One of the biggest problems with Hollywood is that they try to play it “safe.” Unfortunately, Hollywood’s idea of playing it “safe” is to do one or more of the following:
- Use existing stories or characters from other entertainment fields (books, video games, cartoons, etc.)
- Reboot old movies (“Superman,” Terminator Genisys”)
- Recycle old TV shows (“Baywatch,” “Man From Uncle”)
- Lean on sequels (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” “Prometheus”)
All of these “safe” strategies typically mean spending lots of money with no guarantee of success. Yet like an insane man who does the same thing over and over again but constantly fails anyway, Hollywood keeps following this “safe” strategy and churning out bomb after bomb.
First, unless you’re an established screenwriter, you’re never going to get any of these assignments. That’s actually good because you want to create an original story all your own. Second, don’t try to write an original story that mimics this so-called “safe” route to success that never guarantees success or profits. If you try to write a screenplay mimicking another movie such as “Life” mimicking “Alien,” you may get it produced but it will likely be unforgettable since people will feel like they’ve seen it before (and they have).
The key to breaking into Hollywood is to offer an original story that’s inexpensive to make and that usually involves comedy, horror, or drama in a contemporary setting. Notice that the contemporary setting is crucial because it reduces costs. You don’t want to create a science fiction or historical story because that would involve special effects, costumes, and settings like streets and buildings that need to be changed. You also don’t want to write an animated feature because animation costs money and that alone will make it difficult for any studio to want to do a script that will require funding up front.
Remember, Hollywood like to play it safe and one way to play it safe is to rely on established writers first, and if they have to go with an unknown writer, it should be a low-budget story like “Little Miss Sunshine” or “It Follows” that could be filmed anywhere in America.
Think of a story that could take place today that wouldn’t require specific settings like the White House or inside a Space Shuttle. Think ordinary restaurants, homes, gas stations, or hotels. That’s why horror stories are so popular and cheap to produce and also why comedies are equally popular and cheap to produce. Unlike “Saving Private Ryan” that requires hundreds of extras and costumes for everyone, a movie that takes place in an ordinary high school, neighborhood, and house like “The Edge of Seventeen” is cheap and easy to make and thus more attractive. Change that setting to the second moon of Titan and suddenly the story is much harder to sell simply because the cost of special effects.
So don’t play it “safe” like Hollywood because you’ll never get the rights to popular novels, toys, TV series, sequels, or video games. Think small, think low-budget, and think original. That’s actually what Hollywood should be doing since their “safe” strategy has been anything but safe. But like the definition of insanity says, Hollywood will keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, and when it doesn’t work, they’ll try again.
Don’t be insane. Write an original story in a contemporary setting. The simpler the better so your writing shines forth instead of the special effects or exotic settings you may want. A movie like “Room” largely takes place inside a single room and then movies out to an ordinary house. The fewer the settings, the better. Hollywood could make more money if they simply stopped playing it “safe” and started playing it “smart.”