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Writer's Edge: Why The Drama Genre Is So Hard to Sell

By Steve Kaire

I attended an agents and managers panel in Los Angeles this past spring. When the event was winding down, audience members asked if they could submit their material for possible representation. Each member of the panel had the same answer. They’d consider every genre except one - drama.

After I gave a seminar in New York this summer, the leader of the group sponsoring the event mentioned an upcoming pitch festival. There was one stipulation - do not pitch any dramas to the participating production companies.

drama genre

On my High Concept CD, I rank every major genre in terms of how easy they are to sell. The list has three tiers. The top tier contains the easiest genres to sell. Those genres in the middle tier are somewhat harder to sell. The bottom tier features the most difficult genres of all to sell. They include westerns, musicals, period films and dramas.

Why is this? Of all the genres, dramas pack the most emotional punch. They also comprise ninety nine percent of all Academy Award nominations with the exception of an occasional musical or comedy.

The answer is a simple one. Dramas cover serious subjects like death, divorce and other details of our troubled lives. Audiences, by and large, are drawn to a lighter fare. They go to the theatre to be amused or entertained and don’t want to be forced to think too much. They want to escape from the daily problems they face all the time and don’t need to be reminded of them on the big screen.

Dramas have limited audience appeal and box-off receipts bear those statistics out. The writers who get assignments to write dramas are veterans with credits and generally don’t write on spec. So submit your adventure or comedy scripts and file your dramas away until you make it big.

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