Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

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  • Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

    Spent the weekend in Austin at the screenwriters conference and while it was a great event, I got two issues out of it.

    On several panels, the Pros - Mazin and Tim Talbott separately and several others said "Write what you have a passion about" "Just write an excellent script" Don't chase the audience or the market. It was a mantra with the writers.

    But then on the Comedy panel Larry Doyle said he'd been told the same thing I heard on my pitch in the competition finals "It's great, but Hollywood doesn't make those movies anymore"

    It's a wonderful Catch-22. I could understand if I were writing a 70s style cop drama - but mine's a rom-com. How does that go out of date? Did those pass with Nora Ephron?

    I'm wondering if I need to raunch it up - try and fashion my own version of the Robotard 8000 from spare parts in the garage, and run it through that - add more bodily fluids and some genitalia - and make it more commercial to the world that thinks Jack Black can be a romantic lead. (The stinger on the end of Act One is already a vomit bit) - Or head back to the keyboard and do another movie..
    Last edited by Colin Holmes; 10-22-2012, 07:35 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

    Trying to predict/game/write for the market is death. And it's a waste of time. Maybe there are some exceptions--writers who can come on here and tell a story about sitting down and devising a script that the "market wants", then going on to sell it...but it's death. Tried it once, will never do it again.

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    • #3
      Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

      Originally posted by Colin Holmes View Post
      I could understand if I were writing a 70s style cop drama
      I'll bet if Hollywood could figure out a way to remake Dirty Harry it would in a heartbeat. Then a whole slew more cop dramas would follow after it brought in $400 million.

      I think Hollywood is a pendulum that swings to the tune of follow the leader after one brave (or desperate) production succeeds - at least until the audiences have had their fill - and then we wait another six months just to be sure. The only thing that seems predictable is that the moment we think we know what it wants, things swing in a different direction. As for me, I'm in the process of converting my found footage film into a musical.


      For my two cents, Craig is right.
      Seven years dungeon --- no trials!

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      • #4
        Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

        Your best work will be somethng you're passionate about, whether it's commercial or not.

        Your voice will be noted even if the script doesn't sell.

        From what I've read, most income for working writers comes from assignments, not specs.

        So the best script you write and the unique voice that you have will theoretically get you more work than selling a spec.

        So I don't really think the advice is contradictory - you might not sell your spec, but if your writing is great, you'll get assignments.

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        • #5
          Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

          I heard the same thing at a writer's conference I attended in the spring. This one was geared toward novelists and the literary agents in attendance said some variation of..."Don't chase the market, write what you love but omfg, if I read another query about vampires or dystopian societies, I'm gonna puke."

          And yet...there was an editor at that conference who had just taken on a YA novel about vampires, set in a dystopian society. She didn't want to like the book, she was sick to death of vampires, she knew the genre was played out and yet...the writing was just that good.

          For me the takeway was - you just have to be exceptional. All those "it's great but" comments really just mean "It's not good enough" because if it was, nothing else would matter.

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          • #6
            Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

            Originally posted by bmcthomas View Post
            I heard the same thing at a writer's conference I attended in the spring. This one was geared toward novelists and the literary agents in attendance said some variation of..."Don't chase the market, write what you love but omfg, if I read another query about vampires or dystopian societies, I'm gonna puke."

            And yet...there was an editor at that conference who had just taken on a YA novel about vampires, set in a dystopian society. She didn't want to like the book, she was sick to death of vampires, she knew the genre was played out and yet...the writing was just that good.

            For me the takeway was - you just have to be exceptional. All those "it's great but" comments really just mean "It's not good enough" because if it was, nothing else would matter.
            Great points. This is a film that, frankly, I wrote for my wife who loves this kind of stuff. I guess I was chasing that market.

            The judges response in the finals was "Solid. Good Old Fashioned Rom Com. I liked it...." But nobody loved it, did a backflip or said it was exceptional. And truth be told, they're right. It's right in the middle of that type of story and there's not anything about it that flips the field or does anything that Reese Witherspoon or even Meg Ryan haven't done before.

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            • #7
              Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

              They make romcoms all the time, every year, year after year.

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              • #8
                Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                Originally posted by Colin Holmes View Post
                Great points. This is a film that, frankly, I wrote for my wife who loves this kind of stuff. I guess I was chasing that market.
                Oh-kay...

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                • #9
                  Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                  Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                  They make romcoms all the time, every year, year after year.
                  That's what I thought. Yeah, and I wasn't pitching Zombies vs Gladiators, but it's right smack in the middle of the genre. Maybe it's just not a standout concept for a pitch competition.

                  Craig - I really enjoyed the Podcast Live! But I'll admit to waiting for the electronic cigarette to appear the entire time.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                    Originally posted by Manchester View Post
                    Oh-kay...
                    Hey, sometimes I catch her.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                      Good points, here's my thoughts - write what you love, then write another, and another and another! And through the process you'll develop a voice/ style, and if none of those concepts are sellable, write another!

                      Think this will work? If not, at least the process will help me to be a good enough writer that, like someone else said, one of those scripts may get you a writing assignment.

                      Hey, if it is the tenth or the twentieth, still worth it, right? Then you can either try to sell the earlier ones or just turn them into books and try to publish them that way.

                      My takeaways from Austin: (1) Throw away those books on structure (but I'm still going to read the ones on increasing conflict and developing characters). (2) Work on awesome transitions between scenes= throws. (3) Write the stories of the characters, let the rest of it revolve around them, whether it is action, horror, whatever, it's about the character. (4) Don't forget to capture the reactions to what is going on.

                      Many more I am sure... But here are some I thought I would share for comment/ to hear other people's take-aways.
                      www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

                      http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
                      http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

                      Twitter: @JustinMSloan

                      Want a free book?

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                      • #12
                        Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                        Write what you love, if you can write what you love "for market" - even better.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                          Originally posted by Colin Holmes View Post
                          I'm wondering if I need to raunch it up - try and fashion my own version of the Robotard 8000 from spare parts in the garage, and run it through that - add more bodily fluids and some genitalia - and make it more commercial to the world that thinks Jack Black can be a romantic lead. (The stinger on the end of Act One is already a vomit bit) - Or head back to the keyboard and do another movie..
                          Another option: get talent attached. Hell with "nobody makes these movies any more" -- they sure will with the right star.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                            I believe Mazin also said that the market loves genres. Well, that pretty much narrows it down . But really, forget 'what's in vogue'. That genre comment was dead on. Because everything goes in cycles, if you write a solid genra script, you can't go wrong.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Two take-aways from Austin and what to do about them?

                              I started out writing what I loved. Just to get me through script after script, even though most of it sucked. Very few have seen those scripts.

                              After I got decent, then I thought about marketable concepts. If I can find something I love and it's marketable and I can write it well then, I might have something.

                              When I've talked to people who shoot for high concept ideas on their first or second script because it's what they've been told to do, end up with a good idea but a crappy script. So they've kind of wasted that idea. Yes it can be rewritten but if you're still new to writing, it's not going to be the best thing ever.

                              I try to find a balance now. I've come up with some high concept ideas for reps in the past, just to have the get the on board, but truth be told I didn't *want* to write those ideas. I would have, but it would have lacked the passion that comes with something you love. So now I try to write specs that are marketable in some aspect, but it also has to be an idea I am passionate about. Otherwise, it's all moot -- for me anyways.
                              Quack.

                              Writer on a cable drama.

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