Period Pieces dead?

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  • Period Pieces dead?

    I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?

  • #2
    Re: Period Pieces dead?

    I will tell you that I have a period piece, received good feedback from experienced readers, but most managers and agencies are telling me to write something contemporary since no one is buying period pieces.

    That doesn't mean I won't keep trying, but I'm working on something modern day.

    From what I can see period pieces are selling, just not many by new writers and certainly far less frequently than the other genres.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

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    • #3
      Re: Period Pieces dead?

      In my experience, period pieces have always been a very hard sell when penned by unknown writers because:

      a) They are thought of as expensive.

      b) They are coveted projects, generally only a few made in any year in hopes of garnering critical accolades and awards for the players, so the competition is fierce.

      But, there isn't any reason to let that stop you. If your heart is in this, it may not pay off immediately, but may be something you pull out of your hat years from now, after you've had something easier to produce produced.

      Period films generally take years to develop, so I would look at it as a long term investment and keep writing simpler fare in the meantime.

      Sometimes writers go the way of the novel with something like this since most period films are based on books.

      If you have the wherewithal to take a year and travel for research, how could it be a waste of time? On the other hand, if you would have to live on credit cards in hopes of a speedy return, that probably isn't very realistic.

      I wrote an animated movie several years ago, despite the market for such being almost completely sewn up by the powers that be (same reasons, they are expensive and take a long time to develop and produce), but I don't regret it at all, even though it hasn't sold. It was read by some major players at the studios, who really liked it and said I was a talented writer and would read anything else I wrote, so it paid off as a stepping stone. I learned a great deal and will pull it out later. Also, it's made writing "regular" screenplays seem much easier to write.

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      • #4
        Re: Period Pieces dead?

        Honestly, I'm the sort who believes you should write what you're passionate about, and write it so well people *have* to take notice of you.

        That said, breaking in is torturous enough without making things more difficult for yourself. And by writing a period piece, unless it's something with a ludicrously catchy hook, you're truly making life difficult for yourself.

        It will be (at least) twice the normal struggle at every step: getting read, getting a rep, getting them to take it out (rather than asking you to write something contemporary), selling it, or in the event that it doesn't sell, getting work from it as a sample.

        Also, if it's based on historical events then the chances are that there are already versions of it floating around. For example, I personally, as a writer with only a very modest amount of experience as a prod co. reader, have seen four or five different versions of the Anne Bonny / Mary Read piracy story. I can only imagine how many versions a seasoned reader, exec, or rep has been offered or had to read. How do you stand out among that crowd?

        *shrug* There's no right answer. It's your year to spend. Spend it doing what will fulfill you.

        But if you have another (contemporary) idea that you're passionate about it will be easier (though by no means easy) to get it read*, easier (but by no means easy) getting a rep to take it on*, and, well... you get the picture.



        *So long as it doesn't involve terrorism or the Iraq situation.
        twitter.com/leespatterson

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        • #5
          Re: Period Pieces dead?

          Campion's coming out with another period piece soon, but then again, she's Campion. Haas and Brandt did 3:10 to Yuma when no one was doing westerns, but...

          It's just a harder sell.
          I'm always right.

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          • #6
            Re: Period Pieces dead?

            Originally posted by Chakala View Post
            Campion's coming out with another period piece soon, but then again, she's Campion. Haas and Brandt did 3:10 to Yuma when no one was doing westerns, but...

            It's just a harder sell.
            That was an assignment.

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            • #7
              Re: Period Pieces dead?

              Turn the chronicle of your year long trip INTO the more contemporary script while you research your passion project. Win, win
              Positive outcomes. Only.

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              • #8
                Re: Period Pieces dead?

                Originally posted by heavenlysurfer View Post
                I just had a script consultant/former creative exec, in LA tell me not to waste my time on writing a "period Piece" (set in the early 1800's..)..He said no one is buying those out there...before I give a year of my life to this project-includes traveling to key locations for research...wondering how you guys feel..if you're passionate about a story should you go for it despite what the so-called "experts" in LA tell you?
                Going to locations? Really? Don't do it.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Period Pieces dead?

                  Well I guess it depends on what you mean by period piece. Indiana Jones? Medieval? Dead Snow? Pride and Predator? The Scarlett Letter? Glory? Lord Higgenbottom's Delightful Tea Party?

                  I'm initially thinking that since you're doing research, you're talking about a period drama. I have a hard time coming up with a list of movies like that that have come out lately, or big script sales.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Period Pieces dead?

                    Period drama... nearly impossible.

                    Modern twist on a period set story... possible.
                    http://twitter.com/JohnSwetnam

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                    • #11
                      Re: Period Pieces dead?

                      I rarely listen to "so-called experts in L.A." about anything...but this time, they're right.

                      Also -- I wouldn't spend a year on a script if I wanted to break in anytime in the near future. Spend it writing four contemporary scripts you don't have to do a mountain of research for.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Period Pieces dead?

                        Originally posted by grant View Post
                        Well I guess it depends on what you mean by period piece. Indiana Jones? Medieval? Dead Snow? Pride and Predator? The Scarlett Letter? Glory? Lord Higgenbottom's Delightful Tea Party?

                        I'm initially thinking that since you're doing research, you're talking about a period drama. I have a hard time coming up with a list of movies like that that have come out lately, or big script sales.
                        THE READER, VALKYRIE, LITTLE CHILDREN, ATONEMENT, DOUBT, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD...I could go on. Or do you mean "came out this past summer"?

                        A period piece is not a fantasy film. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is a fantasy film as are most of the kinds of movies you listed. A period piece is based on an actual specific time in history and it must be researched in one way or another in order to write something true for it's time rather than some frivolous piece 'o c..p., which most certainly would spell death for any period drama.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Period Pieces dead?

                          What about Dorian Gray? Is that a period piece or a silly fantasy? I'd say both. I just don't think "period piece (set in the early 1800's)" isn't really enough to say if the story is DOA or not.

                          Taking my statement out of context, yes, all the movies you listed are period pieces. But I'm not sure how similar a 20th century period piece is to an 18th century one. We can't just lump VALKYRIE and BRAVEHEART into the same 'period piece' category.

                          So how many pre-twentieth century period dramas have come out recently? The field gets narrower.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Period Pieces dead?

                            Hard to take historic figures and make them contemporary - cell phone really kills it.

                            I was told the same thing just this week.
                            No one will buy them - and then suddenly you'll see them pop up in the theatres.

                            I can see 5-6 'period' pieces released over the last six month. Depends on what they consider a period piece. - And Sherlock Holmes would be another when that comes out.

                            Of course, there are Sci-fi movies which are a reversal of the period piece.

                            So it can't be the expense. It's what they think viewers want and they've decided it must be contemporary - preferably with low humor and vampires.

                            just an opinion.

                            Paul

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                            • #15
                              Re: Period Pieces dead?

                              And just because this is the second time I've been accused of being the jerk who wants to write Transformers 3 and hates dramas and arty stuff, which I'm not at all, for making the same point, I'm going to rant a little...

                              If you want to know what kind of scripts people are buying without reading the trades or ddp, you can look at what films are being made, and what producers are making them.

                              Next time you're at the video store, think about the movie you want to write. Look at the new releases. Pick out the movies that the imaginary person who loves your imaginary movie is definitely going to rent. The ones where the director or producers or actors involved would also want to work on your imaginary movie. The ones that are going to show up on the "customers who liked this also liked..." thing for your imaginary DVD on Amazon. And be honest about it. If your period piece is about Shaka Zulu, then that period piece about forbidden nazi love isn't one of them.

                              When you're done, do you have a lot of movies? Or a few? Or none at all? That's how hard or easy it will be to market your script and get people to read it.

                              I don't understand why this is so controversial. It's no different than saying that more people will want to read something that's high concept than something that isn't. Does that mean you can't succeed with an unpopular genre? No. Does it mean you can't succeed with a low concept? No. But unlike a million factors that will make or break you, the type of story you choose to write and your concept is entirely under your control.

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