When others discover that I work in development as a story analyst, reading screenplays that are currently being produced by studios, networks, and production companies, throughout my years as a reader, I’ve consistently received this question from screenwriters:
“What’s hot right now?”
The question usually comes from earnest writers that want to find a way to break into the industry and make money from their writing. It’s completely understandable. It’s also a red flag to me that the writer might be pointing their compass in a direction that doesn’t serve them.
Logically, if demand in the marketplace is, for example, aboriginal-led scripts with a slime monster antagonist, then we should supply the market with an aboriginal-led script that has an awesome slime monster. That gives the best chance of a sale in the basic supply/demand model. Right? Well, that’s logical. However, creativity is not based in logic.
What’s hot right now has nothing to do with who you are as a writer and what you innately bring to the table that is different from everyone else. Asking what’s hot in the marketplace and copying others’ ideas is essentially asking others what you should write rather than cultivating your own creative garden and putting your unique voice out there. This is based in fear and is playing it safe.
Doing this doesn’t allow you to build confidence in your own talent as a creative artist. If you build a career on mimicking others, and especially if you have success doing that, the unintended consequence is that it creates dependence where we can feel like we need to be like someone else in order to shine. This is completely false.
What’s the right question then, the one that will strengthen your confidence and keep you on a path that serves you? What I can tell you from my perspective as a script reader is that the highly rated scripts I read have nothing to do with what’s hot in the industry. They are just good writing. That’s why they are “hot.”
The question then should become, how do I become a good writer? How do I improve my craft? What makes those scripts shine that I can apply to my own work?
Here are some more questions to stoke your creative fire and move you closer to finding your own voice as a writer:
- What are you passionate about?
- What topic/place/activity/etc. makes you insanely happy?
- Is there a topic/event/person/place/etc. that you know more about than most?
- What have you been through in your life that gives you a unique perspective from which you can write?
- What types of movies and TV shows do you love that you wish there were more of?
- What drives you crazy about the industry that you wish was different? How would you change it or do it differently?
- What really gets your blood boiling about the state of the world today that you wish was different? How would you change it?
- Is there a movie or television show that you feel could be better? How would you change it?
The time might come when Joe Shmo producer asks you to pen him a rip off of a hot franchise, and if you’ve worked on your own craft and voice, you’ll be able to do that with more ease than most. On the other hand, if you work on duplicating trends, you won’t build a career based on your own distinct ideas and singular talent.
Don’t block your own creative genius by getting focused on what others are doing. Stick to what makes your heart sing and focus on becoming the best writer you can. Down the line, you’ll be able to stand on a solid foundation of confidence that you have something gloriously unparalleled to offer – because you do.