The Modern Western

An individual posted a question to one of the screenwriting forums on LinkedIn about the western genre and whether it’s worth his time to finish his western script and start querying. My thought was yes.

The western genre appears to be back – but it isn’t strictly John Wayne anymore.

The western has evolved into sci-fi (The Road), the new cop action thriller on FX (“Justified”) and then there have been a handful of fairly straight westerns over the past few years (3:10 to Yuma remake, No Country for Old Men, True Grit remake coming out).

I emailed a TV producer friend about this, and she indicated that westerns aren’t the easiest sell because they’re pricey to make and don’t necessarily do well overseas. Her advice? “Trying to guess the market one way or another is never the best way to approach your work. Write the story you’re dying to tell – and then people will want to read it no matter what.”

Another level to this is that there is a lot of filming happening in New Mexico – there are tax breaks and it’s cheaper to film in NM. Shooting in New Mexico is a good deal right now, and productions are coming. I saw Steven Soderbergh on the street a few days ago – he’s here to shoot his new film, Knockout. Apparently the Coen Brothers are in town to shoot True Grit.

I just think that with the handful of high profile westerns out there over the past few years, it’s a genre that’s in the public consciousness. I’d recommend finding a way to tweak it – either with a hybrid genre, or finding another in to make it fresh, your own and contemporary.

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