Screenwriting : Are You Following Trends In Screenwriting? by Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

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Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Are You Following Trends In Screenwriting?

I just reviewed the 20 highest grossing films of 2019. They consisted of superhero and animated movies. There was one exception. There was a horror film on the list.

My questions:

1) Should screenwriters be mindful of trends?

2) Since nearly all the top grossing films are being written by writers with established track records, does it matter whether you consider trends?

3) How are you selecting what you write about?

Doug Nelson

If you're writing whats hot now - you're already at least 3 years behind. Being watchful of current trends and keeping your ear to the rail is a good way to form a logical conclusion about what's next - and therefor what you should be writing now. But trends are very fickle so beware. My personal opinion is that today's glut of cheap-thrill horror films. theme park films and popcorn movies will quickly become tomorrow's fish-wrap. The Indie film market seems to be gradually closing in on more meaty cinematic fare. To me, this suggests that current writers ought to be creating plumper stories that can be produced at reasonable expense. I admit that I could be wrong.

Stefano Pavone

I try to avoid trends, although I am not above taking certain elements from trends and reworking them into my own stories in my own special way.

Craig D Griffiths

We are not going to get access to that end of the market (any time soon).

I look at the top grossing indies in genre. Then if they are still viable, I’ll keep writing the particular script. But I write what I write.

Trends by nature indicate change. So if you stand still (keep writing what you write) the trend must eventually (if you wait long enough) come back around and make your work “on trend”.

Stephen Floyd

I’m in a position now where I write for myself, so I follow whatever piques my interest. Right now that’s adapting some of my favorite short stories for the screen.

Dan MaxXx

1) No, but YES if you're a union member. These are mainly Hollywood assignment jobs.

2) No, again these are Hollywood mega corporations. Marvel & Star Wars franchises know what they are doing from now to 2025++. Trends are for Execs to come up with.

3) My primarily focus is writing spec samples to show craft . So maybe someone with a salary job thinks my writing is a match (and I'm cheap to hire) for a company idea.

Bill Costantini

Hi Phillip,

I think it's pretty incumbent upon me to be aware of business-based and production-based trends. If more low-budget films are being made than ever before, and are going STS/STV/VOD, (which they are), then I'd want to be aware of that, and that might affect my writing and presentation strategies to specific filmmakers and companies. If more filmmakers are making films with more diverse premises (which they are), then I'd want to be aware of that, too, and that might affect my writing and presentation strategies to specific filmmakers and companies. If more TV/Cable shows are being made, and with more original and more edgier themes and premises (which they are), then I'd want to be aware of that, too, and that might affect my writing and presentation strategies to those companies as well.

Some of today's "trends" become tomorrow's "normally-accepted way of doing things." It's good to be aware of what's happening out there, and to proactively try to be on the bus, instead of missing it.

In terms of writing...I think writing the most meaty and most original LB/ULB script that I can probably trumps writing less-meaty and less-original LB/ULB scripts, which I think some people refer to as "schlock.". Mid-budget films are few and far between these days, and are getting harder and harder for someone to option/sell as a script. The big budget films that get made are, like you said, pretty much decided by studio execs. As a speculative writer, writing a TV/Cable pilot/show, I probably have to take into consideration specific demographics more than ever before, since there is so much more competition with all the various media outlets. What I as a writer can bring to that table that makes a specific demographic say "yes...I want to watch that" probably has to be pretty original, pretty edgy, and maybe even pretty relevant to that group..

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Phillip!

Gilberto Villahermosa

I follow the trends, but focus on writing what I'm strongest at - what I know and what I've experienced. Having said that, the first two feature screenplays i wrote were written On Spec for two producers at their request. I thought it would be interesting to write on the subjects they proposed and that I could learn a great deal. I did. However, in retrospect I see that what I wrote at the time was too linear and lacking in sufficient suspense, conflict, and subtext. I've incorporated the lessons I learned into my new projects.

Craig D Griffiths

My final thought on this. If it takes 5 years to get a film made. Is the market the same now as it was 5 years ago? Forget the Marvel effect etc. Is the part of the market we can realistically expect to operate in the same as it was 5 years ago.

Okay let’s say yes. We take 1 year to write the script.

We are now 6 years from the moment we made our observation.

If they make your script 5 years. We are 11 years from the observation. Is the market still the same.

Perhaps executive have this type of vision. Perhaps that is why they seem to make strange choices. They are thinking at least 5 years ahead.

Louis Tété

1:Should be mindful but not to a point where you write just for the sake of the trends because why write something you don't have any attachment to. You won't buy the new iphone just because everybody else has it for the sake of being trendy. Be true to yourself. That said, being mindful of the trends doesn't mean you can't have your own take on the subject and that's what Joker did.

2:All the top grossing films are mainly big studios franchise, super hero movies, star wars, pixar.... cf response number one.

3:Same as Dan MaxXx , spec samples about stories i would love to see on the big screen. What's the point of writing something you don't feel in your guts, readers feel that.

Tony Ray
  1. No, you shouldn't. And this isn't off the cuff either, just how I see it. A) If you always follow the crowd, the view never changes. B) Like Craig said, if it takes a long time to get a film from script to camera (and for first time writers, I would guess it does), then the market will have changed by the time your trending film gets noticed. C) Imagine if you try something different and it makes it big versus following everybody else and making it big. I'm not sure about anybody else on here, but I'd rather earn my paycheck than feel like someone just handed it to me because it looked similar to something else.

    2. No, it doesn't matter. Many of the films these days are repeats, or remakes, or reboots, or long-awaited sequels. That's the trend right now. Let them fumble about with trends if they want. If you write an amazing script and get it sold, you'll be the one smiling with an Oscar in your hands while they sit in their seats wondering what could have been.

    3. When I was trying to be a novelist, I had a bunch of ideas for stories. Thankfully, I was smart enough to at least write down a makeshift title and short description for them. Having done that, I got a long list of story ideas to roll with. I look through them and figure out which one I'd be most interested in at that moment. That's how I choose.

    I hope this was helpful.

Craig D Griffiths

Tony Ray if we look at it mathematically, think it is easy to see my thought process. If there is a 1 in ten chance of an incident, it is one in 10. If there are two points moving both with a one in 10 chance. That becomes 10 (squared), 1 in 100.

How many factors are there in film, more than ten.

I stay true to myself, that is what I am best at writing.

The hope is that the world will move constantly and eventually land in my number. I will then have a library of Craig D Griffiths material ready.

This approach isn’t for everyone. Many people disagree. But it works for me.

Debbie Croysdale

Excellent points from @Doug and as @Dan mentioned the films @Phil mentioned were Mainly Large Studio USA. However there are many other outlets for writers other than mainstream Hollywood features. To answer Phil’s question, (no matter who writing for), an in depth research of the needs of the particular target is vital. I would study ALL the material my target had accepted in the past, not just their latest trending, working out a wild card script that doesn’t stray too far from their Rhumb line of thought. Story trend is ambiguous, its here today but gone tomorrow and as @Doug hinted we need show our reader what is hot this minute and make sure our script burns. As @CJ has said in the past “Blaze our own trail”. I do same as him and write what other people want but also write passion projects. The last couple of years TV/Web streaming has been easier to break into. There are shorter, less is more, “commuter” (can watch on transport) viewing time slots for closed ended shows (up to 30 minutes) This, coupled with cross platform outlets has created gaps for less known writers and that is only ONE example. I will not ramble on with more examples, just say that writers need be on the ball with market trends and the different outlets that become available on a daily basis.

Dan Guardino

I don't follow trends because what is popular today might not be tomorrow or a year from now.

Geoff Wise

Write what you know and enjoy - both subject and genre. It's hard enough to break in as it is, give yourself the best shot by being you.

Jim Boston

Phillip, I really DO try to be mindful of trends in both the movie industry and the TV industry...but when it comes to my own screenwriting efforts, I'd rather type out what's in my heart.

Dan Guardino

When I started out I wrote screenplays in a bunch of different genres because so many times producers would ask me if I had something in in a different genre. Also I did get tired writing in the same genre all the time. Anyway I know most people prefer to stick with only one or two genres which is also okay.

David Downes

If an idea excites me, I'll pursue it. I'm with Dan MaxXx and view specs as writing samples. That being said, I endeavor to write the script with an eye on frugality with regard to production. Who knows, someone may want to make it someday (e.g. me)?

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