ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, May 15, 2006

And Your Audience Is...?

So I just read a screenplay for a producer that I occasionally read things for.

The main character is a 12-year-old girl, who gets into an uneasy alliance with some popular 12-year-old girls, who are all fans of this boy band; they join forces to try and win a radio contest to meet the band.

It's not the worst premise, if you are trying to make a goofy comedy for 8-14 year-old girls, which the often bubblegum-ish take on the material would indicate.

But, inexplicably, the script is also inappropriately dirty. There are sexual references throughout, the girl's mother is lusting after an evangelist, the girls catch their principal in a hotel room in bed with his secretary, and worst of all these 12-year-old girls hope to lose their virginity to the band (with the fact that they think losing their virginity means "exposing their naked bodies to" still not helping much).

So in other words, this isn't a movie for little girls. But there really isn't anything here to entertain adults either; it's not that funny, it's not that clever, and it just feels like a really bad Disney Channel movie rewritten by a horny 14-year-old boy. It's a perfect example of a script without an audience (because ultimately even that horny 14-year-old would be bored by most of this).

Ironically, it was written by two women.

For a writer, the best case scenario is to write something like Pirates of the Caribbean or Spiderman, that can appeal to a big swath of age groups. But even if you aren't doing something that's aggressively commercial, make sure that there is some audience that's going to like it.

But taking a kids tale, and trying to adult-it up inappropriately to go after the adults? You're just risking losing both audiences, especially if you do it as badly as this script does.

18 Comments:

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your experienced readerly opinion, what makes soft-core quasi-smut boyish instead of girlish?

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Chris Soth said...

it's not the kids that'll take offense, it's their parents, and double-standard or no, those parents are more protective of girls than boys when it comes to "smut"...

...tougher and tougher as we get older to write for a demographic we've fallen out of. But yes, and smaller demographics require to write to a smaller budget.

chris

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger The Gambino Crime Family said...

I don't know. I always thought softcore quasi-smut was sort of a moveable feast but that synopsis sounded kind of skanky. Maybe they intended it for a YA audience - 16 or 17 - and got the tone completely wrong?

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger wcdixon said...

the audience...so important, yet so often ignored...

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Call it R-rated aspects with G-rated tone; just doesn't mix well at all.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger The Moviequill said...

if they amped up the ages to 16-18?

 
At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R-rated content, G rated tone... Was it comissioned by Michael Jackson?

 
At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was going thru Film Diva's achive (she's a producer/ ex-executive)...

She has a past blog about demographics & target audiences:

http://filmdiva.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_filmdiva_archive.html

Sorry if that link doesn't work. Kinda new at this.

 
At 7:38 PM, Blogger Dave said...

So the subtext of this post is that a reader's life isn't as glamorous as we all thought it was?

This a fab post for Moviequill who was recently under the impression that books and other blogs have hammered into writer's heads all the necessary information to create a good script.

Obviously, there are two women who haven't read enough and need this information in more places!

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger Tim said...

My younger brother used to live with me after he was gently kicked out of our parents house at the tender age of 21. When he wasn't working he was using my computer to instant message girls he labeled "sweethearts." As far as I could tell that was code for "jailbait," but then, I'm 8 years older than him, so what do I know?

One night he was chatting with our cousin who was 13 and he had to pop out for a moment. Since she was "our" cousin, he figured, why not put me on in his place? So I sat down and read, and participated in the most raunchy conversation I ever had, including the pros and cons of piercing her... um...

Yeah.

I'm sure you're imagining a angst-riden goth girl who painted her room black and always makes sure nothing blocks the door so she can slam it properly. She isn't. She still watches "The Little Mermaid." Her mother is the most paranoid, overprotective, unfun person I know.

My point is: not only are young teens of both genders thinking, talking and dreaming about sex; they are also amazingly good at hiding it from us prudes. Seriously. Under her hawk-eyed mothers nose!

But I wouldn't make a movie about it. Unless Disney was animating it.

 
At 1:48 AM, Blogger A. M. said...

Chris makes a good point. It's the MPAA and the parents who are "out of the loop" re: what lives of 12-year-olds are like these days.

They wouldn't be allowed to see a movie about their lives.

 
At 3:28 AM, Blogger Optimistic_Reader said...

I think the kind of things that teenagers and pre-teens get up to and think about is certainly shocking - in the UK a big story at the moment is that an 11-year-old girl got pregnant by a 15 year-old boy. This sort of thing is happening and I don't think writers should shy away from depicting it, but I agree with Scott - the tone is crucial. Thirteen covered very similar ground fairly recently and to my mind got the tone absolutely right, perhaps due to the input of the then 13-year-old co-writer Nikki Reed.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

It's one thing to tell a story like Thirteen, but it's another to tell a story that essentially feels like an episode of any of a number of Disney series, except with inappropriate and never-very-funny (or dramatic) sexual references.

Especially, again, since the comic, bubblegum tone of the movie generally feels aimed at girls younger than 12.

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

Whenever you open with, "So I just read a screenplay for a producer..." I know it's not going to continue with "...and it was the best script..."

Then I read, "The main character is a 12-year-old girl..." Shit. I have a script out there and the main character is a 12 year-old girl. God, I hope he's not writing about my script. Heart racing. Better stop reading. Can't. Phew. It's not my script.

Thanks, Scott.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Twixter Scripter said...

A friend and I finally watched Battle Royale last night. At key scenes we were on the edge of our seats screaming with hysteria at the insanity of it. The kids were acting on the most base primal instincts, some of which were very sexual, and we ate it up with out hesitation. The BR kids were closer to 14 years of age, and it worked.

What if the girls in the script were three years older? Would that make it any more acceptable? It might make the sexual references work better, but maybe the boy band fascination would lose its plausibility.

Kids, they just grow up so fast, don't they?

 
At 1:59 PM, Blogger Systemaddict said...

I don't think the issue is really about kids around 12 or 13 knowing and /or talking and/or having sex.

The issue is utilizing that in a script is absolutely absurd. At least to me.

 
At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

G, PG rated films make more money than PG-13 and R combined.

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For a writer, the best case scenario is to write something like Pirates of the Caribbean or Spiderman"

Whooaa!! Hold on!! This is the worst kind of thing for somebody to spec. First off the main reason these two movies were made (especially with the size of their budgets) was because they were well known franchises. Unless you want to fork over the money to Marvel and try to option Thor or Submariner you may be out of luck.

The best thing for aspiring writers to spec are movies with strong concepts like 'Wedding Crashers' or 'American Pie.' Producers generally buy concepts when they buy specs knowing that when a star comes on or a big director the specifics of a script are probably going get tossed out of the window.

The problem with hoping to sell an historical epic along the lines of Pirates or a special effects heavy movie like Spiderman is that it isn’t really a good proving ground for a neophyte writers chops (don’t get me wrong Spiderman II was one of the best superheroes movies of all time.) It doesn’t take much skill to write ‘Spiderman swoops along the New York skyline” and leave it for the director and FX people to put tens of millions of dollars into making that vision a reality. Compare that to a perfectly crafted joke or comedic set piece which costs only the price of the film it was shot on.

 

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