Genre Sells Stories

Genre sells- Terminator 3
The lasting popularity of films such as Terminator is proof that genre sells, if attached to name producers, directors, and actors.

If a certain genre sells more than another, what’s the problem? Identify the most popular one and write in that genre.

The problem is that Hollywood sees certain genres as being in flux.

According to screenwriting guru, Michael Hauge, some genres are currently hard to sell. If your story concept falls within one of those, your effort to acquire seed money from a major studio will be that much harder. 

Here are some of the genres in question: 

Musicals in the mold of Oklahoma are almost impossible to sell. Feature-length, MTV-inspired Flashdance type movies, however, are not.

“If you buy into the idea that genre sells, but are sold on writing in a currently unpopular one, your best bet is to self-finance. Who knows? Your story might just help reawaken a sleeping giant.”

Westerns are currently a difficult though not impossible sell, unless a big name director gets behind the project, as are period films, meaning anything pre-1970s, biographies, and science fiction—due to the high budgets associated with this latter genre. Here, again, the attachment of a specific director to the project can make all the difference—as The TerminatorAliens and Avatar directed by James Cameron, has clearly proven. 

Perhaps the most acceptable of these financially-jittery genres is the horror film, especially if independent financing is sought. 

Of course, in saying this, I do not mean to suggest that films belonging to these genres never get made—only that they are not favoured by the big studios, off the bat.

By contrast, genres representing action adventure, suspense thriller, love story, comedy, drama or any combination thereof, tend to be viewed favourably by Hollywood. If your script belongs to any of those genres, its marketability is high.


Genre sells means that certain genres are easier to market to studios and independent producers. Choosing a poplar genre maximises the chance of a first-time writer achieving success. 

2 thoughts on “Genre Sells Stories

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    One of the amazing things about Hollywood is that it’s constantly changing with the times. Thanks to the breathe taking speed of the evolution of technology no two decades are the same. During the 70’s and 80’s Hollywood saw the raise of the VHS tape recorder. This new technology enabled consumers to record cable programming as well as rent out or buy any film they wanted. A new technology meant that new independent studios rose to compete against the majors. It would mark the beginning of a golden age for the action genre. These cheap B movies driven by cold war politics brought stars like Jean claude van damme , Steven seagal and Dolph Lundgren into the spot light. These movies usually were set in urban American cities that were under threat by a cartoon like Soviet / far East antagonist and it was up to the no nonsense passive aggressive American to save the day. The independent studios produced these action movies on a industrial scale because it was easy to sell them all across the world. This overly romanticized version of America marks the final chapter of films that did not depend on computer animation or digital special effects to advance a narrative. Now in the 2020’s Hollywood has evolved yet again. Streaming services is a new technology which means a new era of profitability and for a new genre to dominate the landscape.

    In short : Comparing Netflix to its competition what are the genres that are trending ?


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