Choosing Your Next Screenplay

Scriptwriters should always be working on multiple screenwriting ideas. Hopefully not all at once. You’d be amazed at how you can come  up with story ideas for one screenplay while working on another. This is the beauty of being a screenwriter. Having many projects in development.

At some point we need to decide which screenplay to start new, which to develop and which to put on hold.

Which Screenplay Comes Next?

Deciding on what movies will resonate with audiences is often a game of Russian roulette. The script is tight, the cast is A-list, the director top notch, the production value and P & A budget is high. Will this guarantee a hit? Maybe not.

One thing to consider is the social contemporariness of your story. Is it relevant today?

Are the topics, themes and social concerns currently on the news? On social media? This social barometer is call a zeitgeist. This is a German word meaning the spirit of the times. It is the social, spiritual and intellectual currency of the day. It’s a deeper predictor of social attitudes than simply a passing trend in popular culture. Write down what you believe these are. Then whittle the list down to what interests you. 

Given the increasingly global nature of film, chose issues that have universal appeal. There will always be themes that are ubiquitous to cinema based on our basic ongoing needs such as the need for shelter, food, acceptance and love. These are well documented by Abraham Maslow, a famous American psychologist.

However, think about what spin on such themes makes them current. Consult social activists who can point you in the right direction. Consider your unique spin on this material too.

Also consider the exploratory nature of films. Audiences don’t like to be talked down to or fed a bunch of didactic information. Audiences like to be immersed and presented with dramatised facts with an emotional core.

You also need to consider the current socio-economic climate of the world. Audiences tend to flock to more uplifting, lightweight movies during economic depression and uncertainty. They prefer familiarity, safety and happier endings. That said, some audiences will always prefer the nasty, gritty realism of their current world.

Film studios are forever devising formulae and models to determine what films will be a box office success. Ultimately a solid story will win audiences over every time. However, if writers spend some time investigating the environment of their potential audiences, their chances of success improve.

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