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Should Beginning Screenplay Writers Follow Trends

By Expert Author: Ronald Bell

It is a cliche that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in many ways it is the truth. Studios and television stations are more likely to create similar material than what is already out there because they see it as a lesser risk. For example, the recent success of The Twilight Saga has spawned a number of new television shows and movies, such as the HBO hit True Blood. Also, the success of the first Spiderman and X-Men movies are largely responsible for the plethora of recent superhero films such as The Dark Knight and the Fantastic Four.
As a beginning writer you may be tempted to follow a popular trend for your first screenplay. It makes sense in a lot of ways. If studios are buying scripts about vampires and you want to sell a script, it isn't hard to put the two together. Plus, you have plenty of examples which to model your work off of. However, this is not necessarily the best way to look at it. For one thing, by the point that you finish your script, the market will probably be oversaturated. If you've seen ten vampire movies, you've seen them all. For another thing, studio executives will probably see your script and dismiss it out of hand as another Twilight rip-off. They have probably read more than enough of those.
Rather than follow a trend exactly, you could try a different track. Look at the broader trend, and then make a change from it. Not a huge change, just a slightly different direction. For example, if you see that vampires are the hot thing right now, just broaden your perception slightly. Vampires aren't necessarily the whole trend. The trend could be the supernatural in general. So instead of writing a script about vampires, you could write one about zombies or werewolves. This puts you within the trend without being as derivative. Essentially, you want something about your script to stand out. If your script doesn't stand out, it won't get bought or made regardless of how good it is.
Better even than following a broader trend, is simply to write a script about something that you are passionate about or you're interested in. If the inner court dealings of the Byzantine Empire fascinate you, write a script about that. If you're more about the zany misadventures that dorm mates get into than write about that. The truth is that trends die out quickly, six months from now everyone will have moved on to the next big thing. Luckily for you, new trends appear even quicker. You might even be able to start one of your own.

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