December 2021 #100screenplays

By Laura Crisp Davis - December 2, 2021
December 2021 #100screenplays

Sometimes writers have to take bill-paying jobs to make it to the next thing. I've recently been working in a costume and party supplies warehouse.

Something magical happened. I found inspiration, even while I was mindlessly scanning Halloween costume after Halloween costume to ship all over the world. 

Within hours of the HALLOWEEN KILLS premiere, we were scanning hundreds of Michael Myers costumes. As the new Ghostbusters movie ads ramped up, so did sales of those costumes. I could see the direct correlation of movies hitting the market and their associated merch selling like hotcakes! Then I really started noticing something: 99% of Halloween costumes (and I’d estimate 75% of themed birthday party decorations) are derived from a TV show or movie, and frequently those shows/movies are derived from a book, play, or comic book.

I already thought of screenwriters as job creators in the sense of cast and crew, but I’d never REALLY thought of all the other jobs created by a successful TV show or movie.

Sure you’ve got your directly created jobs: original screenwriter plus subsequent writing team, producers, director, cinematographer plus camera and equipment crew members, actors, art department, set design, costume design, hair and makeup, stunt coordinator and doubles, location scouts and staff, animation (literally dozens more jobs), special FX, sound, editing, marketing, distribution, not to mention everyone’s agents, managers, and attorneys…

…but I hadn’t considered all the indirectly created jobs: merchandise (design, licensing, fabrication, packaging), warehouse (order picker, packer, auditor, shipper, return processor), shipping (truck driver, postage center, delivery person), retail store employees, and theme park employees. This is MAJOR JOB CREATION!!!

Not to mention, somewhere down the line, if your contract was negotiated properly, there might be some residuals on all that merch. I mean, someone is still getting a check for WIZARD OF OZ costumes every Halloween, and that movie came out in 1939 for crying out loud!

One of my mentors, Hal Croasmun (ScreenwritingU) discusses how to attract an A-list actor to a script. What kind of role can I write that will make them say, “I HAVE to play this character!” and ultimately, get my script produced? And now, thanks to my time in the warehouse world, I’m also asking how I can create a character that someone would want to dress up as for Halloween!

It's not about being gimmicky, but it is about making a choice or two—appearance, special tool or weapon, occupation, maybe the setting/era. For example, I’ve scanned umpteen costumes for all the SCOOBY DOO characters. None of them is particularly elaborate. The “Shaggy” costume is an olive-green t-shirt and brown pants. “Velma” is an orange sweater, brown skirt, matching tights, and…you know—her GLASSES. Her freaking glasses get lost at some point in how many episodes?

And, here’s my other epiphany. As much as we’d all like to be nominated for an Oscar someday, most of these costumes aren’t from major dramatic roles. In fact, almost none of them came from drama. Halloween costumes overwhelmingly come from horror, action, thriller, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, holidays, and of course, animation. So, there you have it, these are the genres that are the big job creators and residual generators.

Here's my comedy binge for December:

  1. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  2. The Long Kiss Goodnight
  3. Three Men and a Baby
  4. The Truman Show
  5. The Big Lebowski
  6. 12 Years a Slave
  7. Gremlins
  8. Diehard
  9. Toy Story
  10. True Lies
  11. Twins
  12. Big

#100Screenplays 2021 reading challenge by the numbers:

Total yet-to be produced scripts: 82

Total produced scripts: 137

2021 Grand total: 219

My thoughts: 

I’m not saying to never write drama, but I am saying think about how actors will connect with the characters so that they’ll want to play them on screen AND how the audience will connect with them so they’ll want to play them on Halloween. I think next year's blog is going to be an analysis of the "it" factors that create all of these jobs. Stay tuned!

Happy Chrismakwanzayulekkah, and Happy New Year, ya'll.

Keep writing friends,

Where to find scripts:

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Sometimes I'm serious, sometimes I'm silly. Any scripts referenced are for educational purposes only. (My lawyer made me say that part.)