It’s Like Something Out of a Fairy Tale…
If it feels like every week you’re seeing a new adaptation of a classic fairy tale on your TV or coming to a theater near you, it’s because you are. Seriously.
Let’s take an inventory. On TV: Once Upon A Time. Beauty and the Beast. Grimm. In cinema: Red Riding Hood. Snow White and the Huntsman. Mirror Mirror. A potential sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. Next week’s Oz: The Great and Powerful.And opening this week, Jack the Giant Slayer. That last example has been plagued by problems and is tracking so poorly that it could very likely become this year’s John Carter, but the thing to take away here is that that script sold and that film got made.
Studios are bullish on fairy tales right now. Big time. Development executives are thinking like Gordon Gekko: fairy tales are good. Fairy tales are right. Fairy tales work. This trend is going to burn out when consumers grow tired of being told glossy, repackaged versions of the same old stories and the box office receipts and the Nielsen numbers plunge accordingly, but for right now, it’s the trend to beat.
Earlier today, Mike Fleming reported on Deadline that Dreamworks just closed a mid-six against seven-figure deal for a new revisionist take on Robin Hood…even though our last revisionist (and not to mention bloated and middling) take on Robin Hood came out barely three years ago in big tentpole fashion, courtesy of Ridley Scott, Brian Helgeland, Russell Crowe and the numerous other chefs in the kitchen that spoiled Ethan Rieff and Cyrus Voris’ inventive and once-promising spec.
Why is this trend happening? Frankly, because, as a blanket statement, Hollywood is running out of new ideas…and because old ideas are easier and often safer to sell than new ideas. It’s all about brand awareness right now. Everyone knows Robin Hood. Everyone knows Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. Everyone knows what kind of genre and narrative experience to expect with those stories, and the fact that they have survived throughout the ages means that there is something inherently compelling about them on a world level. If it worked before, it’ll work again. That’s the mentality.
Hollywood wants projects that have built-in audiences. Comic books. Remakes. Young adult fantasy romance novels. Board games. Fairy tales. So what does this mean for us as writers? How do we use this trend knowledge to our advantage?
Let me cut to the chase: if there is any fairy tale or classical archetypal story that interests and moves you, sit down with it. Look at it with fresh eyes. See if you have a new take on it. Then churn it out as fast as you can. If you can write something within that fairy tale framework that is personal and compelling to you, do it. Strike while the iron is hot. I guarantee you, agents, assistants and executives are going to be all the more eager to read a script that fits into the current industry trend.