Who Are You Writing For?

I was Skyping with a writer friend the other night who had sent me a list of about 10 loglines and was wanting to brainstorm which project to write next. He later sent me an email indicating he’d chosen to write a horror movie starring a young boy character and, in essence, a CGI character.

My immediate reaction was one of confusion – horror is, in general, a genre for teens and adults. It didn’t feel an intuitive fit that a young boy would drive a horror. Perhaps if the young boy were co-starring with an adult man or woman (such as in The Ring or The Shining), that could work. However as the protagonist, that opens up a can of worms. It doesn’t fit the genre conventions.

I’d like to note that the way this was pitched wasn’t along the lines of a B monster movie, like Chuckie or Leprechaun. It was pitched as a straight horror, something akin to The Sixth Sense but darker.

First of all, who’s going to see this movie? Let’s keep in mind that cinema is a very expensive medium and is intended for millions of viewers. Young children can’t go see this movie in the theatres, so that kills part of the audience. Do teen and adult males really want to see a horror movie starring a young boy? Hm. That seems confusing to me. It would seem an easier sell to have the story starring a hot teen male actor and hot teen girlfriend character (think Twilight, but horror).

Secondly, it’s sticky casting a child as the star for production reasons. Young kids can work limited hours, which complicates the shooting schedule. If you’re trying to do something on a budget, casting a child as the star is probably not the easiest choice.

Children usually star in family genre films because it’s families who go to see those movies. The parents go with the children, and that’s why most family movies have a heavy leaning toward family relationships. Horror, however, is mostly seen not by small children.

It’s important to give some practical thought to your concepts in terms of the basics: what is the genre, who is going to see this film, how would a manager or agent try to sell it? Even if you’re writing something that is basically not commercial, it’s still important to give some thought to the indie questions of: genre, does your story have an edge, what’s the hook, how is it pushing the envelope?


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