There Can Only Be One

But what if there can be many?

There Can Only Be One

The narrow gate

In the movie industry, there is Hollywood, the holy city of the screenwriter and actor. New York, is number 2. How do you become a success, and what is success? Hollywood makes your screenplay into a movie, or you act in a movie. It seems like Hollywood embodies the spirit of The Highlander series and the Jet Li movie, The One. Only a select few win.

How many movies does Hollywood make each year? Around 330 of the 600 or so US releases. How many screenplays are submitted to Hollywood each year? Based on registrations, around 80,000. How many movies does Hollywood make each year written by independent screenwriters? Around 10.

The Hollywood focus is blockbuster hits and remakes of proven sellers. The most prevalent type is the hero type action movie geared toward young adult males, who are a huge repetitive audience. These are hugely based on comic book and video game characters. The typical independent writer has a very slim chance of getting a movie made by Hollywood.

The wide gate

Technology has enabled huge changes in movie production and distribution. One major change is distribution through the Internet, which began in around 2000. This market viewing change is rapidly providing new opportunities for independents. As mentioned in many articles on this Web site, adult moviegoers may like to go to the theater once or twice a month to see something really good. But the other thing they really want is really good movies and series that they can watch at home on large screen TVs, through Internet services.

Online distribution has displaced the flagging DVD sales window for major studios, which was a primary profit maker, while creating two new release windows: Online Pay Per View (rental or sale), and online subscription distribution (Netflix style). Both of these release outlets are also available to independent moviemakers, without going through major studio distribution.

Technology has made it relatively inexpensive to make movies. Expensive cameras, tracks, and other things have been replaced by digital cameras and several forms of image stabilization. Equipment has ceased to be a major expense. With acting and personnel rates starting at $125.00 per hour, with the right script, a small number of good actors, and minimalist settings, a quality movie can be made for $6000.00 to 25,000.00 for 1 hour of screen time. Bringing in a well recognized actor, raises costs, but makes distribution highly likely in online and foreign theatrical distribution.

The key is not just ability to make movies, but quality and marketability. Young adults like repetition, so an incremental change is a new movie. Adults and young adults like what is new and unique, but also relevant, although a remake of something familiar is also welcome. People like genres, and new categories of sub-genres. Television, which does drama extremely well, tends to have a lock on drama, such as crime series. Knowing the market is a big step in maximizing chances of success. Avoiding drama, and writing new, unique, and relevant stories are likely to be your best bet for movies. If you want to do TV, then drama, comedy, and reality are your best bets.

Regional - opening the gates

It's no secret that more movies are made outside of Hollywood than in L.A., which is expensive and difficult. But it's still headquarters for many major studios. Movies are written and cast there, then made elsewhere, with Canada, New Zealand, and various US locations being popular. Major studios/distributors get most of their movies from smaller studios, or consortiums of smaller studios. In 2013, more movies were made in Louisiana than in Hollywood, but when Louisiana dropped the tax credit, Atlanta became the favorite, and with long term momentum in its favor, is likely to stay a major area of movie production.

The US population grew from 149 million in 1950 to 322 million today. Movie releases from Hollywood went from 245 in 1950 to 330 in 2015. The increase doesn't follow the population growth and likely supply of new screenwriters. There were a lot of screenwriters in 1950, but today it seems like everyone in Hollywood has a movie script in their back pocket, and 321 million people seem to believe they can write a screenplay. They are all after the 136,500 romanticized writing jobs of all types, not just screenwriting. That isn't many jobs. As a professional writer, I can tell you that it isn't nearly as easy as people think it is. And obviously, not many are going to win the Hollywood lottery. So what do people do?

Regionalize - expand the base. Movies can be written and produced anywhere. "There can only be one," no longer applies. There is no reason why regional cities can't become movie production hubs, and give writing, acting, and production opportunities to many more people. But there has to be a critical mass of talent, or it's going nowhere. I tend to see certain types of writers and producers. Writers tend to have an attitude of "If I write it, they will come, so write what you want." It doesn't happen for most people.

The videographers often come out of sports, and have no idea what a tripod is, so the footage is so shaky its unusable, and if you use green screen, you can't move the camera. Camera movement always draws attention to itself instead of the story, unless it's following something. The other type makes commercials, and does very exacting photography with one camera - very good at what they do. Scripts are low quality. Acting is marginal. Production values are often sad. The people who make commercials take forever to make a movie, because they create a dozen takes of each partial scene and no reaction footage, unless they set up with their one camera just to do that. To make movies successfully, people need to learn better methods.

Another difficulty with regional production is, talent leaves and goes to L.A. or other larger cities for opportunities. That's why there is no critical mass of talent in many cities.

The biggest difficulty is in getting independents to work together.

Regionalizing movie, and TV style series, has to be built. But that's where the future is in this "There can only be one" world dominated by Hollywood. Along with New York and Chicago, Austin, Vegas, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington, and many more cities need to become regional production hubs. Mayors, councils, film committees, and studios have to work together to make this happen.

But it all starts with a good story. Items 1 - 10 on the checklist are story. Uniqueness and marketability are critical. And it often takes more than one specialized writer to get it to at least an 8 on a ten audience rating scale. Outside consultants like BlackList and market analysts need to be involved, to assure success. Otherwise you get a lot of flops.

Screenwriters need to look at what they like to write, and what the market likes to view, and where those two sets cross, that's their sweet spot. Within that there is a lot of freedom. Otherwise they are just writing for themselves, or wasting other's money.

There are many resources for writers and producers, to launch material they create. Varies entities, like Stage 32, offer opportunities for writers to submit work to studio professionals. Outfits like Distribber can get your movies on all of the online outlets, including game box streaming, all of which are major markets for revenue.

- Dorian


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Movie names that are mentioned are not given reference citations. This is because numerous studios are involved in production, and they then assign distribution rights to multiple distributors, and these rights can be sold to other distributors. For production and distribution information on any movie mentioned, consult the Internet Movie Database, or other authoritative listing.

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