It's a tough question, but when you look around, there are some people that write sellable screenplays every time.
What's their secret? Do they know something you don't?
YES. They do.
How do I know this? Because Chelsea and I had to learn it. The hard way.
After writing script after un-commercial script, we had a break through.
We were in the middle of a write-for-hire feature script when we realized that we were creating an 'audience gap' with our material.
We were failing to match concept and tone, and it was hurting the story.
The next draft we turned in was worlds better. The producers were happy, and the script has attracted interest from some great talent.
All because we figured out how to apply the 'audience gap' concepts to our writing, and how to maximize the potential of the genre we were writing in.
Do you want to revolutionize the way you think about genre, concept and tone in your writing?
Do you want to find out more about the 'audience gap?'
Scroll down if the answer is yes.
What TV Can Teach You About Selling Movies...
I don't have the passage on hand, so I'll paraphrase...
In the TV world, some viewers are more valuable than others. "Meet the Press" can get by with maybe a few million watching, while "The X Factor" might need thirty or forty million.
It's because "Meet the Press" draws highly educated, employed, often affluent viewers. You can advertise luxury cars and high-end items to these viewers, because they just might buy in.
"The X Factor" audience, while much larger, is comparatively poor. Fans of the show are teenage girls or young couples, maybe. People without any real money to spend.
The networks need to market to them differently. They need to sell lots of small items, to make up for that big luxury item the "Meet the Press" viewer might buy.
You can't sell a Lexus to a teenage girl and you can't sell tampons to Grandpa.
But what does all this have to do with writing a strong, commercially viable screenplay?
How Understanding "The Audience Gap" Helps You Write Movies That Always Resonate With Your Target Audience
Here's what I mean...
Nobody wants to see a movie about a sad alcoholic that's ALSO packed with raunchy, inappropriate humor.
The audience for movies about alcoholics NEVER intersects with the audience for late night comedies. Just like the audience for "Meet the Press" never intersects with "X Factor" fans.
We can pretty confidently say this because we wrote a raunchy comedy about an alcoholic and it turned everyone off. The script had a funny hook, there were some wacky characters, and the jokes were just fantastic.
So why did friends and strangers alike cringe when they heard the idea? Because nobody wants to watch a goofy movie about a guy whose life is crumbling into pathetic, drunken tragedy. It doesn't mesh.
Sure, dark comedies exist. For instance, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE has some rather serious subject matter. But the jokes in that movie aren't broad. Because LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE with adolescent humor would FAIL.
Horror fans don't want to see an upbeat film where no one really dies. Woody Allen fans don't want to see Woody remake DODGEBALL, just like DODGEBALL fans would be squirming in their seats during MATCH POINT.
In case you're not familiar with the movie, GROWN-UPS follows a group of forty-something men that are, by most accounts, going through some pretty real and relatable life experiences, but the jokes are targeted at eight to ten year olds. That's an audience gap.
You need to keep your tone grounded with your concept. It's that simple.
Obviously, movies about alcoholics, or suicide victims, or national tragedies... These are harder to sell all together. But they can sell.
If the TONE is right.
Think about it... Even indie movies very rarely work concept and subject matter at cross purposes with one another.
Despite that, there is a GLUT of amateur scripts that make this mistake. Now, you can make sure that yours won't be one of them...
What Should You Do Now?
Before you write your next script...
Take time to think about your TONE before you write, and always keep the target audience for your concept at the front of your mind.
When you're looking to write a screenplay that sells, make sure you join concept and tone as closely as possible.
With the scripts you've already written...
Give these scripts an honest evaluation. If they create an audience gap, recognize that and learn from it. Apply these lessons to the next script you write.
Remember - don't write a screenplay just for the sake of writing a screenplay. Always target a specific audience. These things are meant to sell!
One more thing...
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And don't forget to comment with more examples of "The Audience Gap" in popular TV and movies...
...There are some examples of movies that break this rule and work anyways. They're few and far between, but make sure to point them out below...