A writer has to read a lot. For fun, inspiration, motivation, and to get better at their craft. It also helps with market research.
And a screenwriter doesn’t just have to read a lot; they have to watch a lot too.
But with only 24 hours a day, so many other tasks, possibly a day job and of course your writing, you can’t watch everything.
So how do you choose?
Easy. You prioritize.
What prompted this post was that I’ve over 500 movies on my watchlist on IMDB. If you eliminate the guilty pleasures, there are still over 400 movies to analyze.
And I’m someone who has watched a lot of movies. I’m still so behind, it is crazy.
So let me help you choose what to watch (again).
- Genre. I try to watch in similar genres to what I’m writing. It helps to see what was made and how it was made. But it also helps flex your creative muscles when you watch stuff outside of your comfort and taste zone. So mix it up whenever you can.
- Box office and budget. Box office result matters, as well as how much the movie cost. Which budget range gets more movies? Low, medium or high? Which budget range tends to make the best profits?
Commercial success is a huge plus. After all, rarely anyone writes hoping not to be watched by a lot of people. But the budget is very important when you are deciding based on box office. I give priority to a 50mil dollar movie that made over 200, rather than a 200-million that made a billion.
A) I don’t write movies that will cost that much to make. You could put Tom Cruise in it (I know, I wish), and it still wouldn’t cost that much to make. Well, apart from what you’d have to pay him. 🙂
B) Quality movies that were shot with relatively small budgets give me hope, and it teaches me a lot.
You can use boxofficemojo.com to check budget and box office information.
- Cast. There are a lot of actors whose works I enjoy, and all of these actors are people I’d love to work with. So I want to know what kind of scripts they are attracted to.
Try IMDB for the cast info.
- Critical acclaim and/or audience reactions. Some movies become cult hits years after they are released. Festival wins/awards and other critical acclaim intrigue me. Why did this one particular movie become so popular, successful, and/or loved?
I wasn’t going to watch Dunkirk since it is not a genre I’m particularly interested in. But the audience reactions are so mixed, now I’m tempted. And one can always learn from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar, Memento), so there’s that.
- Relaxation and entertainment. And many of our best work comes when we are not stressed out. So forget everything above, and choose according to whatever you feel like. You can always change the disc or walk out of the movie theatre if you are unhappy. And even that shows on what/how not to write.
If you need suggestions, feel free to comment with what you are looking for, and I’ll get you started in the right direction.
Obviously, not all movies will have all of the qualities you’re looking for. But your time is limited, so you should try to kill as many birds as possible with one stone.
Now, this reminds me…what should I watch tonight? (Comment your suggestions please!)