Happy New Year!
The film business is in a period of fast and radical change. I want to kick off 2016 by looking at some trends that have been developing in Hollywood that effect screenwriters.
1. Simultaneous Development. With so much at stake on big franchise movies, recently some studios have begun hiring multiple writers to work on screenplays at the same time. These writers are not working together, they are each writing an individual script. The studio will then decide which it likes best (and probably cannibalize good ideas from the others). It seems to me this is the evolution of the “pitch off” when multiple writers are brought in to pitch their take on a piece of intellectual property, although with simultaneous development, at least every writer gets paid. This has been done on the upcoming Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the 21 Jump Street spinoff.
2. Shared Universes. It's no secret studios love franchises. Successful franchises like The Fast and the Furious series, Hunger Games series, or Harry Potter series can keep studios financially sound for years. The new trend is franchises built around shared universes – story worlds that can support films about multiple characters and stories, thus creating a "brand" that draws audiences even when the movies are not traditional sequels. Marvel kicked off the trend with their shared universe of superheroes. Star Wars has had a shared universe of ancillary products (books, video games, animated shows, etc.), and Disney is now applying the idea to the Star Wars movies with standalone films like the upcoming Rogue One and Han Solo origin movie. Warner Brothers is trying to turn the world of Harry Potter into a shared universe with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And Universal is attempting to create a shared universe around their classic monsters, while Sony is working on a Robin Hood shared universe. It seems this is the future of a lot of screenwriting jobs, so effectively playing in someone else's sandbox will be a useful skill to hone.
3. Feature Writers’ Rooms. This is related to the “shared universe” trend. With studios making multiple movies set in the same world, the feature films occasionally resemble television series – coming this summer, episode twelve of Marvel’s superheroes! And the feature world has started borrowing another television practice: writers’ rooms. Teams of writers have been formed to shepherd the development of stories in the Transformers world, Star Wars world, and the upcoming series of movies featuring Universal’s monsters. The teams develop stories and treatments for various films in the franchise that are then handed off to writers to turn into the individual screenplay.
Savvy writers will be keeping an eye on how these trends develop.
Before I sign off this week, I thought I’d reveal the five most popular LetsSchmooze posts from 2015. They are:
1. Three Traps to Avoid in Love Stories.
2. My Interview with Khalil Sullins.
3. Seven Questions for Better Scenes.
4. How to Know if Your Idea is Marketable.
5. My 10 Best Written Films of 2014 list
And, since that last one is maybe not the most useful, in sixth place was 5 Questions About Your Story to Answer Before You Start Writing - also, I think, one of my best posts.
I'll plan to have my 10 Best Written Films of 2015 list next week!
Check out my new book: The Three Stages of Screenwriting