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(This is an excerpt from FILMMAKING A TO Z.)
The screenplay is the most important element of a movie. It represents the story content, its structure and style.
Many people dream about making movies, but until they come up with a screenplay they can’t accomplish anything.
The first thing a film maker has to think about is how to come up with the right idea. There are three main considerations.
The first one is what does the audience want to see. Movie audiences have different tastes. Generally, American audiences enjoy comedy and romance movies. International audiences prefer action. The film industry people involved with exhibition of movies talk in terms of audience demographics. There are no hard rules about what audiences want to see or more importantly what they'll pay to see. Sometimes there is a difference. It can be safely said that all audiences want to be entertained, one way or another.
The second consideration is, what does the distributor want? If you ignore this, then you'll end up having to distribute the movie yourself! That's a lot of fun. You get to go to Cannes and watch nude sunbathers on the beach!
Figuring out what the distributors want is no easy thing, unfortunately. It would've been great if you could go to a distributor and ask about the type of film they'd be prepared to market for you. "Give us an action picture like the 'Terminator'," they may tell you one day.
By the time you make a picture like that, say in a year, even if you succeeded in matching it pretty well, the distributor may tell you that such films aren't doing well now. "Comedies are doing great. Give me a comedy with so and so today, I'll advance you your entire budget!" Distributors love to talk like that.
They usually have just such a film themselves, which they’ve gambled on and financed, possibly with pre-sales. Now, they desperately want to sell it -- to you if need be, and, you’re no film buyer, you’re a film maker. Get the idea! They’re always in the "sales mode," particularly during a market or festival.
Talk to them later when they’re in their offices in-between markets--they become coy. They’ll beat around the bush. They won’t tell you what they want. Just make a movie and give it to them, with no advance from them. That’s why they talk like that. They want something for nothing. You take all the chances, do all the work; they do all the talking and grab the up-front money from territorial buyer deposits -- sometimes all the money.
There are all kinds of distributors. They seldom agree on what sells and what doesn't, but somehow you need to still find out the general trends. No matter how the movie market changes, there are some general types of genres that you should consider before you begin.
The third point is this: you are a film maker and you chose this profession because you believe in your own unique gifts for the art and business of movies. You got to please yourself as well, but remember the first two considerations. Let these temper your desires, if you want to survive in the world of film.
Index | Story Construction