Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking a cue from screenwriters

Billy Mernit, who wrote a book about how to write romantic comedies, has a blog for screenwriters. He's offering up a series of tips about scripts that sell. Much of his advice pertains to books, or at least those with high-concept ambitions:

Tip #4: Scripts that sell speak to universal subjects in a distinctive voice.

One knowledgeable answer to the question, "What do the studios want?" is: The same but different.

They want yet another comic book super-hero franchise installment, but they want it with a new spin - say, featuring a darker-than-dark villain whose spooky nihilism calls the hero's very existence into question (see: The Dark Knight). They want yet another comedy about an unwanted pregnancy, but they want it from a new angle - say, from a contemporary teen's arch, blackly comedic POV (see: Juno), or from the POV of an unlikely boy-man slacker-shlub who can't believe he even got to sleep with a hottie, let alone got her Knocked Up.

It's for this reason that, should the movie live up to its effective trailer, this Christmas's Sherlock Holmes is going to be a gazillion-bucks-making franchise-starter. What could be more old hat than Holmes? Right, but we haven't seen this Holmes before - muscular and action star-like, with the winking wit of Robert Downey Jr. in the role and an anything-but-stodgy Jude Law in the place of his traditionally fat and nerdly sidekick, Watson. The trailer makes it look like Lethal Weapon in hip Victorian drag.

Read more.

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