Writing the High ROI Screenplay (Part 4)

This week we continue with part four in a twelve part series of JT Velikovsky’s doctoral thesis: “Understanding And Exploring The Relationship Between: Creativity; Theories Of Narratology; Screenwriting; And Narrative Fiction Feature Film-Making Practices.”

By JT Velikovsky

Taking up from last month, we move on to – Why it’s good to be a produced screenwriter.

Because… (as `obvious’ as this sounds)…

You’ve just jumped off the list of: unproduced feature film writers – and over onto the `produced feature film writers’ list.

In the words of the great philosopher, Van Halen –“Might as well jump.Go ahead.”

You’ve now shown, whoever looks at your next (or: even older, bottom-drawer) script/s that – You understand what it takes, to write a feature film that can be made.

(If your produced feature film also made money – and garnered awards: then, even better… You definitely `have the attention of your Reader’. At least, moreso, than if you didn’t have that credit… The script itself, in every case, still has to blow them away.)

My Key Point On All This, Being: Even if you then pull out your 5 expensive `Star Wars meets Avatar’ scripts, you’ll still be getting a more sympathetic read – than if you haven’t as yet, gotten `a run on the board’…

And even besides all that, it’s also entirely-possible that – the (self-imposed) constraints of the `low-budget’ script/s you’ve been working on, will mean:

Your `creativity muscle’ (your imagination; your writing problem-solving skill) is possibly: now working way `harder’ – and better – than if you don’t ever have those constraints…

I mean: If you can make a 90-page script about (say) 4 people trapped in a lift “work, dramatically” (without ever reading like: a `filmed stage-play’), then just imagine what you can do, with: a 120-page, big-budget blockbuster where: money’s no object, and you can have all the `impossible’ effects – and all the imagined film stars – and even your `dream director’ – and: whatever else you want.

An Analogy: It’s a bit like – that awesome montage sequence in: Conan The Barbarian (the 1982 John Milius version) where Conan goes from:rangy teenager pushing The Wheel Of Pain – to -Mr Olympia/Mr Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Before: Conan as a 98-pound weakling
After: a whole lot of well-churned butter later
© Conan The Barbarian 1982 – Universal Pictures/20th Century Fox.
Written by John Milius, based on stories by Robert E Howard.

Or, it’s kind of like the cinematic `cut’ where: the bone, tossed up into the sky by the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey becomes – a floating space-bomb.

Before: The invention of (aerial) weaponry
After: Same-same, only different.
(2001: A Space Odyssey © 1968 MGM)
Written by Stanley Kubrick, inspired by The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke.

If you do ever try this method – writing the same story – as both a cheap – and an expensive screenplay…

Overall – your screenwriting skills probably will be shaped – and honed – by the restraints – and will likely leap ahead, quantumly.

Though – I am pretty sure, `quantumly’ isn’t a real word.

(And I also note, you should always aim to avoid adverbs – i.e. `-ly’ words – in screenplays.)

Anyway –so, that’s my 3 key pieces of advice.

i.e. Not just: “A.B.C. – Always – Be – Closing”- from that awesome scene in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Garry Glen Ross (© 1992 New Line Cinema) Written by David Mamet, based on his play.

(Though – you kind of have to do that, too, right-? i.e. Reading between the lines, on every one of your screenplay pages, you also need to `say’, in effect: YOU MUST MAKE THIS MOVIE…)

But – with all that in mind:

Always be writing two scripts…

1) A “sky’s-the-limit” one…


2) A “cheap and cheerful” one.

(i.e. Write the cheap one, `cheerfully’ – even if: it’s a horror film. It may just be – the first of your screenplays to get made…)

Next month’s post:

Part 5: `On Irony in Screenwriting.’

– JT Velikovsky


image020JT Velikovsky is a million-selling transmedia writer and consultant (films, games, TV, comix, novels) and produced feature film writer.

His doctoral thesis research on Film/Story/Screenplays of The Top 20 ROI Films can be found here.

Photo Credits: JT Velikovsky

1 thought on “Writing the High ROI Screenplay (Part 4)”

Leave a Comment