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.
Click here to read more about AVENGERS: ENDGAME’s record breaking success from Variety, and their assessment of whether it’ll be able to overtake AVATAR…
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.
Last week, the world of screenwriting lost a legend. William Goldman, who won two Oscars for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, died on 16 November at the age of 87. Now, WriteMovies takes a look at his legacy and what we can learn from it…
If there’s one thing that it’s easy to agree on, it’s that William Goldman was a phenomenal writer. His incredible wit made his films infinitely quotable, and no more so than THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which was based upon his own book of the same name. In fact, his talent with words was so great that one of the most memorable lines in the film is a single word: “Inconceivable!” (Although, immediately followed by the remark: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)
But wit alone isn’t enough to make a great story. Throughout his career, William Goldman showed a profound understanding of what stories are really about; THE PRINCESS BRIDE gives us everything we could possibly want from an adventure film, with romance, action, dashing heroes, evil villains, and daring feats of bravery. Yet it also defies our expectations enough to give us something new. It feels simultaneously like something very familiar and like something we’ve never seen before.
This is a kind of balance that it’s hard to pull off, but you can see it again in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. When the script was first written, only one studio showed any interest, and even then they wanted it changed so that the main characters wouldn’t flee to South America. After all, the heroes in Westerns at the time didn’t flee – no matter what the real Butch and Sundance did! In the end, it survived in the script, as did plenty of other genre-defying elements, most notably the famous bicycle-riding scene set to the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head“.
William Goldman wasn’t just great with words, he was great with stories too. He understood structure, character, pacing, tone, and all the other things that keep an audience captivated – and then he strung them all together with wit and charm. In his own words:
“Screenplays are structure, and that’s all they are. The quality of writing—which is crucial in almost every other form of literature—is not what makes a screenplay work. Structure isn’t anything else but telling the story, starting as late as possible, starting each scene as late as possible. You don’t want to begin with “Once upon a time,” because the audience gets antsy.”
The stories that William Goldman gave us will probably last as long as film itself. His book “Adventures in the Screen Trade” is a fantastic way to learn from the master himself – and after all, what could be a better tribute to him than giving it a read?
The world of film lost another great last week with the death of comic book legend Stan Lee. You can read our tribute to him by clicking here.
WriteMovies Director Ian Kennedy explores the works of Stan Lee and why superhero stories unleash our imaginations better than any other kind of stories…
At the heart of every superhero story is a central question that fires our imaginations every time, and nobody took it further than Stan Lee. The extraordinary array of well-known characters he brought into the world, which return again and again across many formats and platforms, is testament to that.
Cosmic stories like the creation of the universe are just too big to really relate to as stories, at least in the scientific telling – but many mythologies and religions make these stories relatable by ascribing these vast events to recognisably humanized figures. Gods like Zeus/Jupiter and Odin/Woden are presented like more powerful versions of human beings, able to shape the world with their powers and the sometimes arbitrary logic of their choices and lives; ancient heroes like Hercules and Beowulf are humans but given extra powers or significance. Superhero stories are clearly following in this tradition – and grasp towards almighty powers at times (DOCTOR STRANGE, CAPTAIN MARVEL, The Phoenix in X-Men).
By bringing these forces down (or up – SPIDER-MAN!) to our scale, we get to explore how people like us would act if they were capable of so much more than we are. It’s no coincidence that the modern superhero genre and many of its biggest characters have their origins in the Great Depression – when ordinary people were powerless against global economic forces. The flimsy justifications that the storytellers find for giving these figures their powers, are really just an excuse to let our imaginations run riot, and are quickly delivered and forgotten about in most of the origin stories, so that we can get onto the fun and exciting bit.
Nobody grasped the potential of these stories more, or took them further, than Stan Lee and the teams of writers and illustrators and filmmakers who he has worked with – the list of now-famous characters he created is vast. But at the heart of all these stories is just one very powerful central question, which is deceptively simple but really fires our imaginations. “What would you do if you could…?”
Superheroes and supervillains both play out these powers and their potentials and hazards throughout every story. Here are some of our favorites at WriteMovies from Stan Lee’s creations.
If you could… move and sling webs like a spider!
On the one hand, Peter Parker is just an ordinary teenager, worried about the same kind of things as any other teenager – on the other, he finds himself equipped with the awesome powers that make him SPIDER-MAN. We can all relate to his troubles at school while rooting for him to become a true superhero as he learns an important lesson: “with great power comes great responsibility”.
If you could… fly around in an armored suit!
IRON MAN’s Tony Stark is basically another Bruce Wayne, but with much quirkier personality. As an outright arms manufacturer, he’s also more morally compromised than Wayne. While Wayne has an orphan sob-story, Stark has an ego. And unleashing an ego that size, on a suit that powerful, creates excellent conflict throughout – so much so that in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, he can fight against many of our other heroes, without losing our empathy.
If you could… use you other senses to fight despite being blind!
DAREDEVIL has found immense success on Netflix, and with good reason. Matt Murdock is a deep, conflicted character, living in a world of darkness after being blinded as a child. With his other senses heightened, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is so captivating because he doesn’t just overcome his physical disability but turns it into a strength, proving that anyone – even someone who is blind – can become a superhero.
If you could… shrink to the size of an ant!
Scott Lang may be a former criminal, but his desire to reform himself makes us support him all the same. As ANT-MAN, he proves that even the smallest person can make a huge difference – and all while showing us a crazy world around us too small for us to even see!
Stan Lee has given us plenty of amazing creations over the years, and the world is a lesser place without him. Take a look too at our thoughts on two films based on his other superheroes, THOR: RAGNAROK and BLACK PANTHER!
There are plenty of things that make us wax rhapsodic about a script: an exciting story, engaging characters, dialogue that jumps off the page… But we also look at a screenplay’s commercial aspects, such as its budget and chances at the box office.
That’s why it’s always important for a writer to always keep a finger on the industry’s pulse. Figuring out what sells and what doesn’t is vital if you want to be successful as a screenwriter, and right now, what’s selling is BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.
The Queen biopic may have had a turbulent time behind the scenes, but that hasn’t affected its success. Variety reports that the film has taken a massive $72 million internationally in addition to $50 million domestically, adding up to a tremendous $122.5 million. For a film that cost $52 million to make, that’s a major success.
Our own Ian Kennedy has seen the film already. His verdict? “To my surprise, that hit all the right notes for me. Impressive screenwriting and musical concision, to balance everything they did, acknowledge the untold, and keep a PG-13 rating.”
Musical dramas have already enjoyed success this year with A STAR IS BORN being a critical and commercial success, and being eyed by many as a potential contender at the Academy Awards. Of course, this isn’t the only genre succeeding at the box office right now – but by paying close attention to these kind of things, we know what to look for when judging scripts for our competition.
It’s also interesting to note that BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY has achieved huge success at the box office despite its mixed critical reception, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 60%. Much like the MAMMA MIA films, there’s more to success than just what the critics say!
We’re currently nearing the end of Standard Entry for our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest, from just $39 until this Sunday, 11th November. Don’t forget we’re also looking for scripts to be directed by 2x BAFTA winner and 2x Oscar nominee Habib Zargarpour, too – an opportunity not to be missed!
Click here to enter!
Script Sales from September 2018
Script Pipeline have been reporting on script sales from September 2018 – and although sales might be light this month, there are some interesting projects to take note of.
- Halle Berry will be taking on her directorial debut with BRUISED, in which she will also star. We’ve had countless boxing movies over the years, but apart from WARRIOR, Mixed Martial Arts hasn’t yet had its day at the movies. Perhaps now is the time for it to step into the ring?
- THE WILD BUNCH is getting a remake, and it looks like Mel Gibson will be the man behind it. This will be his first feature since 2016’s HACKSAW RIDGE – and shows the continuing trend of remakes and reboots in Hollywood right now.
- Whatever you thought of Rian Johnson’s efforts with STAR WARS, he’s soldiering on with his next picture. KNIVES OUT is a modern murder-mystery with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and, as most recently reported by Variety, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Don’t forget, knowing what’s selling right now is important for any writer who wants the best chance of getting their work produced – so read the full report on script sales from September 2018 by clicking here.
And don’t waste the chance to get our professional feedback on your work either using our script report services. They’re discounted throughout our Winter 2019 Contest, and you get free entry to the competition when you commission one, too!
After a lull over the summer, script sales start to pick up again with plenty of interesting news as reported in Script Pipeline’s August 2018 Script Sales. Find out what’s hot at the moment, and where the opportunities are for screenwriters at the moment…
- As diversity continues to be an important issue in the industry, projects with Asian-American and Polynesian leads are proving to be popular. Leading the way is Dwayne Johnson, set to star in a biopic of the Hawaiian King Kamehameha directed by Robert Zemeckis.
- Having earned a worldwide gross more than six times its $30 million production budget, Crazy Rich Asians has earned itself a sequel, with both the writers and director set to return.
- Will Wile E. Coyote finally get the Road Runner? Coyote Vs. Acme is set to be produced by Chris McKay, director of The Lego Batman Movie; here’s hoping it has the same wacky sense of humor!
- Plus a directorial opportunity for Natalie Portman and a Supergirl film for DC – and more!
Check out the other script sale news for August from Script Pipeline here.