Screenwriting : How to write a cult-classic film? by Skyler Chase

Skyler Chase

How to write a cult-classic film?

I have an idea for a screenplay and I'm going to start writing soon and I believe it has potential to be a great film. Any suggestions on how to make it a cult-classic?

Ron Brassfield

Make it "arch," full of inside jokes and hip cultural references.

Anthony Cawood

Agree with Ron, also worth checking out some of your face Cult films so you can see what they did to become cult... my fave of late is What We do in the Shadows... is definitely arch, full of in jokes and cultural references.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Write a character based on Edgar Allan Poe ---- Poe retains his popularity as a cult figure and has never been forgotten.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Sigh... I guess I have to agree with Alle... Cult classics just randomly become. No one can really target what kind of movies they are.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Don't try too hard. Nothing worse than a movie that's trying to be "cult". Just write the best movie you can. Then throw in some crazy shit out of left field and cross your fingers.

D Marcus

A cult classic isn't conceived and written – it's discovered. The writers of “The Big Lebowski” did not set out to write a cult classic. The movie failed to find an audience in 1998 but over the years more and more people discovered it. Cult Classic. A “cult classic” isn't a genre or a style. The silly sci-fi of “Barbarella” and the serious sci-fi of “The Man Who Fell to Earth”. The 1960's exploitation “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and the the 1960's realism of “Breathless”. A Best Picture nominee “A Clockwork Orange” and the black and white experimental “Eraserhead”. The successful “Taxi Driver” and the failed “The Thing”. The campy “Toxic Avenger” and the serious actioner “Mad Max”. All cult classics. All very different. So how does a writer write a cult classic?

Cherie Grant

I'm wondering if this guy is just taking the piss.

Skyler Chase

Which guy are you talking about and what do you mean by "just taking the piss"?

Owen Mowatt

D Marcus has basically nailed it.

Anton West

Harsh, Cherie! I think he genuinely wanted to know. D Marcus gave a great answer.

K Kalyanaraman

A book does not become a best seller until it is written and published. Same goes for a movie too, regardless of where it was made, who made it, and when.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Cherie speaks Australian. She's always all, "g'day, throw another shrimp on the barbie, ya bloody dingo!" Found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taking_the_piss

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I always thought it was "taking A piss". But that's hearing it from people in the UK.

Skyler Chase

Thanks Kerry for telling me what that meant.

Wesley Reid

I have a cult classic, comedy/horror screenplay, "super original, firmly planted in the cult arena and ready to break out," according to a big-name producer who, after producing myriad movies, has transitioned into primarily TV. So who are the cult classic producers?

D Marcus

So Wesley I guess you can answer the question because you have done it. How do you write a cult classic film?

Skyler Chase

I thought he was being sarcastic, to be honest.

William Martell

Talk to Charles Manson? The audience decides whether it's a cult classic or not. Everything is in the audience's hands.

Cherie Grant

Anton why am I being harsh? He/she asks a ridiculous question that looks like trolling or taking the piss (pulling your leg, yanking your chain) Who comes onto a screenwriting forum and asks how to make their screenplay a cult classic? It's ridiculous. I can hardly be blamed for thinking it's a joke.

Anton West

Cherie, he's a young guy just starting out and is feeling his way around the industry and also Stage 32. He's honest enough to admit there's stuff he doesn't know and was asking for advice, so give the guy a break.

Debbie Croysdale

I agree with comments there is no set formula and execution to make a Cult. Got to thinking how different most cults are in themselves, not just in genre. Eg 60s, Barbarella, Psycho, Planet of the Apes, Get Carter, 70s, Exorcist, Halloween, Monty Pythons Holy Grail, Harold n Maud, 80s Beverly Hills Cop, Tootsie, American Werewolf London, Karate Kid, 90s, Thelma n Louise, Pulp Fiction, Train Spotting, LA Confidential, 00s, Shaun of the Dead, Mulholland Drive, Kill Bill, Gosford Park. But I have noticed my vast collection of Cults all share 1 to 3 things in common, no matter how they were put together. 1. Unforgettable Characters. Eg. 60s People still regularly refer to Norman Bates, and there are posters now in a London shop with Michael Caine emerging with a gun on his shoulder. Thelma n Louise 90s. Still hot on the lips of writing students. It kind of punched in the heart when they looked at each other, instead of turning back, plunged the car over the cliff. Also the 2 main characters Pulp Fiction, Jules n Vincent, cold blooded killers who constantly philosophised. 2 . At the time the films were released, they pushed the boundaries of audience emotion, causing both controversy and/or awe/admiration. Eg Religious protest in some circles, Monty Pythons Holy Grail.. Exorcist, People fainted in the cinema, and there were newspaper reports about related suicides. Trainspotting, people bickered continuously about the raw gritty way the drug scenes were portrayed, as they did the violence in Reservoir Dogs. Audiences FELT, Anger, Fear, Distaste, even if mixed with curiosity and admiration, and brought their feelings home from the cinema. Gone were the days of munching popcorn, then quietly going home to the dishes. 3. Were considered at the time released, to be an out of the box way of presenting Dialogue or Action or Camera. Eg 3 stories in one, but all intertwined. Pulp Fiction again. (Dialogue n Scene mix). Halloween, a Slasher. (Visuals). Raise the Red Lantern, a different way of filming than anything done before in that country, a beautiful film, (also caused controversy government) (Can't remember now if was China or Japan). Sorry to ramble, I could rattle on forever about Cults. What I am trying to say is that ......ALTHOUGH THERE ARE NO FORMULAS TO MAKE A CULT......NEITHER IS IT A BLIND LOTTERY!

Debbie Croysdale

Hi just noticed a computer glitch, I wrote the above draught out properly, but somehow my No 3 has turned into a no 1. Dang......is there a vehement troll out there?

Debbie Croysdale

I've just pressed edit button to reset to my original draught, and this had not worked. Sorry folks, the last point is meant to be 3. Not 1. I will ask the technical team, how this happened.

Skyler Chase

Cheerie I'm sorry that I don't know all the stuff in this business, but I am just starting in this business. Also I'm sorry for asking a ridiculous comment, but I just wanted to make sure what the answer was. And if its a ridiculous question, then don't answer the damn thing. Like the old saying goes, "if you can't say anything nice don't." And you could of told me it was ridiculous in a much nicer way, it's not that hard. And Anton West I appreciate that you stood up for me somewhat so, thanks.

Richard "RB" Botto

Don't mind em, Skyler. Ask away. That's exactly what this forum is for.

Anthony Cawood

I commented really early on this one, I agree, MANY cult films become so as a consequence of audiences connecting to them, often randomly, often after the initial release and often to the suprise of the film makers. However, I still contend that cult movies can be manufactured on purpose and would like to cite the 'cult' studio, Troma, as an example of a company who have sucessfully done that. The Asylum, the company behind Sharknado, and about 200 others, could be another example. Just my opinion of course ;-)

Kerry Douglas Dye

What the hell, since this thread is still going, I might as well mention that I have written and directed a movie that's often categorized as "cult". Here's proof: http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=D88126 Note the price ($4.99), and the handy caveat that it's out of print so limit one per customer. Anyway, for aspiring cult auteurs, here's the untold story of my cult (near)classic, Ultrachrist!: In 2000 I saw a movie in NYC called Baise Moi (the title of which I've variously seen translated as "Fuck Me" or "Rape Me"). This movie was playing in NYC arthouse-type theatres and causing quite a stir for its mix of feminist-themed violence and hardcore pornography. I saw it with a date and loathed it. It was utterly incompetent filmmaking, and it pissed me off. It was getting tons of attention solely on the basis of its repugnant subject matter (playing in art houses!) despite the fact that it was terrible. I decided then and there that I would make a movie with equally shocking subject matter and surely manage to garner as much attention. I didn't feel like shocking anyone on the sex/violence front, so that left one taboo area: religion. I decided my movie would be about Jesus. I started brainstorming. Jesus would wear a dress. Visit a dominatrix. Have sex. Ultrachrist! was born. I wrote the script with a collaborator... it was a mix of funny/clever and pretty awful. We shot on a prosumer video camera and charged the whole thing (less than $20k) on my credit cards. We hired a mix of actors, some talented SAG pros, some pro-ams, some friends with no acting ability at all. (The guy who played God would later pop up in prominent roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and X-Men: First Class.) There were an insane number of speaking parts (like 40?) and dozens of locations. We filmed throughout NYC (Greenwich Village, Times Square, Bryant Park, Queens) mostly without permits. Nuts. The finished movie is a mixed bag. The actor playing Jesus/Ultrachrist is great. Lots of the comedy falls flat, and it sags terribly in the middle. The climax is genius and gets huge laughs from anyone who makes it that far. My direction is... well, the camera is generally pointed where the action is, so that's good. Oh, and... it's ultimately not very shocking. Nobody really got offended, even by the dominatrix. It's ultimately too good-natured. Jesus is still the hero, and a nice guy, it all ends well... I set out to be repugnant and discovered that I didn't really have the heart for it. We got into very few film festivals. A few regional ones. Nothing in NYC, only the Silver Lake Film Festival in LA. Nothing international. We had the bad luck to come out about 6 months after Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, which is far zanier than Ultrachrist! And, let's face it, the movie was no masterpiece. I was very surprised when we got offered a home video distribution deal. Almost 15 years later, the movie has probably about broken even. I still get very small checks occasionally from VOD distribution. Ultimately, Ultrachrist! was no cult classic (I mean, have YOU heard of it?) But, interestingly, it did develop a bit of a cult. Fans have created subtitles in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. I've spotted unauthorized screenings in Italy, Norway, and at church groups in the US. We appeared in a Religious Studies syllabus for some university (I've forgotten which) and been mentioned in actual printed books (including academic texts and "100 Movies You Should Die Before You See"). I've randomly run into people who've seen it, which is always gratifying. I've gotten fan letters, though not recently. :) Point of the story: you don't necessarily have to achieve "classic" status to find your audience, and you have no control over who (or how many whos) are going to respond to your creation. My advice: focus on quality then cross your fingers. If you've read this far, thanks for indulging me in a walk down memory lane. And, as we used to say back in the early Aughts: "Go Ultra!"

Virginia Brucker

I think it's serendipity at work in a quirky universe. Who-da-thunk Sharknado would do so well!

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I read it all Kerry and smiled the whole way through. What a story. Is it available for streaming? I'll go check it out.

Debbie Croysdale

Enjoyed your post Kerry. Your right Cults don't have to be "Classic" A lot of out of the box ideas, can quickly develop fan bases, for what the particular sub genre is,. "Setting out to be repugnant, then not really having the heart" made me laugh. Self discovery, can happen unexpected moments. 'ULTRA....Weekend to you"

Debbie Croysdale

Hi, yes good points. Especially last paragraph.

Debbie Croysdale

Hi just to add, I meant the last paragraph is especially applicable cos I'm writing edgy stuff at the moment. Although your whole post is spot on.

CJ Walley

Kevin Smith is a good example as he's gained a lot of haters and a lot of criticism. That's what you've got to be prepared for when bringing something new to the table.

Anthony Cawood

But don't bother with Tusk, woeful imho !

Debbie Croysdale

Thanks for the recommendations Sam. Will trawl Oxford street for them weekend. Got a dental graft next week and will be arming myself with material to divert. Mentioned dentist (although banal) cos lately dentists are showing films during treatment. Last month was watching Rambo literally open mouthed. It ties in with the fact, films really hit hard at emotions/feelings, and can alter our frame of mind. With regards to CJs point, totally agree. Many films have triggered a Love/Hate, or even just Contempt /Anger relationship with audiences/critics. In some cases, the negative, fuelled the fire of the films notoriety. Good weekend everyone.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Re. Kevin Smith, add me to haters column. Went to see all his movies for a decade before I realized, hey, I disliked all of these. Why am I doing this to myself?

Kerry Douglas Dye

If it's my job to keep Kevin Smith humble, I suck at my job. ;) Sorry. I'm usually not so catty. Not sure why he particularly rankles. My issue. I'll work on it.

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