Right behind the Most Asked Question is this: which genre should I write in? And, of course, its companion: which genres should I avoid? There’s also this variation: how do I know which of my ideas is the most commercial given the current market conditions?
Ten years ago, I hardly ever heard these questions asked. Sure, there were magazine articles about what types of screenplays sold and which ones were made, but there wasn’t this idea out there that the screenwriter had to be as calculating and careful as a scientist plotting the course of a space craft, where a mistake of even one centimeter could have horrific and permanent implications.
I think these questions come from twin desires: 1) the desire to feel like we’re not wasting our effort and 2) the desire to believe that we can reduce the odds of failure.
And I get it. Nobody wants to feel stupid or vulnerable or like we deserve the blame for failing. It’s so much easier to look to external conditions, outside advice, expert opinion and say: but I listened, I did the right thing, I did as I was told.
The problem with this is it’s a false construct. There are no experts. Nobody knows what anybody will want to buy, watch, read or sell. Nobody ever has. Which is why most movies and television shows fail.
So why do so many people claim to know which genres are viable and which are losers?
Because they want you to feel like you don’t know, like you don’t have an internal compass, like you NEED them.
But you don’t need them. In fact, what you need to do is shut them out.
Is it true that certain genres did better at the box office this year? I’m sure it is. Is it true that certain others did worse? Again. Yes.
But ask yourself this: would any of those experts have told you to write The Butler? Or Enough Said? Or even American Hustle?
Somewhere inside you, you know where your storytelling passion is. You know what you have a true point of view on. You know the story that only you can tell in the way only you can. If you write that one as well as you can, if you are consistent and rigorous and honest with yourself, if you are brutal with the screenplay, get all the bullshit out of it, get all that you know and feel into it…hey, it’s no guarantee of anything but this: that screenplay will give you the absolute best chance you have to make an impact, get noticed, get started.
I know that’s not the same kind of promise many of the clowns leading seminars at the Radisson will give you.
But it does have the advantage of being the truth.
Now dig in.