Writing Commercial Screenplays With Passion
Writing commercially viable screenplays does not have to mean sacrificing your passion for their stories. Something we encounter repeatedly at ScriptArsenal are scripts that are inherently difficult to finance, making them a more challenging project, within the field of screenwriting where every project is already incredibly challenging.
To break that down a bit, today we’re going to walk through a hypothetical example of a non-commercial script, and how the author could tell the same essential story within a more commercial genre frame.
Let’s say your passion is period pieces. You love period pieces. Therefore, you’ve written a lavish, expensive, period piece. The likelihood of this project getting produced is quite low. Period pieces are rarely made by studios unless they are the passion projects of A list directors or stars. Banking on that for a screenplay is akin to banking on hitting the lottery twice.
But if we unpack things a bit, there’s an opportunity to explore the same story elements in a different shell. Why do you love period pieces, for instance? Maybe, you love the epic romances of some period films, and have written an epic, star-crossed-lovers romance.
A star-crossed-lovers romance in a period film might depict characters of different social class. Maybe you have three characters in a love triangle, and the two men are of different social class, and the female lead is torn between them.
How could we apply that same story frame to say, a horror film? Here’s a way: a woman attends a haunted house attraction with her fiancé, a wealthy, well-to-do man whom her parents want her to marry.
Working at the haunted house attraction, playing a character in costume, is the woman’s college classmate, whom she has developed romantic feelings for. When a group of lunatics infiltrate the attraction, and start murdering guests, the female lead must ultimately choose between the man she’s engaged to and the man she truly loves.
It’s the same fundamental conflict as the period romance – social class, true love vs. societal expectations, etc. But now it’s a contained horror film, one of the most commercial subgenres possible.
The likelihood of this script being something a producer could finance has just quadrupled. This same exercise could be done for other commercial subgenres, like contained thrillers, supernatural horror films, contained action, YA romance, etc.
This is why writing a commercial screenplay does not have to mean abandoning the story elements you are passionate about. Are you writing commercial material? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.