Recently, I put the finishing touches on the second draft of a big budget fantasy feature screenplay. I wrote it both for fun and as a portfolio piece, knowing full well that a script like this would never get made. Even though it probably wasn’t the best use of my time, I still put more time, passion and meticulous care into this manuscript than I care to admit right now. (Hint: It was a lot.)
Curious for input from other Hollywood industry pros, I sent the script out for feedback. If you’ve ever written an original big budget spec script, then you probably have gone through what I experienced next. While the feedback was positive, these pros all told me the same thing: No one will ever want to buy this, no matter how good it is.
So, you’ve written a big budget sci-fi, fantasy, superhero or action script on spec and no one in Hollywood wants to bite. You’re probably asking yourself: What do I do now?
The short answer: Don’t toss it. Your script still has value.
The longer answer is, well, a bit longer. Let me explain.
Having a completed, polished screenplay under your belt will always be a feather in your cap whether you sell it or not. What you do with it next, however, is the big question.
First, let’s be clear and up front about expectations:
- A big budget script is very hard to sell in Hollywood.
- A big budget sci-fi/fantasy/superhero script not based on an existing IP (intellectual property, such as Lord of the Rings or Marvel) is even harder to sell.
- A big budget script based on an IP you do not own or have rights to will not sell in Hollywood (because it’s IP/trademark infringement).
- Your big budget script probably isn’t going to be made into a movie.
In short, your big budget genre movie is next to impossible to sell (let alone get made) in Hollywood. That may sound harsh, but understanding the reality you are up against is crucial to knowing where you shouldn’t be focusing your efforts. Instead, we’re going to take practical steps to make the most of that awesome script of yours.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at your path forward. You essentially have two choices:
- Use your script as a writing sample.
- Adapt your script into a novel.
1. As a Writing Sample
If you are like me, writing sci-fi/fantasy is your jam, meaning when you write in that milieu, you are at your best (replace with superhero, action, etc.). Pick out a few choice selections from your script and use these to promote your ability, professionalism and creativity when auditioning for new writing projects.
You probably won’t jump to working on big budget projects directly from a spec script, especially if you are still new to the business, but it can be the linchpin that opens a doorway that eventually leads to that prized assignment.
Besides, while you are using your incredibly cool script as a staple portfolio piece, you can simultaneously be pursuing option #2:
2. Adapting Your Screenplay into a Novel
Converting your spec screenplay into a novel is perhaps your best route to getting that story onto the big screen (yes, you read that correctly). In fact, you can even do this and #1 simultaneously.
If your book is successful, then the powers that be will be much more keen to turn your book into a movie. Now you’re back where you started—except this time you have the backing of an existing IP.
However, I should err on the side of caution in saying that there are no guarantees here. All of this hinges on the fact that you can:
- Complete a novel,
- Get it published, and
- Reach a wide enough audience with a strong enough impact that your novel is considered successful enough for adaptation to the screen.
It doesn’t have to be a novel, either. Video games and comic books are viable options as well. In fact, your superhero script may be more suited to one of these genres than a novel.
Regardless of the route you take, embarking on this journey is certainly a far better strategy than sitting on a perfectly good, superbly awesome story that the world would otherwise never get to experience.
Better to share than to hoard in secret. (Yes, you can quote that).
So now that you’ve written a big budget sci-fi, fantasy, superhero or action script on spec and nobody in Hollywood wants to bite, maybe all your story needs is a new medium to make it big.
Time to get writing.