Breaking in: The Pie Chart

This entry was posted on Monday, March 11th, 20132013-03-11T15:24:37Zl, F jS, Y at 8:24 am2013-03-11T15:24:37Zg:i a

This from the mailbag:

Dear Julie, is there a strategy to writing things that are seasonal?

Cart, meet horse. :)

If by seasonal you mean a script in which the plot is focused and centered around a particular season or holiday, then all you have to do as far as strategy is concerned is write the BEST, most unique script about that season or holiday. But let’s dig deeper.

Imagine spec scripts sales divided into a pie chart of sale probability and potential.

The biggest slice of the pie would go to Hot New Writers* With a Unique Concept, Great Rep and Attachments. I’ll translate to, say, 75%.

The next slice is much smaller: Promising New Writers With a Unique Concept, Good Rep, No Attachments but Fans of the Work. Let’s call this 15%.

Then, much, much smaller slices would be evenly divided among Risky/Provocative Passion Projects With Influential Fans and Freakishly Lucky Diablo Cody Types. Let’s give those 5% each.

How does writing seasonal projects fit into this picture? Well, it doesn’t. To reiterate:

- Hot New Writer*, Unique Concept, Great Rep – attachments
- Promising Writer, Unique Concept, Good Rep – no attachments but fans
- Risky/Provocative with fans
- Freakishly Lucky

You want to fall under one of these categories regardless of whether or not your script is centered around something seasonal. Say you’re in that 75th percentile. You’re HOT, you’ve got great rep and all of that. Does writing something about Christmas or Easter or Halloween instantly put you in a smaller slice of that 75th percentile? Of course it does. Now the marketing and release dates of your script are restricted to a particular time of year. But if your script is fantastically entertaining and unique – so what? That’s a very high-class problem to have.

But let’s assume you’re like most aspiring screenwriters out there slugging it out and trying the spec market once or twice a year. And you’ve written something seasonal. Should you time when you query your Easter script to coincide with Easter? No. In general, the time between someone intially reading and responding to your script and that script premiering in theaters can be upwards of two years. Is it cute or at all helpful to send a Valentine-oriented script into be read on or near Valentine’s Day? Not really.

So goal one is to work hard to become the Hot Writer with Great Concepts – regardless of the topicality of your script. Then you can worry about when to query and how your script/movie would be marketed. If you have an idea for a seasonal script and you just love it and you are certain that it is totally unique and compelling – go for it.

*Definitions of Hot New Writer would include but are not limited to:

You’ve made it onto the Black List. You have influential and powerful fans of your work. You have won the Nicholl Competition. You’re a Disney Fellow. Variety noted that you are among the “top ten writers to watch.” How you arrived at this level of hotness is a confluence of: talent, luck, opportunity, timing and connections. You’re probably young. You probably live in Los Angeles. You have a great backstory. Possibly you were a stripper or sandwich board guy standing on the sidewalk hawking something weird. You have an amiable personality and you are good in a room.

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