Writing for the DTV Market

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  • Writing for the DTV Market

    Any words of advice or caution for someone who is writing scripts for the DTV or cable markets?

    Is the approach for querying agents/managers/prodcos any different than if submitting a script for the big screen?

    Should I include in my query letter that the intended market is DTV and/or cable?

    Are there certain agents/managers/prodcos that specialize in the DTV and/or cable markets?

    By indicating in my query letter that the target market is DTV/cable, is my script less likely to get read or be taken seriously?

    Thanks for any and all input.

  • #2
    Some of the best stuff being made now is on cable. HBO, Showtime, Lifetime, SciFi, Fox Family are doing lots of original movies. Writers and development people like it because things happen quickly and if it goes you see you work onscreen in a matter of months instead of years. I had a script go out as a feature and there's been interest in doing it as a cable movie so there's nothing wrong with going after that market. My question is why do you think this is a cable or DTV movie rather than a feature? An agent can market it both ways.

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    • #3
      I Want My DTV!

      First - Steve stole my question!

      Second - How could an agent tell that your script was designed for cable or video? And why would you ever want to tell him?

      Third - I'd imagine most agents would be reluctant to take on a DTV or cable script - they're in it for the 10%. They'd rather rep a script that will SELL for $2 million than a script for a film BUDGETED at $2 million... But that's okay... you don't need an agent anyway.

      Fourth - There are many producers who make films for cable and video - look and you'll find them.

      Fifth - (Steve's question) Why do you think your script is a DTV or cable script?

      I have some articles about writing for this market on my homepage... because I'm playing the away game and I'm on the laptop, my sig-file won't pop up on this post, but look for my other posts... there's a link to my page.

      - Bil

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      • #4
        Re: I Want My DTV!

        To answer both Steve and Bill's Q re: "...why do you think this is a cable or DTV movie rather than a feature?"

        I feel many of the stories I'm developing fall into the genres that are more typically embraced by cable and/or network MOWs--either family dramas or dramatizations of current events/social issues. Other considerations: Budget and market potential: Most that I'm working on have either modest budget expectations (read: they're not vanity/action blockbusters), or they deal with themes that don't have mass commercial appeal (read: white teen male markets, e.g., "American Pie).

        My goal is to develop my writing style and skills as is necessary to succeed in the DTV/cable market as I believe this is a market with a huge growth potential, and thus offers the greatest opportunity for success. My fantasy is to become the David Kelley of the DTV/cable movie market (quality + quantity)--that is, to become adept enough in writing for this market such that I can effectively knock out and sell 3, 4, or possibly more scripts per year.

        There's also the issue of patience and attention span. When I began writing a couple years ago, I first considered penning the great American novel. After months of toil, and acknowledging how rarely first-time novelists get published, I quickly realized I didn't have the patience to spend months--or years--of intense immersion in a solitary project (while still maintaining a day job.) However I still had a passion for writing and storytelling that needed to be fed, so I developed my skills as a short story writer instead (which I've thoroughly enjoyed and have had a bit of success with.) But, ah me, there's very little money in writing short stories; it's tough, if not impossible, to make a comfortable living doing this alone.

        Eventually I gravitated to developing stories from a more visual angle--a natural and spontaneous progression toward screenwriting. In the past few months I've been poking around with the idea of writing features instead of shorts. Looking back over my previous work, I see that many of the short stories I've written, both published and unpublished, might easily be adapted into screenplays because of the visual perspective through which they were written. So here I sit, with TONS of stories to tell and, relatively speaking, so little time. To digress, as with writing the great American novel, I don't have the patience to spend 6 months to a year (or more) on a single script. But I can definitely handle a couple months per project. I'm currently working, simultaneously, on three different projects which I hope to complete by year's end. And after that, I've got another 15-20 on the backburner which are also viable candidates for development, many of which I feel might be best suited for the DTV/cable market. As a writer, I would love nothing more than to see each and every one of these stories--my children--find expression and realization through production. I feel the chances of my stories being brought to life will be far greater were I to target markets--such as the DTV or cable markets--which have a record of much higher production rates.

        My reasoning comes from my years of sales/marketing experience wherein I've learned that one's chances of closing a sale are greatly increased by targeted--as opposed to mass--marketing. Perhaps I'm waaaaay off base here in my reasoning. I hope that you who are in the know will correct me if I'm wrong.

        Thanks for your feedback!

        Cheers,

        Leandro

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        • #5
          commercial breaks

          someone correct me if i am wrong, but tmk the writing is a little different for mow/dtv stuff: much more structure re: specific break points, cliffhangers, plot twists, etc to keep in line with commercial break points.

          i assume these things need consideration when writing the script in the first place

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          • #6
            Re: commercial breaks

            For MOWs this is true, as network programming must accommodate commercial breaks (and, as with 60-min series productions, there is usually a 1-3 minute "teaser" at the start of each.) For cable and DTV movies, however, there are to my knowledge no special structure/pacing considerations. The same conventions that apply for feature films (big screen)also apply to DTV/cable (especially wrt length.)

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            • #7
              DTV

              Leandro,

              Someplace on this darned site is an interview with me - find it & read it (I give all kinds of DTV info).

              MOWs (which are a closed shop, more or less) do family dramas... but DTVs are aiming for the same mass audience as theatricals. Take a walk down the aisle of your local video store and check out the titles. The one thing DTVs do is target a genre - so monster movies might be a hard sell in the feature world, but there are enough monster movie lovers to make a series of DTVs. If anything, it's more genre driven... video stores have those labels: Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller, Comedy, "Super Action" (my favorite aisle at Blockbuster).

              Budgets also don't just have to do with explosions, but the number of locations and the size of the cast. Still on the laptop, so you'll have to find one of my other posts for a link to my articles page... with lots of DTV info.

              You ARE right about the amount of product that gets made, and how that means you have a good chance of breaking in. Any expanding market needs product. Though video is stagnant, cable is exploding. Same producers do both.

              Any specific questions, ask away.

              - Bill

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