One of the most common pieces of advice handed to new authors is to write only for oneself. If you don't, you'll inevitably fail. The thought is that one writes his or her best work if that person is writing what they want to write.
However, in the screenwriting world, the common advice is to do exactly the opposite. Because studios look for specific product, there's an endless list of rules that one is suggested to follow. You don't want to put yourself at a disadvantage since the odds of selling a screenplay are so long to begin with.
I've started writing a medieval high fantasy novel, and even though I'm about 20% into the first draft, I'm still not sure who I'm writing it for. Here are the options that I'm considering:
1. Kids-Teens - Harry Potter level. Nothing too violent. Highly sanitized language.
2. Teens-Mid 20's - Dragon Lance Chronicles level. Fantasy violence. Minor language.
3. Adult - Game of Thrones level. Hardcore violence and language.
4. Extreme Adult - Cormac McCarthy level. Extreme violence and situations.
Each group has its pros and cons. This first two are very popular right now when it comes to fantasy fiction and are probably the safest path to financial success. They play well in Middle America. They're definitely the most likely type of novel to make it to the big screen.
The third group, because of George R.R. Martin, has recently gained popularity, lends itself to cable channel adaptations, and plays well on the American coasts.
The fourth group is by far the most limiting. Yet it's the group that I love the most. I can't imagine most people being able to stomach Blood Meridian. But for those that do, there's nothing like it. Now, that novel will probably never be adapted to film or TV, because the odds of it gaining a large enough audience to be profitable are small—very small. Cormac, perhaps the most talented living author, will never sell the amount of books that J.K. Rowling sold, and hence, will never become a billionaire. But the amount of pure joy that I gain from reading his work is so far above that of stuff written for wider audiences.
I'd have much more fun writing a fantasy novel without limits. I'd have more fun writing one with some limits than one with many limits. However, at this early stage in my writing career, I have to consider which path is the most intelligent for my future career.
So which audience will I write for? That is the question that will be on my mind for the next few weeks as I continue with my first draft. Since I'm planning on making this story a trilogy, it's a pretty big decision. Unfortunately, I think too many of us writers are keeping agents and publishers too close in our minds while putting pen to paper.
Went to the Burbank AMC this afternoon to throw down my $12.50 for a matinee ticket to watch the much anticipated Straight Outta Compton. I was really hoping that they did this film right, as N.W.A. is such a crucial part of Los Angeles history.
I think the filmmakers did a terrific job. Obviously, this film is from the Dre/Cube point of view, and we'll never know the full truth of what happened, but their take on it was pretty darn engaging. The rise of West Coast gangsta rap, the money issues, the lifestyle and how it affected these young men, were all well done.
Warner Bros. famously passed on this $29M film, due its budget, which seems so ridiculous. Straight Outta Compton plays like a much larger film. The one part that seems too small is the LA riots. I wish it would have been a $50-$60M film, so that the filmmakers could have added some grandness to it.
I guess my biggest complaint is the near absence of DJ Yella and MC Ren. They have much too little face-time and have barely any dialogue. We don't get a feel for their story whatsoever.
I also think the filmmakers held back a little. This was probably due to studio concerns. There is a terrific hotel room party scene. But I think this movie could have been more hardcore. It is N.W.A. after all.
I really did enjoy it though. The acting was solid. The story moved. They chose the right end point. I feel that the filmmakers did this LA story right, and for that I'm glad.
Below is a fascinating video of a presentation by Dr. Matthew McCaffrey (who is a Lecturer in Enterprise at The University of Manchester) on the economics of Game of Thrones. If you're a fan of the show, I recommend watching it.
In the video, Dr. McCaffrey talks about economic systems of the different factions in Game of Thrones and how they play into the storyline. For instance, The Dothraki earn their wealth almost exclusively through plundering. This puts a stiff upper limit on the amount of wealth they can collect, whereas the Lannisters received their wealth through gold mining, which allowed them to fight massive wars, until the gold ran out. The Iron Bank has enormous clout, and doesn't need to have huge armies because it has lent out money to so many factions, they can quickly call in favors.
This goes to the heart of why George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones stories resonate so strongly with avid readers and viewers. Although they happen in a medieval fantasy realm, they come off as real. There's many multiple connections to our world and time that make it easy for us to relate with the characters and plot lines. These connections are done well in a micro and a macro sense, and they connect us to this wonderful world of Westeros in a way that fantasy fiction is rarely able to achieve.
So it's been about 3 months since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out. I wrote a post about how I wasn't a big fan of the third person POV that the game employs, but now that I've sunk many hours into the actual gameplay, I thought I'd write an update.
Just to quickly recap: The Witcher 3 received a perfect 10 from Gamespot, and a 9.3 on IGN. It's one of the highest rated games in the last 10 years, and probably the highest rated game since GTA V.
Currently, my character in the game is level 13. I don't know how many hours I've played, but I'm guessing at least forty. Reports are that the main quest takes about 25 hours to complete but with the side-quests there's over 200 hours worth of play. I'm guessing, it's well north of that figure.
Things I like about the game:
Things I'm not too fond of:
Overall, I'm absolutely loving the game. This, like the Elder Scroll games, is something that you play for years. We're so fortunate that it filled a weak space in between GTA V and Fallout 4.
If you like playing games for 20 hours and quitting, this is not the game for you. If you love open-world medieval adult fantasy games that take hundreds of hours to play, if you're a fan of wonderfully creepy characters and settings, and/or if you played monstrous hours of AD&D as a kid, then The Witcher 3 is a must buy.
I've never been a huge fan of superhero movies. I loved the Chris Nolan Batman trilogy, but I think that had more to do with Nolan than Batman. I'm one of the few people that was insanely bored through the first Avengers film. These type of films rarely catch or keep my interest.
One of the big problems with Hollywood is that far too many people that make green light decisions are not creative people. They're often lawyers or bean counters of some sort. Today, marketing personnel even have a huge say in the matter. As such, the studios chase trends instead of focusing on engaging characters.
Because there's been some pretty decent financial success of late with superhero movies, particularly with the Marvel characters, the studios have a lineup of near nonstop superhero films in production for the next half a dozen years.
Of course, there's inherent danger in this philosophy. Superhero movies tend to cost a lot to make and a lot to market. A few bombs can put a studio in a precarious financial position.
Which brings us to this weekend. Fox's Fantastic Four, which was pummeled by bad reviews, had a disappointing opening weekend. A supposed $120M film, which probably cost north of $100M to market, most likely has to clear $400M or so in the global box office to break even before it gets to DVD and VOD. It might do that, but it certainly won't live up to financial expectations. Amazingly, a sequel is already scheduled to be released in a couple of years.
My point is this—chasing trends is dangerous, especially in the film industry. Focusing on engaging characters in engaging stories is what should be the priority. However, if you chase a trend and a film fails, you at least have an excuse as to why you should keep your job for another year.
Studio execs saw Nolan's Batman movies rake in the big box office. They mistakenly thought this was due to a genre decision and not due to a super-genius writer/director being at the helm of the films. At some point this genre will no longer be in vogue and the studios are going have to handle a ton of bombs. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, the audience is going to follow the Nolan's of the world, and not the subjects they choose to shoot.
Since the reviews of Netflix's new series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp are so stellar (including IGN's 9.5), I decided to check out the 2001 cult classic film for the first time.
Twenty-five minutes into it, I was not impressed—so much so I hit pause and instantly fell asleep. Waking up over an hour later, I debated whether or not to continue. Fortunately, I did.
I laughed my ass off so hard at the ridiculously absurd humor, I almost fell out of my chair. I can't understand why this hasn't become an even bigger cult classic. It holds a 6.7 on IMDB, and Netflix thought it to only be a 1-star movie for me, but holy cow is it underrated.
If you're into ridiculous satire, over-the-top goofiness, absolute absurdity, and especially if you went to summer camp in the '80's—this is a must see. As a bonus, you'll see how a young Bradley Cooper got his big break into Hollywood. If you're straight-laced with a stick up your ass—don't bother watching it. You won't get the humor.
Big props to Netflix for greenlighting the TV series. I can't wait to start watching it.
Man, it's nice to catch an older movie that you instantly fall in love with. How they made this thing for $1.8M is beyond me. Job well done.
Jon David Rosten, author of
Order "The Wicked Trees" off of Amazon, today!