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I was told my screenplay is not graphic and violent enough for it's genre. (1 Viewer)

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ironpony

Senior Member
I was told my screenplay is not 'graphic and violent enough' for a thriller but is this a bad thing?

I was trying to get consultation for my script and here is the logline I have so far:

“After a mysterious group plagues the city with a series of kidnappings and sexual assaults, a victimized police officer, seeks revenge, before they strike again.”

I showed the script to some other filmmakers and a couple of them came to the same conclusion and said that I don't understand the market, the "rape and revenge" genre market they said.

They said that the reason people see these microbudget horror thrillers, is because of the graphic violence and gore, and that's the audience for them. But I portray things too subtly and do not show that much at all.

They also said that the plot is too sophisticated and too much about character, rather than the violent and slashing spectacle that the market is looking for. They say I need to write a script for the market that concentrates on these things, because people are only interested in a sophisticated story, with character concentration, if it's going to have big name actors.

If the actors are not known, they want graphic horror movies, which concentrates more on the violence and gore. This market and genre is spectacle driven and not character and plot driven.

But is this true, and I have to make a movie like that to appeal to the market, if the market is only interested in graphic horror thrillers, if they have no stars compared to more subtle horror thrillers? Do they have a point?
 
Please don't listen to these people. In this case, you probably should not be listening to what the market wants, when what the market wants is so morally objectional. I understand listening to readers, but there's a line. If someone told me my horror wasn't graphic enough, I'd say, too bad. I'm not going to desecrate the human body in my work just for someone else's sadistic pleasure.

Honestly, though, what is even going on with this screenplay? One moment you're worried that you're glorifying your villains, the next that you're not glorifying them enough (???). If you think your work is good, stand by it and stop obeying every wind of opinion that crosses your path. If you think it's bad, start something new, for goodness' sake. I've abandoned projects for both moral and artistic reasons. Sometimes the best thing to do is move on, especially when you start asking questions like this ("Do I need to make my rape-revenge story more disturbing than it already is?").
 

Xander416

Senior Member
What genre are you aiming for, exactly? Do you see your script as a serious cop drama like Law & Order, an action movie like Die Hard, or an exploitation flick like Machete or Planet Terror?
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I mean, I personally love a bit of human body desecration but that's not really what the thriller genre is about.

This does come back to the central point though, which is that your screenplay misses the mark. That's probably what those people are referring to and, if so, they are absolutely correct.

The premise of your story, with its fixation on graphic sexual assault and misogyny, fits a transgressive horror market, the 'rape exploitation' stuff that has a small niche fanbase primarily of pubescents and perverts -- we're talking the kind of people who like to look at Isis beheading videos online and stuff. Oddballs.

However, your execution seems to want it to be more of a legal type thriller or police procedural (it kind of wavers depending on the day?) that has similar appeal to The Accused, Se7en, etc. That's fine, but that is in conflict with some of the motifs and scenes you have been throwing around. It's also in somewhat conflict with the notion of having a 'rape gang' who we are supposed to sort of like, or at least find compelling.

In short, you have the (common) problem of kind of having a foot in two different canoes. You are trying to write a legal thriller, but the subject matter is not typical of legal thrillers and, to the extent that it is, your approach to it is too flippant and 'pulpy'. Hence, anybody reading your script is probably looking at it more as horror/sexploitation on a low budget with lower production values. Ergo, this is the feedback you get.
 

BostonsOwn

Senior Member
Lately horror in general, is walking a fine line between a slasher flick and a snuff film. Eli Roth’s Hostel franchise was in many ways brilliant, with good writing in the first film...and it inspired many (bad) copycats.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Yo Iron,
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1472968166/

I'm not much help with a script. I do know they get rewritten by directors so I wouldn't be too precious with it.

Out of curiosity:
is it for an established series?
A one off?
Or a pilot?
Do you have any audience targets in mind?
Or are you auditioning to get on a writing team?

I don't want any details, you can PM me if you don't want to share.
Good luck
BC
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay, thanks everyone. I was just planning on it being just one script for a feature film and not a continuing series.

I mean, I personally love a bit of human body desecration but that's not really what the thriller genre is about.

This does come back to the central point though, which is that your screenplay misses the mark. That's probably what those people are referring to and, if so, they are absolutely correct.

The premise of your story, with its fixation on graphic sexual assault and misogyny, fits a transgressive horror market, the 'rape exploitation' stuff that has a small niche fanbase primarily of pubescents and perverts -- we're talking the kind of people who like to look at Isis beheading videos online and stuff. Oddballs.

However, your execution seems to want it to be more of a legal type thriller or police procedural (it kind of wavers depending on the day?) that has similar appeal to The Accused, Se7en, etc. That's fine, but that is in conflict with some of the motifs and scenes you have been throwing around. It's also in somewhat conflict with the notion of having a 'rape gang' who we are supposed to sort of like, or at least find compelling.

In short, you have the (common) problem of kind of having a foot in two different canoes. You are trying to write a legal thriller, but the subject matter is not typical of legal thrillers and, to the extent that it is, your approach to it is too flippant and 'pulpy'. Hence, anybody reading your script is probably looking at it more as horror/sexploitation on a low budget with lower production values. Ergo, this is the feedback you get.

Oh okay. I never thought of it as a legal thriller, just a crime thriller. Perhaps something more along the lines of Seven or The Silence of the Lambs perhaps to compare, but the violence in those was not too graphic I would say. But what would make it a legal thriller, more than a crime thriller?

That sounds about right.

And who are these "filmmakers" anyway?

Just filmmakers I talked to in a filmmaking group online.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
What genre are you aiming for, exactly? Do you see your script as a serious cop drama like Law & Order, an action movie like Die Hard, or an exploitation flick like Machete or Planet Terror?

I'd say more like none of those, and more along the lines of something like Se7en or The Silence of the Lambs, but I guess maybe the the filmmakers who read it, were thinking it is better suited for something like I Spit on your Grave or The Last on the Left more so?
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Oh okay. I never thought of it as a legal thriller, just a crime thriller. Perhaps something more along the lines of Seven or The Silence of the Lambs perhaps to compare, but the violence in those was not too graphic I would say. But what would make it a legal thriller, more than a crime thriller?

I'm not saying it is a legal thriller or a crime thriller or any particular genre. That's kind of my point.

Think of it like this:
- Everybody knows what donuts are and a lot of people like them
- Everybody knows what hamburgers are and a lot of people like them
- Not as many people know what a 'donut burger' is (a hamburger, but with two glazed donuts instead of a bun) and most people find the idea of them repulsive.

Your screenplay is likely a donut burger. That is, it combines multiple different 'things' and ends up being in this uncanny valley of pleasing almost nobody, because the combination just doesn't work: I like ranch dressing, I don't like it on cereal.I like fight scenes, I don't like them between toddlers.

This isn't a problem unique to you, just to be clear. I think a lot of writers suffer from it. I know I do. What happens is you get into this awful catch 22 of needing to tell an 'original' story but ALSO needing to set and meet expectations. It's not enough to pass the originality test. You need to create a product that actually has a market.

What is your market?
Who is your audience?


I mean that almost literally. Who is your audience? Who do you imagine enjoying your work? Teenagers? Twenty-somethings? Gen X-ers? Grandmas? What is the common thread? What are your audiences also fans of? What are your comps?

My writing is literary thriller/horror and my target readership, to the extent I have any, consists of educated middle class millennials who are fans of speculative fiction but not only speculative fiction; who are keyed into social commentary and politics enough to appreciate some of the ideas I put in there. Because I tend toward character and emotional journeys, I consider my reader to be on the more softer side of 'horror fan'. Essentially, it's fiction for English Lit student types who like a bit of the adrenal rush that comes with a bloody knife, probably have a lot of Stephen King in their bookshelf, but ultimately enjoy the domestic and subtle over the demonic and screaming -- it's pretty mainstream. I can see my ideal reader and it is a twenty-three year old version of Emily The Strange who now works in corporate America. I write for her. That means I have to consolidate ideas accordingly, because Emily doesn't like *everything*.

I think 'genre bending' is generally pretty overrated in writing. There's a place for it, sure, but it's not enough to borrow from different genres and inspirations and assume it will work. Because, often as not, you end up with the donut burger: This assemblage of 'not quite enough X' but also 'not quite enough Y'.

The people who are saying 'you need more graphic violence' are likely saying this because they have read your work and think it is supposed to be this highly provocative, highly transgressive thing that only prioritizes shock value. I understand that's not your intent, but that's their expectation and that's why they're saying that. Either that, or they are idiots.

Assuming they are not idiots, then you have a choice: Either change the expectation or change the story. Neither one is straightforward, both likely require the text somewhat reconfigured.

Ask yourself: Why do these people expect this story to be more violent?

The answer is probably pretty simple. The answer is probably because you aren't giving them enough, you are not capturing interest based on what you have currently. So, that's when you need to relook at the text itself. Are your characters sufficiently developed and are they interesting? How about your setting -- plain old modern day whitebread 'could-be-anywhere' America or is there a more interesting place in which you can tell this story? Time period? I suspect you have not taken this into account. If your premise is 'rape gang', why not set the story in a time and place where that actually was a thing such as, I don't know, post-war Berlin? Lots of rape gangs there. Suddenly the idea becomes believable.

I'm spitballing, but you get my point (maybe?). My point is that when people say 'this story needs more [thing]' they aren't so much offering a suggestion as to what you should include as they are subtly criticizing what you have included.

If I show a story to somebody and the feedback is 'have you thought about making this more violent?' my takeaway from that is not that I should make it more violent but rather that I should work on making the story more interesting in general. Nobody is saying these things about good stories, right?
 
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ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. Well I was told that the problem is not that the characters are too well developed, it's just that in this genre, it's a B movie genre, and the market for this genre is not looking for well developed characters or the story to actually be compelling. They just want the gore and shock value, or so I was told.

As for genre bending, welll I thought the story, so the characters just do what they do. They do not know they are in a fictional story, so I feel that the characters are telling me how it's going to be and they make the decisions, which may lead to genre bending, but if that is what the characters in the story are doing, then that is what they are doing? Or should I try to force them to be in a particular genre only?

As for setting, well, I want to set it in modern day America to save on budget. Post WWII Berlin will cost a lot more money and that makes it tougher to make and tougher to sell. Modern times is the restricted setting I think.

As far as genre goes, can't a writer just try to have the characters do what they do, regardless of genre? Or do I have to keep the character in a genre box, and they are not allowed to do anything to go outside that box, even if it means forcing or changing a character?

But I don't see why my script is such a genre bender, since I stuck to the thriller genre though, didn't I? I mean Se7en was a big inspiration on the tone, and I feel like it's similar in genre, unless I am wrong? What did I do that was such a genre bender, just so I can see it?

I didn't think the market had an age cap, but just anyone who would enjoy a thriller really.

But let's say I increase the violence and gore, show more rape content. I am just worried that will make it more distasteful and make it worse though, if I show more than what I feel is necessary. So when it comes to giving the audience and market what they want, how do you do it without feeling exploitative about it?
 
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luckyscars

WF Veterans
Oh okay thanks. Well I was told that the problem is not that the characters are too well developed, it's just that in this genre, it's a B movie genre, and the market for this genre is not looking for well developed characters or the story to actually be compelling. They just want the gore and shock value, or so I was told.

So, your takeaway from that should be that your movie feels like a B movie and therefore they expect trash. Either make your work non-trash through improving its quality...or embrace the trash, in which case you're going to need to probably make it full of 'shock value'. As it is, it sounds like you have a movie that feels like a B movie but isn't giving what people who like B movies want -- i.e shock value, etc.

As far as genre goes, can't a writer just try to have the characters do what they do, regardless of genre? Or do I have to keep the character in a genre box, and they are not allowed to do anything to go outside that box, even if it means forcing or changing a character?

Sure, have them do what they do, but having them 'do what they do' doesn't have to be in conflict with genre expectations.

For example, the movie Se7en (since you like it so much) has lots of interesting, developed characters but none of those characters felt like they walked in from a romantic comedy or historical romance, right? No. The characters in thrillers should feel like characters from thrillers.

I didn't think the market had an age cap, but just anyone who would enjoy a thriller really.

There isn't 'a market', is what I'm trying to convey. Not one that is static and homogenous.

Thriller is an incredibly vague term. 'Se7en' is a thriller and so is 'Jaws' and so is 'Get Out' but they have no resemblance to each other in terms of subject matter otherwise and are likely for quite different audiences. Understanding the different audiences and what they want allows each to be marketable because a movie targeted at teenagers generally has teenagers in it, etc. As a general rule (there are exceptions) you want the protagonist(s) to be relatable to the audience, if not from the exact same social class as the audience. Home Alone features a child protagonist because it's primarily targeted at children. Love Actually features characters mostly in their twenties and thirties because it was written for an audience in their twenties and thirties.

Your market is based not on whether your movie is labeled a thriller but whether it contains themes and values that connect with a type of consumer. It sounds like you have done basically no thinking on this count so maybe you should. It's a cliché at this point, and I'm not saying you need to spend decades on it, but you do need to 'know your buyer' at least slightly with this stuff. Once you have an idea as to who might like your work, then it gets much easier to shape your creation to meet their interests. Most publishing folks will attest that a vast number of movies and books go nowhere not because they are 'bad' but simply because there is no market for them, or the market is not big enough.

But let's say I increase the violence and gore, show more rape content. I am just worried that will make it more distasteful and make it worse though, if I show more than what I feel is necessary. So when it comes to giving the audience and market what they want, how do you do it without feeling exploitative about it?

Think about your audience. Everybody has different standards. Something written for older women is not going to have much violence and gore. Something written for younger people will usually have more. That's why you need to figure out, in some sense, who this movie is actually written for.

'Somebody who likes thrillers, I suppose' doesn't cut it. My grandma 'likes thrillers', but she would probably not like your movie.
 

alpacinoutd

Senior Member
Here's my two cents: It's a matter of whether or not you want to stay true to your own style or you intend to commercialize your script so that it sells better.
 

apocalypsegal

Senior Member
Seven (stylized as SE7EN) is a 1995 American neo-noir psychological crime thriller film

I had to look this film up, as it's been years since I saw it. I don't get this vibe, as given above, for the script in question.

I think the problem lies, as it always has, in the basic idea and the OP's attempts to get it in written form. And the fact that every single opinion given has caused rewrite after rewrite, to the point that I'm not sure there is a way for it to be completed and sold.

Like genre or not, readers and viewers expect a book or film to fit in with a certain genre. You say horror, the film better horrify. You say thriller, there are tropes you need to follow. You say romance, there have to be certain things in there, or it fails. You cross genres, you need to make sure you've blended the genres well. This applies to book writers, filmmakers, video game designers, painters, and so on. People who forge new paths seldom get acclaim at the time, it tends to come after their work has transcended the typical. That often happens after they're long gone from this earthly plane.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay. I understand that thriller is a general term. My story is more like a hunt thriller, where you have a madman, madmen, or mad person/people, on the loose committing crimes and wreaking havoc and keep on getting away with it. And there are police characters who are on the hunt so to speak to find who they are and stop them, with a main character willing to go further than the others possibly. That's the kind of thriller I was thinking when writing it, and the audience for that type. Aside from Seven, another show that I see within a similar genre is Dexter.

Another one, which may be similar to mine is Fight Club, in the sense that you have people form a group that goes around committing crimes, albeit different types of crimes. But it's still a mysterious criminal group, if that makes sense, to similarity.

But should I increase the shock value though, and just write the violence and rape content more graphically, instead of being quick and subtle, if that is a genre expectation?

One person who read it and said he felt it went outside the genre, said that one of the reasons is because it has the police in it and usually these types of "rape and revenge" movies as he referred to it as, do not involve the police. But I think that if these crimes were happening a lot, and committed by the same mystery group, the police would want to get involved, would they not? If I wrote it without the police and just had private citizens on the hunt, wouldn't that seem strange if the police were not involved?
 
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