Our inaugural Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award may have closed for submission, but the WriteMovies Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest goes on – and the final deadline is now just one month away!
Your last chance to enter will be on Sunday June 16th, with a Grand Prize of $2000 plus guaranteed pitching to industry and a year of free script development for the top three scripts. So get to work polishing that dialogue, tweaking your story, and fleshing out those characters, and make sure you give us lots of reasons to get excited!
But what will help you to get our attention? Here are some things we look out for:
A unique concept. We read a lot of scripts, so show us something we haven’t seen before!
Fully rounded characters that we love. If we’re invested in the people, we’ll always want to keep reading!
Strong commercial potential. If the project won’t make money, it has little chance of getting made.
A great opening. Make sure you grab us with the first ten pages. First impressions matter!
Writing a script is hard work, but getting a script turned into an actual movie can be even harder. There are all sorts of obstacles standing in the way, not least the key decision-makers and producers who will actually be responsible for the whole project. So how do you get these people to say yes to your work?
One of the most important things that a lot of writers forget about is making sure that their script is commercially viable. Caught up in so many great ideas, they write whatever comes to mind with no thought for cost – but if the film unlikely to make a profit, then a producer is unlikely to want to back it. After all, their job may well be on the line!
Here are some tips to make your script more commercially viable…
Ask yourself who is going to go and watch your film. Who is this going to appeal to? Who is your target audience? These are the kind of necessary questions that producers ask all the time; if you find that you’re not certain of the answer, then it might be time to have a rethink.
Reduce the number of locations. By having all the action take place in only a few places, you’re massively reducing costs. A great example of this is RESERVOIR DOGS, which was predominantly set in an empty warehouse.
Another way to reduce costs is to tone down the action. You might have some great set pieces planned out in your head, but every stunt takes time and money to plan and perform. Can you cut the helicopters out? Can you have only one explosion instead of three? The scene doesn’t have to always to be loud to be exciting!
On a similar note, cut down on the crowd scenes. Extras have to paid and fed – each and everyone of them is costing the production money. If possible, even having a small cast of two or three is even better – that means paying even fewer actors!
A lot of Hollywood blockbusters seem to be overloaded with special effects these days, but they don’t come cheap. They might be an unavoidable cost in science-fiction and fantasy, but see if you can find a way to cut down on them.
In short, when the budget is small and there’s a clear audience, producers are much more likely to say yes to your work. A small cast, a handful of locations, small-scale action (or none whatsoever) are all things that can help on this front, and give your script the best chance of thriving in a competitive industry.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a great example of film that does this well. There is always an audience for horror films, and by keeping its costs so low, it became the most profitable film ever made based on return on investment, making an impressive $193 million off a budget of just $15,000.
So when you sit down to write, make sure you think first about the commercial side of things – specifically, whether there’s enough of an audience for your script to claw back the money that will be used to make it. That’s part of the key to making your way as a successful screenwriter!
Back when THE LAST JEDI came out, here at WriteMovies we had mixed reactions. Just like millions of STAR WARS fans, we both loved and hated different parts of the film. This is certainly not the case for STAR WARS: ALWAYS, the latest material to be inspired by the franchise. Although not officially licensed by Disney, this new trailer is quickly making the rounds online. It’s five minutes long, and the only bad thing we can say about it is that it hasn’t been turned into a full-blown feature film yet.
The trailer was obviously made with nothing but pure, unadulterated love for the franchise. In fact, STAR WARS: ALWAYS was a combined effort between pro trailer editor Jeff Yorkes and actor/long-time Star Wars fanatic, Topher Grace. In a move that would have made his nerdy THAT 70s SHOW alter ego proud, Grace used Yorkes’ long-time expertise in condensing movie plots to create a working trailer for the greatest STAR WARS movie that never was. The goal of the trailer was simple: to envision the entire Star Wars narrative as a single movie.
In order to accomplish this, Grace and Yorkes took some of the best footage from all existing STAR WARS films, including the originals, the prequels, the sequels, ROGUE ONE, and even SOLO. Collider also noticed that they even managed to work in some deleted scenes from the franchise. Needless to say, it contains everything you’ve ever wanted to see in a STAR WARS movie. STAR WARS: ALWAYS begins with Luke Skywalker receiving Anakin’s lightsaber from Obi-Wan Kenobi, followed by flashbacks to the Clone Wars, tied together by scenes from ROGUE ONE. Han Solo’s story arc provides the bridge into the new trilogy. Just as Obi-Wan faced Vader, we see Kylo Ren confronting Luke Skywalker near the end. In many ways, the five-minute trailer provided a linear and much more streamlined narrative, which the official films couldn’t accomplish for some fans.
The trailer certainly makes a case for the concept to be turned into a full-blown film. STAR WARS: ALWAYS reveals just how passionate the fans of the franchise are, and how they’re willing to go further than the films to create a lasting and meaningful connection with George Lucas’ creation. In many ways, Grace and Yorkes are no different from the person who bought Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber from A NEW HOPE, which Lottoland reveals cost a cool $240,000 at auction. They’re just doing what true fans do – devoting their resources to their beloved intellectual property.
In fact, Grace had already proved that he can pull off making a STAR WARS film. Back in 2012, Grace was responsible for putting together STAR WARS: EPISODE III.5: THE EDITOR STRIKES BACK, an 85-minute film that efficiently condensed the three prequels with help from cuts from the original trilogy, bits of dialogue from audio book recordings, music from the animated CLONE WARS, and even his own original STAR WARS text crawl. The result was a surprisingly good singular STAR WARS movie. Who knows, as the franchise is set to keep expanding, maybe Grace will get to direct and edit his own STAR WARS film soon.
It’s no secret what kind of films are doing well at the box office these days – and which film in particular right now. Riding the wave of superhero successes, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is destroying all the competition in its path.
To put the success of ENDGAME into context, the film broke more than a dozen records in its opening weekend alone, as reported by this article by Variety. Most notably, it had the biggest worldwide opening of all time and took just five days to reach $1 billion.
And it goes on. The Marvel movie is charging towards the all-time worldwide record held by AVATAR having now made $2 billion. It took AVATAR 47 days to hit that threshold. ENDGAME has managed it in just 11.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was already the biggest grossing franchise in movie history, and looking at this unprecedented success, it’s easy for writers and producers alike to start thinking that franchises are the way forward – hence the DC Extended Universe and the attempted Dark Universe from Universal, which got off to a rocky start with their 2017 reboot of The Mummy.
But before you start planning out your own movie universe, a few words of caution. Looking at the other biggest grossing franchises, only two out of the top ten aren’t based on pre-existing books or comics. So it’s tough to create one from scratch.
It’s also worth noting that neither of those two – STAR WARS or THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS – set out trying to create a franchise from the start. They began with stand-alone films and grew from there.
Even the MCU did something similar with its earliest films, rather than trying to introduce too much all at once. It may have shown the potential for vast, interwoven universes in film, but it didn’t overreach itself in the beginning. It also relied on the strength of its source material.
So before you start writing that massive series you’ve got planned out in your head, you might want to start on a smaller scale. The MCU may be wildly successful, but it’s tough to replicate that kind of success.
The sad news has broken that actor Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca in the STAR WARS franchise until handing over the role to Joonas Suotamo for THE LAST JEDI, died on April 30th at the age of 74.
Chewbacca has always been a strange sort of character, even by the fantastical standards of STAR WARS. A ‘walking carpet’ (to use Princess Leia’s turn of phrase) who seems permanently stuck with the same facial expression and who is only capable of producing a peculiar series of howls, yelps, and roars, he’s never been the most rounded personality in film – let alone the series.
And yet somehow, although Chewbacca may not have a deep personality, he’s certainly characterful. Even though he can’t speak, audiences have a clear idea of who he is – and as a result, defying the odds, he has gone on to become a fan favorite.
There’s an important lesson for writers to learn here about how to shape a character without resorting to the clichés of tragic backstories or awkward exposition. So how is it that the walking carpet won people’s hearts?
The answer lies in his interactions with other characters – which although simple, are also extremely endearing. He lacks much agency of his own, instead always following Han Solo around – but he’s always there, always constant, always loyal.
His reaction to being reunited with his closest friend in RETURN OF THE JEDI – hugging Han and fondly stroking his hair – shows just how much he cares. So too does his farewell hug to Luke in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and his determination to repair C-3PO after the droid has been attacked.
It’s also telling how the other characters treat Chewbacca. Aside from Leia’s insult after she’s first met him, he’s consistently treated with respect and fondness by everyone. Their views towards him help to shape ours. Writers should take note of this; a character doesn’t need to say a lot (or anything at all!) if other characters are saying good things about them.
The other important lesson for writers is to trust their actors to bring the characters to life. A talented actor can bring a huge amount of personality to a character without needing to say a single word, and that was what Peter Mayhew did. After all, it’s no easy task to portray a character with so much heart from behind such a thick layer of fur.
We never saw his face in any of the STAR WARS films he was in – but the impact Peter Mayhew had on the series will always be felt.
In our latest Writing Insights article, Script Analyst Edward Smith shares his insights on the things you should think about before you start writing. Here’s our checklist before you start putting your ideas down on paper…
Suddenly it hits you – a new idea for a script! There’s nothing more exciting than this moment. Unable to contain yourself, you rush to your computer (or typewriter, if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way) and start to type –
Wait a minute!
Yes, you heard us – wait. It can be a hard thing to do when all you want to do is sit down and write, but planning things out in advance, and making sure that you’ve got everything you need, can save you a lot of time further down the line. There’s nothing more frustrating than reaching the end and realizing you made a mistake right at the beginning – and it’s going to mess everything up.
So, here’s our checklist for when you’re writing a new script. Get things right before you start writing, and your job will become a whole lot easier…
Is this concept really as unique as you think it is? Sometimes we’re inspired a bit too much by the stories we love the most. There’s nothing wrong with going with a proven formula, but make sure your work has a unique selling point too.
Don’t just think about how you’re going to start your script – think about how you’re going to finish it as well! If you don’t know where the story ends, it’s easy to run into trouble by taking a wrong turn in the story before you even realize it. Figure out your destination before you take the first step to make sure you head off in the right direction.
What’s the theme of your story? We read a lot of scripts that tell a strong story and are underpinned by great ideas, but without a theme they lack purpose. Don’t just thrill us; make us think as well. Give your script focus by giving it a theme!
Make sure you know your characters. Their actions should dictate where the story goes, rather than the story dictating their actions; it’s frustrating when characters behave unnaturally just to move the plot forward. Head off this problem by building up a detailed knowledge of them before you start.
Ultimately, the purpose of a screenplay is to be turned into a film – and that means producers need to see it as a sound investment. Take time to think about the commercial potential of your project – the audience who will go to see it and the costs involved in making it. If it doesn’t look like it’ll make a profit, it might be worth making some changes.
Once you’ve thought all this through, it’s time to start writing. But you know what? For the all the careful thought you’ve put in, there’s one other thing you shouldn’t forget…
Let the story take you where it needs to go! You’ll discover new and exciting ideas as you write, and you shouldn’t feel that you can’t explore them just because you’ve already planned everything out.
Be flexible with your writing. Be playful. Experiment.
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 4… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
GAME OF THRONES is a series of chaos. As soon as order prevails somewhere important, then something shocking comes along to throw it all in the air again there. Weddings are meant to achieve the opposite – but here are often the opportunity for untold horrors. Now, I’m not saying that sadist King Joffrey doesn’t deserve to die foaming at the mouth from poisoning at his own wedding. But considering the fates he inflicted on everyone else, it’s almost too clean and quick a way to go. His beloved crossbow, though, does have a few more important lives to claim after he’s gone, not least in the final episode. I guess it’s what he would have wanted.
This act triggers a big reshuffling – switches of allegiances, escapes and false convictions, and a chance for the perverse justice system of Westeros to play out again. The trial by combat fought in episode 8 (‘The Mountain and the Viper’) is still stunning second time around, and results in arguably the show’s most astonishing death. The way the fight pulls our heartstrings and shocks us throughout, is masterful. We hadn’t even spent enough time with either character to get genuinely attached to them. But it leaves us reeling.
One thing that makes it even more effective is that the show warmed us up for this duel a few episodes before with a very comparable duel, where a champion of Meereen provokes Dany to provide one. That duel has a sudden, unexpected and impressive outcome, that’s also emotionally satisfying. And maybe subtly shapes our expectations of the one to follow, ready for them to be confounded a few times over.
Tyrion’s ordeals in this series are the biggest storyline, tying all the other strands in King’s Landing together. Here the series lays bare the gap between how people are perceived to be, and their true character. Even Tyrion’s own father and sister have always assumed he must be a hateful creature, because his birth – and supposed monstrosity, as a dwarf – robbed them of wife and mother. She was his mother too, but they don’t care about that. And this season they turn their vendetta into a search for ‘justice’, as they exercise all their legal (well, corrupt) powers to punish him for Joffrey’s murder, even though he didn’t do it. But the series plays its usual tricks on them in return too. The richest and most powerful man in Westeros finally dies on the privy – a satisfying irony – and although Cersei’s unrepentant scheming doesn’t truly backfire on her until the next season, her refusal to learn from her mistakes is the true cause of her later humiliation.
As usual, episode 9 packs the biggest punch. The Night’s Watch are attacked on all sides and the battle for Castle Black and the Wall is impressive, and culminates the love-hate romance between Jon Snow and his Wildling fling Ygritte.
A duel between Brienne and the Hound is emotionally involving (first time around) and pretty ugly. On second sight, there are too many serious head injuries for a fight of this intensity to be sustained. We’ve got too used to seeing people clubbed in the head with rocks on our screens, seemingly without having any negative impact on them.
My main complaint is how quickly, and fully, Jon recovers – in this same season – from having three arrows in his body, a stab in the leg, and having his head pounded into an anvil. Seriously? I know we like him, mostly, but it’s unlike GAME OF THRONES to indulge our heroes like this.
Playback rating: 4/5
Enjoyed reading this article on Game of Thrones Season 4? Take a look at Ian’s opinion on Season 3 by clicking here. Articles on future seasons are coming shortly!