GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers (Part 5)

May 28th, 2012 by

So late the other night, I was just about to head off to my nightly 20 minutes of sleep when I decided to check Twitter one last time. Big mistake… that turned into a bit of brilliance.

The mistake was I saw that @BittrScrptReadr [The Bitter Script Reader] and @nate_winslow [Nate Winslow] were having a conversation about some scripts they had been covering. Of course, I butted in with a snarky question, then suddenly the whole thing changed into this terrific conversation in which another person who reads and covers scripts @amandapendo [Amanda Pendolino] joined in, and off we went for about an hour. As it turns out, hundreds of people tracked the exchange, so I asked Future Super Producer Nate Winslow if he could create a transcript? Of course, he figured out a way to do it. So I thought I’d serialize it with commentary this week.

BSR [Bitter Script Reader]
NW [Nate Winslow]
AP [Amanda Pendolino]

Here is Part 5 of GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers:

GITS: I predict action-comedy is going to come back. Do you have a sense of any hot genres right now?

NW: Found footage refuses to die.

BSR: Comedy and Rom-Coms are perennial. Horror, too. Action-Comedy seems safe

AP: “contained thriller” is always a great idea. actors will attach and they can be made cheaply

NW: Definite “Bridesmaids” effect–lots of “women can swear too!” comedies.

AP: strangely, bridesmaids resulted in scripts.. but no female coms coming out this summer! :(

GITS: So if you were advising an aspiring screenwriter what genre to write, which ones would u say?

BSR: Comedy, Thriller, Horror – low budget, perennial appeal, defined genres.

AP: whatever they’re good at/interested in/showcases their voice.. but adult dramas are DOA

AP: adult dramas only work if they’re an existing property and/or have a huge attachment

NW: Write to your strengths, but thrillers are constant.

BSR: Nate makes a good point. If you’re not funny, don’t write comedy just because it’s selling

AP: agreed! sorry, people. not everyone is funny.

AP: that being said, even a funny person needs to channel that into joke structure-start studying

NW: I would also add if there’s an AMAZING lead opportunity in there, RE dramas.

AP: I definitely consider and recommend dramas – I just know they’re not popular these days

BSR: Avoid Animation – most of those are developed in-house

Straight from the front lines of Hollywood, a thumbnail sketch of what these script readers think are hot genres… and which are not. Of course, I’m sure they would all agree, if you write a great script, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, that script will circulate in a big way to your benefit.

For Part 1 of the conversation, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

Good news! Based upon feedback I received from readers who enthusiastically wanted another Twitter conversation with these fine folks, I asked Bitter, Amanda and Nate — and they agreed. So I will find a time some evening when they’re free and we will schedule something so that you may participate in a live Tweet chat to ask any questions you might have about the script coverage process.

Some background info:

The Bitter Script Reader has spent many years – “perhaps too many,” he says – working in development and as a reader at production companies and agencies.  For over three years, he’s blogged regularly about the missteps he’s seen writers both young and professional make, and implored his audience to avoid those same writing pitfalls.  You can find him at his blog and check out his videos on his newly-launched YouTube Channel.

After working for a motion picture literary agent at a major talent agency, Amanda Pendolino went on to become a professional script reader for a few different production companies. She is also developing some feature comedies, in addition to an original sitcom.

Nate Winslow moved to Los Angeles last year and spent the majority of his time reading scripts and writing coverage for a production company and an A-list director. He’s currently working for Franklin Leonard at The Black List, Scott Myers at this blog you’re reading, and two production companies.

13 thoughts on “GITS: The Twitter Conversations — Script Readers (Part 5)

  1. mommyfollows says:

    AP: whatever they’re good at/interested in/showcases their voice.. but adult dramas are DOA

    AP: adult dramas only work if they’re an existing property and/or have a huge attachment

    NW: I would also add if there’s an AMAZING lead opportunity in there, RE dramas.

    AP: I definitely consider and recommend dramas – I just know they’re not popular these days

    ?! What does this mean? “You can do it if you want to, but it won’t make it unless it’s good. We’ll consider it if it’s good and if there’s a great lead role.”

    How is this not also the case for other genres in the context of spec scripts?

    If we’re talking romantic drama, is that different? Less resistance? I could understand that — I think the last not-about-romantic-issues-in-the-least non-action film I watched was The King’s Speech.

    1. mommyfollows says:

      And I’m not saying “Give me an excuse for mediocrity.” But calling an entire genre DOA sets off all kinds of alarm bells for me.

    2. Scott says:

      mommyfollows, I think Amanda was engaging in a bit of ‘Twitter hyperbole’ there. First off, one need only look at the current box office to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which has generated worldwide revenues of $97M. There’s a recent NYT article I keep meaning to post and comment on about that posits – once again – whenever a good adult drama comes out, Adults, Baby Boomers and Seniors turn out in droves for it [every time and adult drama connects at the box office, you see this type of article].

      I have written about this in the past numerous times. Here is one such post that recalls in 2010 we had The King’s Speech, The Fighter, True Grit, The Social Network and Black Swan, all aimed at adults, all of them big hits.

      So perhaps for the companies Amanda reads for they are DOA, but no one can say with any certainty that a genre is really dead. Despite Hollywood’s obsession with young adult males, who continue to prove to be fickle about movies, the fact is that Baby Boomers and Seniors have a lifelong love affair with movies and, as I noted above, that group will show for adult dramas if they are good.

      As always my advice in these matters: Write what they’re buying or sell them your dream. The latter may be a more challenging path, but if you write a great script, no matter the genre, it will find a home in Hollywood.

      1. I consider dramas all the time. I didn’t mean that I’ll pass on a drama just because it’s a drama. I was saying that I don’t think that original drama scripts SELL as often as other genres do right now.

        Scott, you track the spec market – do you know what percentage of the specs sold in 2012 were original drama scripts not based on existing material? I think it’s worth noting that TRUE GRIT is a remake and THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL are both based on books.

        1. mommyfollows says:

          From a reader’s POV, why do you suppose they don’t sell as often?

          1. Could be because of “Hollywood’s obsession with young adult males” that Scott noted. Studio execs must feel that they’re facing an uphill battle when it comes to marketing these movies.

            I think all this stuff is cyclical. I’m optimistic that the trends will change.

        2. Scott says:

          Oh, I think that’s absolutely right, Amanda. Many dramas, particularly the most successful ones, are based on books. That’s that genre’s version of ‘pre-awareness’ I suppose.

          Re 2012 spec script sales by genre: I’ll be doing a midyear breakdown of that at the beginning of July. For 2011, the numbers for the top 5 genres in terms of spec sales was this:

          Action – 29
          Thriller – 20
          Comedy – 19
          Drama – 14
          Science Fiction – 13

          The drama scripts were:

          Harker [Detective Drama Horror]: Scotland Yard detective Jonathan Harker tracks Dracula. Reimagining of Dracula.

          In the Belly of the Whale [Drama]: Set in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness, an unfaithful wife and her lover endure a sadistic game driven by her filmmaker husband and a religious zealot.

          The Last Drop [Drama]: A charming writer is a fully functioning alcoholic by day, turned horribly dysfunctional by cocktail hour. While on assignment for “The New Yorker,” he meets the girl of his dreams, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more at stake than love if he doesn’t clean up his act.

          The Big Stone Grid [Drama]: A puzzling suicide prompts an investigation that leads to two decorated detectives to discover a terrifying extortion ring that operates within the secret underbelly of New York City.

          Into the Beautiful [Drama-Comedy]: A contemporary “Big Chill” with longtime friends reconnecting.

          Ness/Capone [Crime-Drama]: During the Prohibition Era (1920s), Elliot Ness, a skirt-chasing 26-year old publicity hound, seems to get an adrenaline charge out of courting danger, kicking in doors, smashing moonshine stores and rubbing it in the noses of Al Capone and other mobsters.

          Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses [Crime-Drama]: A man who goes on the lam with his daughter, his accomplice on a 3-state crime spree.

          Into Darkness [Science Fiction-Drama]: A sci-fi version of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

          The Outsider [Action-Drama]: An American who’s a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II becomes a member of the Yakuza, the highly organized Japanese crime syndicate.

          Seven Days Waiting [Drama-Thriller]: Logline N/A.

          Untitled Ashley Bradley Project [Drama-Mystery]: Revolves around a young woman who finds out she is the descendant of a legendary detective and is forced to take up the sleuthing mantle.

          Gone [Action-Drama]: Plot details are being kept under wraps but a source close to the production has described it as a “don’t mess with this guy” type of movie.

          The Imitation Game [Drama-Biopic]: The life story of Alan Turing, English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, computer scientist, criminally prosecuted homosexual, and tortured soul who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple has it all.

          Promised Land [Drama]: A salesman arrives in a small town only to have his whole life called into question by a rival executive.

          Some of those are based on historical or literary figures. Also many of the specs here are cross genres or sub-genres. Still 14 is not an insignificant number.

          1. Thanks for this, Scott! Really interesting food for thought, especially regarding drama hybrids and historical figures.

      2. mommyfollows says:

        I think this must be the article you mention; reading now.

        Also appreciated the “write what they’re buying or sell them your dream” post, thank you. I don’t realistically have the option of writing something else *and* expecting it to sell. It has to make the most business sense to do what you feel you’re best at doing.

        1. Scott says:

          Thanks for the article, that’s precisely the one.

          To your last point, that’s why I included the post about passion for the Go Into The Story: The Quest initiative. A writer absolutely must have passion for any project they write, they simply can’t write to the market if they don’t love the story they come up with.

          I don’t think there’s a formula. You study the market… or you don’t. You come up with concepts you think reflect what the market is about… or you go the Charlie Kaufman route [or your own equivalent] where all you’re doing is writing what interests you. Or somewhere in between. In any case, it’s absolutely critical to write a great script.

  2. I’ll just add that I read for a company that’s released a few adult dramas and most – if not all – of them started as novels. I also don’t know of the liklihood of a writer breaking in on a drama spec.

  3. Debbie Moon says:

    If dramas are a risk anyway, why would the studio double their risk by buying one from an unknown writer, who doesn’t have the rep to draw big stars to appear in their work?

    It makes sense to the studios to commission stories from newer writers that can be sold on their concepts, stories that might draw stars but don’t need them. Thrillers, horror, comedy – if you like the genre, you’ll buy a ticket. It’s a safe(-ish) bet on a new writer.

  4. Nate Winslow says:

    I’ll weigh in on this one.

    Dramas, as a genre, aren’t “DOA.” Westerns, as a genre, might be DOA, but like Amanda said, that’s always cyclical. And History Channel just opened a Western miniseries to 13.9 MILLION VIEWERS. THE HISTORY CHANNEL!! That’s obscene. That’s obscene for any network, much less The History Channel. So, willing to bet there’s a classic knee-jerk Hollywood reaction to a success that will result in at least two bad Western shows in the next year and a half. I digress.

    Dramas aren’t dead–like Scott said, dramas–especially adult dramas–have been the source of some oddly massive box office returns recently. But…

    True Grit: Remake, developed internally at a studio.

    Black Swan: Independent film that Aranofsky attached himself to and had been planning to make with a huge A-list star for 7 years.

    The Social Network: loose adaptation of the world’s most popular social network, written by one of the biggest writers in the game.

    The King’s Speech: based on a historical figure, British film.

    None of those were specs. A studio can make a drama when it comes out of an agency fully packaged and has a great, bankable lead in the starring role and there’s a great director that jumped on board too. All of those movies I listed had enormous “prestige” in almost every category of the movie–stars, directors, writers.

    Selling a straight drama spec? Tooootttally different thing.

    Scott, that list you posted I think reflects that. How many of those are really DRAMAS? The Big Stone Grid? That’s a David Fincher/Michael Mann hybrid–incredibly gritty crime thriller. The Outsider is a straight up fish-out-of-water mafia thriller. Gone (I’ve read it) is a sci-fi thriller about a Jason Bourne-y type who voluntarily gets himself abducted by aliens to get the girl he loves out of a spaceship and back safely to Earth: sci-fi thriller to the core, not a drama. Father Daughter Time is pretty drama-y, but again, that sold as a spec because Matt Damon bought it. A-list star, A-list-future-director. Ness/Capone, crime thriller. Harker, which I love, total thriller/period action.

    Imitation Game, definitely a drama, but that’s based on the exploits of a very famous real-life person, and it sold because Leonard o DiCaprio attached himself to star in it.

    The Last Drop has a logline that I would consider a straight-up drama. The rest, I think it’s a stretch to call those “Dramas.”

    So, depending on the way you look at it, drama specs even SELLING, much less getting made, are INCREDIBLY rare. And when they do sell, the odds are its because a huge star bought it for themselves (whether they had the studio do it for them or did it through their own production company) to star in.

    That’s what I usually think when I say “don’t write a straight drama spec.”

    I might be putting words in Amanda’s mouth so I won’t say that’s what she was getting at, but straight dramas as specs? Rare. Hence, “dramas are DOA” when you’re talking about spec scripts.

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