Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Six Rules to guide you in the question "What Should I Write Right Now?"


Anyone in the movie business who tells you they’re not scared stiff about the future is probably lying. There is mounting anxiety among theater owners, studio executives, filmmakers, and cinephiles that the lights may be starting to flicker. 

-- Brent Lang - Variety

For the record, I don't disagree with the quote or the overall assessment in the article written by Brent Lang for Variety. I do wonder why his piece doesn't mention the huge factor of the aging population in the United States as one of the major causes for the decline of the domestic theatrical box office numbers. Perhaps this factor has been mentioned so many times over the last decade, it's no longer worth including as part of the summary. But setting that aside... 

I agree. There's a problem. 
The theatrical movie business is in big trouble.

The good news for screenwriters (professional and aspiring) is that breaking through and working in TV is a totally different matter.
In the near future, I will be specifically addressing this difference with my posts and an upcoming book.
However, with the difficulties of an ever-changing marketplace, there are many writers out there who are confused and unsure about this one issue -- What Should I Write Right Now?

I decided to put together a Core Checklist of what you should always consider before you begin your next writing effort. 
This checklist doesn’t necessarily offer incredible insight or originality. Indeed, a few of the points are probably a repeat of the same stuff most of you have read before over the years. 
But I began writing the list by asking myself - what are the factors that have guided me over the years that has allowed me to maintain a professional screenwritering /filmmaking career for the last two decades?
My answer ended up being a long list. But here are Six Core Principals for Screenwriters to think about when making a decision about -- 

What to Write Right Now

1) Write something that is not just of an interest to you, or your family and friends.

The goal in anything you write for the industry is to actually pursue a project that would be of interest to people motivated enough to pay to read (or watch) what you’ve written.

2) Write What You know.

Yeah, I know, obviously you've read this before. So here is the next level to the phrase — write not only what you know about, but write in a way that the outside world will associate your subject/style/genre with you. It's one of the best ways if the goal is to get your work produced.

3) Write what you are reasonably sure you can complete.

This is especially true when you have a history of uncompleted projects. 
Writing and stopping after the first draft only works when writing in a diary. 

4) Write in a "timeless" way. Don't choose as subject or write in a way that attempts to be of the moment.

What you write can be a period piece… a project set in the present-day… or a project set in the future. The setting doesn't matter as much as making your creative effort timeless rather than "gimmicky" or an attempt to be "cutting edge." Content over Flash is always the way to go. Think of your content being about what lies below the surface, not on what happens to be floating at that moment across the water.  

5) Write something that will showcase what you're capable of achieving, even beyond the present work. 

We're talking about "calling card" here. Your script should be saying to those people in the industry who need a writer to work on their project -- look what I can do. You should hire me to make your script as good as the one you're reading.  

6) Write something that challenges you in a different way creatively, invading your comfort zone as a writer. 

The best lessons in my creative life have come from challenges that were beyond what I had done before. Even when we fail to gain “success” from attempting such a challenge, often times the work post-challenge becomes noticeably better.