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View Full Version : Is it better to write rated R?


NoirDigits
06-06-2011, 10:02 PM
I wasn't sure whether to put this in the Screenwriting section or here, so apologies if I hit the wrong target.

Anyways, on to my question. I tend to prefer darker stories and characters. I'm almost positive that my writing is guaranteed an R rating either because of the language or violence. I'm careful not to be excessive with it, but I just end up reading it back and know it's an R.

I'm working on a sci fi spec script right now that I know could be kind of grim but it still might be flexible enough to scale back to PG 13 IF I absolutely had to. I'm just wondering is it best to write it the way I want first, which would likely be an R... Would that have a negative impact on agents or managers looking at it?

I'm assuming that if it's well written and interesting enough any interested individuals concerned about the content could just ask me to tone it down. I just want to make sure that I'm accurate in thinking this.

Cheers in advance.

jcgary
06-06-2011, 10:09 PM
No one cares. Write what it wants to be and what you want it to be.

That being said, if you're writing a family adventure movie, best to leave out the rape scene and the character with tourette's.

CColoredClown
06-12-2011, 11:00 AM
What if it's the rapist with a heart of gold?

sppeterson
06-12-2011, 12:02 PM
OTOH this post on John August's site suggests that TV writers benefit from writing R even when their show is meant to be on CBS:

http://johnaugust.com/2011/fu*cking-pilots-contd

Remove * to actually go to website because apparently we're on ****ing CBS here and the link is Bowdlerized even when hidden under a URL code.

NoirDigits
06-12-2011, 01:11 PM
Thanks for the input guys, and cheers for the link. Fascinating read.

sppeterson
06-12-2011, 01:52 PM
BTW, I think you can see this apply to romantic comedies lately too -- movies like F**KBUDDIES or I WANT TO F**K YOUR SISTER.

I saw the one with Portman/Kushter and it was actually a rather light PG-13 film at heart, but you sell the script by playing up the edgy factor.

Ronaldinho
06-13-2011, 12:19 PM
There are a couple of different points here:

First, in general, you want your work to be the best it can be, and you want to make strong choices. That argues for not being afraid of an R-rating. As you point out, you can tone it down later, and the first thing you want is for people to fall in love with it. The right choices for our character and story - not for the MPAA - will probably be the things that make people fall in love with it.

But there are a couple of caveats:

Your script ALSO needs to demonstrate an understanding of the commercial requirements of the genre. If it's going to cost $150m to make, and the ONLY way to make it is to preserve the R-rating, that's a problem. But it also might be a problem if people reading it have the reaction, "This guy doesn't understand how we do business."

So it can be a question of if your script is R because of easy stuff like language and "color" and the way the sex scene is shot, of it's it's R-rated because of things that are more intrinsic to the story. The latter is more likely to be a problem.

One more thing, however, just because to give unambiguous advice would be against the Done Deal charter :).

One thing I've found is that it's always best to show people material that requires as little leap of imagination as possible for them to see it as a finished piece of work. Even on things that seem trivial, I'm never gone wrong by UNDERestimating people's ability to positively imagine changes in the script. You want to show people things that are as close to shootable as possible, so they need to use as little imagination as possible to see it up on the big screen.

Something like a couple of F-bombs, well, you'd really think that somebody working in the movie business would have the ability to see past that. But I would encourage you not to expect them to. The script is the script.

NikeeGoddess
06-13-2011, 12:55 PM
Anyways, on to my question. I tend to prefer darker stories and characters. I'm almost positive that my writing is guaranteed an R rating either because of the language or violence. I'm careful not to be excessive with it, but I just end up reading it back and know it's an R.

I'm working on a sci fi spec script right now that I know could be kind of grim but it still might be flexible enough to scale back to PG 13 IF I absolutely had to. I'm just wondering is it best to write it the way I want first, which would likely be an R... Would that have a negative impact on agents or managers looking at it?

I'm assuming that if it's well written and interesting enough any interested individuals concerned about the content could just ask me to tone it down. I just want to make sure that I'm accurate in thinking this.
as others have said. write the story the way you want it and the best it can possibly be. this ratings thing is not your concern. later during production the director and editor will have more control over this. it's up to them to bow to the suggestions of the producers, distributors, and ratings board. check out this article:
http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2010/12/20/thr_directors_round_table_aronofsky_weir_hooper_ch olodenko_cianfrance_russe/#
notice how these are all R-rated oscar nominated pictures.

if you want to write for the younger/family market then this is something to consider. and most tentpole pictures are not R-rated b/c there is a huge paying market that is not allowed to see the movie.

Joe Unidos
06-13-2011, 03:09 PM
IMHO, write your story how it needs to be written, but make sure you have a realistic perception of your story's place in the market.