The Blade Runner Year: Has Writing Movies Run Its Course?

The Sequel Slump. 

 

The sequel to Blade Runner has officially been declared a bomb at the box office, at the tail end of the worst summer for the movies in over a decade. Movie after movie has under-performed all year despite high scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Aside from GET OUT, blockbusters are not original and often borrowed from creations devised long before we were all born. Looking at the top 20 for box office sales figures, what was an original idea?

 Why didn’t anyone go to the movie theater all year?

 
Writers have started to ask if it’s worth the pursuit of writing screenplays for film.  Billions are being spent to write for television. Thousands of students in film schools dream of being on tv staff writing for a cool show. They want that real opportunity to have a wonderful professional career getting paid to write fresh, dynamic stories. Young writers want to write for television, with its freedoms. And the jobs exist. Why not develop a pilot? Aren’t the chances better?
 
If everything the studios are producing are based on comic books, where will your movie ideas fit in? Why are many of the screenplays on the Blacklist based on historical events? Why are we still following beat sheets when there is no market for original movies?
 

We are in a golden age of television.

 
What age of movies is this? We live on Roku and going to the movie theatre is a curious thing, an event, something a bit corny, compared to Sundays when Game of Thrones releases a new episode, or the next season of Stranger Things drops.
So why are you working on your screenplay? Why start another one?
 
 

Why write screenplays?

 

Is it because movies  are harder to write than television?

Movies require one of the most difficult maneuvers in storytelling: it requires an ending. A movie happens before you have to sleep again. Television can hold off the payoff for many years, but in the motion picture writing business, we have to do it in one afternoon. One evening. We have to do it between meals and before bedtime.

Movies are now, television is next week. Television is stay tuned. Movies are don’t leave your chair. Not once. Don’t blink.
Television has allowed us to begin producing stories without knowing their direction, (which is very cool!), but with screenwriting, you have to pay the bill on your story before you begin production, and this is difficult.
 
Stories for the movie theater need to have fewer characters, happen faster, in fewer locations, yet land an epic emotional response with the human heart just the same.
 
It’s harder, but as life happens in the moment, in this day before us, movies mark nothing but the present. You need to leave your house, you need to put on pants, you need to see people, you need to be semi-polite to get to the theater, and all of this reminds us of everything important to us.
 
When we get there, and we sit in the dark with other people, maybe many, maybe just a few, and there we hold a connection to our ancient past, something quite sacred to the child within ourselves.
 
There are many reasons television has grown more popular than movies, but an important reason is the emotional and spiritual challenge of telling a story in two hours, the writing of a screenplay, can now be bypassed and not addressed.
 
But some of you are not interested in the avoiding this work. Some of you want to bring the ancient tale to the crowd in the day before us, to the audience, and every day of their life that has passed before they come, and deliver your story.
 

This is why you should write the screenplay.

 

It is more different and unique than television in ways that we don’t respect, and special and powerful like nothing else.

But you know that.

There is a golden age of cinema coming, the return of vinyl, which will live alongside the Mary Tyler Moores of today, which won’t replace a stranger thing from your couch.
 
Aspire to the stories for the crowds around the fire, and you will be rewarded in the way that you can only imagine, and the new day of motion pictures will be upon us, with stories of the best of all of us!

by Gordy Hoffman 

 

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10 Responses to “The Blade Runner Year: Has Writing Movies Run Its Course?”

  1. Steve Sherman Says:

    November 1st, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Nicely put Mr. Hoffman, I agree. I will add that I find we get a chance to know the characters a lot better in a television series because of the weeks/years of development but, I think the talent of writing characters we can identify with in the two hour time frame is where writers get their writing chops and great writers are born.

  2. Stephen Ridley Says:

    November 1st, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    A truly inspiring call to arms for the storyteller that lurks within. Well done! Mr Gordy.

  3. Mary Goldman Says:

    November 1st, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Ground Hog Day, The Sixth Sense, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption–these are films that will be watched over and over again long after we’ve passed. As long as we can produce stories that reach even 75% of the impact these films achieved, the big screen will never die. And there is nothing (no 60″ TV, no 20″ laptop), more satisfying than sharing that experience communally via the big screen.

    Crafting a story that hooks us, takes us on an entertaining journey, surprises us and leaves us feeling (all within 120 pages) is like solving a Rubik’s cube. Incredibly difficult, but incredibly satisfying for the writer, incredibly satisfying for the audience.

  4. Leslie Davis Says:

    November 1st, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    No amount of creativity or sentimentality will fill theater seats forever. Convenience and cost are more important now than structure and subtext. Good storytelling will always find an audience, but viewers will be watching stories unfold on inexpensive intimate screens and the viewing experience will be condensed to user reviews shared via social media. The future is beckoning, but it’s not leading us back to box office lines and pricey concessions.

  5. BlueCat Says:

    November 1st, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    You sound like someone from 1951.

  6. Eric chamberlain Says:

    November 2nd, 2017 at 12:42 am

    I share your sentiment about a new golden age in film. In fact, I have this notion on the statement page of my production company.

  7. Craig Howells Says:

    November 2nd, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Obviously written from a movie screenwriter’s POV. But TV is NOT easier than Film to write for, it’s actually harder. This is because film is a self-contained story, usually with far less characters, and you know exactly where your acts and turning points are. You know the beginning and the end and you have to get from one to the other. TV (serials, at least) are complex to write for because they have multiple character arcs and overlapping structures. I write film scripts on the whole, but TV is not a soft option. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  8. BlueCat Says:

    November 2nd, 2017 at 4:38 am

    TV might be harder to write, but multiple character arcs and overlapping structures exist in both, so why is TV harder to write?

  9. Mary Goldman Says:

    November 2nd, 2017 at 6:15 am

    I think they are both equally difficult to write. When writing a film I don’t necessarily know my ending ahead of time. Sometimes this reveals itself through the process. I’m working on my first pilot right now. I think with a series you do have to have a somewhat solid idea of where the story arc lands at the end of the first season, in order to avoid meandering off into an unsatisfying tangent. Each present their own set of challenges.

  10. Josephine A Perry Says:

    November 3rd, 2017 at 5:39 am

    There is something primal and communal that occurs among audience members in a theatre, especially the old movie houses where the history of the Golden Age of Hollywood actually happened. The very breath, laughter, pain of humans sitting in the dark sharing on some invisible level the human experience is rich with connection. I will never forget seeing Psycho in a theatre in Massachusetts with my decade older sister in Nantasket Beach when it was first released and the gasp of collective horror and shock when the end was revealed. The smell of popcorn, the sticky floors, the reminder we are part of a wider community of storytellers. Nothing can replace this nor should it. I make it a point to go to Shattuck Cinemas here in Berkeley at least once a week and bring friends when possible. That is what is missed when you watch the many wonderful episodic TV shows. You can have both.

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