I've been talking to a lot of people lately who are working on specs. I think that's great. Original screenplay ideas are the backbone of Hollywood.
Sure, they can be hard to chase, but they're still the best ways to write your own lottery ticket and showcase your voice.
But too many aspiring screenwriters I speak with almost every week say the same thing to me: "I'm working on this now because these kinds of movies are selling."
I'm here to tell you that this is a foolish way to go about your career. Today, we're going to talk about why it is impossible to actually time the market and why you should just write anything you believe in.
Let's get started.
The Screenplay Market is Always Evolving
'X-Men: The Last Stand'
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Hollywood is a living organism that is always changing. Just because a genre or tone of a script is hot at one point does not mean it will be the only thing people are buying for the next year.
Things come in waves. They can be influenced by what we see at the box office by the desire of stars, or by what we think will travel overseas.
You are not going to time something. This isn't how that works.
I learned this the hard way a few times. I'd see horror screenplays selling or action scripts selling, so I would sit down to rush one through.
Even now, I feel the temptation to jump into these narratives because they come with a specific audiences and they should be easy to sell.
That's the lie.
Write What You Care About
Credit: CJ Entertainment
When I pick up a writer's screenplay, I can tell immediately if they care about it or if it's just an exercise. There is precision and dedication that pops off the page when someone has invested deeply.
Don't forget, this is the blend of art and commerce. You need to guide the readers in and give them a world, not just try to sell them a logline.
You shouldn't waste time just cranking things out. You should sit down and really make a list of what you care about in this industry.
What are the kinds of stories you would tell for free?
The chances of selling a spec are quite tiny. You are committing to a process that may take many months or years to finish.
Only do so if you care deeply about the story and understand why you need to tell it.
Everything Comes Back In Style (Eventually)'Barbie'
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
One of the things people forget about Hollywood is that everything comes back in style eventually.
It's why it is so dumb to try to hit a tiny mark. When the actual hardest thing to do is write a great script that gets passed around.
If you have that script, it will never die. Every year I hear about projects that were decades old being revived or finding new life.
That's because the town is always coming back to old ideas as long as they're good.
The best thing you can have as a writer is a backlog of excellent screenplays. You can update them as time goes on, mention them in general meetings, and just have a plethora of things available.
Don't sweat what's popular, sweat what's good!
Summing Up the Spec Market
At the end of the day, the power of the idea is what's going to make your career. And a lot of luck. We have to stop thinking of Hollywood as a series of sprints to one idea or another and start enforcing that we are running a marathon.
There is no shortcut to breaking in; there's just writing the best you can and hoping it catches on.
You cannot time the market. Don't try it. Just write what's in your soul and hope to connect. If that doesn't work, then do it again.