Never Ever Sell Yourself Short

Here’s a reviewer’s dilemma.

You love horror.

You’re given a horror assignment, and the writer tells you in the Production Notes that “the story is intended as a ‘popcorn horror’ …

… the kind of old school, old fashioned summer-screamer that is scary and a general good time, it’s not a heavy, dark psych. horror, but it’s also not a comedy.”

there are also quite a few horror films
that were, technically speaking, “popcorn entertainment”
but they were also four-star films

Okay, but this is a genre that’s filled more often than not with forgettable movies filled with cheap thrills, weak stories, weak characters, and incredibly weak dialogue. So do you really want to satisfy the requirements of this genre? Should I reward you if you did? No, I don’t think I should.

Can I just add that there are also quite a few horror films that were, technically speaking, “popcorn entertainment” but they were also four-star films – The Exorcist, Jaws, Poltergeist, Psycho, Alien, Aliens, Silence of the Lambs, Rosemary’s Baby, Halloween, Carrie, etc. Or three star films – Christine, Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.

You should aspire to do great, four-star specs
– NOTHING LESS.

I cannot approve of this, and I’ll tell you why. You should aspire to do great, four-star specs – NOTHING LESS. I know you’re capable of great things because of the success you’ve already had on TS. You’re selling yourself short and you’re not doing yourself any favors with this cheap slasher flick.

It’s possible that someone would produce this, but will it advance your careers? That’s a big risk to take, because this could stall or even end an early career, especially if it bombs. AND the critics rip you apart. Just because you finally earn a screenwriting credit does not mean that you will start a career. People will assume that this movie is the limit of your talent, and they would be wrong.

Just because you finally earn a screenwriting credit
does not mean that you will start a career.

You want those early credits to be the right ones, the kind of credits that prove your worth as a writer. If this got made and this was one of your first credits, I’m sure I don’t have to explain how quickly you could get pigeon-holed as the writer who only does dismissable horror movies, which is not true, because you are, in fact, capable of so much more.

A good writer, I think, has to make an impact on the present and shape the future of a genre, not regurgitate the past.

– Mystery Man

In his own words, Mystery Man was “famous yet anonymous, failed yet accomplished, brilliant yet semi-brilliant. A homebody jetsetting around the world. Brash and daring yet chilled with a twist.”

MM blogged for nearly 4 years and tweeted for only 4 months, then disappeared – mysteriously.

The Story Department continues to republish his best articles on Monday.

Here, you’ll also be informed about the release of his screenwriting book.

About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

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