Movies don’t happen in a vacuum, they are a result of what’s on trend, societal demands, and cultural forces. Looking at the current state of the movie industry helps add some context to why it’s a good time to write low budget screenplays. There are several factors; including the rise and prevalence of streaming platforms, the influence of the pandemic generally on the movie landscape and audience behaviors, as well as the impact of the pandemic on the movie theater business.
Current Movie Trends
Starting with the trend from the streaming business, which has altered the movie business in many ways. With the rise of streamers, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, there is a greater need for content than ever. While there’s more content than ever, and more money being spent on content, not every movie can cost north of $100 million. It especially doesn’t make sense for a film that will only live on streaming, without the possibility to generate the revenue of one of the big comic book movies.
The studios have stepped up their content generation, to stay competitive and most have launched streaming platforms as well. There are also new content companies in between, attempting to capitalize on the shifts from technology, consumer behavior, the high speed internet availability. From gaming platforms to tech innovators, to cellular phone companies like AT&T and Verizon – content is king. In the meantime there is still – despite bigger budgets at the top of the food chain (Cinematic Universe-type stories, Marvel & other Franchise movies) – a plethora of distribution companies that seek lower budget content. These are distribution companies worldwide.
Low Budget Movie Trends
The benefit of lower budget movies is all about risk. Less money spent on a production (and script) keeps overall risk lower for the producer, production company, investor or distributor. Lower budget content is faster to try, easier to buy and profit from.
Pandemic Effects. A low budget screenplay is exactly what producers – big and small – and production companies around the world are seeking. For several reasons, including that travel can be uncertain, quarantines may come back. So this means a cast and crew that are expected to travel to different countries around the world is in greater danger of being delayed or shut down altogether. We aren’t completely sure if borders will close, halting or slowing production. Also with the unknowns about the virus, many performers and crew are simply more comfortable on smaller productions – with fewer people, which feels safer. The pandemic opened the floodgates to consumers really sinking their teeth into the streaming model of entertainment. So that translates into more consumers watching movies online, on tablets, laptops and phones. This is a boon for lower budget scripts which lend themselves to these formats, can be completed more quickly, and will be embraced by audience members.
Change in Movie Business Model. One big component of the changing business model in movies includes the theatrical release. If you want to write a low budget script hoping for a theatrical release in movie theaters, reset your expectations. There are fewer likely theatrical releases. Especially for lower budget movies which will tend to have lower marketing budgets. That doesn’t mean there are fewer destinations for your movie – but they will tend to be for online platforms, television, cable, streaming, indie destinations, pay per view, video on demand, and so forth. Something that the pandemic accelerated was the contraction of movie theaters. We hope they will prevail in the future, but right now we cannot count on that. What does that mean? You have ways to sell your low budget script, but don’t pin all your hopes on a blockbuster theater opening – that some highly successful indie films have had (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity, Moonlight, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) in the past. That’s not to say it COULDN’T happen, but this just isn’t a prevailing model any more. Your movie may or may not secure a release in movie theaters, but can be profitable nonetheless for whomever makes and distributes it.
It’s important to note, that even when the pandemic is long behind us, that Internet based, online movie-going is here to stay, the streaming sector is alive and likely to continue expanding, so that the need for content, in particular low budget screenplays, will continue to grow.