This is what I wrote back to him:
"There's always a danger lurking when you start thinking about what the marketplace wants. The best scripts (and the ones that make their way to the screen or stage) fall into that likability orbit by sheer accident because the writers are writing from their heart and not trying to manipulate their stories to fit what they think the public and the marketplace will be attracted to. Those that try to write to the market are often left out in the cold because by the time their script is up and out there in the world, all sensibilities have shifted and the "public" is getting turned on by something different--not to mention that the writer's heart connection with the story is at best frayed from the start. And so the writer is left with a script that's quickly passed over because it was "manufactured" to fit what he or she thought the world would want to devour.
This game of script writing is all a mystery--including what will turn people on and the luck of the draw that you as the writer just happen to have the right connections to allow your baby to slip into the hands of the perfect person who will champion the story and take it the distance. I say mystery because in my many years in this business and in talking and working with many, many people in the biz, it has become clear that there's no formula for success except genuine talent, a sense of a good story that rings true to the writer's heart, and more than a little luck that the right opportunities just happen along at the right time and your script ends up in the right hands.
So don't ever shy away from that personal story your heart is urging you to write. Don't be swayed by what you think the "market" will get excited about. It's your heart connection with your material that makes it interesting and enduring. And it's those kinds of stories that tend to attract positive attention and that eventually make it to production."
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I'm the Program Director of the low-residency MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen being offered by the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Our next residency runs January 3-11, 2015 and we are currently accepting applications. I'm also a playwright and screenwriter, producing partner in my production company Either/Or Films (The Sensation of Sight and Only Daughter), and a professional script consultant.