View Full Version : Lower Your Concepts

Dr Stiggers
12-31-2002, 02:45 PM
Perusing through the threads here I’ve noticed
a trend in these loglines. The concepts are
too high.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that’s what
H’wood wants and that‘s what you like. Besides,
studios ain’t buying REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK
FARM knock-offs. True. But they’re also not
buying science fiction or fantasy either. Not
from first time writers. Hell, they’re NOT
buying SF/Fantasy from ANY spec writers.


For one thing this genre is too expensive to
produce and requires too much exposition
for the audience. When considering SF/
Fantasy, studios would prefer to buy
properties with presold recognition to
ensure a presold audience who doesn’t
need a lot of exposition.

Scripts taking place in the here and now
that feature SF/Fantasy twists are also out
of favor. But don’t believe me, just read the
interviews with the writers on this site. Most
of their stories are grounded in reality in the
here and now.

David H. Steinberg wrote a script called ALL
EARS that had a fantasy twist. Didn’t sell.
For his next script he decided to lower the
concept and produce material in the here
and now. His script, SLACKERS, sold easily.

H’wood needs marketable concepts but time
travel, vampires, zombies, werewolves, space
operas are easy (lazy) ideas that execs can
come up with themselves and hire A-list
writers to scribble.

From spec writers, studios expect novel
concepts that feel fresh but universal.
Unique but generic. Something that might
cause them to say, “why hasn’t anyone
done this before?” This is not easy when
not resorting to SF/Fantasy spins and
that's why scripts that nail it, sell.
There are exceptions of course, but go
check the database of sold specs.
How many were SF/Fantasy versus lower
concept, here and now scenarios?

Another thing, H'wood wants scripts with
themes. I admit, this for me was probably the
hardest pill to swallow. Gulp.

Y'see, most writers (guys) want to write
ain’t-it-cool movies for ourselves and our
MATRIX etc. Unfortunately, H’wood wants
warm (not cool) spec screenplays. So, you
need to invest your cool genre script with
warm, touchy feely emotions that will paint
your story with a gild of universality and
purpose (or weight), otherwise your script
may not pass the smell test.

Frequently, producers are submitted screenplays
with great concepts, cool set pieces, and sharp
dialogue but they will not hesitate to dismiss
them as having no story if one of the characters
doesn’t have a coming-of-age experience before
page 120. (note: your script still must have a
cool concept and be in one genre that’s easily
definable as either action, comedy, or thriller).

On the flipside, many female writers invest too
much emotion and focus on internal conflict
rather than external friction. Every scene
should be either an argument or one character
trying to get something from the other during
that particular scene. Find a concept for a movie
your boyfriend/ husband’s friends would go see
(at least on date) e.g. INDECENT PROPOSAL,

For scribes who write ain’t-it-cool scripts, I’d
recommend trying to write a picture your mother’s
friends and/or her female co-workers would enjoy.
This is what Adam Herz did with AMERICAN PIE.
He took PORKYS and gave it heart. Likewise,
LETHAL WEAPON, presented a brooding, suicidal
hero shook up after losing his wife. A long way
from James Bond and RAMBO.

It all starts with the idea, the concept, the
premise, whatever you call it, it’s the most
important part of the screenwriting process.


12-31-2002, 03:27 PM
There are exceptions of course, but go check the database of sold specs. How many were SF/Fantasy versus lower
concept, here and now scenarios?

60 scripts in the Done Deal current script sales list.

Of those, 6 are spec sales (ouch already! lol)

Of those,
2 is supernatural
1 is action
3 is comedy

So 1/3 of the specs sold have a fantastical element to them. That doesn't seem so unfeasible, Stiggers.

GRANTED... both of those supernaturals are more horror/sixth sense style fantasy than swashbuckling (which never sells) or sci fi (which does sell, but less frequently).

There were 2 sci fi and 4 fantasy scripts sold (10% of all scripts).

So it's not impossible. Nor is it implausible. It's just LESS LIKELY.

Dr Stiggers
12-31-2002, 05:34 PM
I should've cited the exception. Gothic
horror is out but stories about ghosts continue
to proliferate. A good ghost story still has a
fighting chance but almost every buyer who
wants one already has it.


12-31-2002, 05:44 PM
Fair enough! :p

12-31-2002, 06:04 PM
You start out speaking about "high concept", but immediately start drawing all your examples from the realms of SciFi/Fantasy. These aren't really eqivalent, of course.

And what about high concept comedies?
--A lawyer is forced to speak the truth for 24 hours.
--A political impersonator must step in for the real president.
--A shallow individual suddenly sees the inner beauty of people in place of the physical?

I wouldn't toss it aside just yet.

Barton Fink
12-31-2002, 06:23 PM
Welcome to 2003! Everything is different - you'll be amazed! Cars are flying, black monoliths are found, politicians get honest... and no one drinks pepsi anymore.

Sadly enough, Sabrina's still on TV.


My dear Doctor, you definitely got a point regarding the Sci-Fi/Fantasy concepts. But some people have to write what manages to stick around in their minds.

I, for one, can and will write something that is at least more sellable, but
since I have decent job, I don't HAVE TO.

Also consider that every script is a learning experience.

Ok, Ok, truth is, I live in Lower Coccyx, so it doesn't matter anyway.


Dr Stiggers
12-31-2002, 06:30 PM
And what about high concept comedies?
--A lawyer is forced to speak the truth for 24 hours.
--A political impersonator must step in for the real president.
--A shallow individual suddenly sees the inner beauty of people in place of the physical?

These are fantasies (except for number 2).
This is the material that is hard to sell.
LIAR, LIAR; SHALLOW HAL would be tough
for first timers. David H. Steinberg's first
spec was in the vein of LIAR, LIAR. Well
written but the concept was too high.

I don't agree with this ideal, I'm just passing
on the info.


12-31-2002, 07:00 PM
A producer that I deal with quite a bit told me that "high concept" is an easy pitch, but a hard sell.

It's hard for a screenplay to live up to a high concept pitch or logline that everyone gets all juiced about. Because everyone immediately has their own concept about what the screenplay should include and if you didn't include their idea, then they're disappointed.

But I definitely don't think that all high concepts are SF/Fantasy, just as I don't think that all SF/Fantasy screenplays are high concept.

Just my 2 cents.

Dr Stiggers
12-31-2002, 07:23 PM

I've just check the current sales database and
I believe your numbers are off.

I count only four high concept projects.

Title: WXYZ
Log line: A late night talk show host at a small town
radio station encountrs supernatural warnings involving
a series of murders that he may or may not be
responsible for.
Writer: Andrew Klavan
Agent: Endeavor
Buyer: Warner Brothers
Price: n/a
Genre: Thriller
Logged: 12/30/02
More: Spec script. Joel Silver to produce.

[I'm guessing this deals with ghosts although
it's NOT referenced as a supernatural thriller so, I
could be wrong. Also, Klavan is a publish novelist
whose credits include DON'T SAY A WORD. Not
that that means anything]

Title: Blond Warrior
Log Line: Set in the mythical land of dragons and ogres,
an over-the-hill warrior leads a group of misfits into
battle with a horrible, yet stylish, giant in order to save
a beautiful princess.
Writer: Steve Rayvler Greenberg
Agent: n/a
Buyer: Rhythm & Hues Studios
Price: n/a
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Logged: 12/11/02
More: This is the studio's first foray into in-house
live-action development.

[Is this a spec? Or an in-house pitch assigned
to a writer? When I don't see a price or source (spec
or pitch) I assume the project is an assignment. These
generally pay under six figures for new writers.]

Title: Sky High
Log Line: Centers on a high school for the kids of superheroes.
Writer: Paul Hernandez
Agent: Endeavor and Catch 23 Management
Buyer: Walt Disney Company
Price: n/a
Genre: Comedy
Logged: 12/10/02
More: Mike Mitchell to direct. Gunn Films'
Andrew Gunn to produce.

[This is the real thing, a high concept fantasy
that sold. But wait. Is it a spec or a pitch? One thing
I've learned about H'wood: sometimes producers or
studio execs will come up with an idea for a film and
invite a host of writers to pitch a take on it. Like
auditioning for a role. Then, when the producer finds
a point of view he likes, he hires the writer and sends
out a press release that NEVER mentions the idea
came from the producer (or studio). Why they put
on this charade is beyond me. Another thing, this
deal was packaged with a director. If it is a spec,
it's not a naked one. If only we all could get an
attachment before sending out our scripts.]

Title: John Doe
Log Line: As man who suffers from severe memory
loss tries to put his life back together, he realizes
that he also suddenly possesses superhuman powers.
Along his journey to discover his true identity, he
must avoid an assassin who knows his secret and
is determined to keep it hidden by any means
Writer: Zak Penn
Agent: Endeavor
Buyer: Revolution Studios
Price: n/a
Genre: Sci-fi action
Logged: 12/5/02
More: Wesley Snipes will star. Zak Penn will
make his directorial debut. Paul Schiff will produce.

[Again, a package deal.]

Title: Code 46
Log Line: Set in the future, a man and woman have
an affair, then find they must go on the run when
authorities begin to hunt them down after
discovering that the woman was cloned using the
DNA from the man's mother.
Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Agent: ICM
Buyer: United Artists
Price: n/a
Genre: Sci-fi romance
Logged: 12/6/02
More: Michael Winterbottom to direct.
Andrew Eaton to produce. Tim Robbins and
Samantha Morton to star in.

[Yet, another package deal. ]

So, you see how tough it is?


Clockwork Grape
12-31-2002, 09:24 PM

No offense, but the:

"space operas are easy (lazy) ideas that execs can
come up with themselves and hire A-list
writers to scribble"

comment is offensive in my book. I've been working on one for thirteen years now and there is nothing lazy about it.

However, I do agree with you completely about it being IMPOSSIBLE to be the first sell. That is why I continue to write low range to medium range budget scripts. One will catch sooner or later. With a little luck, I hope to sell two to three of my aresenal when things get rolling. From there, I plan to producer my own comicbook, which will create a following... all wishful, but send me a prayer my peeps.

12-31-2002, 09:42 PM
I think we have a problem in platform logic here; predicating our comments on different definitions of "high concept". Such discussions get confusing real fast, since we're working from different sets of premises. Evidently, "high concept" means something completely different to me than the definition I gleaned from Stiggers' initial post.

Perhaps Stiggers could define his terms.

12-31-2002, 10:47 PM
It's crazy to write for trends. If you start a scripts today, it probably won't be ready to be sent out for at least one year, and by then, who knows what will be 'in' and what will be 'out'? It's a fickle world.
Also, when people say stuff like 'this will never sell', I always think of Shakespeare in Love. Who the heck would have thought that a movie about the BARD (of all people!) would be such a hit? Yea, I know... 'but it was a great script!'. That's the point. High concept or not, an idea is just an idea. It's what you make of it, that will either make your script sellable, or not.

01-01-2003, 12:26 AM
This thread could be very confusing.

High concept is a commercially viable, irresistible story idea.

Just because an idea is a fantasy, or science fiction one, does not make it a high concept.

01-01-2003, 12:50 AM
That was really interesting but---just write your frigging story. The one demanding to be written. Probably be the best script you're cabable of writing...the one that won't leave you alone.

When finished, if you think it's good, send it out into the world. The world will let you know if it agrees with your judgment and your timing is correct for current trends.

The above advice is from a drunk, novice screenwriter so disregard at will.

Write the frigging story.

Dr Stiggers
01-01-2003, 07:09 AM
The above advice is from a drunk, novice screenwriter so disregard at will. -AnconRanger

This over-the-top response is indicative of
why pros like ZOD and CE have abandoned
this site.

Last March I sold a script to an indiepro, no
big shakes, hasn't been reported in the trades
yet, but the check was big enough for me
to quit my day job.

I used to work at a major studio. A menial job
but I had access to executives, talked to
screenwriters and read unsolicited submissions
from all over the world (at least thirty percent
of the ideas involved cloning Jesus from the
Shroud of Turin).

The reason any pro comes to DD is to one,
procrastinate, and two, to earn what
economists call "psychic income" by helping
others without expecting financial remuneration.
All they want is a simple "thanks."

But I've seen enough on these boards to
know psychic income is a hard sell. It's like when
strangers come up to Steven Spielberg and
think they're going to impress him by
articulating why MINORITY REPORT fails as
movie. They honestly believe they're winning
brownie points by not kissing ass. Ironically, that
tactic doesn't work in real life and Spielberg or
any pro in the same position will simply despise you.

Believe me, I've made all the newbie mistakes and
I wish someone dished me practical advice from
the front lines. DD is good for that. But I guess some
folks enjoy flailing around using trial and error.
Not me.

ClockworkGrape (loved the handle) --

I wrote a space opera in 1990. Only year I
entered the Nicholl (what was I thinking?).
My argument was from a studio exec's
viewpoint. There are dozens and dozens
of award winning SF novels that could be
churned into killer movies but where are
they? Since STAR WARS in 1977, where are
the successful copycat space operas? When
THE MATRIX hit, I thought the studios would
snap up like-minded fare, after all, MATRIX
was an original script and not based on
material previously published. Didn't happen.
I've personally seen studio coverage rejecting
the hordes of MATRIX-esque scripts. Some of
them by veteran scribes. Instead, every studio
bought the rights to at least one obscure comic
book believing that covered the MATRIX
base. Why? They needed to see the story in
comic book form because SF exposition is deemed
difficult (even the writers of THE MATRIX had to
storyboard the entire film to firm the studio
commitment). Good luck, man.

GroundlingCom --

You're right, I should've defined high concept.
I'm talking about concepts that are too high.
Call 'em, high-high concept. The improbable
versus the impossible.

Example: Reese Witherspoon's character in
LEGALLY BLONDE getting into Harvard is
improbable but not impossible. However, if
she made a deal with the devil to get into
Harvard, well, that's impossible. H'wood doesn't
want that (today, anyway). Bombs like
killed the market for these type of high-high

The limit test is if it can happen in real life. If it
can't, forget it. This is true for the execution
as well. No sitcomy one-liners, no gross out
humor. H'wood has a stack of those scripts
collecting dust. Good luck, Groundling.

Folks, here's the type of comedy studios want: a
black woman and white woman have test tube babies
only to find out the tubes were accidentally
mixed up and they're pregnant with each other's
kid. Since neither trust the other to properly
care for the baby during gestation, they live
together and drive each other crazy.

Improbable but possible. Definitely high concept.

I know this because I asked film executives.

Recently, I wrote an action comedy that several
top film producers really enjoyed, took into
studios and asked them to buy it (one producer
went over the head of an exec and straight to
the president).

All the studios said no. I was dumbfounded. Why?
During my round of meet-and-greets I grilled execs.
I learned that over-the-top scripts are out. High-
high concepts are done. Sure, if you don't live in LA
and forecast that it'll be years before you're ready
for the show, go ahead and follow your bliss. Write
the frigging story as AnconRanger advises. It will be
a learning experience. But in my opinion, this is
misplaced earnestness. I agree one cannot force
themselves to follow trends, one cannot execute
ANY screenplay without passion. So, the question a
newbie scribe must answer, (and it's a tough one):
can I be passionate writing within the H'wood
parameters? If you can't, perhaps another means
of creative writing is the avenue you should pursue.
Movies ain't everything.

If you're writing because you want to be a
pro, ride the horse in the direction it's going. Why
spend all that time plotting and typing when the
idea isn't saleable? Hard lessons? Yes!

Here's a consensus of what've I recently learned
from H'wood execs...

In specs they're looking for material in one of three
genres: Action, Comedy, Thriller.

Other genres, Drama, SF, Historical are available
from previously published works. Genuine Horror
(gothic or slasher) is frowned upon because they're
difficult to set up with talent. No one wants to
helm or act in a potentially cheesy movie. This
is why this genre generally features no-name
teen casts. Ghost stories get a bye as they are
regarded euphemistically as psychological thrillers.

Comedy is preferred only because action and
thriller stories may be culled from other media.
Not true for laffers. There is no comedy section
in your local bookstore (the humor shelf is
generally comprised of newspaper comic
compilations and comedian routines inked on paper).

Of course there are exceptions. One of the producers
who liked my action comedy convinced his studio
to buy a time travel script. Out of the hundred or
so specs that sold in the same year, it was the
sole time travel script to go the distance. But execs
whine about receiving way too many time travel
submissions (BTW I love time travel stories). Glad
one made it, but...

I know if you have a high-high concept script, you
think you're going to be the exception, your scribble
will knock down doors, well, that's what I used to
think, too. Maybe you will. Finish the script. Make
it as good as it can be. Prove me wrong. But
if it doesn't go the distance, if it doesn't draw a
parade of admirers landing a ton of meetings,
what are you going to do next?


Pen Dragon
01-01-2003, 07:39 AM
So...what if your comedy ideas were not set in the here and now, but you were writing a comedy about the gold rush, or it was a comedy western you were writing, or a pirate comedy set in and around Port Royal? Do these fit into the comedy genre or does the comedy genre specifically constitute Maid in Manhattan or Analyze That type films?

Is it virtually impossible to sell a spec comedy like Shakespeare in Love simply because it's a period piece? I only have comedy interests as far as writing, but all the ideas I care to entertain writing are set somewhere else in time.

Do I have to write about modern life only to stand a chance being one of the few spec-writing fish to make it all the way up the river?

Dr Stiggers
01-01-2003, 08:22 AM
what if your comedy ideas were not set in the here and now, but you were writing a comedy about the gold rush, or it was a comedy western you were writing, or a pirate comedy set in and around Port Royal? Do these fit into the comedy genre or does the comedy genre specifically constitute Maid in Manhattan or Analyze That type films?

Unfortunately, this is the case. Wish it
weren't so but it is. It's a marketing thing.
How do you sell a comedy about the gold
rush to kids wearing baggy pants? They
want to see movies they personally can
relate to. Sophisticated audiences must be
content with romcoms set in the
contemporary era. I've read in another
thread you've been researching the gold
rush and I hate to be the one to tell you
to find another idea. If you acknowledge
the writing is for educational purposes,
pursue it. If you want to attract attention
in H'wood, I suggest you find a more suitable

Hydrids like comedy westerns, pirate comedy
are frowned upon by execs. Mostly because
of period but also the combination of genres
other than action-comedy-thriller tag teams
are seen as too difficult to market. H'wood
follows the path of least resistance.


Pen Dragon
01-01-2003, 09:41 AM
Yeah, I've figured as much all along. The Gold Rush idea would make a good story but I know it would have a slim to none chance of selling.

I've canned so many story outlines and first pages over the years due to the reality of this writing venture, this one will probably end up on the same scrap heap.

I have no interest in paying to see movies set in the now, I doubt I'll ever bring myself to write one. Guess that leaves me eternally in the starting gate. I'm way more realistic than I am optimistic when it comes to what sells in Hollywood :lol

01-01-2003, 10:27 AM

I was talking about my own post, not yours. I thought your insights were interesting and said so, and I then threw in my two cents about writing stories. That's all.

This post is written from a hungover, novice screenwriter.

Happy New Year!

01-01-2003, 10:33 AM
Good stuff, Dr. Stiggers. Definitely gave me a pause and got me rethinking my approach on "breaking in".

Yes, my current script (which is the first one I consider good enough to put out on the market) is definitely what you called high-high-concept. It is a character driven piece but with a concept that is definitely NOT in the ball park of easily bought types of stories. And yeah, it's sci-fi to boot.

Now that I think of it, after I've polished it, I probably should hide it into my drawer and start cracking on a bit more marketable type of a script to use as the first "calling card", and when (and if) I get to a pitch meeting, I could pull out this sci-fi piece and be on a bit more solid ground on perhaps even selling it.


Bill Marquardt
01-01-2003, 11:33 AM
Dr. S - Thank you for taking the time to give us your insight. I have to comment that your ideas are remarkably close to those expressed by Creativexec in his seminar.

I see a pattern of thought here. Maybe we should listen.

01-01-2003, 11:36 AM
And the Doctor's posts are even formatted like CE's as well.

01-01-2003, 11:56 AM
So...what if your comedy ideas were not set in the here and now, but you were writing a comedy about the gold rush, or it was a comedy western you were writing, or a pirate comedy set in and around Port Royal?

Pen, I have to agree... As much as I personally like Rustler's Rhapsody, and much of The Cisco Kid, there are too many things like "Wagons East" out there to scare me into thinking comedy-westerns just don't work.

Oh, and Blazing Saddles. But I'm guessing Mel Brooks could comedically kick your ass. :lol

William Haskins
01-01-2003, 01:04 PM

i just want to thank you for taking the time to elaborate on your points to the extent you have. enlightening, to say the least.


Pen Dragon
01-01-2003, 01:30 PM
Those aren't comedies to me, dclary. Those are train wrecks.

I lean more toward William Goldman's Butch and Sundance/Maverick type of plot/narrative driven comedy.

Also Support Your Local Sheriff and Something Big, which were razor sharp in the satire department.

Rustlers' Rhapsody? Blazing Saddles?


01-01-2003, 03:40 PM
I defy you to write anything as poignantly touching and yet irreverantly funny as Rustler's Rhapsody.

A classic.

William Haskins
01-01-2003, 04:00 PM
and i defy you to write anything as socially satirical, rule-breaking, and downright funny as "blazing saddles".

the man had gucci saddlebags, for god's sake...


01-01-2003, 07:15 PM
"This is the material that is hard to sell.
LIAR, LIAR; SHALLOW HAL would be tough
for first timers."

Shallow Hal was by a first timer. Sean Moynihan had a personal correspondence going with Peter Farrelly, Peter encouraged him to try his hand at screenwriting, Sean handed in a draft, and Peter, and later Bobby Farrelly, worked with him to get the script in shape.

01-01-2003, 07:56 PM
Thanks, Dr. Stiggers, for you very sage advice! We all need a reality check occasionally. Like every other newbie, it seems, I am currently writing a sci-fi script. And like Wizdoc, your advice convinced me to re-assess which of my new story ideas will be the best investment of my time and energy. I'm going to go for a low-budget (but not low brow) comedy that has a better chance of getting read.

Thanks again for your invaluable comments. This kind of interaction with pros is what makes Done Deal such a great resource. And don't worry, you've earned your "psychic income!"

01-01-2003, 09:19 PM
Doc, what if I don't want to sell my specs? What if I want to get assignments off them, but not sell them?

This is tough advice for me, because I'm a fantasy writer through and through. 8o Am I likely to get an assignment off a good high-high-concept spec

Dr Stiggers
01-01-2003, 10:24 PM
AnconRanger --

You ruined the conflict in this thread, man.
Conflict, conflict, conflict. We could've had
500 views, but now? Sorry for jumping to
conclusions but the opportunity for conflict
was too hard to pass up. Oh well. My bad.


A couple times a year, an unsold writer wins
an assignment, but typically these are for
low budget fare, not for big SF/Fantasy
projects. I don't know what the projected
but since it's being produced by Fox's
specialty Searchlight division, it's probably
not high. If I were you, I'd try adapting my
stories into a comic book, even a vanity
press. If H'wood can see the story, they
can see the movie.

A tip. Find the sleeper. Whatever film comes
out of nowhere and becomes a smash hit
is going to be copied -- at least in development.

There is a catch.

This rule seems to apply to studio based fare.
WEDDING, MEMENTO are seen as flukes. Gee,
even AMERICAN BEAUTY is regarded as a
one-in-a-million lotto winner that just got

However, if you have an inspirational true
story about an athlete a la THE ROOKIE,
you're in like Flynn. Or kids burden with adult
tasks like in SPY KIDS will fly as long it's set in
the real world. As remarked earlier, ghosts stories
are in favor so a kids version of GHOSTBUSTERS is
what H'wood wants -- of course several like-
minded projects are already in the hopper. You
gotta move fast people.

Look at LEGALLY BLONDE, a ton of knock-off
scripts have been set up, one writer sold
two within months of each other. My agent
sold one in December. SWEET HOME ALABAMA
injected new life in the premise. I've met
Reese Witherspoon, she's a doll and I wish I
could passionately write something with her in
mind but it's not going to happen. Sigh.

The challenge for any spec writer is to forecast
the sleeper. Look at the release schedule for
2003. Forecast which movies you'd like to see
the weekend they're released. Not the obvious
sequels but look at the new ones. Films coming
out between now and May and from August to
October. Those release windows are where you'll
find the potential sleepers. If you can write a
script in that vein with passion and conviction,
you may have earned your ticket into system.
Then, when they ask, "what else ya got?" you
can reply, "do you like space opera?"


01-01-2003, 11:45 PM
Thanks. I'm not up on online research resources. Where can I find a list of upcoming releases?

Dr Stiggers
01-02-2003, 01:39 AM
On a upcoming Sunday this month,
the LA Times will have a sneak preview
of films coming out this year. Watch for
it at www.calendarlive.com


Edit: Check here www.boxofficeprophets.com/tickermaster/ (http://www.boxofficeprophets.com/tickermaster/)

Dry Sprocket
01-02-2003, 07:00 AM
"I wrote a space opera in 1990."

Nice try doc, but you busted yourself.

Your true motivation is now clear. Convince every writer you come across to give up their space opera.....and look who will have the only one left.

You're just like us. Own up geek boy.

01-02-2003, 11:21 AM
Doc, this is the most useful industry info I've seen online, and I never would have found it myself. :eek

I'm now your #1 fan!

01-02-2003, 12:12 PM
My numbers may be off... All I did was search for the word "SPEC" and came up with 6. of those 6, two looked like scifi, fantasy or supernatural.

Then, without looking for spec, I found a total of 6 films with scifi or fantasy in their genre for the total of 6 scripts sold.

I wasn't actually looking at the high concept at all.

I defer to you on this though. I think it's clear you've got a very nice grasp on the industry. Better than we outsiders, hoping our guesses are accurate.

01-02-2003, 05:32 PM
If you can write a script in that vein with passion and conviction, you may have earned your ticket into system.
Then, when they ask, "what else ya got?" you can reply, "do you like space opera?"

That's nice...I'm personally going to spend the next six months writing in a genre that probably doesn't interest me just to prove that I can produce work as bland and unimaginative as the majority of work that Hollywood releases each year.

I was under the impression that the majority of Hollywood's output each year is Sh*t because it simply can't find work that is any better, and the sort of belief that inspires comments like the one above would seem to explain why.

Fantasy and SciFi are only non-sellers because the people writing in them are almost entirely incapable of telling a story in a captivating way.

And comparing numbers is a pointless exercise - much like saying..."I'm as mediocre as the next person".

01-26-2003, 01:36 AM
Doc, after reading those lists at CalenderLive, my mind is boggled. I still can't tell why a lot of those movies got made. But I made a short list of ones I think may be future hits. I'd be VERY interested to know what you've heard about potential upcoming sleepers.

My list:

Anger Management
Daddy Day Care
Down with Love
Head of State
Dumb & Dumberer

maybe: Hollywood Homicide and Kill Bill?

and of course, easy ones like Lord of the Rings, Matrix and Spy Kids

Your thoughts?

Dr Stiggers
01-26-2003, 02:10 PM
There will only be two or three sleepers
this year (four at most). Last year, we
BARBERSHOP, and 8 MILE (I guess you can
include JACKASS but it's in the "reality" format).

Other films that did surprisingly well include
and BROWN SUGAR (Fox had a good year).

Sleepers can NOT be either of the following:

-sequels to big hits.
-cast with an A-list star.
-have a budget more the $50 mil.

We've already had one genuine sleeper with
JUST MARRIED. It cost less than $20 mil and
will gross $60 mil -- three times its production
cost. Sleeper potential is what studios look for
when they buy specs.

I hear good buzz on BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE
with Steve Martin (no longer A-list) and Queen
Latifah. Look out for HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN
10 DAYS with Kate Hudson. The trailer is testing

Other potential sleepers include ELF with Will
Ferrell. Action movies TORQUE with Ice Cube and
BIKER BOYZ with Lawrence Fishburne. Thrillers

While screenwriting gurus argue writers shouldn't
factor in budget while they're conjuring, it's
clear that lower budget fare enjoys an easier
time in the marketplace. Another reason why
historical, SF/Fantasy, and other event film
genres are not good choices to scribble on spec.

Unfortunately, most newbies come in three
camps (1) the ain't-it-cool action/SF fan weaned
on STAR WARS and comic books (2) the I'm-
going-to-win-an-Academy-award person who
writes biographies of people no one's ever heard
of, then there's (3) the memoirist who writes
small soft stories loosely based on friends and
acquaintances. All of the above may write
well crafted scripts but traditionally, their work
is not what Hollywood is looking to purchase.

A four month internship at a production company
will tip off any newbie to this reality. In the 90's
a new writer could sell big event action opuses --
not any more. Studios want smaller movies with
universal (not necessarily high) concepts. The first
few scripts that seemingly replicate (with a twist)
any recent sleeper hits are snapped up quickly.

Anybody read the recent issue of scr(i)pt with the
100 word interviews with recent script sellers.
They came from all over the country to Los Angeles
to toil at their chosen profession. Once here, and
working in some menial job in the business, aspiring
screenwriters have access to scripts and scuttlebutt.

They're able to tell in what direction the Hollywood
horse is going and act accordingly. For instance,
you'll read about someone selling a science fiction
pitch and you living out of town, take it to heart
that you can sell your science fiction story. What
you may not know is, the idea came from a studio
exec or a CE with a prod. co. with discretionary
funds.You may not know (because it'll never be
reported) that 20 different repped writers pitched
"takes" on that science fiction idea before
one was selected although the deal is reported to
the trades as "sold as a pitch." It happens. The
newbie's duty is to find out what direction the
Hollywood horse is going and yes, ride in that
direction, otherwise, write fiction, life is too short.


01-26-2003, 03:13 PM
It really is good of you to try to warn all of us rank newbies before we ram our heads against the wall, and damned decent of you to let those of us who are still going to try know what we're up against.

But I still can't shake the feeling that, though many will try, and most will fail, someone is going to break through.

Strapping on my helmet,

-- Nickdabrick

01-26-2003, 06:01 PM
Doc, I'm trying to get on that horse!

I already wrote my sci-fi script, anyway. :)

I'm starting a project that's somewhat in the vein of "The Breakup Handbook." Hopefully that's a good direction to go...

01-26-2003, 07:22 PM
I read a post by Doc Stigger,
It blew my mind...go figure.
Regarding specs and genre type,
Newbies you listen it is very good hype.

Some will say "I don't care,
I know what's best."
But if you ain't sold,
You're just like all the rest.

To keep your script out of the big pile,
Do what he says,
If you want to stay around awhile.

Writers come and writers go,
But what Doc Stiggers says,
It is so.

It may be brutal,
It may be tough.
But if you listen to this verse,
One day you can cuss.

And say...gdover!
You can go Ben Dover with your sister Ilene Dover.

p.s. just got around to reading these posts today...it grounded in extreme reality. I think everyone who wrote had some element of truth. Dr. Stiggers...my hat off to you...excellent post..."damn that boy's good."

01-27-2003, 01:31 AM
I'm finishing a script in the veign of Remember the Titans/The Rookie(but with a more urban, contemporary, and less "Disney-ish" twist) How's the market right now for this type of thing. I'm a month or so from completing it, but your advice might speed that time frame up a bit. I figured it to be one of my LEAST marketable ideas for some reason.

BTW, f*ck Dr. Phil, Oprah should give you a show.

thanx in advance

Dr. Greenwood

Dr Stiggers
01-27-2003, 03:18 AM

I like b83drg better. Reminds me of Lucas and his
fascination with random grouping of alphanumeric
sequences (THX1138, C3PO, R2D2) and the rock group
Blink whose name conflicted with another group called
Blink and just before the record company was going to
assign them a new name, they blurted out Blink 182
having pulled it out of their collective asses.

Yes, a script like THE BREAK UP HANDBOOK will
do, but you've got to BELIEVE in it with all your heart.
Writing a script you don't believe in is like writing
20,000 words on the merits of BATTLEFIELD EARTH
when you ain't even a Scientologist.


Never seen Dr. Phil. Sports movies are in but I'd
suggest keeping the language PG-13. In fact, I'd
suggest that for every script. Four-letter words have
become the province of indie cinema. Readers (who
cuss like sailiors) frown when they read a lot of
expletives because they seem amateurish, desperate.
Elmore "Dutch" Leonard writes hardboiled books but
his characters' swearing is kept to a minimum. Hamboogul
has a thread on newbie mistakes, I'd add littering
scripts with words we can't even print here.

G -- nice use of "poetic" license.


01-27-2003, 08:03 PM
THX1138 would be an excellent screenname! I wish I'd thought of that...

02-14-2003, 12:47 PM
Excellent thread, Doc.


Victim 655321
02-21-2003, 12:47 AM
Where do cloning scripts fall in line here?

02-21-2003, 01:08 AM
Green - both of those films were true stories. That's the reason why they were made.

02-21-2003, 03:11 AM

Going out in left field here but I'm just wondering how all of this ties into querying managers and agents, if at all.

My co-writer and I now have a horror, an action/comedy, a sci-fi, plus a couple of television specs and the current action/superhero spec we're working on.

The best request ratio has been with our sci-fi, but I'm wondering if no one's buying sci-fi specs, could it also hurt us as well in terms of snagging representation?

I mean, I completely understand and appreciate the excellent advice of what's being said in this thread but at the same time we're getting requests in a genre that everyone's warning us to steer clear of. Don't get me wrong, I know this is two separate entities in terms of selling and repping but hopefully you can see where I'm coming from.

The sci-fi is, for sake of this thread, MINORITY REPORT meets GLADIATOR meets LOGAN'S RUN meets THE RUNNING MAN... with universal elements of love, self-discovery, hope and the strength to endure.

If it's wrong for one, ala spec sale, how could it potentially play in terms of gaining representation, when we are getting requested, and the notion of lowering your concepts?

Victim 655321
02-21-2003, 03:27 AM
If you're getting requests and attention, I suggest going ahead and sending out some query letters, mentioning the attention you've received. Obviously, if they're requesting it, there's at least some minimal interest in the story.

02-26-2003, 05:29 PM
Thanks Victim, the query train keeps on rolling.

I actually thought this was a good question in relation to what's been posted in regard to concept, just a different angle... probably should have went with a new topic.

02-27-2003, 12:26 PM
True indeed, WCM. However, there's a script similar to mine (in concept) that just sold to Disney probably on the strength of those two films (It's called D-Fence, and it's not a true story) I'm not sure how this will effect my script, but mine is loosely based on an old football coach of mine and it's already turning out to be some of my best work. May never get made, but it'll probably knock down some doors.


02-28-2003, 02:53 PM
Dr. Stiggers . . .

Solid gold advice. Thanks, truly.


03-01-2003, 07:40 AM
One of the great threads on this board.

reminds me of a Benjamin Franklin quote:

"A wise man need never ask for advice; the fool never takes it"

03-03-2003, 08:22 AM
Of course, the person behind Spec Script Marketplace says that in the five years she's done the newsletter, the majority of spec's sold were high concept.

03-09-2003, 03:41 PM
Dean, did you read the whole thread?

Dr Stiggers
03-14-2003, 08:30 AM

Based on Hollywood buzz back in January, I
picked HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS and
sleeper hits. Now, here in March, there is
no doubt both films will join the $100 mill


I didn't know HOW TO LOSE cost $50 mill to make.
That's no sleeper.


I completely ignored DARKNESS FALLS with
its $11 mil price tag and, to date, $32 mill
gross, this little chiller is snoring big time.

Before the end of the year there will be
spec sales in the vein of DARKNESS FALLS
which is itself an update of NIGHTMARE ON
ELM STREET. How about one with the
Sandman who puts you to sleep and
according to song, makes your dreams?


Believe me when I say, somebody is already
working on it.


03-14-2003, 11:43 PM

Somebody should lose their job for that. I could understand if it starred two super A-listers, but damn, Matt McCauan-whatever and what's-her-face?


That's sad. Must've been a Enron/Dubya Entertainment production.

Mr Godfree
03-15-2003, 11:40 PM
NoMoreHeroes, the one voice of reason involved...

03-16-2003, 12:24 AM
I can't believe How to Lose A Guy cost 50 mil. That MUST be a typo. Does Kate Hudson turn into a superhero? Is it set in outer space? Neither of the two leads are big name actors. I think someone's accountant had dark glasses.

E J Pennypacker
06-05-2004, 03:47 PM


06-06-2004, 12:11 AM
Thanks for bumping this thread, lots of good info i would have missed.

E J Pennypacker
06-06-2004, 12:06 PM
It was actually on page 20 - and about to slip off into the void. Thought it was worth re-bumping :)


06-07-2004, 11:54 AM
Any predictions about this summer's fare? (sleepers)

06-08-2004, 11:05 AM
Dodgeball, Anchorman

Bess McNeil
06-08-2004, 10:52 PM
For what it's worth, my ghost story and sci fi specs landed me a gig writing for a fantasy/supernatural tv series.

But I'm not in L.A., so maybe that's the difference?

06-09-2004, 02:08 PM
What series? On staff, but not in LA? Now that's impressive! Congrats!!

Bess McNeil
06-09-2004, 03:03 PM
It's a show called THE COLLECTOR:

www.spacecast.com/events/thecollector/ (http://www.spacecast.com/events/thecollector/)

www.globeandmail.com/serv...TopStories (http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040602/COLLECTOR02/TPEntertainment/TopStories)

www.hollywoodnorthreport....lector.htm (http://www.hollywoodnorthreport.com/pages/insidethecollector.htm)

It's shot in Vancouver, but I don't live there either! The producers and I discuss story notes with each other via email and I work at home (in my pyjamas if I feel like it!).

I'm writing two episodes for the second season. The Canadian broadcaster has commited to a record 88 episodes, budgetted at $1.4 million per ep., so we're golden for a few years. U.S. and worldwide syndication is in the works.

I'd never written anything for tv before, not even a tv spec. It was my feature specs (sci fi and ghost story) that got me the gig.

So, to present an opposing view - I'd say if writing this kinda spec is what your heart truly desires, than that's what you should do.

It worked for me. :)

06-09-2004, 03:16 PM
My friend's first sale was a fantasy TV series.

My other buddy's first sale was a comedy with a fantasy premise ala LIAR LIAR. His second sale (a big one) was also a fantasy.

My first option was a ghost story, but it's a horror so I guess that doesn't count.

And I think I know Bess McNeil's secret identity. I'm fairly sure of it.

Bess McNeil
06-09-2004, 03:49 PM

You're so smart.

Congrats on the option - is this a new thing?

Bess McNeil
06-09-2004, 03:51 PM
PS. Yeah it's me. I guess you recognized my handwriting. ;)

06-09-2004, 09:13 PM
Does "The Collector" only air on Space right now, seems like a high budget.

I saw some commercials for it, looks good, seems kind of like "Brimstone".

Bess McNeil
06-10-2004, 07:45 AM
Yes, for now it's only on SPACE. When US syndication goes through it will probably air on the SCI FI channel.

Many people have compared it to BRIMSTONE, to the dismay of the creators of THE COLLECTOR, who'd never heard of Brimstone when they created this show.

I never saw Brimstone either, but as I understand it, in Brimstone the main character hunted down evil souls who'd escaped from hell, while in The Collector, the main character tries to help doomed people find redemption before they die, and thus escape damnation.

06-15-2004, 09:48 PM
At first glance, Brimstone and The Collector seem very similar -- and I was a huge fan of Brimstone -- but they are, in fact, quite different from each other.

I'm a huge supporter of Canadian television and our home-grown talent. The Collector looks like it's going to be an international hit series with a die-hard cult-like following. The buzz on the internet is really starting to build, with fansites and message board forums (including the one I created) starting to pop up everywhere. I'm very happy for Jon and Ali, and for Chris Kramer, a real cutie-patootie that's just ooozing with talent and charisma. Kudos to the production team for scoring a solid four-season deal with SPACE!

EJ Pennypacker
09-10-2005, 03:19 PM


09-23-2005, 04:44 PM
I'm sitting on two scripts I considered oh-so-commercial. Both are big budget urban fantasy action, like a comic book adaptation only there is no comic book.
They are getting even less reaction than my odd little dramas.

09-26-2005, 03:58 PM
I think if you're going to do high concept fantasy, epic, sci-fi or action adventure, you had better make certain that each and every bell and whistle of your script is 101% warranted. That they only come out of an already damn good premise/plot/story. That's why these scripts have to be so amazing to sell.