As a screenwriter, sometimes we tend to think we have to write "to the market" or follow the current trends, but if you try and chase a trend (in my humble opinion), you're already behind.
First off, I would never encourage a writer to deliver a horror script if they're a natural romance writer. Each genre has a "selling season" of its own—even Christmas movies (spare me). The calendar year is going to come back around to your personal genre of choice every year. Don't chase a genre—stick to your strengths.
Second, most writers think they can write across multiple genres ... but they just can't do it well. There are exceptions, of course, but developing a skill for multiple genres takes a lot of time and failure. Can ask me my personal story about writing a live-action comedy one summer ... yikes. Also, what would that do to the overall quality of your portfolio if you naturally pumped out top-tier, Matrix-esque sci-fi content and then randomly decided to give a half-ass historical drama to an interested party? They'd probably look at you funny and lovingly say, "You're sacrificing quality for a diverse portfolio, and it's just not working for you." Actually, no. They would just pass on you as a potential client. You can love a lot of different kinds of TV/movies—just know how best to utilize your talent when it comes to genre-choice.
Third (and most importantly), it's up to the screenwriter to set the trend, not pander to one. The writers who find their big break are the ones who take risks, push boundaries, who look around the edge of what is popular now and focus on themes that might make the public uncomfortable, but two to three years down the line, it's exactly what the market is after. You might think that screenwriters would require a third eye or a premonition-like ability to accomplish this, but really all you need is a willingness to go where no one else wants to or thinks is possible.
Uncharted territory means it is ripe for the writer. Be the trend-setter—not the follower.
***Additional Advice - Only Read If You Have Nothing Better to Do***
On that note, what you should consider in your own writing are the underlying themes driving your narrative. We've established that genre is up to your personal palette, but, let's be honest, if you hand me a classic Western with a white, savior cowboy as the protag who has to save the girl (ahem "woman, please") from blood-thirsty savages because you loved watching John Wayne growing up (I did, too, if we’re still being honest) ... Well, you might have some soul-searching to do. Those themes are an old tune, and we're trying a new dance on this side of the 2000s. A dance that is more inclusive and diverse than what many lovingly refer to as “the classics.”
Not trying to hate, those movies were my childhood, too, but please, do us all a favor and leave the minority “bad guy” character in the garbage where it belongs. Remember, you're supposed to push boundaries forward as a storyteller, not backtrack. It’s crazy to think how much of society takes its cues from—you guessed it—the storyteller.
Higher calling aside, there is a down-to-earth entertainment factor to all things film that we have to consider. So, if you want to pop in the Ten Commandments for kicks on your Friday night, Charlton Heston was a hunk in every fashion of the word, and I might side-saddle on your couch for the first 20 minutes of his pre-beard appearances. This coming from someone who is Jewish and very aware of all the tropes she is watching in that film, but damn those steely eyes are worth it …
I digress, when it comes to your own writing, always bear in mind that the themes you are portraying will either attract or completely turn off your readership. Call me a millennial, but diversity really is a driving point right now, and I mean that on multiple levels. So many levels, in fact, it requires its own article …
Now, an exception to everything I'm saying would be if you've navigated a profoundly clever twist on an old theme and have somehow spun titanium out of yesteryear's gold. Say, a fresh take on a Christmas movie? Well then, maybe I'll read that script after all ... jingle bells included.
Yes, if you haven't figured it out by now, the industry is full of exceptions. So please, along with everything I've ranted about over the last 900+ words, please feel free to discard my advice along with all of the general rules floating out there and dictating what is considered "on trend" or not. It's always good to know the rules, so to speak, but what kind of writer would I be if I ever encouraged you to follow them? Well, except for proper formatting ... and sentence structure ... and ...
See how that works? Good. Lesson 1 complete.
And if you’re wondering what the hell you just read—this comes from the rambling mind of Ruth Sabin as she continues to navigate the entertainment industry. You might have heard a very similar rant on the phone at some point. If not, feel free to sign up (scroll down to "Request Q&A Call") or submit your own question to be answered.
Or, ya know, just read the next Q&A.
*Feature photo by MART PRODUCTION (Pexels)