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01/19/2002 - Next Year's Model

Before January moves along any further I'd better hurry up and speculate on the movie year as a whole - not 2001, but 2002. Everybody has recapped 2001 to death, but 2002 is a mystery year and much more fun to rashly predict.

If it worked once, it'll work again - or so goes Hollywood wisdom. So if you want to try writing a script in this year's buzz genres, just look at what made money last year:

1. Fantasy - specifically magicky movies. Wizards, goblins, pointy hats; bring it on. All of us who enjoy mocking the fantasies LEGEND and WILLOW can shut up now. If you want to try one of these scripts, just remember that fantasy is not an easy genre to pull off - it can become too goofy for many people, unless it's grounded by relatable relationships or events.

2. Ghost Stories/Horror - preferably written for an A-lister. As THE OTHERS showed, no matter how many bad or badly performing scary movies are churned out, the genre will never die because people love to be scared. One of the best scripts I read this year was a low budget thriller by Brent Hanley that chilled me with a slow, creeping dread. It's already been produced by a great actor/director, and hopefully will hit theaters soon. Everybody's on the lookout for this type of script.

3. Animation - Rollicking animated family films can blow open the box office, for the most part because they hearken back to a grand old style of movie-making, one that's wholesome, but hysterically cynical and down to earth. The vicious competition between Disney and DreamWorks is kind of off-putting, but if the animosity gives us more movies like SHREK and MONSTERS, INC. who's complaining?

4. Offbeat Thrillers - THE SIXTH SENSE (ok, from 1999) and its godchild MEMENTO (ok, from 2000)... What can I say? How do you copy a trend like this? Let's just hope that original thinkers continue to push us away from the derivative, wannabe sexy "thrillers" of the 80's.

5. War Movies - After September 11th, who can say how this genre will evolve? The ambiguities of our current war situation defy the neat definitions of war movies, but nostalgia still rules in this category. Whether or not people liked PEARL HARBOR, most audiences wanted it to be an American memorial, something to ground us in a hopelessly post- post- post-modern tangle. For years the WWII revival has continued, with special emphasis on more personal war stories, the little triumphs and tragedies. With a little investigation, a clever writer may find a humanitarian war story worth writing. Just try to trim the budget wherever possible, or if battle scenes aren't your thing, try a spy thriller.

I didn't include Superhero movies because unless you own the underlying rights, there's no point. But Science Fiction could use a boost in the butt while we wait around for THE MATRIX 2, so if you have the next MATRIX, be my guest. Just follow the rules for Fantasy (see #1 above).

If you can see around the curve and write in the next big genre that hasn't hit yet, by all means go ahead. Of course, "seeing around the curve" usually translates into "writing from the heart" and then being lucky.

Finally, no matter what you write, don't sweat the genres too much - like the Western, the Teen Comedy and the Space Epic, everything old is eventually new again.


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