Improving the Chances of a Not-so-Sky-High Concept

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Improving the Chances of a Not-so-Sky-High Concept

You've had a blast writing a couple of high-concept scripts that you can pitch to agents or the major studios. You now want to apply everything you've learned about storytelling to a wonderful little personal script that strays from the high concept path. If there's a market for personal spec scripts by newcomers, how can you tap into it?

A not-so-sky-high-concept script lives or dies on the quality of the writing—even more than a high-concept one. If you're ready for the challenge, however, follow entertainment lawyer Judith Merian's tips for increasing your chance of success:

Keep the budget low. Cut down on or totally eliminate the following:
• The number of locations
• Stunts, explosions, and special effects
• Fancy sets
• Costumes, uniforms, and period pieces
• Animals
• Crowd scenes
• Too many secondary characters

Consider your niche market—and use it. Expect an initial appeal to a niche audience which means small box office numbers. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was initially released in cities with Greek populations, giving the film a built-in audience and press coverage. As the word spread, so did the film's appeal. Greek cost $5 million and made $356 million in worldwide box office.

Write stories that travel. Write stories people can identify with, no matter where they live. A crazy family and its ugly duckling is universal. Little Miss Sunshine and My Big Fat Greek Wedding both used this theme.

Do your homework. The financiers behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding knew exactly how and to whom they could initially sell this film. Have an answer when asked, "Why should I take a chance with this offbeat story?" Be prepared to deliver data to back up your claims. Your financier is thinking ROI (return on investment) and so should you. Make it part of your pitch.

Have a marketing concept in mind. Little Miss Sunshine opened in seven theaters and expanded its release as it got good press. As it generated revenue, its distributor invested in marketing campaigns in additional cities. Its widest release was 1,602 theaters. It cost $8 million and made $84 million in worldwide theatrical release as of July 2006.

Cut down on violence, graphic sex, and raw language, all of which limit the audience even further in theaters, TV, and DVD. You want to increase the opportunities for making money, not diminish them. Addressing these elements with subtlety in the writing can enhance chances.

Appeal to an actor's ego. Write a script with a particular talent in mind (or say you did), and then send a great marketing letter to his production company.



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