So....what's a good concept?

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  • #76
    Vango: that's excellent info on TV for those interested. Without going into personal details, I'm in a different place focused on finishing the novel.

    I believe I congratulated you on your Nicholl win in the contest section yet let me say it again. Bravo. And I say Goodbye, Iraq is definitely high concept in my opinion.

    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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    • #77
      Originally posted by sc111 View Post
      Vango: that's excellent info on TV for those interested. Without going into personal details, I'm in a different place focused on finishing the novel.

      I believe I congratulated you on your Nicholl win in the contest section yet let me say it again. Bravo. And I say Goodbye, Iraq is definitely high concept in my opinion.
      Thanks SC, you did already and I thank you again. Appreciate the words and support. I'm excited for your novel, writing a great novel can definitely open a lot of doors as well and having your work out in the world like that -- there's no greater feeling. Most screenwriters actually get paid to rewrite material, and most of it never even gets made, and even if it does, the average person isn't going to read a screenplay, so having a novel, that's definitely something I would be proud of. Being able to show the world what kind of writer you really are. Keep going, and make sure to cut out all the boring parts! Lol.

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      • #78
        There's definitely a lot more work in TV these days, but it's still incredibly tough to break in and sustain a career. There are more than 20 thousand members in the WGA, and about 6 thousand a year have any income. I can't find the exact figure, but I seem to remember the average career is under five years.

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        • #79
          That's shorter than an NFL career. I imagine you guys also get CTE from beating your heads against a wall trying to get work.

          Guess I'll keep paying my IATSE dues when I crack the WGA.

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          • #80
            Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
            There's definitely a lot more work in TV these days, but it's still incredibly tough to break in and sustain a career. There are more than 20 thousand members in the WGA, and about 6 thousand a year have any income. I can't find the exact figure, but I seem to remember the average career is under five years.
            This does worry me and I'm interested to know why that is.
            The reasons I can think of are:

            1) The needs of the industry have moved on but the writer hasn't and their style/voice is no longer appealing.

            2) The writer and their rep have burned through all of their contacts in town and are no longer able to set up any more meetings. The town is more interested in the shiny new writer coming through the door.

            3) The inconsistent paycheck has fatigued the writer who needs something more stable and they give up.

            I'm always told that getting a produced credit is pretty imperative. It ups your quote and makes you sexy around town.

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            • #81
              Originally posted by Why One View Post
              This does worry me and I'm interested to know why that is.
              I think there are two main things: it's a very hard job, and it's one where you have to audition for new jobs constantly. It's slightly different in TV and features:

              In TV, most shows (it use to be 90%, no idea how bad it is now) don't go past a first season. So you land on a show, it doesn't do well, and you're out of a job. So your credit isn't helping you, and you have to go get another job. Three or four of those, you've never been on a show that anyone liked, you're getting expensive, your spec is old... it becomes tough to book a new gig. Plus, it's tough to shine in a TV room. You got hired because you're a good writer, but in TV you have to be a good fast writer who's also good in a room who's also good at playing the politics of a show. On every show I've worked on (like 20 at this point) there are one or two people I'd hire on a new show - most of them, I'd rather roll the dice and try to find someone new who might be better.

              The best case scenario is to land on a hit and stay there for years and years - if you were on How I Met Your Mother from the beginning, you'll book jobs off that credit for a decade. But those jobs are rare. Again, 90% of the time, you're coming off a failure.

              In features, similar: you're hired to write a script or do a rewrite. Most films don't get made, so you don't have a credit. And if it does get made, were you one of the writers that actually moved the ball down the field, or were you one of the five people who got fired because your draft didn't work? If you're replaced on a few films in a row, and they're not getting made or they come out and didn't do well... you're in the same situation. You're just an expensive writer who's never gotten anything made. Why not try the new cheap person and see if they're a star?

              Vango's right - there are a lot of jobs. But there are still thousands of professional writers trying to get each job, and tens of thousands of amateurs trying to get their break. There is no safe or rational path into the industry. I always give this depressing advice: if a writer could be happy doing anything but writing, they should do that. At this point in my career, I've sat in a room with hundreds of writers who aren't working anymore - and they were all sure they did the hard part by getting that first job.

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              • #82
                Jeff: Awesome post. Radical honesty.



                Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                • #83
                  I want to add thoughts about this portion of Jeff's comment:

                  You got hired because you're a good writer, but in TV you have to be a good fast writer who's also good in a room who's also good at playing the politics of a show.
                  If you take out the reference to TV this also applies to being a gig writer (freelance) outside the TV/Film industry.

                  Over the years here, I've received PMs from members asking me how they can land writing gigs in advertising and marketing until they break into the film industry.

                  And I respond in a way similar to Jeff's points above. Setting aside the subjectivity of who's a "good" writer, the skill set required to convince employers to pay you to write often has little to do with writing.

                  And some of the responses I get after taking the time to explain it all indicate to me they'll never land a gig in advertising/marketing.

                  BTW: "fast" is at the top of the list. Because it's a business where productivity reigns supreme.

                  And you can never rest on your laurels. You're always and forever paying your dues. And as much as they appear to love you and blanket you with kudos, they're always willing to replace you with someone willing to work for less money.

                  That's the reality of getting paid to write... Anything.



                  Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                  • #84
                    I am very jealous of careers where someone gets a job and stays there for twenty years. Just doesn't exist in Hollywood. And as bad as it is on writers, it's worse for actors.

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                    • #85
                      Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

                      I think there are two main things: it's a very hard job, and it's one where you have to audition for new jobs constantly. It's slightly different in TV and features:

                      In TV, most shows (it use to be 90%, no idea how bad it is now) don't go past a first season. So you land on a show, it doesn't do well, and you're out of a job. So your credit isn't helping you, and you have to go get another job. Three or four of those, you've never been on a show that anyone liked, you're getting expensive, your spec is old... it becomes tough to book a new gig. Plus, it's tough to shine in a TV room. You got hired because you're a good writer, but in TV you have to be a good fast writer who's also good in a room who's also good at playing the politics of a show. On every show I've worked on (like 20 at this point) there are one or two people I'd hire on a new show - most of them, I'd rather roll the dice and try to find someone new who might be better.

                      The best case scenario is to land on a hit and stay there for years and years - if you were on How I Met Your Mother from the beginning, you'll book jobs off that credit for a decade. But those jobs are rare. Again, 90% of the time, you're coming off a failure.

                      In features, similar: you're hired to write a script or do a rewrite. Most films don't get made, so you don't have a credit. And if it does get made, were you one of the writers that actually moved the ball down the field, or were you one of the five people who got fired because your draft didn't work? If you're replaced on a few films in a row, and they're not getting made or they come out and didn't do well... you're in the same situation. You're just an expensive writer who's never gotten anything made. Why not try the new cheap person and see if they're a star?

                      Vango's right - there are a lot of jobs. But there are still thousands of professional writers trying to get each job, and tens of thousands of amateurs trying to get their break. There is no safe or rational path into the industry. I always give this depressing advice: if a writer could be happy doing anything but writing, they should do that. At this point in my career, I've sat in a room with hundreds of writers who aren't working anymore - and they were all sure they did the hard part by getting that first job.
                      Very competitive field that we're in. Your resillience is very admirable, Jeff, being staffed on that many shows, still going strong. I think we can all learn something from that and use it as motivation.

                      Looking at film and TV in the future, I see it consuming this world even more than it already has. Eventually we might see something like "Instagram Studio" or "Facebook Studios." I do think screenwriting is here to stay and the there will be even more jobs down the line, but they will also be even more competitive. With that influx, I think there's also a standard of mediocrity that we've set for ourselves, especially this last decade or so. Every other movie on Netflix has a 5.1 rating on IMDB and a 33% on rotten tomato. That's just not good enough in my personal opinion (don't shoot me people!). I do think that anyone who can consistently write great, commercial feature scripts that have been acknowledged by the industry in some capacity will have a chance at a sustainable career.

                      For television, with so many failures, I think it's up to the writer to really gauge the potential. It's tough because sometimes it's just about getting a job and being able to feed your kids, and you have no choice, or you just need to break in badly, but I think the projects you decide to take on can really define your career.

                      For an amateur like myself, the only money I have made so far from actual screenwriting is from winning the Nicholl, and since then I've turned down 2 paid projects in the last month, because it's just not good enough. So I think those are kind of important decisions, and sometimes maybe we are too eager and just pull the trigger because we have to survive or want that recognition.

                      Plenty of better advice anyone can get here from those more experienced, but my only advice would be to keep improving and you'll be glad you did when others drop out. And keep diversifying. SC is writing a novel. Write short stories. Work in production.

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                      • #86
                        Originally posted by Vango View Post
                        I do think that anyone who can consistently write great, commercial feature scripts that have been acknowledged by the industry in some capacity will have a chance at a sustainable career.
                        I'd go farther and say that writers who can do that will be stars, not just sustain a career. But I wonder if you're underestimating just how difficult a standard that is.

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                        • #87
                          To keep this thread on topic and about defining "good concepts" in general, I moved the more specific discussion about Santa, Tesla and the Wright brothers into the Story Development forum/channel.
                          Will
                          Done Deal Pro
                          www.donedealpro.com

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                          • #88
                            A Quiet Place: In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.
                            Just a thought...

                            Perhaps "high concept," and "high context" and "highly relatable" are all referring to the same thing. In your example above, a family hiding in silence from evil outside could easily be applied to a Jewish family hiding from Nazis in war torn Europe, or <gulp> a young child hiding in her closet from an abusive parent, or an innocent black man crouched behind a dumpster fearful his heavy breathing will reveal him to a band of racist cops. That terror, the forced silence, the isolation is relatable on so many levels to so many people.

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