An interesting conversation came up in the Filmmakers group on Linked In. 92 comments as of this writing, some by me. It has at this point degenerated to the usual thing that happens with any conversation that lasts longer than a day on Usenet, well, in this case, the ‘net itself, the inevitable name calling and insults have begun to fly, complete with accusations of posting a discussion simply to generate business, being the most heinous.
I’ve decided to take a left turn, and leave the discussion, at least temporarily, and deal with the root of the problem, which is stated above. Put simply, the screenplay you wrote isn’t selling. You want to know why. There are several reasons which may or may not include:
- It’s not long enough
- Characters aren’t interesting
- Your story makes no sense
- The reader was having a bad day
- It hasn’t been read yet
Those last two you can’t control, and here’s why….
Everyone is writing a screenplay!!!
Well, that may be an exaggeration, however, it seems that way sometimes. Those of you that understand niche or vertical markets can do a simple search on the word screenplay, and figure out there’s money to be made out there, but it seems that lately, the money is to be made by those that tell you how to, or more importantly, how not to, write a screenplay.
A little history lesson, for those that have read this far…. Back in 1990, Joe Eszterhas was paid $3 Million for a spec script entitled, Basic Instinct. You may have seen the resulting film. In theatres no less, if you were born before 1975, in 1992 when it came out. For the two or three of you that aren’t in the industry, a spec script is one you write on the speculation that someone will buy it, as opposed to a writing assignment from some production company, studio, guy down the street, etc. that you’ve hopefully been paid to write.
And this was twenty years ago, when you could actually buy something with that kind of money. This would’ve been ok, had the mainstream media not picked it up, and run with it, creating an entire industry as a result. The aforementioned “How To Write A Screenplay” market.
So, here we are, twenty some odd years later, and believe me, they’ve been some pretty odd years, and you’ve written your first screenplay. Or your tenth. Doesn’t matter, none of them have sold. The biggest reason being none of what I mentioned above, but it’s simply this: Your screenplay sucks. Well, that may be a bit too harsh, but it goes to the first three reasons above. Without giving a course on how the industry works, or rather, is suppose to work, yours is not the only one that sucks. The ones your friends, neighbors, co workers etc. are writing all suck, too!!!
Sturgeon’s Law Revisited
“95% of everything is crap.” And that includes, in this case, your screenplay. And maybe mine too, for that matter, but this isn’t about me. Having just spoken to someone at the WGAW Registry, I can tell you that they register upwards of 75,000 pieces of material a year. Most are probably screenplays, some could be treatments, they don’t know, as they don’t read them.
And that’s just the registered amount. There’s probably a similar amount of material that will never see the light of day for whatever reason, up to and including, the writer didn’t know any better. But this isn’t about intellectual property, either. You’re in competition with all those other pieces of crap. And that’s not even a representation of the movies that make it to the big screen, or, the direct to DVD market, etc, simply because, 95% of all of those are crap as well.
Which is why most of you out there believe that you can do better. Well, go ahead and do it. I know I have. Again, not about me. You’ve bought a book on how to write a screenplay, at the aforementioned link I provided, now what? No, I’m not selling anything. I do that elsewhere 🙂 Given the 90/9/1 rule of participation, most of you that buy that book, aren’t going to read it thoroughly enough to write a great screenplay. Which might be the title of the book you bought, I don’t know….
I’ve gone way off on a tangent, so much so, that I’m not even near the original circle anymore, but to summarize, and conclude thusly, Of all the piles of screenplays out there, even if yours is the greatest screenplay ever (this week) no one may ever know. Yet another example of The Law!!! as it applies to moviemaking.
More later. Much later.