What script should you write next? How do you choose the “right” idea? What concept shows the most promise? Committing to a new idea can be nerve-wracking. You want to write something you like but also something you can sell, use to get represented, or employ as a writing sample. This is what you need to know to pick your next project.

Choose your best story idea by using knowledge of existing trends, the marketplace, and your own intuition.

It’s a balancing act between personal preference and awareness of what’s going on in the industry. Chasing the tail end of the latest fad won’t get you anywhere, but ignoring the sales climate won’t either. There are several factors you want to consider when writing a screenplay that will sell or serve as a killer writing sample.

This is the second post in a 4 week series on how to break into the industry. Check out the first post here:

 How to Become A Screenwriter: 6 Starting Points

Figure out your next idea by looking at these three things:

1. RECOGNIZE THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

You’ve probably watched in recent years as your favorite childhood film was bastardized into a horrific remake. It gets you all riled up, but not in a good way. So, what’s going on in Hollywood? It’s no surprise we live in the age of Intellectual Property. Filmmakers are so risk adverse, that they would rather remake a film that already has a built in audience/fandom, than take a risk on something new that might flop. They want to make money so desperately, that it’s costing them money.

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Utilizing IP can be done right. For example, book adaptations can make really good movies (book readers, breathe). As a sci-fi nerd, EDGE OF TOMORROW is my favorite example. This movie was great – a mix of Groundhogs Day and a sci-fi alien invasion, say what??? The studio completely failed it. No one went to see it. Why? Because no one knew it existed. I don’t remember seeing any marketing for it and actually went to see it on accident.

If you aspire so hard to control the creative process, you end up with too many hands in a project and the result is crap. A bunch of people giving conflicting notes based off opinion. A bunch of writers/ghostwriters toppling over one another’s work… Maybe this is why the indie scene has had such a resurgence in recent years; however, problems are arising in that arena as well.

Indies used to lean more towards being truly independent. Now it’s hard to get funding without stars or key power players attached. The scene is dominated by Hollywood hands. Perhaps it all links back to the money. Cold hard cash… or credit. Probably credit.

Now that we’ve aired our grievances…

2. USE THE MARKET TO INFORM WHAT YOU WRITE

So why get to know all this? How does it affect you as a screenwriter? A key to long-term success in Hollywood is being well-informed. Be well-informed so that you can make educated decisions, network intelligently, and know what is expected of you and your writing.

  • What’s selling right now? Who’s buying?
  • What are the latest trends?
  • What writers are hot?

Go Into The Story lists the recent spec sales.

For a deeper look into the market (Sales, pitches, specs, heat meter, and film rights) check out The Tracking Board.

3. Know the power players

Read the entertainment industry trades. Ingrain names, faces and companies into your vocabulary. Memorizing a list isn’t going to have the same effect as immersing yourself in the day to day antics of the entertainment industry.

  • Who’s running the show?
  • Who’s putting money into movies and TV?
  • What emerging formats are dominating the market?

Read Deadline Hollywood, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. I also peruse IndieWire, No Film School, and some of my favorite screenwriting websites. You’ll see the same people and companies creeping up. Pay attention!

Be a smart writer.

Be informed. Be networking. Be writing.

Related Article: Networking for Newbies

What’s Your Next Best Idea?

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