The nepotistic days of yesteryear are swiftly on the decline. These days, film executives barely read the screenplay title page containing the screenwriter’s contact details.
There are two main factors that make you an attractive screenwriter:
A UNIQUE VOICE and THE ABILITY TO PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS
Producers want a killer opening sequence in your screenplay to hook them, followed by a well-told, riveting story.
In the case of TV executives, they also look at the writer’s understanding of A, B and sometimes, C storylines and their ability to capture the essence of an existing TV show.
In the previous frenzy of movie script sale mania, film executives looked for anything that can easily be sold of at least a mediocre quality. High quality was a bonus.
Today, the issue of script saleability still applies, but the focus has greatly shifted. Executives and agents are increasingly attracted to unique voices and different ways of looking at the world. They want to identify story types that only you are capable of writing. Being a generic writer trying your hand across all genres, while not mastering any, is not sound screenwriting career advice.
Imagine a studio executive’s desk piled with similarly-themed, well written scripts, all with identical commercial potential. In view of declining production budgets, unique and original material that can be produced for a lower price is in higher demand.
Film studios are still interested in high concept, four quadrant, large budget blockbusters, but are producing them in fewer numbers. Around 250 films were produced by Hollywood studios last year compared to over 400 in times when film financing flowed easier than champagne. Newer writers should probably focus on cheaper (under $5 million) producable scripts rather than trying to attract studios. You need to climb the ladder.
There are even rumors that Hollywood may even start buying original stories again as opposed to pre-existing works. Sundance Film Festival and AFM sales are showing promise. Heck, even dramas are starting to sell respectably again. Period pieces too. This won’t last, so educate yourself on the script sales cycles.
Cherish your time as an undiscovered screenwriter. You are free of industry expectation and can express your individuality freely. Once you become optioned, sold, produced, managed and agented, your professional relationships change because you become pigeon-holed.
You are juggling egos, serving the story and must learn to confidently argue your story choices. Ultimately film producers will have the final word, but you have to plead your case. You don’t want to establish a reputation as a doormat or of being difficult and uncooperative. It’s called politics and exists in every industry.
So find your unique view of the world, your spin on storytelling and go for it.
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