The Observant Writer.... historical dramas
I really want to write a historical drama but the guys on my internet chat group say it’ll never sell. What should I do? The first thing I tell all my students is BE CAREFUL who you let influence your writing! Not all advice is created equal. And I guess your chat group are the only people on the planet who never saw the films ‘Amadeus, Gladiator, or Brave Heart’ and best of all ‘Shakespeare in Love' and 'Dunkirk'. ALL historical dramas, may I point out, and all major, major cinema hits.
That said, the writers of these screenplays did beat the odds though, or the prejudice if you will, of the market place. Producers are the people who find the money to actually shoot the movie of your screenplay. And good producers are smart, film savvy and pennywise not pound-foolish. That’s how you get bankrolled to greenlight another film --paying attention to the bottom line.
The reason that period pieces or historical films put fear into the hearts of most producers is you can’t just walk out the door and start shooting. You have to have period specific costumes (ka-ching) period accurate locations (ka-ching) and often set design (ka-ching) and all kinds of specialty coaching for your actors (sword play, accents, horse riding, (ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching). And all of this BEFORE you ever shoot a foot of film. Little wonder the mere mention of a historical script sends most producers screaming from the room.
But, back to the opening paragraph and those fantastic period piece films which all won rave reviews too - I might add. The one thing they all had in common was FANTASTIC scripts. FANTASTIC scripts make believers out of top tier actors, who are always craving a part to really challenge them. And top tier actors make believers out of tight-fisted producers and distributors.
So my advice to you, and any writer is always right what you LOVE. Write your period piece screenplay to the absolute best of your ability. Create a main character that every actress on the planet would kill to play. Create a storyline and theme that is timeless, and your audience will not care that the lead actor wears a codpiece.
I hope this helps. And good luck with your screenplay - Wordsmythe would like to help!