An excerpt from my script review for The First Purge which will be available 05/14/19:
1.) Marketability of the Idea
The Purge is one of those cool ideas that create profitable franchises.
Similar to Saw you take a simple idea, often contained, make the first one that creates a sensation in the most popular genre available.
As aspiring writers this is realistically the best solution to our problem of being discovered…can we write a low budget horror script, with a simple idea that can lead to a successful franchise?
We should certainly try!
Now the title of this particular script is misleading, as The First Purge is actually a prequel, but the fourth film in the series, and even if it wasn’t the most popular of the bunch, just look at those numbers below!
But how do we find material?
First, brainstorm a “new take” on an old horror or mystery idea.
The first film starred Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, taking place mostly in their home. That’s it.
What got these established actors’ attention? More than likely a decent paycheck and a quick shoot based on a (at the time) original idea of all crime being legal for 12 hours. And when we stop to think about it, this idea is essentially just a reimagined The Most Dangerous Game.
Second, focus on a contained location.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, the cheaper your film is to shoot, the more production companies you can sell the script to.
This goes double for the horror genre.
Every company can easily get access to a house, farm, camp site, etc. And if they can’t get exactly what you need for the story, they can make due or your job as the writer is to adapt the story to what is available.
(Hell, my Midwest hometown once used a farm just off of Main St. as a stand-in for a Lifetime movie that needed a Montana Ranch. For a quick exterior they just edited in some mountains in the distance.)
Third, and most important, write a strong story.
This trumps everything else, because even if you have the first two solved, writing a lackluster story doesn’t give the professional folks anything to work with.
And it will take time to develop. Having written several contained scripts, things get tricky when you can’t use a lot of fancy effects or action sequences to move the story forward. The simplest tool is to craft strong characters. The more real you make them, the more worried your audience will be when you stick them in these “scary boxes”.
Lastly, in an older video, we suggested watching things like The Twilight Zone to mine ideas. This still works, but feel free to think outside the box, as other shows work just as well.
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