There are twenty-nine superhero movies currently scheduled for release, TV development exec Steve La Rue calmly announces to a gasp from the many delegates in the room. Even for those of us with some understanding of industry trends, hearing that figure stated aloud is astonishing. Though the superhero genre is in decline it still makes lots of money and pulls a majority of financing into it’s vortex and away from the more ‘risky’ original stories that could be being made instead. The repercussion of the studio successes with this genre is that TV emulates those studio decisions and we’re seeing a lot more superhero TV also. There’s certainly a market for these shows but Steve doesn’t think the trend will last and what replaces it will depend on what new writing can offer.
Steve has flown in Santa Monica, California to join Disney and Pixar writer David Reynolds to talk to us about re-invigorating the industry and finding that place in our writing that is fresh and that also has a market. Firstly he points out that good writing still matters in the superhero genre, TV series Flash is currently getting more traction than the show Arrow that it sprung from, because of the writing. There’s a glut of content that serves the fanboy set and those of us in that group love what we’re getting, but with one demographic receiving the bulk of the market right now it’s worthwhile looking for those gaps that can be filled. Personal stories like Orange is the New Black have found their support base from people who have been starved for content more relatable to themselves. It’s success as a show has united the creative community who are looking for the next Orange to attract and retain those audiences.
Our little lives are interesting it seems, there’s a lot more drama in our lives these days for starters, we all have extended and step family situations, drama in the workplace, we travel more. We have busy dramatic lives. Amazon’s new show Transparent, about an ordinary family where the dad comes out as transsexual is resonating with audiences right now. From Six Feet Under and United States of Tara writer Jill Soloway the story happened in her own life. “It just immediately hit me as this is the show I’ve been waiting my whole life to write.” she told Rolling Stone recently proving that personal stories can be fulfilling for writers as much as audiences.
Only you have that insight into your own stories Steve tells us, by all means throw in that supernatural hook or whatever you like to write but you don’t need an amazing hook to begin with. Once you have that simple premise you can just throw ‘what if’ at it until you have seven or eight stories to form episodes. You don’t need 24 for a series anymore, dramas are going shorter these days. It’s easier than you think to find a premise you care about and begin writing original story that only you can tell.
Selling your stories is about your personal insight too. You have to own your idea, to be able to point out what’s unusual and what’s universal, that’s your hook and what makes you, not some other writer more qualified to write your tale. If you pitch a cool sexy idea, you still have to know how to write within that world, so maybe you make the astronauts like your family. You have stuff that’s relatable and then you just lay the whole world on top of that. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was really the concept that for teens in high school, life is hell.
You’re going to write a lot of stuff that people don’t like, Steve and David tell us. We all do. You’re going to write a lot that people like too, and if you can learn to write to your own personal voice you can write anything.