You may have lots of ideas for screenplays or you may have only one. But before you write any of them, consider whether your premise has enough dramatic potential and commercial appeal to sustain a 90-minute movie.
People need to be highly-entertained to stay glued to their seats for an hour and a half, so you have to make sure that the premise can carry a whole movie. And literary agents and managers certainly are seeking screenplays that have commercial potential. The more commercial quality you can infuse in your script the better!
Here are five tips for making sure your script has commercial potential.
1. Create subplots and character arcs (which are kind of the same thing) to build and carry the plot over the course of the whole story.
These building blocks are fundamental to the craft of screenwriting, but I mention it here to show that it’s not just a high-falutin’, good idea. These things (subplots, character arcs) are the heart of the story that makes people want to watch the story. Without them, your story has no real commercial potential because it will be boring.
2. Consider who will really enjoy your movie.
Almost every writer thinks that their story has “something for everyone.” The reality is that that is not the case. It’s also not how anything successful is marketed. Just look at yourself: You have genres of movies you like and ones you don’t like, right?
Make sure you are realistic about how broad an appeal your story will have. The bigger the budget, the broader the appeal it must have to be successful. Studios do look for four quadrant films that will appeal to older and younger, men and women — the big tent-pole blockbuster. But in reality it’s still not everyone. Some people only like small indie films. Try to get clear with yourself about who would really like your film.
3. Before you sit down to write your new idea as a screenplay, pitch it to a few people and see if they are REALLY, REALLY interested.
If not, then you either gotta develop the idea more or work on your pitching skills. Run ideas by people to see if the story gets them interested. If not, then work on it a bit and try it again or pitch a different idea. When you get one that people are responding well to, consider it as a possibility.
4. Look at movies that have come out over the last three years that have been big at the box office and see what elements you have that are similar.
If it is TOO DIFFERENT, you’re probably wasting your time.
5. Think of what A-List stars would be right for the top 1, 2, or 3 characters in your movie to make sure it’s castable.
When I say “A-Listers,” this does NOT mean a TV series actor. Writers often tell me who they think would be perfect for a role — and I think it’s great that they are thinking about it — but they will suggest someone who is a secondary ensemble character on a hit TV series. The problem with that is that someone like that cannot get a movie made. Just because Rashida Jones would be great for your role doesn’t mean it is castable.
You should be able to think of a handful of top stars who could readily be suited for your characters.
So there are 5 tips for you. The whole idea is to keep you from wasting your time writing 100 pages of an idea that you have no chance of selling. Think about how commercial your idea is before you write it.
If you aren’t sure how commercial your idea is and you want professional script feedback to potentially save you lots of time, you might consider a consulting session with Melody. Creative Screenwriting Magazine rates her one of the Top Script Consultants in the Business, naming her a “Cream Of The Crop” Script Consultant and in the Top 3% out of more than 200 cnsultants she was measured against.
She focuses on helping you make it as commercial as possible while still staying true to the story that you want to tell. Happy writing!