John Robert Marlow is a novelist, screenwriter, editor and script consultant.
When deciding which books to option or adapt, Hollywood studios and the production companies that team with them look for very specific things. Picking up where the last post left off…
A REASONABLE BUDGET. In the book world, the publisher’s cost-per-page remains the same, whether your characters are playing checkers or blowing up a planet. This is not true of film, and the less costly your project is to film, the more potential buyers you have.
LOW FAT. Because of time and budgetary constraints, there’s little room for anything not absolutely essential to the onscreen story. Novelists can burn ten pages describing a room. A screenwriter might do this in a sentence–and going on for more than a paragraph will mark him or her as an amateur.
FRANCHISE POTENTIAL. If a film based on your book can be endlessly sequeled, that’s a big point in your favor. If the first movie hits, it’s a safer bet to release a sequel to your film than it is to risk vast sums on something new and untried. There are eighty-six movie sequels now in development.
“FOUR QUADRANT” APPEAL . Studios divide the moviegoing public into four large segments, or quadrants: young male, older male, young female, older female. The greater the number of quadrants your project appeals to, the better. Titanic and Avatar are four-quadrant films.
MERCHANDISING POTENTIAL . Film studios make more money from film-related merchandising than they do from the films themselves. A lot more. Films with low or no merchandising potential continue to be made, but the tidal wave is moving the other way–favoring projects with strong merchandising appeal.
This article is a condensation of “What Hollywood Wants: 10 Things Studios Like to See in Adapted (and Original) Scripts.” John also writes the Self Editing Blog http://selfeditingblog.com.
The content of this article is copyright © 2010 by John Robert Marlow.
The Eighth San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / President’s Day Weekend, February 18-20, 2011 / Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel on Nob Hill / Keynoters: Dorothy Allison & David Morrell / Pitch your book to agents and editors from both coasts / More than 50 breakout sessions / 100 presenters / www.sfwriters.org / blog: http://sfwriters.org/blog / free MP3s at www.sfwriters.info / Also available: A day of in-depth classes on February 21st
New! San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn, a project of the San Francisco Writers Conference / Laurie McLean, Dean / www.sfwritersu.com