BLADE RUNNER 2049 Not running at full speed yet… maybe that’s not a bad thing though…
BLADE RUNNER 2049 may have had a slowish start to its Box-Office life, but that could work in its favor… sorta.
While the film may never be a blockbuster hit in the same vein as any Marvel film or STAR WARS, it could become a cult classic in its own right.
The original itself was never a big conventional Hollywood blockbuster either, so in that regard the sequel stays true to the original – which is great… for the fans. But it’s been such a long time since the fans and the theme of a film were prioritized over making some dough, and for that BLADE RUNNER 2049 has our backing (see Ian’s review as well for why).
The latest STAR WARS trailer for episode VIII, THE LAST JEDI, has just dropped and it is a master at disguising its true intentions – just like Palpatine…
While the trailer gives away a lot of action that will be happening – round 2 between Kylo and Rey, Luke training Rey – these situations were highly expected even before the trailer released. What the trailer did expertly was to not just hide plot details, but to dress them up as something else and misdirect the audience.
Here’s just a few examples
Both Luke and Snoke mention the massive, raw power of an individual. Luke says “I’ve seen this strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then… it does now.” Snoke says something very similar at the start of the trailer. The way the trailer sets these lines up makes the audience immediately think that Kylo Ren is the common factor here. However, this is just jumping to conclusions. They could both be referencing Luke himself – what the trailer does brilliantly is to make us think one way so that our expectations are subverted when we see the actual film.
There’s a little moment between Kylo and Leia in the trailer… only it doesn’t happen. There’s an intercutting of the shots to make it appear like a “shot-reverse shot” technique, giving the illusion the scene we see are connected. But, of course, they’re almost certainly not. Is it possible those scenes are connected? Possibly, but there’s ambiguity and a lack of certainty that we can’t be sure about. Just like…
Finding a Rey of hope…
A line uttered to what the trailer makes us believe to be Kylo. This is amplified by Kylo offering a hand to Rey – or so we think. Again, the trailer has been edited to make us believe that Rey is speaking to Kylo and that it Kylo is offering his hand to Rey. How sure are you of both of those things? Rey could be speaking to Luke, Leia, or even Snoke. The hand could be Luke’s or Kylo’s. That hand may have no relation there at all.
What this trailer has done is offer so much to audiences and nothing at the same time. Fans can now theorize on what will happen based on the trailer and based on its misdirects. There are so many doors Episode VIII could go down.
Both Mark Hamill and director Rian Johnson initially urged fans to stay away from promotional material for the film, assumedly because it would give too much away. But having watched the trailer it’s really given us the best of both worlds. It gives us a feeling of what we can expect, it hypes up certain interactions and duels while giving away very little.
Just remember, “This is not going to go the way you think.”
Is Winter the new Summer for Hollywood blockbusters? Release dates of big films this year suggest that Winter is the season to be jolly for Hollywood.
So-called Oscar bait has always been released towards the end of Summer right through to Winter. This supposedly gives these films an edge – there’s a recency bias surrounding these films, but Winter is also slowly becoming the time for blockbusters, too.
In recent years the Middle-Earth and STAR WARS franchises have been reinvented and relocated release dates to December – which proved financially successful for them – and now the superhero films are following suit. The 2017 Spring and Summer saw the fringe films, the riskier films – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, WONDER WOMAN, but come November, the big boys are coming back. THOR: RAGNAROK and THE JUSTICE LEAGUE both have November release dates – close enough to December to rake in the money, but far enough away from STAR WARS EP: VIII that they won’t have to fight off the Jedi fans.
Summer Box-Office flopbusters – Notice the trends of Summer flops to avoid the same pitfalls.
A Summer to forget for Hollywood… the worst grossing Summer in the last ten years, but just why has this happened?
The content has been there. WONDER WOMAN, SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, BABY DRIVER, THE DARK TOWER, DUNKIRK, WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. Of course, they’re different in quality and appeal, but these belong to some big franchises and film companies. But, this Summer has not been so hot.
It’s hard to remember many other films beyond these. If I asked you to name 15 films released since the start of June you’d probably struggle – hell, we’d struggle!
One of the issues is the ease which moviegoers can check a review and decide on whether it’s worth going to see and spend their hard-earned cash on. It takes less than 30 seconds to open up the IMDB app on my phone to check the Dunkirk rating (8.4/10, not bad, Nolan). And this is no doubt how a lot of people are choosing to see films now.
And so many of those low scoring films will just be forgotten. Remember how the BAYWATCH movie was released this Summer, or PIRATES 5 at the end of May? No, me neither. It seems that Hollywood films are becoming more polarizing each year – we’re losing middle ground and average, yet enjoyable, rom-coms and now receiving either complete trash or filmmaking brilliance. We think that script development professionals deserve a bigger voice in the studios’ choice of projects and scriptwriting – and our founder Alex is compiling the research that’ll prove it, we’ve already had a look!
The lack of comedy seems apparent this Summer. Summer action films are always likely going to be a hit, but there’s very little engaging or original comedies or rom-coms out there. Which is just sad for the Summer. Now, we have to settle for things like THE EMOJI MOVIE… We used to get much better quality and ideas…
Maybe this represents a need for better and more original comedies, but there’s also a sign that Winter is becoming the time to release films. The Oscar bait is usually released around Autumn and Winter time, plus the STAR WARS franchise (and before it THE HOBBIT trilogy) was released around Christmas to increase revenue… and it worked.
It’s worth looking more deeply into what films have flopped and why. Try and spot any trends that occur in the failures and do your best to avoid them.
Our new Elite Consultant, multi-produced screenwriter Bobby Lee Darby, shares his pitching tips on how you should approach pitching to Hollywood, how to plan for it, and how to ace it!
Bobby thinks that the real experience of pitching is nothing like it seems in the books about the subject. Having made a lot of pitches, many of them successful, and watching a lot of other people’s pitches and reading the room while they happen, he’s got a strong grasp of how they really work in the industry right now.
Bobby (right) pictured with his writing partner Nathan Brookes.
What is pitching?
There are two types of pitching in the industry. Firstly, the “original pitch” – you try to sell your original idea, your original script in the hope that whoever you’re pitching to takes a shot on it. The second type of pitching is “assignment”. This is when you compete for the right to write the script for an already-greenlit project against other writers. For example, a company or a producer may have the film rights to a successful novel. They will hear pitches from several writers and agents, and whoever has the best pitch takes the project and gets to write the script.
Pitching is most often a cheap way for production companies to unearth good ideas and good scripts. It’s a low-risk, high yield investment to them. They only need one exceptional idea to make a ton of cash. A good idea could go for up to 6 figures, but producers will snap something up for $50,000 (minimum) under WGA terms. You could hold out for more, but they have the power. They have many writers and agents waiting for their chance, while the writers themselves could go years without even getting that opportunity again.
A two-sentence pitch often works well and flows nicely. This is how you grab the producer’s attention. This is how you tell them everything they need to know about the script, and in no more than 10-20 seconds.
So, here’s a small task for you to try this out. Write that two-sentence pitch for STAR WARS (the original movie, ie EPISODE VI: A NEW HOPE!), or JURASSIC PARK (or, even better, for your own script!). You should look to get a lot of practice of doing this for different films – ones you know well, ones of your own.
There are 5 important aspects you need to include in this pitch.
The Hero/the protagonist
The obstacle – whether that’s the antagonist, or something the hero must overcome.
(TIP – Ian says: I was once shown a simple formula for creating a script’s logline in a single sentence. It goes like this: [TITLE is a / It’s a] [Genre] about a [Hero] who wants to [Goal], but [Obstacle] and… [just finish the sentence with what happens as a result]. Then adapt to make it sharper. “MY MOVIE is a comedy about a desperate screenwriter who wants to win a brilliant contest but gets interrupted by his dippy ex-girlfriend all the time and has to find an ingenious way to distract her.” “JAWS is a thriller about a sheriff who’s scared of the water, who has to stop a killer shark that’s hunting his island community.” Simple, yet effective. And also, can be turned into fun games at parties, seriously, give it a try!)
It is important to include all of these things in your pitch, and perhaps more importantly, not to confuse the importance of one over the other.
For example, if you feel your antagonist is the strongest character, great, but don’t go on about them. Producers and execs want to know who your hero is, who this story is about, not the villain. If the person who you’re pitching to doesn’t know who the lead character is, they won’t feel a connection to your story. (This is also true of storytelling on a much wider scale – that’s maybe an article for Ian to do another time!) Characters are particularly important, especially for Hollywood execs. They are always thinking “who can I cast as the hero?”, “which actor would best sell this role/film?” A lot of pitches that we’ve seen fail weren’t talking about the main character enough to give people a connection to them.
The Pitch Itself
It is so important that you know the script better than your family. You have to be ready to answer something like “what happens on page 89?” in an instant. If it looks like you don’t know the script that well, it’ll look like you don’t particularly care about it.
It’s also vital that you spend a certain amount of time talking about each part of your script, giving rough time limits to each act. You won’t get much time to impress, so you need to be precise and concise.
Here’s a decent breakdown of each act, how long you should spend on it, and what to talk about. In total you get maybe 10 minutes of the exec’s time, max.
Act 1 – 2-3 minutes – As the script does, you must set up the story, introduce the hero, the supporting characters, present the obstacle, imply the genre and tone of the story. A good start can make all the difference.
Act 2 – 3-4 minutes – the crux of the script should take up the biggest chunk of the pitching time. As Act 2 is the largest Act, it is more important than ever to be concise here. Don’t waste time on things that are irrelevant to the story. Focus on what matters.
Act 3 – 1 minute. Just wrap it up, but don’t give away everything. End on a cliffhanger. You want the execs to say “what happens next?”, “how does it end?” If you’ve got them asking that, you’ve got ‘em biting.
It’s also important to talk about and spend a good 2-3 minutes on the characters and theme(s) of the script.
The execs you’re pitching to are always thinking how they can make money from this script, so it’s important to not only sell the story, but also the idea. One nice way of doing this is to provide a “big trailer moment”.
A “trailer moment” is simply a piece of action, dialogue, a striking image, that would work well in the trailer for this film. Think of SE7EN’s “seven sins” concept which they used for an effective trailer moment. You give the execs a trailer moment, and they will start to picture this film coming to life, and, of course, making them money.
To wrap up
In essence, pitching is all about storytelling. If you can tell a good story, that will be a big advantage for you. Try practicing on friends, colleagues, anyone who hasn’t read the script already. You need to know your script better than yourself. You need to know the peak of your script in relation to its genre – its funniest, scariest, most romantic moment.
Have your pitch ready at any time. You never know who you might meet today. And yeah, have backup pitches prepared to fall back on, because there might be some unavoidable block that your pitch can’t get around, however good it is, and you always need to be thinking a few scripts ahead of where you’re at in your career right now if you’re going to stay in work.
One final thing… be confident. Relaxed, not arrogant, but confident. You belong there as much as anybody else.
Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.
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