An excerpt from my script review for Molly’s Game which will be available 01/08/17:
1.) Marketability of the Idea
Bottom of the barrel.
I could be completely off on this prediction, but it seems to yours truly that the biopic trend is coming to an end because we’re running out of options.
Was this story interesting? Yes.
Could something just as interesting, yet fictitious have been written? Also yes.
Looking at screenwriting from the business side, we should be studying the trends of not just what’s selling, but more importantly, is the “hot” stuff that’s selling translating to box office dollars?
(Are projects from “top lists” of two or three years ago commercially successful?)
This is your argument for anything you pitch, because producers and managers are realistically just soothsaying when they’re trying to predict what audiences will be looking for in two or three years when a project will hit theaters.
I’m reminded of a college professor who sat me down before I left for a summer internship with a local successful company, one I’d be grateful to work for upon graduation. His simple suggestion, and one often overlooked by young adults, was not to assume I knew more than the people I was going to work for based on my newfound college education.
Where this ties into screenwriting is the second part of his argument, where he explained that although textbooks and materials were written using current business case studies, by the time they were published and given to students there was a lag time of 2 or 3 years. Given today’s technology some of what was being taught from that material may no longer be relevant.
(Case and point, in the book Good to Great one of the examples given of a successful company is Circuit City. Try finding one of those…)
The same with current trends in Hollywood is my point.
People optioning and buying your screenplay shouldn’t be purchasing your project just because everyone else is buying in the same genre, they should be basing their purchases on as concrete of facts as can be gathered based on box office results.
(Buying just because everyone else is was what caused the “Dot-com Bust” all those years ago, and could be what happens with the “too quick” rise of value in crypto currencies.)
So how does this relate to you, the screenwriter?
Now in no way should you ever imply to a producer, agent, manager, etc. that you know more than them, or that they’re wrong. That should be a basic lesson in human interaction if it isn’t already. Being wrong, and worse having to admit it, has become akin to getting cancer in most social circles both digitally and in real life.
People don’t like being wrong, and even worse hate having it pointed out by someone else.
You’ll shut down a conversation “too” quickly that way.
What you should do is gather information that supports your case. Find real world numbers for projects that are similar to yours, and explain that this is one of the reasons you chose to tell this story before completing some of your other ideas.
Demonstrate that this is more than just a hobby for you, and you’re willing to put in extra work to give buyers a chance to be successful with your project.
(Think mutually beneficial!)
However, if the industry person you’re talking to keeps circling back to that “hot trend” you’re not going to convince them otherwise. Your first goal should be selling your script, but your second goal should be keeping a door open for future projects.
Minor victories are still victories.
But back to biopics.
I’m wrong on a daily basis, and could easily be wrong about this. (Lord knows this year’s Black List had more than a few biopics that will probably be optioned in 2018.)
My suggestion is to be cautious when you come in late to the party.
(Oh, and that professor I mentioned earlier? He also admitted that the act of writing textbooks was more for professors’ advancement in academia than it was for the benefit of the student body’s education. He then laughed in a sad kind of way, because it wasn’t really a joke.)
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