Monday, February 13, 2012

How come screenplays are so bad

Why can't anyone find good screenplays anymore? I hear this all the time. Everyone hears this all the time.

So why aren't there any good screenplays around?

Good question.

As I said in the last blog, there sure are a lot of writers around and a lot of movies that get made. So where are all the good screenplays hiding?

Well, for one thing nobody wants to make good screenplays. In my opinion, however humble that may be, one of the reasons is that good screenplays aren't always hot. Look around at what "they're looking for" taken from a popular internet screenplays for sale site. These are real: 

We are looking for completed feature-length sci-fi scripts with highly original concepts and compelling characters. When pitching, please make sure you’re able to pitch the hook for your story in one sentence or less. 

Submissions must be for contemporary material, and should be gritty, dark, and character driven. Please also note, we prefer material with female leads, few characters, and some violence and sex. 

We are looking for completed feature-length contemporary, female-driven romance scripts. The female lead must be aged 20-40. By romance, we mean scripts such as “The Notebook” that emphasize love over comedy hijinks. We are not open to submissions that do not currently have the female role between the ages of 20 and 40. 

We are looking for completed feature-length uplifting scripts. In other words, scripts that reassure life-affirming values and messages such as "Bella," "The Family Man" and "The Blind Side." Budget will not exceed $500,000.

We are looking for completed feature-length character-driven dramedy scripts, i.e. material in the vein of “Juno” or “The Descendants.”  

I think you get the idea, and this is just a sampling of "what they're looking for". In other words, they're looking for a copy of the latest hit or something that fits a genre, horror especially.

And they're looking for completed screenplays.

Okay this is the "B" level, maybe some of the ads a "D" level, but you will find major studios on these sites also. Because they just want a copy of the latest hit.

So what's a good screenplay? Well, Hugo is good, even Descendants is good in spite of what I might think of the whole movie, and Woody Allan's Paris movie is arguably the best screenplay this year.

But you don't see producers looking for an Alexander Payne screenplay, or a Woody Allan screenplay. No they want a copy of a commercial hit, or at least a semi-hit.

Emperor of Mars has been around for 22 years! It's  not a great script, but it is a good one, it got me into meetings with virtually every studio and network in Hollywood, and for those who doubt it, I'll be glad to post my agent's list of companies who loved it. 

They just didn't want to make it.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of good scripts out there. In fact there's even a list of good scripts made up each year that were passed over or never made.

You can find it at:

See what you think about them. They aren't necessarily good scripts, but they stand out mostly because of the writing, which is good. It's ironic that the word "good" implies something that's great to read but probably won't  be made because it isn't a copy of something else. 

And maybe that's the reason they're good, one word... originality. Maybe another word... fresh.

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