With the poor showing of “The Lone Ranger,” Hollywood pundits are claiming that the western is dead. Of course long before that, they were declaring musicals dead (until “Chicago” made a ton of money and won numerous awards). After the disaster of “Cutthroat Island,” Hollywood declared pirate movies were dead. Then “Pirates of the Caribbean” came out and made a ton of money. Even before “Star Wars,” Hollywood was claiming that science fiction was dead.
The truth is that no genre is dead. What is dead and will always be dead will be ignoring telling a compelling story. All the special effects, costumes, and interesting scenery will always mean nothing if you don’t have an interesting story to tell in the first place. Blaming a particular genre is an easy answer but a completely misguided one. That’s why it’s so important to learn the structure of good stories because the more you understand what makes a good story, the more likely you’ll be able to tell a story in any genre.
Look at Quentin Tarantino who has written screenplays about war (“Inglorious Basterds”), martial arts (“Kill Bill”), organized crime (“Pulp Fiction”), and slavery (“Django Unchained”). Stanley Kubrick wrote screenplays about science fiction (“2001: A Space Odyssey”), horror (“The Shining”), war (“Full Metal Jacket”), and comedy (“Dr. Strangelove”). James Cameron wrote screenplays about science fiction (“Avatar”) and historic events (“Titanic”). The genre doesn’t matter as much as the story.
If you’re currently writing a western, you may have a hard time selling it, but don’t give up. Just tell a great story. After the success of “Star Wars,” Hollywood suddenly wanted science fiction scripts and they happened to run across “Alien.” At the time, “Alien” was languishing on the shelves since Hollywood didn’t think science fiction was profitable. The basic lesson is that Hollywood never knows what they want. All Hollywood knows for sure is how to blame everything but their own lack of understanding the importance of a good story.