Monday, December 11, 2006

Never ever sell yourself short.

From a recent review I posted on TriggerStreet:

Here's a reviewer's dilemma. You love horror. You're given a horror assignment, and the writer tells you in the Production Notes that "the story is intended as a 'popcorn horror,' the kind of old school, old fashioned summer-screamer that is scary and a general good time, it's not a heavy, dark psych. horror, but it's also not a comedy." Okay, but this is a genre that's filled more often than not with forgettable movies filled with cheap thrills, weak stories, weak characters, and incredibly weak dialogue. So do you really want to satisfy the requirements of this genre? Should I reward you if you did? No, I don't think I should. Can I just add that there are also quite a few horror films that were, technically speaking, "popcorn entertainment" but they were also four-star films - The Exorcist, Jaws, Poltergeist, Psycho, Alien, Aliens, Silence of the Lambs, Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, Carrie, etc. Or three star films - Christine, Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.

I cannot approve of this, and I'll tell you why. You should aspire to do great, four-star specs - NOTHING LESS. I know you're capable of great things because of the success you've already had on TS. You're selling yourself short and you're not doing yourself any favors with this cheap slasher flick. It's possible that someone would produce this, but will it advance your careers? That's a big risk to take, because this could stall or even end an early career, especially if it bombs. AND the critics rip you apart. Just because you finally earn a screenwriting credit does not mean that you will start a career. People will assume that this movie is the limit of your talent, and they would be wrong. You want those early credits to be the right ones, the kind of credits that prove your worth as a writer. If this got made and this was one of your first credits, I'm sure I don't have to explain how quickly you could get pigeon-holed as the writer who only does dismissable horror movies, which is not true, because you are, in fact, capable of so much more. A good writer, I think, has to make an impact on the present and shape the future of a genre, not regurgitate the past.


Carl S said...

Agreed! Is it ironic that I blogged about a similar issue?

MM, you are spot on with this. I watched "Slither" last night and this horror story is definitely poprcorn entertainment but it was also really well written, funny, shocking and just plain crazy.

This is what I want form a horror movie. Something that makes me e-mail my friends when it's over with "You gotta chack this out!". Something that makes me want to watch it again. Characters that I can root for. Clever plot turns. Dialog that makes me really laugh and/or really care.

Another great post, MM!

Mim said...

Also ironic because right now I'm working on a similar kind of script. My first request to the director was that I wanted to make it a strong story with interesting characters, not just a slasher flick.

Unknown said...

I've received comments about my Fr. Max screenplay, that I'd have to be going up against movies like Schindler's List and the Pianist. My little mental response is to say, that's exactly what I want. I'm aiming high and I'm gonna keep shooting till I hit the target.

Read the first chapter of McKee's story, it'll get you pumped up to write the next great screenplay!!

Mickey Lee said...

My mosted hated comments from I see other reviewers are the ones that go along the lines of: "this has been done before", "this has been done a thousand times" (I'm speaking genre or subgenre, not cliches)


There is always, I repeat, ALWAYS room for something to be done better.

Not 100% on topic, but I remember reading some of Bob's reviews and having those thoughts when I read the familiar "Schindler has already covered this ground" comments.

I say if there's room for endless romantic comedies and slasher films, there's room for everything else. As long as it's done the best it possibly can be

Mystery Man said...

Thanks so much for the comments, guy.

To write something weak and then say "hey look, that's the genre I'm stuck with" will always hurt you more than it ever helps you. People WILL assume that whatever they're watching is the limit of your talent as a writer.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with tackling ANY genre or even a slasher so long as you don't succumb to that genre's weaknesses and you aspire to do something great that proves your worth as a writer.

That's my point.


Alice Van-Weed said...

it happens though in any career..doesnt have to be in writing..try not to sell yourself's way of proving that there's more to you than just an unappreciated piece of work

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