There were a few notable insights gleaned about writing for the current movie scene during a screenwriting phone-in interview I participated in this past Saturday. The theme was about new trends in Hollywood for ambitious and hopeful writers.
Run by a California-based screenwriting site which provides on-line instruction and classes, the guest was a producer with a lower rung studio, but with a few popular film releases, who came to the industry ten years ago from New York’s financial district. Given the industry and in light of his background, you can imagine his delivery was forceful with touches of irony and sandpaper.
The most ear-opening revelation was the overriding importance of a writing project having an effective intro. What he stated more than once was “Sweat the title”.
The title should be so memorable and connotative as to be capable of creating a brand, i.e. promotional marketing potential and sequel room for growth. He noted that a great title alone can stir producer interest in a project, while a great piece of writing with a bland or unoriginal title could miss out for that reason.
A successful example cited as a low budget blockbuster was the sci-fi film “District 9”. The name had an intellectual property feel (very important) and opportunity for a wider demographic appeal than its genre might otherwise imply.
The other telling observation, which ties into the new reality of independent studios being the ones to approach first with original script concepts as opposed to larger studios, was that the modern writer needs to have effective communication skills, to literally help sell a project, rather than simply submitting it and letting others do the pitching. A writer needs to know the industry lingo (such as that IP means intellectual property). A writer needs to be able to submit as needed summary incarnations to producers, be it a treatment (with a dialogue sample) or a quick-take (two pages laying out the story with layers). A writer needs the capacity to add gravitas, omitting too much slickness, when presenting the story to others.
In short, the modern writer has to not only write right, but also be a ready, effective partner of the multilevel development process which turns paper into film.
Now, to begin! Oh yeah, what’s the title?