Lessons From “The Twilight Zone”

The original “Twilight Zone” TV series had a tight budget. Despite depicting creatures from other worlds, ghosts, supernatural events, and other planets, “The Twilight Zone” producers always had to keep costs down. As a result, the script writers had to get creative and create stories that gave the illusion of being in another world without the expense of creating that other world.

That’s the lesson every screenwriter should memorize. Practice writing low-budget screenplays because those are the ones most likely to be produced since they offer the least amount of financial risk.

Think from a studio’s point of view. Would you rather risk hundreds of millions of dollars on an unknown screenplay or risk a few million? Robert Rodriguez even filmed his first movie, “El Mariachi,” for only $7,000.

When you focus on low-budget stories, you have to get creative in making that story feel anything but low-budget. That actually helps create a more engaging and interesting story.

On the other hand, Hollywood loves pouring millions into so-called “sure-fire” hits that ultimately flop like the “Divergent” series,” “Jupiter Ascending,” or “King Arthur.” Spending lots of money on costumes, sets, and special effects mean nothing if you don’t have a decent story to tell in the first place.

Low-budget means avoiding historical stories due to costume and set requirements. Low-budget also means keeping locations to a minimum. “Moon” was a science fiction film with a fairly elaborate set, but it didn’t require massive special effects such as those found in the horrible “Star Wars” prequels. Because “Moon” kept the action confined to a moon base, the cost of the set was not too expensive.

Low-budget screenplays have a much greater chance of getting produced than trying to write the next “Star Wars” that involves massive special effects. Think low-budget because if you can tell a compelling story with a minimal amount of special effects, you’ll still be able to tell a compelling story with a much larger budget.

Spending more money never means creating a better story. Crafting a compelling plot with intriguing characters always creates a better story so think low-budget and let your creativity run wild within this limitation. You’ll find that low-budget screenplays can be the best way to break into Hollywood.

After all, look how people still love and watch the original “Twilight Zone” series despite its low-budget sets. How many people will still want to watch big budget bombs like “Jupiter Ascending” decades from now?

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