Gerald Hanks Filmography

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Screenwriting: Finding Your Niche

Many rookie writers make the mistake of writing “for the market”. These aspiring scribes believe that the best ways to get their scripts converted from page to screen involve either appealing to the widest possible audience, or chasing trends found in recent script sales or current box office hits.

For writers seeking to get films made, a more effective approach often involves focusing on a specific niche audience.

The biggest reasons that rookie writers should focus on a niche audience come down to economics:

  • Films for niche audiences are often less expensive to produce. Small, focused stories can ease the burdens on producers, who must assemble the money, talent, equipment, and expertise to get your script made.
  • Fans of niche film genres will often go out of their way to see films in their favorite genre, giving producers a built-in audience that they can count on to purchase the final product.
  • Niche audiences are always demanding new material. Films for niche audiences often have an appeal that lasts longer than just a few weeks after its initial release.
  • Films for niche audiences are often profitable. Film is a business. Businesses live on profit. Revenue minus cost equals profit. High ticket sales and low production costs equals a profitable niche. In this economic structure, many writers can make a good living by writing scripts for a niche audience.

Niche vs. Genre

Just to clarify these terms, niche refers to the audience, while genre refers to the tropes used to tell specific types of stories. Niche audiences often flock to films in their favorite genre because they recognize and appreciate the genre storytelling tropes.

Here are some genres that typically appeal to niche audiences.

  • Horror / Crime / Thriller. Writer/ directors from Sam Raimi to Guillermo del Toro got their start in low-budget horror films. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez cut their teeth on low-cost shoot-'em-ups. Writers can also focus on thriller/suspense stories, without the need for a blood bath, either on screen or on the books.
  • Faith / Family Friendly. On the other end of the spectrum, films that focus on faith and family are often inexpensive to produce and have a ready-made audience. Films with a holiday theme, such as summer vacation, Thanksgiving or Christmas, are often annual favorites and can attract audiences across generations.
  • Stories for Under-Served Audiences. Stories that focus on audiences that don't often see themselves on megaplex screens can not only bring attention to your story, they can also attract talented actors and directors in those groups who are hungry for more substantial roles. Scripts that feature strong characters who happen to be women, ethnic minorities, LGBT+, physically or mentally challenged, or other under-served groups can draw audiences.

On the flip side, there are also some genres that rookie writers may be better off avoiding:

  • Historical Pieces. From clothes to hair to music to cars, historical pieces are often more difficult and more expensive to produce. If you can find any way to bring your story into the present day, you increase your chances of getting your script made.
  • Ensemble Pieces. In Old Hollywood, “A Cast of Thousands” was a sign of a prestige picture. Today, a script with a large cast is the sign that the writer lacks focus. A script that focuses on a single protagonist, a single antagonist, and a handful of supporting characters not only forces the writer to keep the story tight, it also shows producers that the writer understands the limitations involved in low-budget productions. 
  • Sci-fi /Superhero. One of the big reasons that sci-fi and superhero films are successful today as if they have audiences that have followed the characters and storylines from other media, such as novels, comic books, or TV shows. Inexperienced writers who try to push their original sci-fi or superhero concepts face an uphill battle. Not only do their stories lack that built-in audience, but also the financial and technical requirements involved in producing a high-quality film in the genre can be cost-prohibitive to getting the script made.

Remember, your end goal as a screenwriter is NOT to win screenwriting contests.

It's NOT to get rave reviews from your friends or your writers’ group.

It's NOT to earn grants.

It’s NOT to get a “RECOMMEND” rating on a coverage report written by a studio intern.

It's NOT even to get an agent or manager.

All of these are means toward the true end goal.

Your end goal should be to write a script that gets you PAID and gets a movie MADE.

Whether you’re writing for a niche audience, or your penning a screenplay for the masses, Story Into Screenplay can help. Story Into Screenplay offers one-on-one consultations, coverage reports, and script writing and rewriting services.

For more information, email Story Into Screenplay on the form on this page or at storyintoscreenplayblog at You can also reach Story Into Screenplay at our Facebook page.

Good luck and keep writing!