Crank-2-High-Voltage-jason-statham-31260100-1920-1080Jason Statham fully endorses #3

It’s one of the questions that never goes away for a writer. What should you write next? Write what you know? Write what you want? Write what’s going to make money? I don’t think there’s any one right answer. I’ve seen writers break in with a script they’re passionate about (Allan Loeb: “Things We Lost In The Fire”) and writers break in with a script that was purely market-driven. Ideally, the stuff you want to write would match up with the stuff that Hollywood wants to make, but it never quite works out that way, does it?

Then again, maybe you haven’t explored all your options yet. Maybe you need to see all those options to make an informed decision. That’s what inspired today’s post. I thought it’d be fun to show you the top ten types of movies Hollywood likes to make. These are the movies that keep popping up, year after year, and have been making the film industry moolah for decades. If you’re not writing within one of these genres, you’re not necessarily screwed, but you certainly aren’t making things easy on yourself.

A couple of caveats to this list. I don’t want to include anything that’s impossible for the average amateur screenwriter to write. So I’m not going to include comic book movies, high profile intellectual properties (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games), or animated films. I’m also not including sub-genres that pop up every five years or so, stuff like submarine flicks, the body-switching movie, the inspirational-teacher movie, or the stoner-comedy. The whole point of this list is to show the TOP films that Hollywood likes to make year in and year out. Let’s take a look, shall we?

1) The buddy cop comedy – This sub-genre doesn’t need much of an explanation. Basically, pair two people up who have a job to do, make sure there’s a lot of conflict between them, and make sure it’s damn funny. This year it was Ride Along. Last year it was The Heat. Before that 21 Jump Street. The Other Guys. Going back in history, we had Rush Hour, 48 Hours, and Lethal Weapon.

2) The weepy romance – Destined to drive men everywhere mad, the weepy romance flick is primed for the young female audience to drag their boyfriends to. It’s recently been dominated by the Nicholas Sparks craze, but it’s been around much longer than that. I guess not surprisingly, these movies almost always have someone dying in them. The Fault In Our Stars, Love Story, Harold and Maude, The Notebook, The Last Song, The Lake House. Strange how soft and soothing all those titles sound. These films don’t do Transformers numbers, but they bring in the lady money.

3) The straight action thriller – These are usually very simple stories following a bad ass protagonist as he/she kicks a lot of ass in pursuit of a clear goal. Die Hard, Brick Mansions, Jack Reacher, Salt, James Bond, Wanted, Crank, Rambo. Liam Neeson has made this genre his bitch in recent years, but it’s been around long before him and will continue to be around long after.

4) The big action movie where shit gets destroyed – It could be aliens, monsters, zombies, whatever. Give us a movie big in scope where lots of shit gets effed up. World War Z, Independence Day, Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Cloverfield, War of the Worlds, The Day After Tomorrow, Battle L.A. Hey, where else can anyone destroy entire cities with just their MacBook. This is one of the coolest things about being a writer!

5) The safe female-driven comedy – This is an area where Hollywood has changed. This slot used to go to the classic romantic comedy, stuff like The Wedding Planner or Notting Hill. Now, these stories tend to be broader in scope with multiple characters. For the most part, the female audience who go to these movies want to watch female characters going through the same things they are, and laugh about it. The Other Woman, Sex and the City, Eat Pray Love, Julie and Julia, He’s Just Not That Into You, Mamma Mia. If you’re a man writing these movies, God help you with authenticity.

6) The classic high concept comedy – This genre is never going away. If you can come up with a clever big idea for a comedy, you can strike gold in the spec market and at the box office. High concept comedies are one of the few genres that can break through that stodgy box office top 10 full of sequels, cartoons, and comic books. The Hangover, We’re The Millers, Identify Thief, Night at the Museum, Tropic Thunder.

7) The action-adventure – Although increasingly difficult to break into this IP dominated field, if you can write a good one (which, by the way, usually requires its characters to wield swords, wear sandals, or both), you can start yacht shopping, because these don’t just make a lot of money HERE. They make a lot of money EVERYWHERE, as in all over the world. Pirates of the Caribbean, Braveheart, 300, Troy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Immortals.

8) The big family comedy – One of the few huge genres you don’t need intellectual property for. These movies are usually divided into two categories – the literal family adventure, and the unique concept targeted at families. In the first category you have stuff like Cheaper by the Dozen, Parental Guidance, Blended and RV. And on the other end, stuff like The Tooth Fairy, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Home Alone.

9) The straight horror film – This is a tricky one. Hollywood loves these films cause they cost so little to make and have such a big upside, but they’re more of a crapshoot than they look. Maybe you get the next Paranormal Activity. But there’s a much better chance you’ll get Would You Rather. Your best bet is to focus on a unique concept that you haven’t seen before, then write in the most complex characters you can. No character development in a horror script almost always leads to direct-to-Itunes. The Conjuring, The Sixth Sense, Oculus, Saw, The Exorcist, The Shining.

10) The serious subject matter vanity project – These are usually centered around the most complex characters of the year. So don’t even attempt to write one if the main character isn’t fascinating in some way. Also, they’re almost always based on real people, so you’ll typically have to snatch up the rights to someone in book or article form. Not as impossible as you might think. Sure, you’re not going to get the big players, like Johnny Cash, but there are plenty of people in this world who have lived captivating lives that haven’t had movies made about them yet. Other than that, this sub-genre is exactly what it sounds like. Write us a story centered around a very compelling individual that has the potential to win an actor an Oscar. The Wolf of Wall Street, The Aviator, Lincoln, Seven Pounds, Ray, A Beautiful Mind.

So why are these movies so popular? Well, outside of the obvious, that audiences enjoy them, these are the movies Hollywood knows how to market best. They know exactly how to draw up the posters, how to cut the trailers, how to snip together a TV spot. That makes them low-risk, and since Hollywood is risk-averse, that’s a match made in heaven. But it doesn’t mean if you’re not writing one of these that you’re screwed. Plenty of popular films don’t fall into these categories. Life of Pi, The Descendants, Argo, Magic Mike, Gravity, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire.

The difference is, because Hollywood knows these movies are going to be tougher to market, they’re less inclined to pick them up or produce them. Which simply means the journey to get your script purchased or made will be harder. As long as you know that and are okay with it, by all means take that chance (although you should be taking less chances the older you get).  I believe your best shot at success is to look through the ten film types I’ve listed above, figure out which one you like best (the kind of film you actually go out and pay for) and see if you can’t write something in that mold. Not a copy. But a fresh angle that gives the genre a kick in the butt. That way you get the best of both worlds. You get to sell your script to Hollywood and you get to push the envelope some. I’ll be right here on the other side waiting to see what you come up with. ☺

  • Guess Who

    I know Thursdays are for articles but would you consider having a bonus
    article say on Tuesday from time to time. I just so look forward to the
    articles.

    • carsonreeves1

      Right now I average about one article idea a week. If that picks up, maybe I’ll write more. People are welcome to leave article suggestions under this comment. Please upvote any article ideas that sound good, which will increase the odds of me writing them. Thanks guys. :)

      • Guess Who

        Hey, what can I say, your public loves your articles. I notice that you alternate between articles on the craft and articles on the biz. It’s been a while since you’ve done an interview. Maybe, Tuesday be about craft and Thursday be about the biz. That article with Alan Loeb in the bathtub and his subsequent interview; plus that one last week about positivity were some of my favorites.

        You’ve learned a lot from dealing with managers and executives, so maybe an article about what you’ve learned since starting the site from your dealings [about what it takes to break in, the realities of launching a career and what it takes to continue a career (i.e. what does networking involve, what writing assignments entail, how a writer makes a living or keeps alive while chasing the dream, what the hell does a manager really do for you, the different types of managers—some are more development some are more sales oriented)]

        Or an article on the follow up of past success of guys that did well here (alumni) or writers that were interviewed by you (star guest speakers) (Allan Loeb, F. Scott Frazier, etc)—what common traits, habits and actions you found that led to their success.

        An all manager/rep extravaganza—everything we wanted to know about representation.

        • bex01

          Noooo don’t get rid of Pilot Tuesday!

      • kenglo

        How about an interview with Brooklyn Weaver or some manager in the industry who is looking for specific specs, like ‘an action/sci-fi YA with a PULSE’ type spec, huh, huh?

        • Guess Who

          Yeah!!!!!! Great idea. Have a whole 3 week manager extravaganza series surrounding that…

          • kenglo

            Ohio PLAYER!! Wazzup man? Actually, they should have an article on SS Hall of Fame writers!

          • guess who

            Waaaaazup. Actually I am quite curious about how Tyler, Alex, the guy that wrote 100 are doing. If they are going to a lot of meetings and have chances at assignments which sounds like a lot of fun.

      • pmlove

        Personally, I’d like to see an analysis of a film like ‘The Great Beauty’, which for so much of it breaks so many rules that you worry it will teeter into irrelevance but by the end it has somehow become greater than the sum of its parts – best film I’ve seen in a while.

        So, Carson, how do you get away with a 7 minute clubbing scene? Lots of talking but no action? How do you build the tone and the message to hit home in a film that is ultimately lacking in story?

        • Brainiac138

          I have a feeling Carson would hate the Great Beauty.

  • carsonreeves1

    Hmm, I see that Disqus is now leaving advertisements on my page. Interesting. They didn’t tell me about that.

    • Guess Who

      Hmm. I guess I won’t mind learning about french kissing the right way.

      • Zadora

        And I guess I will be making $1000’s every day from penny stocks! :D

    • Stephjones

      At least that skank with the six pac abs is gone. ;)

  • Pauly W

    Hey Carson ,

    I have an idea for a article : something about the salaries for writers. I mean have done so much research and I still don’t get it. I remember once reading a blog written by one of the writers of the pirates of carribean movies , and he said he made a lot of money but not even near as what people think. The top 10 list over highest paid spec screenplays is old and have deja vu as number one , 5 million dollars? And the spec script a few years ago ‘snowwhite and the huntsman’ was sold for about 3.2 millions. I mean what does the writers of the transformers movies then get? Or fast and the furious? Or the new Captain america? If you knew anything about this , it could be great if you shared that with us.

    Thank you.

    • carsonreeves1

      This could be a fun article. Every writer has their “quote” and based on what I’ve seen, these writers make a lot of money. But yeah, if you haven’t had anything produced, it might not be nearly as high as you’d think.

      • Zadora

        It probably also depends if the script actually gets produced or not since at least some of the pay is from backend points.

        Seems like I’ve heard average annual salary for writers in L.A being $120,000.

        • Guess Who

          Not bad…. I wouldn’t mind that if only not to have to do the office grind.

          What’s the average for specs sold? First time writer versus established. How much does the writer keep say for $500,000 that Disciple program reportedly got… (after taxes, manager, agent fee, lawyer, wga fee)

          I always wondered how much these guys get paid for writing assignments…..

          • Zadora

            That was for working screenwriters.

            I’ve heard of a writer who sold a script for $600K. After taxes and agent/attorney fees the writer had about $300K left. Moved to L.A, never sold anything again and moved back home after 2 years. $120,000 is not that much in L.A, I don’t think. You can certainly live on it, but it’s not exactly a life of luxury either.

          • guess who

            300k…. I can definitely live with that….. though the hard part is keeping it with family, the girlfriend having their hands out….. not to mention the new Hollywood image I’d have to project.

          • MaliboJackk

            The devil is in the details.
            Usually (from what I understand) people will say that a writer sold a script for $600K — but that figure usually depends on whether or not the movie is ever made, as well as other conditions stated in the contract.

    • ChadStuart

      Probably your best bet is to look at the WGA’s schedule of minimums:

      http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/contracts/min2014.pdf

      There you will see what any WGA signatory has to AT LEAST pay you for your services. The big guys obviously will earn more than minimums, but for newbies it’s about what you should expect to earn for your first few sales.

      As a fun exercise, compare the minimums for T.V. writers versus feature writers, and you might decide you want to be a T.V. writer. It’s not that they get paid more, it’s that there’s more work in T.V. and you could end up making more than you would in features.

      As another fun exercise, compare these minimums against housing prices in L.A., and you’ll really see that writers don’t get paid very well at all.

      • MaliboJackk

        Have heard more than one professional screenwriter say
        — if you’re writing screenplays thinking that you’re going to make money, find yourself an occupation were you can actually make money.

        • Casper Chris

          They’re just trying to keep the gigs for themselves ;)

          • guess who

            LOL. No kidding. They say that as they are getting into their luxury vehicle from their nice home out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I don’t see any of them quick to leave if if its so terrible.

          • MaliboJackk

            One partner from one of the top three writing teams has mentioned that his partner is thinking of quitting — tired of writing scripts for movies that don;t get made.
            Another famous writing team just announced that they’re splitting up. More interested in producing and directing.

        • ChadStuart

          Honestly, all I want is to earn enough to keep my family in the same comfortable, modest lifestyle we have now. The only difference will be that I won’t be stuck in this cubicle 40 hours a week.

    • MaliboJackk

      About 5 or 6 years ago, saw a list of all spec scripts that sold for over a million.
      Guess how many pages. One. Guess how many scripts. Less than 35.

      Also saw an article where a writing team (of two) sold a script for over a million
      — but took home less than 38,000 each. Don’t remember all the details but the movie was never made, agents were paid and it could have been after taxes.
      (I later went back and tried to Google the article. Got over half a million hits on stories of screenwriters selling scripts for millions. That makes news. But what many screenwriters actually get paid — that does not make for a compelling story.)

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      It would be more interesting to me to learn how much B-movie writers get for a script. If I manage to write a script worthy of becoming a Hollywood flick, I’m sure people will come to advise me how much should I get for it. (and what would their commission be.)

    • fragglewriter

      I woul

    • JakeMLB

      Most of the replies here are a bit off.

      This is what you’re looking for, the most recent WGA report:

      http://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/who_we_are/hwr14execsum.pdf

      This is the executive summary. The full report will be published in June.

      Go to page 12: median earnings by age group.

      Median is better to use than the mean since the mean would be skewed by the few top-heavy earners. Women and minorities tend to make less than white males. Keep in mind too that for feature writing, that median is probably not as stable as in television since there may be some years where writers make close to nothing and other years where a big check will come through. In other words, the statistical variance is probably much larger for features.

      • MaliboJackk

        Median 40,000 to 100,000 for feature films in 2012.
        Wow.
        Yeah — but we’re going to be making 300,000 for two weeks work doctoring scripts for the big guys. Right? Am I right? Who’s with me? Guys?
        Who’s with me? Guys… ?

  • Jarman Alexander

    I love reading articles that back up the work I’m about to do that day. Makes me feel like I’ve already beat the game and everything I write is golden!

  • Bifferspice

    i’d like to see an article about the various contests you can enter, and the pros and cons associated, as well as which are in decent standing nowadays. obv the nicholl is way out front, but which others are worth entering.

    also, which genre of script is best suited to which competition, etc?

    I’ve recently come to the conclusion that competition placing is vital to add to your query letters to try and stop them being instantly discarded, but they cost so much, i want to try and get the best value for my competition dollar.

    any info on the above would be very much appreciated :)

    • ChadStuart

      I can tell you my experience. Placing in a contest will do no more than crack the door a little bit, but it doesn’t open as many doors as you think.

      The best I’ve ever done in one of the major contests is reach the finals at Austin; and came within a hair’s breath of winning if the contest director was to be believed. After the competition, several managers contacted us (I was writing with a partner at the time) requesting to look at our stuff. That’s the true value of winning contests: you’re sought out a little. Only one of those were willing to sign us. We worked with him for three years and got nowhere. He was a great guy, but he just couldn’t make it pop. (Incidentally, the guys who won Austin that year are only just now making a few sales eight years later, and it’s due to one of the team’s networking skills, not the contest win).

      Before that we had, in alternating years, placed in the quarters and semis at Nicholl. The year we placed in the quarterfinals, we added that to query letters. It made no appreciable difference in the number of requests we got for reads. We’d gotten requests before we placed, and we got about the same the year after. The next year we made the semis, same results. To most producers, a quarter or semi finish just means you can write competently, but doesn’t mean you are the next great writer they’re looking for, i.e. it doesn’t mean much at all, sadly.

      One year we made what was ostensibly the semifinals in the Script P.I.M.P TV Pilot contest. Same results as Nicholl.

      A few years later we outright won a minor contest called the Hollywood Outreach Program. That got us exactly nothing as well. The folks who run the contest are absolutely great – love them to death – but it just doesn’t have the prestige to crack open a door, sadly.

      Honestly, there’s nothing “placing” in a contest will do for you. If you have an intriguing concept, and a sharply written query, managers and producers will ask to read your scripts (agents absolutely will not). A dull concept with a contest stamp of approval gets sent to the same pile as all the other dull concepts. Placing makes you feel good to be sure, and it gives you some bragging rights for awhile, but it’s not going to help you much at all.

      From my vantage point, the only contest result that will mean anything is actually getting a Nicholl Fellowship, but even then it’s entirely up to what you can do with it afterward. Not every fellow is doing as well as Ehren Kruger or Susannah Grant.

      • Bifferspice

        great reply, cheers for that. :) to be honest, getting sought out by managers wanting to read your stuff is EXACTLY what i want. obviously you can’t expect results from that, but the fact is you got representation on the back of placing. it’s tough to read that the other placings you got didn’t get you anywhere, especially with such a great run (congrats by the way – that is some impressive work!). My working is that it might make one or two people go from outright rejection to asking to see it, so, like you say, just jimmying the door a crack rather than pick the lock, but anything’s a bonus when your only strategy is blind query letters with no produced credits.

        congrats again, i’d love a look at some of your work :)

      • fragglewriter

        The “Contests” tab on this site list a few scripts that Carson endorses as screenwriting competitions writers should enter.

        Also, there was an article that Carson has written on the what screenwriting competitions look for if you want to win. This article can be found on his older site: Scriptshadow.blogpost. Unfortunately, I’m at work and cannot locate that article as I’m blocked.

    • JakeBarnes12

      Hey Biff,

      My personal experience is you need one crucial element to get manager and producer reads — a great logline, i.e. one that clearly expresses a strong, intriguing story idea.

      I mean an idea so breathtakingly good, you consider murdering the writer and claiming it as your own. I’ve seen a couple such ideas offered by amateurs on this site in the four years I’ve been reading it. Everything else was in my estimation average to bad.

      My writing partners and I hit on one such story idea and got a TON of manager and producer reads at major places and some meetings off the script itself.

      At the time we were complete outsiders and we had the phone ringing off the hook. If you have a truly great idea, they come to you.

      After a stunning logline, the second thing you need is of course superb execution of that idea. That’s where we ran into trouble — we didn’t have the experience at the time to knock the idea out of the park.

      When we got our (former) manager it was through placing in a big competition where he was one of the judges. His attitude was “fuck the competition,” he loved our idea and worked closely with us developing the script and working on other scripts with us. In the end it didn’t sell, for reasons that are pretty obvious to me now with much more writing experience, but we learned a lot through working with him.

      If you’re submitting to competitions and you’ve been doing this for a few years, you should be placing. If you can’t stand out from the flood of chancers, dreamers, mental cases, noobs, and general mass of the untalented, then what chance do you have against established pros?

      • Bifferspice

        great points. :) i certainly aim to enter competitions each year, to see where i stand. each competition is clearly a lottery, but surely there’s a bit of averaging out if you enter into several at the same time. if you don’t get anywhere in any of them, then your script is clearly a bit of a dud! though it’s also why it would be good to know which competitions suit which type of screenplay (i know nicholl is more drama based, etc). anyway, cheers for the input :)

        • kenglo

          Yeah, but, you don’t have to enter a gazillion contests to “see where you stand” I think there was an article here already, or one somewhere else, I forget, kinda old, Nicholl, PAGE, Scriptalooza I think are the top three which have ties to industry folks. All the rest just want your money. I entered CWA, which is a 2nd tier of the three. I made the finals on a screenplay in 2011, put out queries stating such, got a few reads, but it was, IMHO, missing something. In 2013 someone actually called for a read out of the blue, so I guess it happens.

          My opinion, unless you have something special (as stated by your peers, not by yourself), don’t waste money on comps. Think about how many people enter them, and if yours is great, it will show through, but if it is not, then you will get the letter ‘you finished in the top ten percent of Nichol!) Riiiight….how many people have gotten that letter I wonder? out of 6-8000 scripts, I’m in the top ten percent, on EVERY SCREENPLAY I ever entered into it, even my first very SUCKY one!! Riiiight!

          But I’m just saying, you’d be better off with a reading group, people you trust, people who are actually in the industry….I would say get some notes, but those are iffy too…..

          Good luck!!

          Oh, and if by chance you enter and win INDUSTRY INSIDER comp….yup….that’s a good one!

          • Bifferspice

            cheers man. i know it’s a crapshoot, but it’s only the money you can lose. if it doesn’t place, you don’t mention you entered it. if it places, you can put it on your letter.

            i also love the way you throw in “better off with… people who are actually in the industry” – they’re the people i’m trying to get to read it!! haha! that’s the ****ng difficult part!! i’m trying to get to them! :)

          • Nick Morris

            “Riiiight….how many people have gotten that letter I wonder? out of 6-8000 scripts, I’m in the top ten percent, on EVERY SCREENPLAY I ever entered into it, even my first very SUCKY one!! Riiiight!”

            Interesting. Doesn’t Nichol provide any kind of list for their top 10%?

      • BSBurton

        Great information and appreciate the honesty. Best post of the day

        • JakeBarnes12

          Thanks, B.

    • Jaco

      If getting repped is your goal – then look for contests that have had some modicum of success doing that for those writers who’ve won or placed well. Two come to mind: the Trackingb Contest (http://www.trackingb.com/) and the Tracking Board Launch Pad Contest (http://www.tracking-board.com/the-launch-pad-contest/).

      The Tracking Board contest is new – but hard not to notice some of their success stories (if you are going to quantify success as getting repped).

      Both sites do a Features and Pilot.

      Winning or placing in either of these contests guarantees nothing – but it sure enhances your script’s chances of getting noticed.

      • Bifferspice

        great stuff. any idea when the trackingb contest is? all it says on there at the moment is it’s closed for submissions…

        • Jaco

          I think it starts up soon – this month or next.

          Tracking Board’s Feature contest should be starting up soon – probably once they’re done with the Pilot competition – which is almost done.

  • Ken

    ‘they bring in the lady money’ – good phrase!

  • Casper Chris

    Just some clarification (because I see the word get thrown around a lot here)…

    A screenplay is also an intellectual property.

    I think you mean to say established I.P.

    I don’t want people here to think they have to turn their screenplay into a novel or a comic book in order to make it an intellectual property. That’s simply not true.

  • maxi1981

    Hey Carson, you forgot one that Hollywood loves. The shitty movie remake/prequel/sequel/based on,,,type movie that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in terms of plot, characters, amateur dialogue, horrible acting and ridiculously over thew top special FX that only serve to make the film marketable in a trailer that shows you everything that will happen in the movie anyway.

  • ripleyy

    Now let’s see how many writers stubbornly look at this article, and listen to it’s great advice, and still say “Naw, I can write that niche film about rabbit farming in Nebraska in the 1500s, it’ll make loads of money because David Fincher will jump at the chance to direct it!”

    • carsonreeves1

      But wait. If those rabbits turned into zombies…

      • klmn

        Still traumatized by your rabbit encounter?

        You might need to see a shrink.

        • Poe_Serling

          Or he could face his fears with this home remedy:

          • klmn

            Carson should review this.

            If he survives the viewing.

          • MaliboJackk

            Goosebumps!

      • Citizen M

        Carson’s favorite movie: Rabbit-Proof Fence.

      • fragglewriter

        What about turning into vampires? “Bunnicula”

  • punee

    What about the Sci fi and thriller genre?

    • carsonreeves1

      That actually would’ve probably been number 11. Along with the two-hander thriller genre (Safe House). Number 13 would’ve been the super heavy handed Oscar contender (Precious, Dallas Buyers Club).

      • Brainiac138

        It seems that lately there have been a lot of dramatic thrillers made in recent years, like Prisoners and Out of the Furnace. Do you think this is something that could turn into a thing or just a coincidence?

        • carsonreeves1

          I’m not sure. The only way they’re getting made is with stars willing to take steep pay cuts, so you really have to create complex deep fucked-up characters to tempt those actors into those lesser pay checks to get any traction with these scripts (which both of the films you mentioned did). This is what Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy) did as well. And The Grey. So maybe you’re right. There are more of these movies getting made than I thought.

          • Brainiac138

            It seems like Madhouse, the company that manages the writers for Safe House, Prisoners, and others have found a niche getting these kind of scripts read and made.

          • Guess Who

            How do you create fucked-up characters that differ from the norm without losing credibility?

  • Magga

    For all I know this is a weird question, but who produces direct-to-itunes films and how hard is it to get to them? I’d imagine you might get slightly more freedom if you make low-budget moves without the overhead of a cinema release, and that they might take more risks in order to stand out and get noticed. Getting a film into the cinema is of much less concern for me than just getting the movie made the way it should be, and I’d much rather make compromises in terms of budget than story, especially considering the suspense/crime-script I’m trying to finish has exactly two things that might be considered “effects”, a person getting shot and a car backing into a garage. I’d be happier with a Corman movie than an Avengers movie any day of the week

    • mulesandmud

      Not many producers intentionally produce films meant to be released exclusively as a digital download, but depending on the size, genre, marketability, and quality of the film, an indy producer simply might not have the option of distributing theatrically, because no one will buy a film that no one has any reason to go see. Plus, even if the producer tries to sell their B-movie and gets a few offers, the investors may say no because the offers will probably total less than what the film cost to make, so everyone will lose money.

      If you’re asking, “Who finances films that have no hope of a theatrical or television run?” The short answer: independent producers and financiers, which is usually a pretty desperate scramble for cash – ten thousand here, fifty thousand here – and is a different beast every time. It’s a messy road, but if you want creative freedom, that’s the price you pay.

      If you’re asking, “Who produces films using an assembly-line indy production model like Corman did, only tailored to the modern world?”, well, there are companies like Blumhouse that embrace the idea of cranking out a ton of low-budget genre movies in hopes that one of them might go big while the others will languish on iTunes, but they’re still not going to give total control to an untried filmmaker. You’re still taking lots of notes from people whose eyes are on the bottom line.

      Even Corman didn’t let his film brats do whatever they wanted; they had to work around the insane rules of his bargain basement production model. I believe he once told Bogdonavich that he have creative freedom as long as 1) It starred Boris Karloff, 2) twenty minutes of his film was made up of footage from another Corman film, and 3) they could shoot it in two weeks. Freedom is a complicated word.

      • Eddie Panta

        The Boris Karloff sniper film is a fantastic example, love the story behind that.
        Creativity comes from limitations.

        But in terms of the overall VOD market. There are a lot of famous actors who have or need to have production companies for financial and or creative reasons. A lot of them never produce anything. But some do come out with a film that they can cast with other actors they know. The films are produced with only the expectations of showing in the festival market. And if the film loses money, well that’s why the production company was set up to do in the first place.

        • mulesandmud

          It’s true that those actor shingles are great places to develop festival-type projects, if you can get in the door. Companies like Plan B make a point of finding projects that are off the beaten path, and have shouldered a lot of the weight of what we think of as ‘prestige films’ (e.g. 12 Years a Slave).

          Usually those companies are looking for vehicles for the actor in question, but not always. Basically, they’re saying, “Pitch us a movie good enough that Brad Pitt will want to star in it.”, which, if he’s a good fit for the project, is something you should be doing anyway.

          Of course, most of the movies they develop never get made, just like anywhere else, but in an interesting way some of those vanity companies have really become creative strongholds.

    • Eddie Panta

      The majority of the films you’re describing, the ones that end up straight to VOD come from producer/director/writer or a team of filmmakers who went out and got their own financing. While the films may not have a great chance of being picked up for theatrical release, they could play the festival circuit.

      Most of the time, the people behind these films already have some sort of foothold in the industry, either as actors, line-producers, cameramen, or editors.

      They all have scripts too. Everyone’s got a script. So, a group of people in Hollywood could pool their resources and connections to get a film made.

      Whatever the project might be, if you don’t have a huge star, it’s not going to go theatrical. Of course there are exceptions to the rule.

      Look at the films Mulberry St, and Stake Land. Two very well received horror movies that were from a director/ actor/writer team. They’re not buying original content. They’re creating the entire film from start to finish. While the movies won’t have any real box office receipts, they do have longevity on cable tv, VOD, and the European market. Enough to make their money back, and make another film.

      These films don’t have the budget for a original spec script purchase or a WGA script. The concepts in the story are already in place, based on the budgetary limits. For example, just being able to get a certain location could decide what the story is about. In this way the concept of the film doesn’t start with the script, but rather what the producer could make available to the project.

      Let’s say you had a guy with a lot of money who wanted to finance a film, become a producer. If he has a lake house on the Gulf with a big boat… guess where the story is taking place?

    • PoohBear

      There’s a huge market for these kinds of movies. Deals get made at the American Film Market in the fall where production companies and others sell their films to worldwide distributors.

    • Brainiac138

      I have a friend who writes almost exclusively for the market you are describing. Out of all my writer friends, he by far has the most stable career, even though he doesn’t pull in huge numbers for his assignments, but he gets several a year. It is pretty competitive to get into, and the best way is to actually start working for some of the production companies and getting to know the producers. I’ve never heard of anyone getting into it by writing query letters or anything like that.

      • Magga

        I tried to read up on all this but always headed into Transmorphers or Sharknado-land, which is far from what I want this to be. More Blood Simple, if anyone makes things at that level of financing. Either way, do you have any examples of those kinds of companies? I’m Norwegian, but I’m sort of forming this plan to save up money from making commercials and head to the U.S and give it a shot, more for the adventure than money (my guess is the average script salary is better here) and in a perfect world direct the thing. Which is madness unless the budget is low enough

  • Nick Morris

    I understand the desire to write market-driven stuff, but it amazes me every time I read something like this:
    “I don’t even really like horror, but I’m considering writing a low-budget horror script because they sell.”
    I can’t speak for other genres, but on behalf of horror enthusiasts everywhere, please don’t.
    Write something you love, or at least care about. We can always tell when the writers are just phoning it in, don’t understand (or even like!) the genre or feel like they’re above the material.

    • Illimani Ferreira

      Well, I agree that you shouldn’t write a genre you don’t like expecting to sell your script, but it’s interesting to try as an exercise. I don’t like straight action but I started a straight action script and, although I’m in a writing break now,I intend to finish it in the future.

      • Nick Morris

        Good point. I can definitely see the value of this as an exercise. Maybe I should try my hand at a “weepy romance”, though I’m sure it would wind up being somehow horrific, or just plain horrible, lol.

        • Hadley’s Hope

          Bloody romance?

          Horror-rom-com? Worked for Shaun of the Dead.

          • Nick Morris

            Zom-com, lol!

    • pmlove

      Although, that said, some of the more interesting horror efforts come from those who have demonstrated an understanding of other genre types – Friedkin, Kubrick, Polanski, Cronenberg (although admittedly he probably just ‘is’ horror to an extent).

      But if you are going to come from a different viewpoint, bring some of that. I think it’s good for horror to be infused with a few new viewpoints. Obviously if you’re just going to ape Halloween, then I defer to the above.

      • Hadley’s Hope

        • Nick Morris

          “You had me at Wes Anderson”. Hahaha, perfect.

      • Nick Morris

        “I think it’s good for horror to be infused with a few new viewpoints. Obviously if you’re just going to ape Halloween, then I defer to the above.”
        I agree completely with this. There’s no question that the genre can’t evolve by simply writing the same stories over and over.
        But please note that Friedkin, Kubrick and Polanski are all brilliant filmmakers who’s horror triumphs (THE EXORCIST, THE SHINING and ROSEMARY’S BABY, respectively) are adapted works from horror writers. Cronenberg is indeed, pure horror, at least in my mind.

        • MaliboJackk

          My favorite story about Cronenberg comes from a guy who was working with him for the first time.
          One morning, Cronenberg says to him — ‘I had this dream last night…’
          And the new guy notices all the people around him drifting away.

          Apparently Cronenberg comes up with some crazy shit.

          • Nick Morris

            Haha! That’s so awesome. Cronenberg’s twisted imagination knows no limits.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      I agree. I never want to sit down to write something with that mentality.

      This is why I’ll never write a romantic comedy or weepy romance. Partially because they just aren’t really in my wheelhouse, but primarily because I just don’t think I’d enjoy it. I can’t muster the proper amount of passion to effectively write for those genres, even though I’ve enjoyed films of that type.

      • Nick Morris

        Thank you. My point exactly.

  • Scott Strybos

    [excerpt from Sports Night]

    Dana Whitcaker: Dan and Casey are professional writers. They aren’t waiters
    in a restaurant. You can’t tell them what you would like and how you would like
    it prepared.

    J.J.: This show is bought and paid for by my network, Dana, and
    that is exactly what I can do.

  • Stephjones

    Re: safe female-driven comedy.
    If you’re a woman actually enjoying these movies…God help you.

  • Eddie Panta

    I would as a 10a for the over-blown big budget movie with a gigantic cast of stars.
    It seems every year a move like NEW YEAR’s EVE comes out with a gigantic cast stars in cameo roles and you just know it’s going to be a bomb. But they make them every year anyway. Like MOVIE 43. Not sure how or why that happens.

    Also, I would add REMAKES to the list.

  • Zadora

    Setting yourself up as a small corporation would probably be a really bad idea if you live in the US since we have one of the highest corporate tax rate in the world.

    I don’t think you can get away from the tax man. You have to pretty much figure you’ll have to pay around 30% in taxes and 10% to your agent.

    • Casper Chris

      lol, in my country regular people in the high income bracket pay 60-70% in taxes.

      • Zadora

        I was referring to corporate tax rates, not personal.

        • Zadora

          The 30% would be for the personal income tax. Can be more too. Corporate is closer to 39.9% or something like that with US “leading” and Japan at #2.

        • Casper Chris

          I know. I was going off this…

          “Setting yourself up as a small corporation would probably be a really bad idea if you live in the US since we have one of the highest corporate tax rate in the world.”

    • Jaco

      When writers talk about incorporating, they are usually talking about forming an S-Corp. S-Corporations don’t pay tax.

      You might be thinking of a C-Corp.

      • Zadora

        I think S-corporations are taxed at the same rate as personal, so why would a writer want to go through the effort of forming an S-corporation if they have to pay the same taxes as if they filed an individual? I’m no tax attorney nor accountant so I have no idea. I’m just asking questions to why here. I still think there isn’t really a way to avoid taxes unless you’re hugely rich and can spread things around. I have a feeling screenwriters seldom fall into that category. :)

        • Jaco

          You are asking good questions.

          It’s not about avoiding taxes – it’s about minimizing your tax liability. Maybe it seems like semantics – but, trust me, it’s not. For example – once you reach a certain income level, forming an S-Corp can help with the amount you might have to pay in self-employment tax as an individual. Also, at certain income levels, you might start thinking about ways to limit your legal exposure as well – which would bring an LLC or similar type entity into play.

          And we’re not talking about average income levels here – when you start to think about this kind of shit, you’re in the $250k+ annual income range – and likely much larger.

          For annual incomes below that amount – it usually makes more sense to remain a sole proprietorship. But – always worth a trip to an accountant and/or lawyer to figure that out for sure (vs. an anonymous opinion like mine here on SS).

  • andyjaxfl

    And preferably all ten films are remakes to some degree.

  • Randy Williams

    Had a shock last night after the screenwriter’s group I’m a member of let out. Afterwards, I chatted with one of the members I hadn’t before had much chance to talk with, someone I had witnessed in the group to be, in my opinion, head and shoulders over the others as far as general movie knowledge, insight into what makes movies work from page to screen and in work ethic.

    We talked about just this. What kinds of films does Hollywood love to make? What stories should we be writing? This person was working on a story that had a great set up but the hook and the stakes just weren’t there we both agreed. So, we bounced some ideas around. He showed me his outline, his beat sheet which was very detailed. I was very impressed, inspired to write myself, as I always am when others are enthusiastic about their work, loved the basic idea, the theme, his visual ideas for it. I thought it would work as a TV series too.

    I asked this person what they wanted out of this screenwriting pursuit. “The viewer to gasp at the end with astonishment” was the answer.

    No mention of a paycheck at that time. Which would have helped. I walked this person back to their car. At that time I was informed, the car was this person’s home for the last seven months and little opportunity foreseen for that to change.

    I invited this person for a full course dinner at Burger King. We settled in a booth and talked for hours about our stories. We were the last customers out the door as the store closed and the manager laughed, she was just about to throw us out.

    • NajlaAnn

      Good luck to both of you.

  • Linkthis83

    From what I learned on Scriptnotes, once a writer reaches a certain regular income level, they incorporate.

  • Citizen M

    Hang on a mo. These are the genres that the PUBLIC likes. If you check out the movies Hollywood actually makes, and presumably bought a script for, I think it is rather more heavily horror and crime oriented.

    Plus the coming of age and high school drama/romance genres.

    I don’t know if this is valid, but I searched IMDb for movies made in the US and released in 2013. I got 1,999 hits, most of them you’ve never heard of. I doubt they ever saw a theater, but someone put money into making them, so they should be counted towards popular genres. http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&count=100&countries=us&release_date=2013,2013&runtime=80,600&sort=num_votes,asc&title_type=feature

    Sample loglines chosen at random:

    The Song (2013)
    A singer/songwriter who gave up his dream is entered into a Reality TV songwriting contest. But after losing the first two rounds, he takes on a win-at-all-costs attitude, even if winning means losing himself.

    Two-Bit Waltz (2013)
    Suspension from school, the loss of a friend, a broken heart and lack of inspiration lead to Maude’s downfall in this romp through teenage error

    After Darkness (2013)
    As the SUN burns out, an American family gathers at the end of the world, their hopes for rescue slowly crumbling as they also confront long lasting divides amongst each other.

    37 (2013)
    A rocker makes a pact to kill himself on his 37th birthday. 12 weeks before the release of his final album and the end of his life, he meets and falls in love with a woman who has a dark secret of her own.

    7 Minutes (2013)
    Three high school friends are forced to commit a brazen robbery which quickly goes horribly wrong.

    Innocence (2013)
    A young woman discovers her elite Manhattan preparatory school harbors a dark secret.

    Crazy Bitches (2013)
    A girls’ weekend away turns into a nightmare when, one by one, they are killed by their own vanity.

    • PoohBear

      I was curious if there was any data to support this article or if it was based on gut feeling.

      • Citizen M

        The data is there in the the list of 2,000 movies. You could analyze the list to see what genres are being made. I just glanced at it, I didn’t put it in a spreadsheet or anything, but someone could.

    • Casper Chris

      Actually it’s thrillers. Nothing sells more right now than thrillers.

  • Citizen M

    Actually, the favorite Hollywood “genre” is the rip-off. As Bill Martell points out:

    “In Hollywood, everything old will be new again. They love recycling! If something worked in the past, it will probably work again – just slap a fresh coat of paint on it! There’s nothing new under the sun – if you think you have an original idea it’s probably because you didn’t see the film that did that one before. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH is about really getting into a movie star’s head… and in the equally weird 60s movie HEAD that star is Victor Mature.

    “…THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS is a rip off of POINT BREAK which was a rip off of NO MAN’S LAND which was a rip off of HOUSE OF BAMBOO with was a rip off of STREET OF NO NAME which was a rip off of…”

    Some good ideas here: http://www.scriptsecrets.net/tips/tip285.htm

    • ChristianSavage

      Nice link, M. Thanks for sharing it.

    • PoohBear

      They’re remaking Point Break, which really makes me sad.

      • Hadley’s Hope

        Especially since they could do a sequel instead, with an older Johnny Utah as the grizzled middle-aged FBI agent (the Gary Busey role in the original). Keanu still makes action films so it could work.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Alien is IT: The Terror from Beyond Space + Planet of the Vampires.

      Die Hard is Alien set in an office building, switching the monster to the hero role and changing the genre from sci-fi/horror to action/thriller.

  • tobban

    Great article. Always good to see what sells these days.
    But the drama is not dead by any means.
    IMDB has lots of trailers for “serious” movies.
    Could Amadeus be made today? I hope so.
    Five Easy Pieces? Doubtful.
    Deliverance? Probably.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Oh man, Amadeus! What a great flick.

      Your post reminds me that I need to dig that one out of the DVD cabinet and give it a watch. It’s been awhile.

      As for Deliverance being made these days, probably as a more straightforward action flick.

      • tobban

        Yeah ! Amadeus !
        2 hours and 40 minutes.
        Milos Forman is a master.

  • Nick Morris

    There are always exceptions, of course. Speaking not as a writer, but strictly as a horror fan and someone who is passionate about my genre, if a writer presents me with their horror offering and I don’t feel any of that same love and passion in the work, then odds are they’ve probably already lost me.

    • Writer E

      It’s frustrating to read bad scripts period but I feel your pain and respect your passion for the genre.
      Only time will tell if I’m one of the exceptions or not, but I still think writers should push themselves and challenge their minds.

      • Nick Morris

        Agreed. Best of luck, brother/sister!