Our reader Lauren from Memphis, TN asks
I have a quirky movie that does not fit into any standard genre. How do I sell it?
Reader Bryan from Wausau, WI asks
What's hot in Hollywood now? What's selling?
Screenwriting Expert Michael Hauge responds
Both these questions address the issue of how - and whether - to decide what to write based on the marketplace. And each reveals a basic problem with the way many writers choose their stories.
The first question may grow out of a desire to select among several ideas the writer is passionate about, or to avoid writing within a genre that's next to impossible to sell. If so, that's great. All this writer has to do is go to box office mojo to see what genres have been profitable over the last six months to a year.
But if the writer is trying to come up with a story just to fit the latest Hollywood trend, that's a big mistake. By the time the script is ready, that trend will be long passed. And the writer probably won't do a very good job writing the script anyway, if it's not an arena he or she is already familiar with and drawn to.
The second question raises a bigger issue: why did the writer create a quirky script in the first place, if he or she had no idea what the market for it would be? You don't want to write a script just because similar stories are selling big, but neither do you want to create a screenplay if there are no recent precedents for it. If you can't point to at least two or three movies from the last year or two and say, "Because those made money, mine will make money," then why do you think investors and distributors will want to get involved? Turning a profit must be their first concern, and they look to recent box office and video statistics to justify their choices.
If the writer can find recent films with a similar style, tone, subject or genre, then use the Internet Movie Database and the Hollywood Creative Directory to pursue the companies who produced those films, and get them to read your script. At the same time, contact the reps or production companies for stars and directors whose involvement will strengthen the screenplay's commercial appeal.