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heavenlysurfer
09-23-2009, 10:32 AM
I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?

Johnnycomelately
09-23-2009, 10:45 AM
I will tell you that I have a period piece, received good feedback from experienced readers, but most managers and agencies are telling me to write something contemporary since no one is buying period pieces.

That doesn't mean I won't keep trying, but I'm working on something modern day.

From what I can see period pieces are selling, just not many by new writers and certainly far less frequently than the other genres.

Good luck with whatever you decide!

gayst
09-23-2009, 11:39 AM
In my experience, period pieces have always been a very hard sell when penned by unknown writers because:

a) They are thought of as expensive.

b) They are coveted projects, generally only a few made in any year in hopes of garnering critical accolades and awards for the players, so the competition is fierce.

But, there isn't any reason to let that stop you. If your heart is in this, it may not pay off immediately, but may be something you pull out of your hat years from now, after you've had something easier to produce produced.

Period films generally take years to develop, so I would look at it as a long term investment and keep writing simpler fare in the meantime.

Sometimes writers go the way of the novel with something like this since most period films are based on books.

If you have the wherewithal to take a year and travel for research, how could it be a waste of time? On the other hand, if you would have to live on credit cards in hopes of a speedy return, that probably isn't very realistic.

I wrote an animated movie several years ago, despite the market for such being almost completely sewn up by the powers that be (same reasons, they are expensive and take a long time to develop and produce), but I don't regret it at all, even though it hasn't sold. It was read by some major players at the studios, who really liked it and said I was a talented writer and would read anything else I wrote, so it paid off as a stepping stone. I learned a great deal and will pull it out later. Also, it's made writing "regular" screenplays seem much easier to write.

-XL-
09-23-2009, 11:53 AM
Honestly, I'm the sort who believes you should write what you're passionate about, and write it so well people *have* to take notice of you.

That said, breaking in is torturous enough without making things more difficult for yourself. And by writing a period piece, unless it's something with a ludicrously catchy hook, you're truly making life difficult for yourself.

It will be (at least) twice the normal struggle at every step: getting read, getting a rep, getting them to take it out (rather than asking you to write something contemporary), selling it, or in the event that it doesn't sell, getting work from it as a sample.

Also, if it's based on historical events then the chances are that there are already versions of it floating around. For example, I personally, as a writer with only a very modest amount of experience as a prod co. reader, have seen four or five different versions of the Anne Bonny / Mary Read piracy story. I can only imagine how many versions a seasoned reader, exec, or rep has been offered or had to read. How do you stand out among that crowd?

*shrug* There's no right answer. It's your year to spend. Spend it doing what will fulfill you.

But if you have another (contemporary) idea that you're passionate about it will be easier (though by no means easy) to get it read*, easier (but by no means easy) getting a rep to take it on*, and, well... you get the picture.



*So long as it doesn't involve terrorism or the Iraq situation.

Chakala
09-23-2009, 12:49 PM
Campion's coming out with another period piece soon, but then again, she's Campion. Haas and Brandt did 3:10 to Yuma when no one was doing westerns, but...

It's just a harder sell.

vstm10
09-23-2009, 01:03 PM
Campion's coming out with another period piece soon, but then again, she's Campion. Haas and Brandt did 3:10 to Yuma when no one was doing westerns, but...

It's just a harder sell.

That was an assignment.

WritersBlock2010
09-23-2009, 01:38 PM
Turn the chronicle of your year long trip INTO the more contemporary script while you research your passion project. Win, win :)

Geoff Alexander
09-23-2009, 02:08 PM
I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?

Going to locations? Really? Don't do it.

grant
09-23-2009, 02:23 PM
Well I guess it depends on what you mean by period piece. Indiana Jones? Medieval? Dead Snow? Pride and Predator? The Scarlett Letter? Glory? Lord Higgenbottom's Delightful Tea Party?

I'm initially thinking that since you're doing research, you're talking about a period drama. I have a hard time coming up with a list of movies like that that have come out lately, or big script sales.

Johnny Boy
09-23-2009, 02:52 PM
Period drama... nearly impossible.

Modern twist on a period set story... possible.

GreatOz
09-23-2009, 03:18 PM
I rarely listen to "so-called experts in L.A." about anything...but this time, they're right.

Also -- I wouldn't spend a year on a script if I wanted to break in anytime in the near future. Spend it writing four contemporary scripts you don't have to do a mountain of research for.

gayst
09-23-2009, 03:54 PM
Well I guess it depends on what you mean by period piece. Indiana Jones? Medieval? Dead Snow? Pride and Predator? The Scarlett Letter? Glory? Lord Higgenbottom's Delightful Tea Party?

I'm initially thinking that since you're doing research, you're talking about a period drama. I have a hard time coming up with a list of movies like that that have come out lately, or big script sales.

THE READER, VALKYRIE, LITTLE CHILDREN, ATONEMENT, DOUBT, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD...I could go on. Or do you mean "came out this past summer"?

A period piece is not a fantasy film. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is a fantasy film as are most of the kinds of movies you listed. A period piece is based on an actual specific time in history and it must be researched in one way or another in order to write something true for it's time rather than some frivolous piece 'o c..p., which most certainly would spell death for any period drama.

grant
09-23-2009, 04:33 PM
What about Dorian Gray? Is that a period piece or a silly fantasy? I'd say both. I just don't think "period piece (set in the early 1800's)" isn't really enough to say if the story is DOA or not.

Taking my statement out of context, yes, all the movies you listed are period pieces. But I'm not sure how similar a 20th century period piece is to an 18th century one. We can't just lump VALKYRIE and BRAVEHEART into the same 'period piece' category.

So how many pre-twentieth century period dramas have come out recently? The field gets narrower.

pfhnyc
09-23-2009, 05:12 PM
Hard to take historic figures and make them contemporary - cell phone really kills it.

I was told the same thing just this week.
No one will buy them - and then suddenly you'll see them pop up in the theatres.

I can see 5-6 'period' pieces released over the last six month. Depends on what they consider a period piece. - And Sherlock Holmes would be another when that comes out.

Of course, there are Sci-fi movies which are a reversal of the period piece.

So it can't be the expense. It's what they think viewers want and they've decided it must be contemporary - preferably with low humor and vampires.

just an opinion. :)

Paul

grant
09-23-2009, 05:46 PM
And just because this is the second time I've been accused of being the jerk who wants to write Transformers 3 and hates dramas and arty stuff, which I'm not at all, for making the same point, I'm going to rant a little...

If you want to know what kind of scripts people are buying without reading the trades or ddp, you can look at what films are being made, and what producers are making them.

Next time you're at the video store, think about the movie you want to write. Look at the new releases. Pick out the movies that the imaginary person who loves your imaginary movie is definitely going to rent. The ones where the director or producers or actors involved would also want to work on your imaginary movie. The ones that are going to show up on the "customers who liked this also liked..." thing for your imaginary DVD on Amazon. And be honest about it. If your period piece is about Shaka Zulu, then that period piece about forbidden nazi love isn't one of them.

When you're done, do you have a lot of movies? Or a few? Or none at all? That's how hard or easy it will be to market your script and get people to read it.

I don't understand why this is so controversial. It's no different than saying that more people will want to read something that's high concept than something that isn't. Does that mean you can't succeed with an unpopular genre? No. Does it mean you can't succeed with a low concept? No. But unlike a million factors that will make or break you, the type of story you choose to write and your concept is entirely under your control.

Laura Reyna
09-23-2009, 09:44 PM
When someone says "period piece" I assume they mean a DRAMA or a biography or a story about some historical event.

It's usually recommended that new writers stay away from DRAMAS set in a historical time period. They are a hard sell.

Most, if not ALL, produced movies set in a historical period are not specs written by new writers. They're usually based on books, or are collaborations amongst established players.

But I think GENRE stories set in a historical context are OK for the spec script. Vampire, action adv, CGI-based stuff, etc... These are considered ACTION movies, not "period pieces". Everyone is always looking for a good action movie.

Laura Reyna
09-23-2009, 09:52 PM
And to answer the Q by the OP.

Yeah, if it's a story i really loved I would go ahead and write it. Most writers have stories that they know aren't very commercial. I think it's very natural for writers to write things for themselves.

I wouldn't spend a great deal of time on it though, or pin all my career hopes to it.

Write it, but be realistic. There is a limited market for historical dramas. Most people in the industry aren't looking to make them. Only a few ever reach the screen.

Write it, but then move on to something else.

pfhnyc
09-23-2009, 10:57 PM
Is there a list of Genres that should we should stay away from?

I'm thinking -

Genre's which are ok:
Horror - pretty much anything but having extra blood and/or teenagers seem to be a plus.

Thrillers - close to horror but more guns, less stabbing.

Comedy - But should be wrtten by Judd Apatow (or a copy of)

Science Fiction - best if it is a remake or has an assortment of flesh eating monsters.

'Quirky' - a new genre. Fills in area's which usually don't qualify for this list but somehow get through due to some quirky quality they have. - Except for a period piece. Are there any intentionally quiky period movies?

Genre's which don't make the cut:
Obviously - period pieces.

Drama - unless they also fit into one of the acceptable categories.

Love stories - again, unless they fit into one of the acceptable categories.

Romance - ditto.

Mysteries - unless also a thriller.
Film Noir - unless William Macy is in it. (?)

Musicals - unless your Rob Marshall.

I must have missed some.

This is what you write when you can't get to sleep at night.
----
The only solution is to write one for yourself and one for the business. - Hopefully, should you find some success, you can pull out the one's you wrote for yourself and have someone consider them.

Personally I find it difficult to come up with compelling ideas for scripts if I don't have an interest in the subject. I might be able to write the script if someone else had an idea out of my area's of interest (somehow that's different). -- Bottom line: write a lot lot lot.

Anagram
09-24-2009, 10:31 AM
When someone says "period piece" I assume they mean a DRAMA or a biography or a story about some historical event.


It's usually recommended that new writers stay away from DRAMAS set in a historical time period. They are a hard sell.

Most, if not ALL, produced movies set in a historical period are not specs written by new writers. They're usually based on books, or are collaborations amongst established players.


But I think GENRE stories set in a historical context are OK for the spec script. Vampire, action adv, CGI-based stuff, etc... These are considered ACTION movies, not "period pieces". Everyone is always looking for a good action movie.


Thanks stvnlra that's exactly the question I wanted to ask. I'd like to write a horror movie set in 18th century Europe.

It's just much more fun (and real) to have the hero wielding a sword rather than an uzi. It also makes it that much tougher for him to win, and the setting is great for a horror movie.

So is your opinion generally accepted? A horror movie set in a historical context is acceptable nowadays (or at least more acceptable than a drama period piece)?

Geoff Alexander
09-24-2009, 10:47 AM
Thanks stvnlra that's exactly the question I wanted to ask. I'd like to write a horror movie set in 18th century Europe.

It's just much more fun (to me) to have the hero wielding a sword rather than an uzi. It also makes it that much tougher for him to win, and the setting is great for a horror movie.

So is your opinion generally accepted? A horror movie set in a historical context is acceptable nowadays (or at least more acceptable than a drama period piece)?

I actually think that a horror movie set in the 18th century would be great. I'd read that in a second. Look at "Season of the Witch" that I think just wrapped.

Laura Reyna
09-24-2009, 10:55 AM
Thanks stvnlra that's exactly the question I wanted to ask. I'd like to write a horror movie set in 18th century Europe.

It's just much more fun (to me) to have the hero wielding a sword rather than an uzi. It also makes it that much tougher for him to win, and the setting is great for a horror movie.

So is your opinion generally accepted? A horror movie set in a historical context is acceptable nowadays (or at least more acceptable than a drama period piece)?

I don't work in the industry. I'm just another spec monkey banging away out here in the boonies but...

I'm currently writing an action adv/Fantasy script set in the Middle Ages. As I wrote recently to another DDer--

Historical+action (or sci-fi or some other genre element) = commercial.:)

From all the info I've been picking up from sales, online articles & talking w/ sold writers... Historical Action stories are viable in the marketplace. If it's a good concept & has some creative stuff in it, it has a chance of selling-- or giving the writer some traction.

Knights Templar, Galahad & Medieval are some recent Historical action scripts that have gotten some attention or have sold outright. And I think there have been a few western/horror projects in development in recent yrs (HIGH MIDNIGHT comes to mind).

Putting in ACTION & CGI (maybe even comedy)-- based story elements is the key I think. Action with FANTASY is what I'm focusing on right now.

Good luck with your project.

:)


PS: SBScript works in the industry so he's a good source as far as what industry people are reading & what genres are selling.

Anagram
09-25-2009, 05:59 AM
thanks sbscript and stvnlra. The idea is something that came to me one night after a terrifying dream. The dream set the tone and I found the story afterwards.

I honestly can't stop thinking about it, and I'm fairly sure it's something that hasn't really been done before.

The only thing that was worrying me is that it's set a few centuries back. Thanks for the encouragement!

richnwealthy
09-25-2009, 11:00 AM
I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?

I've talked to a good friend who's always advised me in my screenplay's and I hear the same thing. We all know period peices are expensive to produce and I think it may be that the studio's dont want to take the risk on those projects right now. They rather take the risk on name brand films or action packed blockbusters. That's just what I assume may be the case.

EddieCoyle
09-25-2009, 11:36 AM
Having spent this past year working on a period piece, which did not go anywhere, not, in my opinion because of the script or the era, but because of the climate I'd say stay away. Very, very tough. Probably have to get major talent attached, too.

Everyone I know selling anything is writing horror or thriller, or at least contemporary.

Geoff Alexander
09-25-2009, 11:39 AM
thanks sbscript and stvnlra. The idea is something that came to me one night after a terrifying dream. The dream set the tone and I found the story afterwards.

I honestly can't stop thinking about it, and I'm fairly sure it's something that hasn't really been done before.

The only thing that was worrying me is that it's set a few centuries back. Thanks for the encouragement!

Believe me, if you have a really well executed period horror piece you will get interest.

cmmora
09-25-2009, 11:43 AM
I actually think that a horror movie set in the 18th century would be great. I'd read that in a second. Look at "Season of the Witch" that I think just wrapped.

:mpopcorn: Now that's a thought. I may have to rewrite my present horror outline and place it into the 18th Century...

Development Hell
09-25-2009, 11:48 AM
Believe me, if you have a really well executed period horror piece you will get interest.

what about period action/thriller? :D

Alliebro
09-25-2009, 04:46 PM
I have to think time would be a factor here. Imagine a producer with a good eye to whats hot. Well, he goes for a script that fills his bill. Then the two, or maybe even, three, years to get the picture done places him into a time frame where that genre has faded out. Won't he be surprised?

I think playing games as to what's hot, now, could be counterproductive. No one knows what will be hot years later. If I was a producer and found a great script, I would at least option it with extension rights, and pay a decent price for it. The writer may then go on to work other projects he has lined up in his mind. Of course this producer would be a pro, not some jerk offering the notorious "dollar option". Yes, like so much in life, it's a gamble, but for a pro, a gamble like this might be sensible to him.

(This is from a brash newbie, looking in from far out in left field, and just shooting off his mouth. I think.)

pfhnyc
10-01-2009, 08:23 PM
Well, in a timely fashion, after three agents said "No period pieces" - a forth agent wants to read it.

You never know.

kidcharlemagne
10-02-2009, 05:53 AM
Campion's coming out with another period piece soon, but then again, she's Campion.

The film about Keats right? I heard it didn't get picked up in Toronto but neither did many other films.

As for the OP's question. There are still always new releases of period films in my local video store: The Devil's Whore, Young Victoria, The Duchess. I suspect a lot of period films are not specs though but possibly based on ideas of and/or in conjunction with experienced writers or based on a producer/a prod. co's idea along with, of course, adaptations of best selling books.

I'm writing a period piece but it is an assignment and book adaptation (memoir spanning different eras) and the producer has a slate of films with a funding structure etc.

Not sure what sort of response you'd get with LA managers with a period piece.

cuppajoe
10-02-2009, 07:43 PM
The Other Boleyn Girl too. Seems like there's been a lot on the Tudors
recently.

Wasn't there an 18th century action piece a few years back called something like The Brotherhood of Wolves? A French film, based on
a legend.

roscoegino
10-02-2009, 08:21 PM
I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?

As mostly everyone else here says, it has to be intertwined with genre.
If it's a remake of the Great Gatsby, I'd put it to the side.

Telly
10-02-2009, 08:41 PM
I should have taken the time to read the responses to the OP, but I'm tired so I'll just post my own response to the OP. There was a time I would have said, why make it harder on yourself. But in this market, do what makes you happy, because no one is buying squat, whether it's a thriller, drama or action script. Your period piece has the same chance as anything else out there. The key is, it better knock the socks off your intended audience. If it's an amazing script, it'll find it's way into the right hands, in due time.

I say due time because there's countless amazing scripts out there right now, even period pieces. But they are all in limbo while the industry gets it's sh*t together. If you are passionate about this script, then you need to write it. Why suffer over something you don't want to write to capture what Hollywood wants when Hollywood doesn't want anything right now?

Do what works for you. If it's great, it'll get noticed in due time. But you better be prepared to stand in line... Welcome to another daily dose of Telly's pessimism, brought to you by countless meet & greets that go nowhere.

maralyn
10-02-2009, 09:46 PM
You gain something as a writer from every script you write. If you love the story, then write it, if your competence needs a bit of work, then just outline it and keep it on ther backburner until you're better placed.

But don't drive yourself nuts. If it's eating at you then just write the dammed thing.

Lately I've been thinking, wouldn't it be great if someone wrote a movie about Sam Goldwyn. I think it's a story ripe for it's time. But I mean, it'd have to be a great writer, to do him justice.

elevenbulls
10-05-2009, 08:38 AM
I've been going out to managers/agents for a few months now, leading with a period (1920) dramedy. They like that script, but everybody asks to see something contemporary. One manager thought he might be able to sell it to HBO, but otherwise they aren't so high on selling it with a novice screenwriter.

So based only on my own experience, I'd advise writing the historical horror script, because if you're passionate you'll probably nail it. But I would also have a solid contemporary script in your pocket when you go to market.