Screenwriting : Remakes by Noel Thompson

Noel Thompson


It's probably a waste of time, but I love the idea of remaking a movie from the 80s. At the time it was from a well known writer (now dead) but the movie was not a success. I honestly believe I may be the only one who even remembers it. I'd love to take the essence of the idea, modernize it, and improve on the original in hopes of making it a hit. My question is: A) is this a waste of time? B) can I use it as a "calling card script" rather than expecting it to be sold and therefore not worry about rights, etc, C) what am I not considering? Thanks! Happy 2021!

Ismael Judá Moraes Reis Dias

A) If you know very well the source material and understands deeply why it made a hit in first place, a remake with a new take can work. But usually they don't.

B) Peharps, that would be a better option, but depending on how it ends up. Probably someone will want to produce it.

C) You should consider the risks of irritating the original audience (that means: be too different or be too similar or not be the movie at all).

D) If you know what made this movie alone not be sucessful, peharps you should go into this idea and make it your own!

Hope this helps.

Craig D Griffiths

How much of the “idea” are you thinking of using?

Noel Thompson

Mainly the plot, not the same exact location and characters, a little of the theme, but bringing it more to the forefront. Does that answer your question, Craig?

Christine Capone

I thought about doing this, having grown up in the 80's. Like what would the Breakfast Club be like today? Everyone would be on their cell phones but what if they were taken away from them for the day? How would this affect them? Just a thought. I say go for it.

Doug Nelson

Noel, You're not talking about anything illegal, immoral, unconscionable or even in poor taste. Where do you think ideas come from?

Dan MaxXx

if this is an American movie reboot idea, go research how many unknown first time writers have actually done this successfully. Success meaning production, credit on screen.

I don’t think you could even use the script to submit to contests or fellowships because the big contests have specific rules against “fan fiction.” Don’t think either legit managers or Agents would read because of legal issues.

personally I think it’s just a waste, Unless you’re connected to established players & paid lawyers.

William Martell

What Dan said.

Whether the film flopped or not, it's under copyright.

You can not write a remake. It's illegal.

And the script can't be used as a calling card, because what they are looking for is YOUR originality and creativity and YOUR characters and YOUR ability to come up with an original idea.

Craig D Griffiths

The reason I ask. Is if you are just inspired by this work, even if you follow some of the same moves. You are creating something completely new so you don’t need the rights.

If someone looks at it and could say “that’s a remake of xxxx”. Then you have stolen it.

But from your description it sounds like you are not stealing. You have a soft spot for the original, so you can see all the connective tissue.

Noel Thompson

Thanks everyone! Very helpful! So, I can either abandon the remake idea completely, or focus on taking inspiration from it, but totally making it original. Back to work!

Daniel Smith

I am finishing a script very much inspired by a popular franchise. I knew I'd never get the rights so I simply turned it into my own thing. Started as purely a tactical exercise/fan fiction.

Gary Tucker

You know remakes wouldn't be so "bad" if the IP wasn't the only incentive to push the project forward. Noel Thompson I say go for it! The 80's actually a gold mine for ground base ideas that can be built upon and polished up! Especially in the horror genre, but the key thing is to not rely solely on the IP, really think about all the elements of what could elevate and/or modernize the plot in a MEANING way, not just for the sake of bringing the past into the present. For example (using horror) think about all the characters that have become famous over time and really think, who was actually a victim from their circumstance, thus turned them into what they have become? One answer already done was Michael Myers, and Rob Zombie cleverly used that for the basis of his two part Halloween remake. If your creative spirit is keeping you up at night to do, THEN DO IT! Ideas like clouds, you may have one in site for a long duration of time, but it doesn't stay there forever and you not the only one looking up, right? Excelsior and push forward!!!

Craig D Griffiths

One more thing to consider about 80’s remakes.

There has been so many mergers, collapses and corporate changes knowing who owns what rights is difficult.

I read an article recently saying that some films will become extinct for that reason. They were straight to DVD. The tapes they were recorded are degrading and machines to read them are disappearing. Since no one can figure who owns the IP, they will be lost to time as no one is around to take responsibility for their transfer to digital.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

I taught myself to write by writing a remake of CRITTERS over and over again with open screenwriting books next to me on my desk, but you can't do anything with with those really. They're essentially fan fic. You can't sell it. You can maybe get hired by the same company who owns the rights to the original off a pitch, but you send them the script and they don't need to hire you or pay you because they own the idea.

You can post it online and see if it gets traction and get hired for something else off of that if it's unique enough (like the 9/11 Seinfeld spec that got the writer hired at Family Guy, or Fast Nein spec getting the writer hired at Robot Chicken). But those were both meta parodies.

I like to tell writers to have a couple back pocket pitches for remakes or franchises they know they'd love to do. But you're better off writing original work as samples unless you're going for the parody approach.

Tony Ray

Exactly what Nick said. Writing a remake/reboot/sequel of something would be good for parody work or for the practice. But with the number of remakes and such out there now, it'd be a total waste of time to try and write one to sell seriously. Just check out this list for proof:

Be original. Be creative. And shine on, you crazy diamond. Because God knows the industry needs more of that right now.

E. Lamoreaux

Hi Noel. Remakes are up for the studio to decide. Since the film you're thinking of was a box office failure, that company doesn't see any value in a potential remake unless it had admass a cult following over time. And as others have said, you're essentially writing fanfiction since you don't own the IP. You could make it an original script inspired by that film, with enough changes so that you don't get sued later on. Trying to do a remake would just be a waste of time and effort.

Cassie Hicks

Say, Noel, I'm so glad that you're about to make a movie sequel to the 80s kind. I hate to be off-topic, but I've sent a message to local screenwriter/police officer Lyter Daniel about me struggling to land a local publicist who can interview me about my three topics that are based on soap operas and music. He didn't know what to suggest, although he's suggested that I post something on my lounge network. I've already done that, but now I'm waiting for someone to answer, and yet, no one is answering. I need your pointers on this. What kind of efforts should I make, in order to find a local publicist? Thank you very much.

Noel Thompson

Hi Cassie, I'm glad you posted this here so that maybe others can chime in on this topic. I have limited experience with the world of publicists, and none as a screenwriter. I'm also unsure if you mean "publicist" because you usually "hire" a publicist, not "land" one (ie they selecting you). Anyone else here have ideas for Cassie?

Doug Nelson

Hey Noel and Cassie; since you two are in the same neighborhood why not meet up over tea & scones (or whatever). That's where the real networking takes place.

Shawn Speake

Alotta good stuff here. Keep in mind there's a gazillion ways to tell one story. take the components u like and write an all new equation. If u play your writing right, adding your fiction, or truth, to create a new story, you're money. We're all reinventing wheels:)

Scott Sawitz

You could also change enough of it up to make it your own.... use it as a starting point, rather than a destination

Cassie Hicks

Good idea, Doug-but I have to know when that will happen. Noel, what do you think? :/ BTW, you're right. I'm trying to "hire" a publicist, not land one, although, again, I'm struggling.:(

Dustin Quinteros

I feel like there are a lot of older movies that didn't get the credit they deserved, were good ideas, but just failed in execution, or just lacked the VFX technology at the time to be as effective however; I personally would not dedicate my time to something I don't have the rights to.

Kiril Maksimoski

Why re-doing movie, hustle IP's blah, blah...uve got tons of novels-books-short stories all genres fallen into public domain...

Jenny Rauch

Into this. I think remakes should only be done for bad movies.

Gary Tucker

@Kiril Maksimoski : You have a point there too sir! I just found a .50 book, a high adventure pirate romance drama by a female author, not my usual cup or tea AT ALL. BUT.....a little flip here and a little flop there...LOL! I like making combos from different genres, covers more ground!

David DeHaas

The only remake that I think would be worthy is Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel... but other than that original stories or bust! lol

Bill Albert

How much time will you or have you spent on the script? You can go a head and write it up for your own experience, can't hurt you to have it in your own arsenal, but would need to do lots of research on copyright issues before trying anything serious.

Johnathan Burns

I wouldn't count it out. Many didn't like the remake of Walter Mitty but I thought it worked and brought an outdated film to a modern audience. It can be done so go with your gut (or heart) and write what you feel you should write.

Chaun Lee

A lot of what we see on the screen involves elements of stuff already done, so go for it. You just need a different take and spin on something old to make it fresh and new.

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