Does commercialism determine what you write?



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  • #16
    Re: more thoughts

    I don't let commercialism influence what I write about. I tell the stories I want to tell, and pursue an idea because something about the story, or characters, or situation gives me butterflies. The moment I lose those butterflies, I set the idea/screenplay/whatever aside. I firmly believe that if I am passionate about something, it will show in my work, and that work will go further.
    Why sell out by writing stuff I don't feel that special something for, and instead write things that I feel are "commercial?" Why conform to the "commercial" things that will sell? Sorry, but I'm not that desperate for success as a screenwriter.
    I've never been the one to let someone else decide if something is good, bad, or sellable, even if that someone else is the entertainment industry. Was "Star Wars" commercial enough to sell? I'm sure there was someone out there who didn't think so.
    To be completely honest, I would rather write and sell the character-driven, independant film that attracts someone like Scarlett Johansson, and gets a limited release but is interesting and thought provoking, rather than the high-budget, Tom Cruise-starring, wide-release, "commercial" film that is one dimensional in story and characters. Besides, everything goes through phases, and with the success of recent films such as The Company, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite, Lost in Translation, and on and on and on, independant films have acquired a new following of fans.


    • #17
      Garden State, etc...

      Then the answer is to write those scripts and make them yourself (because that's how those scripts got to the screen).

      But the question was about writing a script that would then go through the writer's manager. That lead me to believe the qustion was about writing a screenplay that could be sold, rather than writing a screenplay, raising the money, and making the film.

      If you're gonna make the movie, who gives a @#*&$#@ what your manager thinks? Or what my advice (or anybody else's) about subject matter and commercialism is? You just go do it.

      - Bill

      PS: I typed the cartoon swearing myself. I could ave just type @#%$ and it would have done it for me, but I just meant "cartoon swearing" not "@#%$".


      • #18
        Re: Garden State, etc...

        Didn't Spike Lee start out as an indie director? Yet he launched the careers of Wesley Snipes, Samuel Jackson, Halle Berry, etc.

        A bunch of people who have become mainstream have started out as indies.

        The characters in most of my screenplays have no ethnicity (for castability reasons). My characters are mainly just types. My earliest two screenplays were Latin themed, but with rewrites I've diminished the Hispanic theme, and if I had to I would eliminate it.


        • #19
          In my case, I try to work from a vaguely commercial idea but develop in a way to be passionate about it.

          If you can apply the themes you love in an accessible way, you've written a saleable movie. A 'personal' script with an interesting idea (as in something that structures the movie, rather than determines its content) probably has more chance of selling than a well-written blockbuster.

          'Desperate Housewives' does have a very strong hook: "4 normal housewives try to figure out why their friend committed suicide." If it were a movie, it would be high-concept but as its a TV show it can focus on details. If your story is about 30-something women who has explicit goals, do it. If it is nothing more than a 'slice of life', it may not be a movie.


          • #20
            That "high concept" mantra does get annoying, doesn't it? Starting to realize I might be a "low concept" person. That's one of the reasons I'm exploring TV writing more.
            Maybe this is a passion project that you could direct yourself with a micro budget. That's assuming you have any interest in directing. Otherwise, maybe this would be better off as a chick-lit novel.


            • #21

              let's put it this way: if none of your scripts sell and your writing doesn't appeal to hwood and therefore you never work - well. it's like a tree that falls in the forest - if nobody is around, does it make a sound?

              yes, commercial is what i write. my goal is to sell tickets



              • #22

                Here's are my priorities when I write, maybe you can glean something from it.

                I only write for one person...the audience. They should be your focus and nothing else. They buy the tickets which dictate the trends, which keep you working. And after all that's why we got into this game in the first place, isn't it? To tell stories that will somehow move and inspire our fellow man.

                Make it entertaining. It doesn't matter what kind of story you're telling, if you don't make it an entertaining one it's likely very few people will go see it.

                Make the core of the story a universal them that most people can somehow relate to. The reason for this should be self explanatory.

                And remember that film is our modern mythology. It's where we we watch archetypal stories with larger than life characters overcoming adversity that reaffirm our core belief systems and values.



                • #23
                  I'm not sure commercialism is a constant thing, and really one person impression of what's entertaining is different than the next...

                  I do think that the audience has pre-existing concepts of what a character should do, by the way he looks or talks, what ever...

                  And it's a good writer who can explain him and his dilemma to the audience in a entertaining way.

                  We all barrow and shape are ideas from existing ideas that were seen or read, so i wonder if it's just the writer inability to shape their characters in a interesting way that leads to being "un-commercial"


                  • #24
                    Took all of this wisdom under advisement and have tabled the non-commercial idea. I was hit last week with a high-concept thriller idea, so that's what I'm currently outlining.

                    Thanks for all the advice.


                    • #25
                      hey jack,

                      looks like i arrived too late to be part of your deliberations. but since posting here is only a nickel a word, i'll give you my opinion just the same.

                      a) you have a manager

                      b) you've optioned two high-concept scripts

                      therefore, you've proven your abilities and attention to market forces, and will no doubt do so again.

                      so, what is the harm of writing whatever the hell you want. even if, like martell's, it just sits on a shelf.

                      it's a few months of your professional life. who knows what the future holds. one of those options turns into a sale. the sale turns into a green light. the green light turns into the movie. the movie turns into a hit.

                      voila, you've got the clout and the financial security to try something different. out comes the slice o' life script.

                      another scenario is that your options and connections get you a read with a studio that does see commercial value in it, even though that didn't drive the process for you.

                      all of a sudden, it's the next 'american beauty' and the studios are baffled as to why you're doing great box office while their latest reincarnated-dinosaur-robot flick is tanking.

                      so to return to your original question:

                      Does commercialism determine what you write?
                      only in the sense that i'm sufficiently serious about craft to understand that scripts are sold to studios and movies are sold to people.

                      i don't find this particularly restrictive, personally.


                      • #26
                        Will, it's never too late to join the discussion.

                        The reason I need to select my next project carefully, to be blunt, is because I want to quit my job and write full-time. So for me, every project counts. I want to maximize the potential of every hour spent writing. I just wouldn't feel right, at this point in my writing career, spending three months writing something that I know likely won't sell. Playing within "the rules" of spec writing has landed me an agent, a manager, and two option deals within 13 months, so I guess I should stay within the rules and continue writing commercial material.

                        I feel like I'm close... if one of these options turns into a sale... or if this fourth script turns out the way I think it can... I think I'll be ready to take the leap.


                        • #27
                          Commercialism does not influence me at all. I write what I like and what I would want to see. Money is what keeps me from quitting, not starting in the first place.


                          • #28

                            I don't know much about writing 'big' films or films that authorized would puddle over... but writing a story that compels you to finish and that you think can move people might be a heck of a calling card and might even help you land a bigger fish.

                            I can understand that you want to maximize your efficiencies and write something that has a chance... but what is the definition of 'chance'. I would think it would be producing specs that challenge the audience or move them in some way, and if it doesn't sell, you're honing your skills. Stick with it, even if you double your output to 8 scripts without a sale.

                            Write something that you believe in, create unique and compelling characters, and take your pages where you feel they need to go. IMHO, every great screenwriter that I admire got on the map by writing something personal or character driven. There's hope out there for those that create rather than copy. I much rather see a searching for bobby fisher than gone in 60 seconds so be weary of my opinion


                            • #29
                              Re: What is your market?

                              If you aspired to build and sell a vacuum cleaner, would current trends in styles and features of the most popular vacuums influence your design?

                              I am inspired by commercial films and aspire to sell scripts to an industry that makes commercial films so naturally commercialism does influence what I write.

                              If you are inspired by non-commercial films and aspire to sell and/or make films in the non-commercial markets then you would be influenced by what is "commercial" in the context of the non-commercial market. Does that make sense?

                              If you are inspired to write non-commercial films and aspire to sell it to a commercial market you have to be prepared for a much greater degree of difficulty in selling it. The reverse is true. If you are inspired by commercial films and aspire to sell it to non-commercial markets you have to be prepared for a higher degree of difficulty in selling it. It's only logical.

                              IMHO you should know what kind of stories inspires you to write and understand the market in which those kinds of stories are made so you can make informed choices about your story and the markets you target in order to maximize your chances of success.

                              My 2 cents.