Hollywood’s obsessed with endless remakes and sequels because they want a “sure-thing” with a movie that makes a profit. Unfortunately even with remakes and sequels, there’s no such thing as a sure-thing since even remakes and sequels can lose money.
In the old days, the only way to see a movie was to go to a theater or wait for it to come on TV. Nowadays, you can rent a DVD or stream it over the Internet. Netflix and Amazon are even creating their own shows to offer unique content to attract more subscribers. So what does this mean for screenwriters?
First, Hollywood only gives remakes and sequels to trusted writers, so don’t bother trying to write a remake or sequel. What you should do is create a screenplay that creates a story world that can be used for a sequel if your first screenplay gets produced. Hollywood isn’t just looking for original stories, but stories that have the potential to spawn sequels and licensing for toy characters. Those Ewoks from “Return of the Jedi” were designed to sell more toys, and that’s what Hollywood likes.
Second, focus on low-budget stories. Hollywood wants inexpensive movies that can make a profit, which explains why horror and comedy films get made so often. Beyond simple special effects and stunts, horror and comedy films are the easiest movies to film.
Third, ignore trends. Today Hollywood likes special effects with computer generated graphics, but people are getting tired of this. They want to see interesting stories that focus on people. Think of movies like “Thelma and Louise” that had a hard message and story that made everyone think and talk about it. You won’t get people talking about movies like “After Earth” or “Pacific Rim” in the same way as they continue to talk about “Thelma and Louise” or “Titanic.” Write an emotionally charged screenplay and you’ll increase your chances of success.
Hollywood is run by insecure, greedy people motivated by fear. They’re afraid to take a chance so they play it safe by doing what everyone else in Hollywood is doing. That way if it fails, they can say they did everything right so the blame is out of their hands. With “The Lone Ranger,” everyone can say, “Hey, we got Johnny Depp and the original screenwriters from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ so it’s not our fault the movie tanked even after we spent millions on it.”
Actually the blame is the studio’s fault for putting together a poorly structured story in the first place, but that Hollywood executives are too busy shifting responsibility on to someone else and taking the credit when things go right while avoiding the blame if something goes wrong. In many respects, Hollywood is no different than most businesses today.