Taking into account how the film industry has changed over the past couple of years, what advice would you give today that you wouldn’t have given two years ago?
I think it’s becoming harder to sell anything to big studios because they have become almost entirely married to producing big franchises and pre-sold concepts. Marketing has taken over the entertainment industry. Even in the publishing world, big publishers are only interested in how many copies of a certain book they can sell.
For new voices it can be extremely difficult to get published and this is very much the case in Hollywood. It’s often easier to get your work produced independently or through the MD method than it is to go to the studios. Keep in mind that the big studios used to produce hundreds of movies every year whereas now they produce dozens. Some studios are completing as little as three movies a year, but they’re making $400 million films from pre-established franchises like Spider-Man and Captain America.
There’s a global market for these movies and it’s a safer bet for them to spend a lot of money on one movie and earn it all back plus extra. This can make it even more difficult for new writers to sell their ideas, although I think writers can be proactive in finding ways to draw attention to their stories.
If someone, for example, lived in Nebraska and had a story about a family that lived in a cornfield, would they have any hope of having a studio make that film?
Always remember that if you don’t have hope then you shouldn’t be doing it, and hope is never something that can be analyzed statistically. It comes from within. In any industry, looking at the odds can be more than a little discouraging but if you believe them then you might as well go back to work as a bank teller. You have to think to yourself, what can I do? How can I think outside the box to draw attention to my story?
These days, the internet can be hugely beneficial if you’re looking to get your story out there as it provides millions, if not billions, of people access to you work. If you’re looking to generate interest then the internet is the best tool you can use. Studios have executives who do nothing but trawl through the internet looking for new stories. The Hunger Games is one of the biggest success stories of the last 10 years in this sense.
I think the gatekeepers are becoming predictable because they’re so enslaved to their corporate owners but what the true creative executives are looking for is someone who’s not saying the same thing as everyone else. Anyone who has a following as the result of their work is a potential line of interest. So, if I were in Nebraska facing that dilemma, I would focus on the thing that I have in front of me – that everyone has in front of them – the internet. You just have to find a way to pierce that golden shield.