Briefly, it is important to learn how to write genre pieces and to, especially for new writers or at least un-produced ones, keep at the genre for a while. If you are great at thrillers, stick with it. You can write a comedy too if you have a great one in you, but stay on a path. It is important for many reasons.
There is an abundance of talent in Hollywood and elsewhere. Lots of writers who can write and many who cannot. Stick with what you do best and keep at it. You will write better and better if you keep on the same line. If you are looking for a representative, show him/her that you have this talent and they will take you on. Having a client who writes very well in one genre can be a huge asset. I was recently asked for a writer to bring a story to life about crime on Venice Beach in the 1990’s. I knew who I could put forth because I knew for sure that this writer could write that script. I also knew other writers of mine could but their samples wouldn’t show it. I had samples to for this specific writer he got a meeting (hasn’t gotten the job…..yet!)
When you are trying to sell your work to a studio or to a network, it’s important you have many samples in a certain genre. It can’t be a fluke that you wrote something funny. You have to always be able to write something funny. This is true more so for television staffing. Often networks want to see more than one sample when considering someone to staff so it’s important that you have been working at that genre and getting your best out of it.
To differentiate yourself you must brand yourself. We know what we’re going to get from Christopher Nolan. We know what we’re going to get from Quentin Tarantino. This helps their movies get made (yes, I know, THEY don’t need help NOW) because the audience knows what to expect. Nicholas Spark’s books and screenplays are of a certain ilk. So were Nora Ephron’s. It’s safe and sellable.
Don’t worry! Once you are established and you get a good amount of work from people knowing what you can do you can throw them a curve ball and write something else, but for a while you have to play along and you have to hone your own craft. Writing a comedy is very different from writing a thriller and writing an action movie is a completely different ball game. I have some great writers who are hard to categorize and it’s hard to sell them when an open assignment comes along. People want to know this is what they do. No one has a lot of imagination. It’s sad but true. One day Christopher Nolan will write a saccharine love story and no one will know what to do. These things have happened before. However, the smart creative people know what they do best and they stick with it, whether it works for us or not. Michael Bay? Yep, we know what it’ll be. For a while we knew what Adrian Lyne was going to do and so on. Yes, these are directors but the same applies. If you are creating you need to be known for what you create. We all need a hook to sell ourselves and writers are no different. Knowing what you’re going to get in Hollywood is a very comforting thing amongst executives if not audiences and it’ll guarantee you more work even if it means you have to put your historical period piece on the shelf for a few years while you get your young adult supernatural persona out there making money.