Question for Nicholl entrants

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  • Question for Nicholl entrants

    Just a general question, since the available rules don't cover this:

    Would you consider it even worth it to enter a popcorn-pushing action comedy? Action comedies are what I like to watch, and they're where I'm choosing to focus my writing for the time being. But looking at the winner breakdown, all of the various splinter genres under the "Comedy" umbrella still don't come close to touching the winner total under "Drama." Even so, if a script has snappy dialogue, fun characters and a solid structure, is it possible it might overcome its overall genre? Or are the Nicholl folks always going to give traditional "Oscar bait" the edge?

    I guess it's just that I want to take advantage of every possible opportunity available, but I also don't want to spin my wheels spamming areas where there wouldn't necessarily be a lot of interest, or possibility for return on investment. That doesn't do anyone any good.

    Also, more to a larger point - How much do you folks who focus mostly on comedy concern yourselves with whatever passes for "credibility" these days? Obviously, cash is king...And when the "Hangover" movies gross astronomical amounts worldwide, it proves that there's big money in laughs. Even so, does not being interested in pounding out Merchant-Ivory period pieces lock you into a permanent quasi-ghetto of industry disrespect and professional derision?

  • #2
    Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

    Nicholl has shown a lot of data to prove that genres performance is pretty much "percentage of entrants per genre = percentage of winners per genre." Dramas make up a large portion of the winners because they make up a large portion of the submissions.

    It is the case that Nicoll looks for great writing, and does not prioritize "Is this commercial?" as a judging criterion. So marketable genre ideas executed modestly well might underperform in comparison to low concept scripts executed with great skill.

    But genre scripts have certainly ranked among the winners, and so I would not be timid to submit one that I considered to be a truly great script.

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    • #3
      Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

      I agree with Keen. Contest genre reputations can become self-fulfilling prophecies if scripts outside ostensibly preferred genres are not submitted due to writers' fears of being at some kind of a competitive disadvantage. Remember, too, that in Nicholl, Academy members themselves don't read scripts until the Semifinal Round, so even if there was a "Merchant Ivory" preference, it wouldn't manifest itself until then. Given Nicholl's low entry fee and unrivaled industry clout, I can't think of any reason not to toss your script in and hope for the best.

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      • #4
        Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

        I wouldn't discourage anyone from entering the Nicholl - especially as a high concept genre movie that made the QFs might end up doing better than a drama script that won a fellowship.

        However.

        Does a pure action movie, for example, allow a writer to demonstrate their writing talent as much as a drama would? Much more of what people get from those kind of movies comes from the actors, the special effects, the stuntmen, the direction and cinematography. If the story, the characters and the dialogue in a drama aren't good, the movie sinks. With pure action movies, good dialogue and rounded characters are nice to have, but not essential. There needs to be a story, but simple is better than complex. Given that Nicholl is a screenplay competition, not a movie competition, I would expect dramas to do better as they offer a writer more scope to show what they can do.

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        • #5
          Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

          Originally posted by justin View Post
          Does a pure action movie, for example, allow a writer to demonstrate their writing talent as much as a drama would?
          Yes.
          Chicks Who Script podcast

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          • #6
            Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

            Originally posted by emily blake View Post
            Yes.
            Succinct, but not persuasive. I guess the persuasion would be in the action the Director puts in later - Sock! Biff! Wham!

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            • #7
              Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

              Originally posted by justin View Post
              Succinct, but not persuasive. I guess the persuasion would be in the action the Director puts in later - Sock! Biff! Wham!
              I'm going to guess you've never written an action film.

              I don't really need to persuade you because the answer is simple "yes." An action film is not easier to write than a drama. Certain people are more drawn to action and have greater skill in that area. The same with horror, the same with romantic comedies. There is not one genre that doesn't present its own set of challenges.
              Chicks Who Script podcast

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              • #8
                Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                Originally posted by emily blake View Post
                I'm going to guess you've never written an action film.

                I don't really need to persuade you because the answer is simple "yes." An action film is not easier to write than a drama. Certain people are more drawn to action and have greater skill in that area. The same with horror, the same with romantic comedies. There is not one genre that doesn't present its own set of challenges.
                I didn't actually say an action film was easier to write than a drama, though I agree this is easier to argue against than what I did say. I would certainly find an action film far harder than a drama to write. I didn't even say that dramas were better than action films, though most critics seem to put the best dramas well ahead of the best action movies and, as it happens, I would too. However, I don't consider my opinion to be oracular or definitive, and would certainly never say that I don't need to persuade you because the answer is simple "yes".

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                • #9
                  Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                  Justin, you seem to think - or at least this is how your statements are coming across to me - that writing an action film is nothing more than throwing a scenario down on paper and letting the fight choreographer and director fill in the blanks.

                  I'd put The Terminator and Die Hard up against any drama ever written, and the stuff that makes those films great was right there in the script. I've read plenty of action scripts where the writer thought all they had to do was throw some vague fight scenes together and they'd have a script, but an action script requires a reason for those fights. A good action script requires reversals and thought and a carry through on theme.

                  If you haven't read Seven Psychopaths, check it out. It's every bit as skillfully written as Maggie. In fact, I am in awe of what Martin McDonough can pull off on the page.

                  And as far as The Nicholl goes, Greg has said many times that all genres are given equal consideration. Dramas tend to do better because more people enter dramas. So the answer to your question is "yes."
                  Chicks Who Script podcast

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                  • #10
                    Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                    @Justin -- your question was: "Does a pure action movie, for example, allow a writer to demonstrate their writing talent as much as a drama would?"

                    The question doesn't lend itself to a qualitative analysis of the different genres or ask for guidance or "persuasive" argument.

                    Emily's succinct answer of "YES" is perfectly acceptable.

                    Yes, an action movie does allow a writer to demonstrate talent as much as a drama would. Why do you need to be persuaded?

                    Guess what -- a horror movie allows a writer to demonstrate talent too. SO does sci-fi and thrillers etc... etc... If you want a different answer, ask a different question.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                      This has turned into an interesting discussion. I think I understand what Justin is trying to say, but I have to agree with Emily. A good script is a good script, regardless of genre. You might evaluate an action movie with a different set of critera than, say, a historical drama, but both kinds of scripts still must achieve certain (and I would say, equally demanding) things in order to be successful. Story is everything.

                      Just my two cents.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                        Interesting that Emily Blake considers The Terminator a pure action movie; I would consider the action almost incidental to a good sci-fi drama. I used the term "pure" action movie because I was responding to the original poster who used the term "popcorn-pushing action comedy" as disctinct from a comedy drama. Some of Shakespeare's plays could be filmed as comedy dramas, some could be filmed as action dramas; and, yes, I think Shakespeare wrote good scripts. However, in the pure action movies I've seen (admittedly few in number) the action took pride of place above character, story or theme. This doesn't mean the films are no good; it doesn't mean the scripts were easy to write. But without a strong dramatic element as well as the action, it will be hard to engage a non specialist reader. It will also be hard to demonstrate things like character development and story complexity if neither the characters nor the story are in fact complex - which is the case in those pure action films I have seen.

                        I don't object to people taking different views to mine - I welcome it. If they persuade me to change my mind, I am the winner. But I wonder how anyone can hope to be a writer if they think their views don't require supporting argument, or - even more bizarely - that other people's questions don't lend themselves to qualitative analysis. If you can't or won't engage with other people, how can your characters engage with each other? And why go to the bother of posting to say that you can't or won't engage?

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                        • #13
                          Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                          Oh I see. You're defining "pure action movie" as "bad movie." That explains that.
                          Chicks Who Script podcast

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                          • #14
                            Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                            Come on, Emily. You don't think "Terminator" is a drama?

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                            • #15
                              Re: Question for Nicholl entrants

                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              Come on, Emily. You don't think "Terminator" is a drama?
                              And Die Hard. I realize that now.
                              Chicks Who Script podcast

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