What Should You Write Next?: How to Pick New Projects
Writers trying to break in are constantly generating new ideas for reps to try and sell or package. So how do you know which one is right for you?
Writing something new is always a challenge. The blank page stares at you and seems to laugh more menacingly than Joaquin Phoenix on a subway train.
But what if you actually have a lot of ideas? How can you decide which one is worth the next few weeks or months of your time?
Especially if you don't have a representative that can help walk you through what they think is good for your brand or in the market. The answer might surprise you.
Pick the project that you know 100 percent how it ends.
Yup. That's it.
It doesn't matter if you don't have all the characters worked out yet, or the setting, the second act, or even the thematic tentpoles to hold all of those up. Pick the one idea whose ending stands out strongest and moves you the most.
Pick the one idea with the ending you feel the most for and about.
Why? Because you know how hard it is to figure out everything that happens in a screenplay. If you know the ending, you always have something to work toward.
Or, in some ways better, a place to work backward from.
Okay, what if I wanted something a little more in depth...
In-depth like what? You want me to strategize for you?
Okay. Let's do it.
Should I write a biopic?
Biopics are always going to be great specs. They are usually in the public domain and can help you create a buzz around your work that can lead to reps and meetings. But there are a ton of them out there. So try not to pick a person who has been done over and over.
Pick someone new but famous enough that it still matters to the public.
What about a stunt spec?
Stunt specs, like the Friends episode where everyone gets AIDS -- or the Seinfeld that happens on September 11 -- are prevalent in television. They help show you can write in another show's voice, but also that you can think outside the box.
These TV stunt specs only work as samples -- the good ones, at least. The writers will not sell them. They will never air.
In features, stunt specs -- like 2007's Wonder Woman spec that Joel Silver and WB scooped up that got its writers repped -- can help generate heat and hopefully lead to other work. That's a big hope.
What's a reliable genre?
Horror screenplays are always popular in Hollywood because they don't rely on intellectual property and they can usually be made for pretty cheap. Plus, plus they come with a huge built-in audience.
Action movies are usually a fun and easy read. They can attract bankable stars looking to headline the next Taken.
Adventure movies -- like something Jumanji-y, are expensive. But but I had some success going with an Atlantis movie in 2018 because the story is so well known in folklore that it works as IP.
Gangster films are few and far between. But gritty, grounded crime thrillers -- think Hell or High Water, movies that subvert the genre for an affordable price -- can get made. It also doesn't hurt that that film's screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan, was coming off considerable heat thanks to Sicario.
Fresh comedies are fun for assistants to read and get passed around all the time. Oh, and many execs love a revisionist western and dramas are not dead on streamers. Contained sci-fi is also something studios and Netflix are actively looking for.
It's kinda overwhelming!
But listen to me--
It really doesn't matter.
Write a great script, no matter what it's about, and great things can likely happen. But if you cannot decide...
Pick the one with the best ending! Endings matter so, so much.
They knit everything together and can be the reason people remember everything that you put onto the page. (Think Sixth Sense or Seven).
So chase the ending. Let the rest fall into place as you go.
What's next? Click here for how to write a screenplay!
Screenwriting is hard. But to become a filmmaker, you need to learn script writing to master storytelling. We'll give you free lessons.