactly the kind of chance you should be taking. Not writing some silly horror movie. Write a horror movie where you’re deeply exploring people and the human condition. This is how you connect with audiences.

Now there’s a caveat to this. You have to understand how to do good character work. You can’t just show two people in a relationship have a fight and think you’ve done your job. You have to find a theme, you have to create conflict within the characters (Am I good enough for this girl?), conflict within the key relationship (race), characters have to arc. That stuff takes practice. But once you understand this stuff, you become a screenwriting superhero. You can now do things that 99.999999% of the population cannot. So that’s my advice to you guys today.

But ONLY if you want to get into this business quickly.

Write a horror spec EXPLORING THE HUMAN CONDITION IN SOME WAY and then direct it yourself.

Good luck!

  • BMCHB

    Great article.

    See yourself on the screen. That’s the secret, whatever the genre. Write identifiable characters. Make them just like me or you. Show me a character that reminds me of the person I could be or the person I don’t want to be anymore.

    • Scott Crawford

      Find something to write about which means a lot to you but which might also have appeal to others. Generally, if YOU are passionate about something then others will be passionate about it too, even if it’s not always in blockbuster size numbers.

      IF what you are writing about is of a VERY esoteric nature (or a hard topic to face), consider making it in a popular genre. That’s what I think Get Out did so (financially well).

      • BMCHB

        Get back to work! ;-)

        • Scott Crawford

          Day off! Half hour til Wonder Woman. Take my mind off things.

          • BMCHB

            Fingers crossed that it’s good. Please share your thoughts later.

          • Scott Crawford

            Wonder Woman is wonderful! Gal Gadot is great!

            There are no post-credit scenes. That’ll do for now, ’til more people have seen it.

          • BMCHB

            Good to hear. Is it the best DCU movie?

          • Scott Crawford

            My comment has disappeared! Save me, Aquaman!

          • BMCHB

            That’s so cute. I’m your Aquaman.

          • Scott Crawford
          • PQOTD

            Oh, terrific! Very glad it’s okay.

            Somebody on here posted a while back that they knew someone who’d worked on the set and said it was crap. Makes you wonder why people try to sabotage by word of mouth.

          • Scott Crawford

            Loads of people like that, all over Deadline they are. Wish I had a magic sword that could get rid of all of them (or a lasso of truth – basically I’m saying I want to be Wonder Woman, but, you know, still a dude).

          • PQOTD

            Bit of padding in the right places, a little athletic strapping tape to keep your gentlemen’s tackle tucked out of sight, add a wig, and you might get away with it.

  • LostAndConfused

    I do agree with the message of the article, but I’d say a large portion of what made Get Out such a massive sleeper hit is timing. Not too long ago the main trending topic all across the nation was racism, particularly with black males and how many were getting gunned down by white male cops. And I’m not saying that any movie about racism was going to be an instant hit, but Get Out hit all of the necessary notes while being driven and multiplied by opportunity.

    Another overlooked aspect was its presence in people’s social lives. Not just on a spiritual and community level, but on a surface one too. When Get Out came out there was a “Get Out challenge” where people recorded each other sprinting towards the camera like the scene with Walter dashing at Chris late at night. Even celebrities were doing it which validated the movie’s presence on social media even more. It didn’t explode the way the Mannequin and Running Man challenge did, but it had its movement.

    This expression and image right here also blew up as a meme for a good two month period:

    https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/get-out-jordan-peele.jpg?w=670&h=377&crop=1

    Social media is such a significant part of our lives now and Hollywood has become so saturated, that I think people are subconsciously prioritizing what to watch based on what’s relevant in their newsfeed.

    • BMCHB

      Timing is everything. It’s probably the only thing that really matters.

      Great read. Thanks.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      “… I think people are subconsciously prioritizing what to watch based on what’s relevant in their newsfeed.”

      This, to me, is just as true as it’s scary…
      (Great post!)

      • BMCHB

        Maybe the time is right for someone to say just that. A modern-day NETWORK: let’s call it NEWSFEED.

        “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to log on anymore!”

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          :D :D
          Yeah, well, I deleted my first FB account because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I did reopen one a couple years later to be part of a great writer’s group but I haven’t been back on the newsfeed page. I just know that I’d delete my account again :/ This “brave” new world is definitely not for me.
          There’s a reason that I’m spending so much time in nature with my animals…

          • BMCHB

            I live in an apartment block made of cement.

            Every day and every night my neighbors shout. They are not good people. I write to make up worlds I can escape to.

            *What animals do you have outside?

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            One dog, two cats, three horses :)
            Communicating with animals is a lot simpler than with humans ^^

          • BMCHB

            I used to have a dog named Tippy and a cat named Scratch. I still miss them.

            Bad writers think that words are important. Good writers know that they are not.

          • PQOTD

            Something you and Queen Elizabeth have very much in common, Marija. She loves her animals. I suspect one of the things she most misses now because of her age is riding horses.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Yeah, but I don’t rule over any countries. Yet ^^

          • Midnight Luck

            I did the same thing!
            I couldn’t stand it anymore!
            That’s exactly how I felt.
            Shut it down, started up a new one​.
            That’s so funny.
            This Brave New World really disturbs be as well. On just about every level.
            There’s got to be a movie in there somewhere. Or ten.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Oh, I already have a desktop folder with ideas for an anthology of short stories inspired by this Brave New World (it’s my working title, obviously) :) I’ll be moving on to fiction later this year so it will be written. And think BLACK MIRROR, too, even though reality has a way of making that show seem almost tame in comparison…

          • Midnight Luck

            That is awesome!
            I wonder if you can call it Brave New World though? Maybe THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD, to signify a new and different time, but still harking back to the books’ ideas.
            I really like Black Mirror and some of the things they’ve done with that.
            It is amazing how both stuck we get with all the new internet stuff, and how constricting and invading, both personally and psyche related it can get.
            I still so remember my past life where I could jump in the car and take off for a day, a week, or sometimes more, and it didn’t occur to me that I had no way to get in touch with anyone. If I broke down, if I was injured, whatever. If someone called my home line, and god forbid!, I wasn’t there to answer it.
            While it could’ve been scary, instead, I remember being free, even though I didn’t realize just how free I was until years later when I had a cellphone stuck permanently in my pocket and I feel like it is nagging at me every second of the day, and this horrible feeling of “what would I do without it”. I hate it. I want that freedom again. Back then (in the late ’90’s) I didn’t think about being constantly available at someone’s beckon call. I just was gone. Didn’t think I had to check in with anyone, didn’t have to be always available should someone “happen” to call.
            The most worried I was, was I would occasionally have something up for sale on Ebay, and I’d wonder if it sold or not, or for how much. But I didn’t care enough to “have to” check on it. It’d still be there, sold or not, when I got back.

            Ugh, I seriously don’t like this supposed “better” brave new world we live in.
            It is stress inducing and agonizing, honestly.

    • Scott Crawford

      You’ve certainly got to imagine what’s in your idea, your script that will be remembered by people, maybe something that can go on the poster of in the trailer that will capture people’s imagination.

      What makes Baby Driver different from Fast & Furious 9? We’ll soon find out. A great early review from someone I trust – she also loved Wonder Woman – but I’m not entirely sold (or even a little, to be honest).

  • fragglewriter

    Great article Carson. I’m surprised that you suggested plot over character as your previous articles convey otherwise. People change, so I can see where the same story plot would make you nauseous.

    As for the different angle, I don’t think Peele said that I would to do a different angle, he basically wrote a film that was based on one of his life experiences / instances. Just as the writers for Hangover, Spielberg for E.T. and Lucas for Luke Skywalker. A personal experience hidden in a quasi studio film is what separates Angles / Personal Experience from studio driven films (ex: A Cure for Wellness or Baywatch).

    OT: I’m going to a screening of WONDER WOMAN Saturday night.

    • Scott Crawford

      Enjoy Wonder Woman! I did.

      No post-credits scenes. So you can go home sooner.

      • fragglewriter

        I feel that the high reviews of this movie will leave me underwhelmed. Is this a film that separates itself from the other comic adaptations or just the same ole story beats? Also, what is the rematch value?

        • Scott Crawford

          Don’t know what rematch value means, but I think it’s wrong to lump together all comic book adaptations. This is more like fantasy myths and legends, though also taking place in the real world (WWI). I think the high reviews (which I don’t read til I see the film myself) probably reflect the feminist and anti-war values that counter, say, the Transformers of this world (not that I begrudge the male-orientated, pro-military stance of TF but I like contrast).

          • PQOTD

            94% on rotten tomatoes. This’ll make a non-violent killing.

          • fragglewriter

            I meant to say reWatch / replay value (I’ve watched The Kingsmen at least 10x, but it took me multiple viewings to get through the Avengers 2).

            The new Transformers movie is confusing me. It seems like they are fighting past and present. Or is it time-travel?

          • PQOTD

            It’s a bad sign when someone who writes scripts can’t tell.

          • fragglewriter

            I actually think it’ll be decent but overhyped. The crazy thing that after viewing the trailer 3x, I really want a Xena movie to hit the screens. We had Hercules already. I wonder what the hold up is?

          • PQOTD

            If Lucy Lawless isn’t playing Xena (she’ll be 50 next March – !!!!), who the hell will? The thing about Lucy is that she was robust enough to be credible swinging a sword against men. Many of Hwood’s current crop of 20-somethings wear size 2 dresses and look like a stiff breeze’ll knock them over.

          • fragglewriter

            She’ll be the leader in charge that is grooming the new Xena. Duh lol. That’s so true about the women who portray action figures. That’s one of the reasons why I can’t really get into the Wonder Woman movie, although, I loved Lynda Carter as the TV version.

          • PQOTD

            I didn’t mind Carter. It was those horrendous shorts I seriously objected to.

          • Scott Crawford

            Interestingly, and it MAY because there’s a woman at the helm, we don’t focus as much on Gadot’s bum as we might do in some other movies. Or old TV shows.

          • Scott Crawford

            I think there’s lots of stuff to rewatch, mostly Ms. Gadot flying though the air. It’ll get a lot of re views on that alone.

  • brenkilco

    Horror is not my thing but I think Carson is right that for a horror movie to be great, for it to resonate, it must touch on something primal, a fear or desire buried very deep in our collective psyche. Though my impression is that when the character work in a horror movie rises above a certain level it isn’t perceived as a horror movie anymore. It becomes a thriller or a psychological drama. I.e. Rosemary’s Baby, Eyes Without a Face, Repulsion, even Jaws.

  • Scott Serradell

    Damn!

    And here I was gearing up to do my own small budget horror film about a vengeful deer that learns to drive and starts mowing down humans (tentatively titled: “Doe Ahead, Make My
    Day”)

    *sigh*

    • Scott Crawford

      The Doe-Men (like The Omen).

      Deer White People (there’s a racial element to her vengeance).

      The Deer of Fear.

      It’s Bambi meets Rambo. It’s Rambi.

      Unfortunately, I can only do puns. Antler glad I’m around today?

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      You should make that movie. Sounds like a sick comedy.

      • Scott Serradell

        Yeah. I should try to hook up with Alison Parker and “Log” and maybe start our own Fucked-Up Forest Extended Universe.

    • Wes Mantooth

      Fawn of the Dead
      Buck Wild

  • BMCHB

    OT: But only slightly

  • Poe_Serling

    GET OUT…

    It’s worldwide box office is close to 250 million. And remember it’s production
    budget was less than 5 million.

    Movie-wise…

    Quite a financial feat to make 50 times more $ on your original investment.,

    In superhero dollar and cents… what does one of those flicks usually end
    up costing? 200 mil. With the same kind of box office punch as GO it
    would bring in close to 10 billion,

    • Scott Crawford

      Five million PLUS advertising. Probably closer to twenty. And if Hollywood stopped making the 200s and only made the fives, people would soon give up and watch YouTubers instead.

      WW is tipped to make $170 million around the world this weekend alone. I think it’ll make more. Repeat viewings.

      • PQOTD

        Thing is, there’s room for all of them — $1m, $5m, $20m and up — if they’re good. When half of the output’s shite, it hurts across the board.

    • fragglewriter

      I tried watching Billy Jack months ago, but I just couldn’t get into again. I’ll try again.

      • Poe_Serling

        It’s definitely a cinematic reflection of its time period.

  • Zadora

    For me, I would’ve chosen to watch Get Out by title alone. It sounds urgent, maybe dangerous and thrilling. A Cure For Wellness sounds like a film for senior citizens.

    Totally agree with exploring the human condition point.

    • Scott Crawford

      Get Out
      Don’t Breathe
      You’re Next
      Run for Your Life
      Don’t Open the Door
      Lock the Door
      Yale Is Not Enough, Put the Chubb On
      Don’t Have Sex
      Have Sex
      Shoot ‘Em in the Head
      Shoot ‘Em in the Balls

      And so on.

      • ShiroKabocha

        I love those “colloquial” titles. They really speak to me :) Directly addressing the viewers is a great way to draw them in, to make them feel included in a conversation, almost like letting them in on a secret. These titles are always intriguing. You can immediately feel invested, without even having seen the movie, because you want to know more. You know… whatever happened to baby Jane ? And what about Bob ? Don’t look now. They shoot horses, don’t they ?

    • ShiroKabocha

      Screenwriters would be well inspired to take a look at the masters of crime and horror fiction. From their short stories and novels you can find lots and lots of intriguing and evocative titles.

      Here’s a minuscule sample of the ones that caught my eye :

      Compliments of Spectro
      A Thin Gentleman with gloves
      A wig for Miss Devore
      No light for Uncle Henry
      He Shall Come
      House – With Ghost
      The Slayers and the Slain
      Blessed are the Meek
      The Night train to Lost Valley
      The Woman at Loon Point
      The Occupant of the Crypt
      The House in the Magnolias
      A Knocking in the Wall
      Sleep no more
      Who knocks ?
      Time to rest
      Business as usual
      The Moon for a nickel
      The Strange Sisters Strange
      Here comes the Hearse
      Little Apple hard to peel
      Pardon my ghoulish laughter
      Suite for Flute and Tommy Gun
      Nothing Sinister
      I’ll see you at midnight
      No Sanctuary
      I’ll cut your throat again, Kathleen
      Come and Go Mad
      The Sinister Mr Dexter
      Death and nine lives
      Obedience
      Gateway to Glory
      The wench is dead
      Who was that blonde I saw you kill last night ?

      and so on…

  • pale yellow

    For me… I could have told you which movie did better just based on the titles. I mean Get Out sounds like a horror or a fast ride…something scary and exciting. A Cure For Wellness… well, I can’t even tell what genre that is by the title ..sounds almost like a documentary. I’ve paired up with a friend writer, and we are working on directing some of our own. We did two shorts last year and are doing two shorts this year…one we hope to enter as a concept video or use to pitch… and then next year we plan on doing a feature. We are trying to use these two years to get good at producing/directing… before we even attempt a feature. Z emailed me to say, may wanna look at Carson’s blog today…and I’m glad I did. Great article Carson.

    • PQOTD

      A Cure For Wellness sounds like Congress’s pilloried replacement for Obamacare.

    • Justin

      True. When I saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I thought “All right, get the fuck out from what? I’m intrigued.”

      With “A Cure For Wellness…”

      …Well, I didn’t give a shit. It was barely interesting enough to read about on Wikipedia.

  • ScriptChick

    Add “The Voices” to the deer-hitting list. What other live action films have killed Bambi?

    • Poe_Serling

      Comedies – Tommy Boy, Tammy…. but I think the deer somehow survives
      the crash in both.

      Action – The Long Kiss Goodnight

      In bit of a twist:

      Horror – Ring 2 … here the deer attacks the car.

    • Midnight Luck

      A Scouts Guide to The Zombie Apocalypse – they kill a deer and it disappears, because they hit a zombie deer!

    • klmn

      Okay, so it’s not live action. Tough shit.

    • hickeyyy

      The Ring 2!

    • wlubake

      There’s Tommy Boy, but the deer lives.

    • Scott Crawford

    • Eric Boyd

      The Long Kiss Goodnight

  • Dax
    • BMCHB

      Jai liked one of my posts once.

      • Scott Crawford

        You must feel very important!

        Super-nice guy, deserves it.

        • BMCHB

          Maybe Carson will do an interview? That would be worth reading.

    • Lucid Walk

      Anybody got a copy of his “Whispers from the Watchtower”?

      Love to read it.

  • OpenFireFilms

    Carson’s pretty spot-on that breaking into the industry is possible by making a compelling horror film on a low-budget, especially with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu gobbling up films like those. However…

    …the part he left out is that making a film is hard. Very hard. No matter the budget. In fact, the hardest part of making any film is getting the money for it. I went through two years of development with a low seven-figure sci-fi horror that never got made, and we went through the whole process; even sat in on investor pitch meetings. Alas, was not meant to be. I’ve also made a micro-budget feature, and even getting money for that was difficult – not to mention the two years it took to finish.

    Also, if you are going to take the route of directing your own material (a fantastic suggestion by the way), make sure you have a reel of your stuff that proves you can direct. So, if you haven’t made anything, make something short to showcase your talent and grow as a filmmaker. You increase your chances of getting hired or getting the dough

    And as for Get Out – the comments so far are pretty spot on as to it’s success. But, let’s not forget, Jordan Peele had an extremely successful career as an actor and writer before he made Get Out. He had a ton of industry clout that he used as leverage to get the $5 mil. Get Out was ultimately a low-risk, high-reward project and was produced by one of the best and shrewd in the business, Jason Blum.

    So, by all means, directing a clever horror film is a great route to take. It certainly gives you more creative control. If it’s successful you’re instantly in the big club. And, it’ll give you many more options post-success. But, aside from that brilliant script, you’ll need a killer reel, industry clout, good producers, and a lot of patience because, no matter the budget ($40K or $4 million), making a film is very difficult even AFTER you get past the hardest step. =]

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Money. Just a petty little detail to consider for the SERIOUS screenwriter.

      • OpenFireFilms

        All it takes to make your own feature is…
        …..writing the script, pitching it to producers, finding the right producers, getting it optioned by the producers, waiting a year or three while the producers get money, break escrow, enter months of development and pre-production (where all you have to do is, in no particular order, continually refine the script, scout locations, assemble a crew, get insurance, make a schedule, make a budget, cast the picture, negotiate contracts, arrange craft services, secure camera and G/E gear, make a shot list, draw storyboards, break down the script beat by beat, tech scout your locations, secure locations, get shooting permits, build sets, procure raw materials for any VFX or set builds), shoot the picture for 4-6 weeks, and then edit the picture, score the picture, add SFX to the picture, color-time the picture, sound design and sound edit the picture, potentially do ADR for the picture, send it to festivals, secure distribution, ensure your financiers see a return on their investment…. wash, rinse, repeat. =]

        • UPB13

          And if you’re a trust fund millionaire, it’s not like it’s easy. Out of that whole list, all you get to eliminate is:

          “getting it optioned by the producers, waiting a year or three while the producers get money, ensure your financiers see a return on their investment”

          • OpenFireFilms

            Even if you have deep pockets, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a return on your investment. The film could bomb or not even sell and you’re out a few million. Not to mention your credibility is likely shot to hell.

          • UPB13

            But you don’t have to ensure anyone receives a return. You just get to cry in your martini.

  • BMCHB

    “The Fastest Way Into The Business For A Screenwriter Is…”

    Type faster, folks. Type faster.

    • klmn

      I’m reminded of the dentist who sold a screenplay to Michael Jackson for $20 million.

      So, the fastest way into the business is…

      • BMCHB

        .. brush other peoples teeth?

        ;-)

        • Scott Crawford

          Euphemism? The old “purple toothbrush?”

      • Citizen M

        Did he pet his monkey?

      • PQOTD

        No wonder Jackson had financial troubles.

    • Scott Crawford

      In the time it takes me to decide I DON’T want to write that script, I could’ve just written it and at least given my wrists some exercise (apart from the Barclays, of course). And you never know, maybe once I’d written it, it might have turned out alright, at least worth a rewrite.

      REAL writers (not me) write LOTS of scripts. They have their intended concepts lined up (they know what the next script might be), they work out how much time they need to spend on plot development and research, how to spend writing the first draft… in short, it’s MORE like a business and less like a hobby.

      I’ve never really been able to do that but if you CAN, then that’s great. That’s what I think people need to focus on, what we need to focus more than anything… productivity. And anything that can HELP productivity.

      • PQOTD

        Productivity at the expense of creativity though = garbage in / garbage out.

  • Thaddeus Arnold

    I think A Cure For Wellness is a terrible title for a horror film. I think that may have had to do something with people staying away.

    • Scott Crawford

      Yeah, but once they had that title it’s tough to get them to change their minds.

      Billy Friedkin’s Sorcerer?

  • RO

    “So why is it that 20 times as many people chose to see Get Out as did A Cure For Wellness?” I would say there is a sense of dramatic irony in Get Out as opposed to A Cure For Wellness. Get Out draws on a “Guess who’s coming to dinner” theme as well.

    Also, one added bonus for Get Out over A Cure For Wellness is that Jordan Peele, is a sketch comedian. You can argue that comedians go to much darker places to find laughs than your average joe schmoe (regardless of how many blockbusters they’ve directed). Comedians have an added advantage over typical actors and filmmakers. They don’t just go through several emotions, they go to the brink and find an escape with humor. Conversely, actors go to those dark places and then shut off or hit a reset button or do a form of roll back on the emotions to recover. It’s not as much a journey for them as it is for comedians, and because comedians go on this journey all the time when they look for material, they have a better understanding of story and structure. Comedians know they only have anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes to execute a joke. It could be a quick off the cuff thing, or a brief story that has a set up, a distraction and a pay off. I can go on and remind or inform (if you didn’t know) that most experience comedians have a talent for being able to distinguish between hokey/ridiculous situations and dramatic ones. They’re ideal for horror which can often be over the top or silly because they know how to temper those over the top moments to feel more genuine.

    That’s just my observation regarding horror and why Get Out was more approachable than A Cure For Wellness.

    • ShiroKabocha

      The great comedians are masters of economy and structure. You’ve got to be really tight and spot on when it comes to timing and pacing and delivery. They know to go for the kill in order to get that laugh out of us.

  • RO

    “Write a horror spec and direct it yourself. This is, by far, the quickest way for a screenwriter to get into the industry.”

    While I can see how many can think this is the best way, the biggest factor Carson is missing in this is the post production part. Which is not only still fairly expensive, but unless you are doing it yourself, the odds of you finding an editor and a compositor that will work for cheap and do a good job, or at least finish the job are astronomical. I have a dozen friends that have gone this route, writing and directing horror films and they’re in limbo because of post-production. One friend of mine having gone through six editors because the first five couldn’t even finish up to the half way point of the film.

    I would go one step further. Before writing and directing a film. Get some editing software and play around with it, getting the hang of how to do post production. Then, once you’ve gotten good with that, then write and direct your script; because it’s one thing to write and direct, it’s a whole different thing to finish and send it out.

    • ShiroKabocha

      Yep. The editing room is where you make or break movies.

  • Kirk Diggler

    “A Cure For Wellness was directed by a 20 year veteran director who had helmed some of the biggest movies in Hollywood.”

    Verbinski is more or less a studio hack. The Pirates franchise. (pffftt). Lone Ranger. (oy) The Weatherman. The Mexican. Not exactly memorable stuff.

    • wlubake

      He did direct the Ring, so it isn’t like he doesn’t know how to direct a successful horror film. That said, per IMDB, he has story credit on A Cure for Wellness. Just like a bunch of writers think they can direct (and are wrong), a lot of directors think they can write (and are wrong).

      • Justin

        Like with Jason Bourne and getting a film editor to write the script.

  • Master John Moss

    Did you guys see the new trailer for ‘Murder on the Orient Express’?

    I’ve been saying for years now that old-fashioned murder mysteries are a genre that more people should consider writing in. Sooner or later some studio is going to roll the dice on one that goes over huge and revives them.

    • Scott Crawford

      It’s still a hugely popular genre on UK television, and I guess around the world with repeats of Poirot and Murder She Wrote.

      The trailer is a bit odd (the music?!) but I’m still looking forward to seeing it.

    • Scott Serradell

      I agree. In the book market, mysteries (usually lumped with suspense and thriller) are routinely the top selling genre (average $750-850 million a year); as Scott points out the genre is still the most popular (and among the longest running) on television on both sides of the Atlantic. In sum, everyone loves a good mystery.

      My last script was a mystery (not noir, not thriller) where the lead character was a private investigator. Some of the responses I’ve received thus (only a few) were favorable, so, who knows…

      As for the trailer — personally — I didn’t care for it: No real atmosphere, no suspense or build-up, scene-stopping dialogue, and a BAD music choice. Even the font they choose for the logo was underwhelming (and a poor reflection of the mood of the time period — it looked like neon!) But — maybe (and I hope) it was just a bad trailer. I like everyone involved and was looking forward to it.

  • Ninjaneer

    Directing well is hard and making your own movie is hard AF.

    Most people that make there own movie spend 5-10 years trying to get it made and that’s after spending years learning all about filmmaking. Even if you are a good director you still need to surround yourself with talented crew to make it work.

    After those 5-10 years trying to bootstrap your own movie (plus the years learning HOW to make movies) there is a 99.5% chance it will either suck or just be blah.

    I’ve taken quite a bit of time away from screenwriting to the craft of filmmaking / directing / cinematography and the biggest take away is that I WAY UNDERESTIMATED what it takes to 1. learn the craft and 2. the Herculean effort it takes to produce / organize / make anything.

    It’s 1000X easier to write movies than make one. To write you only need yourself. To make a movie, just the organizational/producing/ people wrangling aspect of it will drain you in addition to the constant roadblocks.

    Thinking that making your own feature is the fast track to getting in is incredibly naive.

    Even in the rare “overnight” successes you hear of if you look into it you’ll see that there were many years and great struggle behind that and those are the best cases.

    I initially set out to write something that I could eventually make but then I realized that if my script is not good enough for someone else to buy it’s prolly not good enough to spend many years trying to make.

    I’m still studying / practicing filmmaking in addition to screenwriting but now it’s in hopes of directing after I’ve become a screenwriter or making a trailer for my script.

    I highly recommend working on set of a feature movie or least some shorts. It’s very eye opening.

    • Poe_Serling

      “Even in the rare “overnight” successes you hear of if you look into
      it you’ll see that there were many years and great struggle behind
      that and those are the best cases.”

      So true…

      Before Halloween, Carpenter did a ton of shorts and Dark Star, etc.

      Before The Evil Dead, Raimi did a ton of shorts.

      Before Terminator, Cameron worked in various positions on Battle
      Beyond the Stars, Rock and Roll High School, Galaxy of Terror,
      and so on.

      • Ninjaneer

        Fo sho.

        And to be clear, I’m not saying don’t make a movie on your own, I’m just saying that is not a quick path to get in.

        I know multiple people making features and since moving back to Cali 5 years ago I’ve tried to get know and develop a network of filmmakers in my area (Sacramento / Roseville).

        If there is anyone else here in the Sacramento / Roseville area interested in getting connected into filmmaking community here let me know. We can meet up.

    • LostAndConfused

      Even a short film is a headache to deal with. I did 2 short films back in 2015 with the plan to transition into feature filming. The first one was only 15 minutes long, but it took an entire month to just shoot because of conflicts in scheduling, flaky crew members, and other unforeseen circumstances (I was promised I could use this one location to shoot, they reneged on that promise the night before and I was forced to use an inferior location while pulling even more money out of my own pocket). And then the guy who promised to do the editing took 3 months, and that pissed a lot of the crew members off who were banking on this project to use as part of their resume for whatever job they were looking for (the actors were so much more understanding of this thankfully).

      The second one went more smoothly as I took a backseat and let someone else direct it. However despite emailing the director back and forth, having a plethora of in person meetings over Starbucks coffee (all of which I paid for), he still failed to understand my vision and it came out completely wrong. I wish I intervened more during the shooting but I learned the first time around how poorly stepping on other people’s shoes went, so I watched as this trainwreck of a short film unfolded right before my eyes. I spent a year working on this script and I was not proud of the final product. I was so ashamed of it that I deleted it completely off of my computer. There’s a copy of it out there somewhere but it’s not in my possession.

      A part of me wished I continued making short films and build upon my experience, but $3000 out of my own money down the drain on two short films that I never expected to spend that much on and tons of heartaches later, I just couldn’t do it. Eventually I plan on getting back into it, but not until I know I’m for sure ready and I have a staff that I can rely on.

  • cjob3

    Great article, Carson. Very well said.

    A Cure For Wellness VS Get Out reminds me of a fateful weekend in 1999, when two different horror movies went head-to-head:

    A big budget/ big director Hollywood feature called “The Haunting” opened against the low-budget/unknown director indie called “The Blair Witch Project.”

    It’s safe to say – our lead crying into the camera showed us a lot more of The Blair Witch’s “character.”

  • Henry WC

    For people who really don’t like the horror genre, I feel another great idea is to elevate one of the other low level or B-type genres. Anytime you bring quality and artistic value in those genres you’re able to bring so much more clout and prestige to your profile as if you’ve refreshed or revolutionized a genre. Similar to what Nolan did with Noir(Memento), Ridley Scott with Sci-fi and horror or Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright with Comedy… I believe Romantic comedy as well as comedy there is room to elevate for newcomers.

  • klmn

    It’s kind of strange that a post on “The Easiest Way To Break Into The Business” focuses on two scripts written by folks already in the business.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Is it story? Character? Or concept?
      Sometimes it’s a combination of 2 or 3.

      GET OUT had such a strong concept.
      And the trailer suggested a good story.

      LOGAN was different. The trailer didn’t suggest a strong concept.
      My guess — people loved the story and an intergel part of that were the characters.

    • Midnight Luck

      The Easiest Way to break in to Hollywood:
      Already be in.

  • ShiroKabocha

    “Write what you love. Don’t try some genre you’re not interested in just because it’s trending. You won’t be able to fake your way through a script you’re not passionate about.”

    Amen :)

    • Kirk Diggler

      Wear what you dig.

  • Jaco

    Well put.

  • Scott Crawford

    Some hard sci-fi doesn’t require a huge budget but offers plenty of intellectual potential. Look for possible PD adaptations of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne, etc. or any other sci-fi authors in the PD.

    • ShiroKabocha

      A straight adaptation of Verne, Wells or any PD author would send you to bankruptcy for the cost of renting the costumes alone. Unless you’re friends with a bunch of cosplayers or are willing to enslave your nan and her friends. You’d have to make it contemporary / a retelling first. And Verne’s novels travelled a lot. Lots of exterior locations that would be expensive to get if you don’t want your movie to look, well, cheap. Adventure is definitely not the genre to film on the cheap to kickstart a film career (unless you live in a part of the world where you can find a huge variety of landscapes and habitats within a short distance).

      But yeah, hard sci-fi (not the 19th and 20th century pulpy adventures and space fantasies moonlighting as sci-fi), horror, thriller, comedy, rom-com, all could be done on the cheaper side while still looking professional and sleek on screen. Just go for the genre you love ! If the story and production are good and you can manage to get the right people to see your movie, you’ll definitely get traction, whatever the genre.

  • Malibo Jackk

    What’s maddening is that someone could have written the same article
    but substituted THEME instead of CHARACTER.

    Theme junkies think that theme is the magic bullet.

    There’s a well known guru who’ll tell you it’s all about STORY.
    I’m a CONCEPT junkie myself.

    • UPB13

      In sports recruiting, all athletes who get a shot at the highest level are good in every facet of their game. But the ones who are considered the 5* recruits, the can’t miss prospects, always have at least one skill in which they are elite. Maybe it’s their vision, their burst, their strength, quickness, speed, etc.

      Seems to be the same in screenwriting. Not having any weaknesses is the bare minimum requirement. If you want to make it, you must be elite in some aspect (preferably more).

      • Malibo Jackk

        Yeah, there has to be something about your script that stands out.
        And it can’t be concept alone.

  • Poe_Serling

    Yeah, never underestimate the power of the ‘buzz’… it can
    often generate long lines outside your local multiplex.

    Get Out

    Very few films make back 50 times their original cost… that’s
    getting within driving distance of Jaws and the original Star
    Wars blockbuster-like neighborhood.

    And as you correctly pointed out above:

    GO is a very familiar mix of other movie premises (Guess Who’s
    Coming to Dinner, The Stepford Wives, and even the more recent
    flick Skeleton Key)…

    But approaching the story from just a slightly different angle can
    make a world of difference in striking the right chord with your
    potential audience.

    And hey, it’s always nice to see someone mention the early ’70s
    horror gem – Let’s Scare Jessica…

  • Avatar

    What if you’re not a horror writer?

    • Midnight Luck

      I’d say find a way to write the kind of story you write, and then see if you can either turn it into a horror, or find a horror angle to it.
      I think most people would be surprised how easy it is to find your dark side.

      • Avatar

        Good advice.

    • klmn

      Write for television.

    • PQOTD

      Does ‘horrified’ count?

  • klmn

    Yeah. I wonder what percentage of Blood List scripts go into production.

  • https://twitter.com/bfgbrimelow NEIL “BFG” BRIMELOW

    “Finally, there’s the third – and fastest – way to break in. Write a
    horror spec and direct it yourself. This is, by far, the quickest way
    for a screenwriter to get into the industry. I’ve seen it time and time
    again. The Duffer Brothers, the guys who did Stranger Things? Their
    breakout spec was a horror flick called “Hidden” that they directed
    right before the now famous Netflix show.”

    Carson is totally correct.I know three friends that have made extremely low budget horror movies that ranged from “Meh,” to “Really Sucky.” All of them sold, and one of them was even sold to a distributor before they even shot one frame. Dan O’ Bannon wrote “Dark Star,” and it flopped, then both him and John Carpenter had the idea, “Well, if we can’t make them laugh, we’ll scare the shit out of them.” Carpenter did “Halloween,” and O’ Bannon wrote “Alien.”

    • Malibo Jackk

      This had me wondering what happened to Matthew Cruz’s script GUEST.
      Thought someone said it sold a few years back.

  • Shane_Blade

    An important part of Get Out’s success was the humor and a wildly original idea. Eventhough it was a horror-movie, it was still a feelgood-movie!

  • Brainiac138

    That is true. I would add, though, horror fans are extremely loyal to the genre and many believe there are never enough horror films available. Look at the throwback The Void. Even on iTunes, it was selling out theaters because it was fresh, even though it owed so much to The Thing.