Script Coverage Chronicles – June 2019: Scenarios Audiences Secretly Crave In Your Screenplay

A few years ago my manager submitted a script of mine to Sony.  After a weekend of nail-biting anticipation I finally found out that they!!!!!!! -- passed.  

The reason, I was told, was that they have a policy of making films offering “wish fulfillment” and this particular script didn’t fit the bill.

It got me thinking about the idea of wish fulfillment in movies, and since then I’ve noticed that audiences have a way of loving films and TV shows that play out certain scenarios.  If you include one or more of them in your story, you’ll have a better chance of selling your work.  Here are three to choose from:

One – Average Guy Attracts Beautiful Woman

How many sitcoms feature a regular guy with an unusually attractive woman?  It happens all the time.  

Think of Big Bang for example.  Leonard, while sweet, isn’t even an “average” guy.  He’s a serious nerd.  And yet: Penny?  

Audiences don’t usually talk about why, but they love watching stories like this.  They love them because they secretly want to believe this is possible.

Not enough stories flip it around the other way: an average woman with an extraordinary guy. In the past it was probably because nobody could believe any man had that kind of sensitivity and depth.  But times have changed, and this could be a great wish fulfillment scenario in modern stories.

Two – We All Get To Be “Super”

In light of the soaring box office numbers of Avengers Endgame, I’ve been wondering:  Why is it that superhero movies are so incredibly popular?  Is it because so many people love comic books? Not likely.  Only the nerdy guys – who happen to date beautiful women in sitcoms – love comics.  

The real reason superheroes are so popular is because most audience members are “powerless”. Most of us aren’t the bosses; most of us are the underlings being ordered around.  Teenagers, the core audience for superhero movies, feel ordered around by their parents and teachers.  In terms of influence, finances and control over our time, most of us feel like we have no power at all.

But the classic superhero origin story tells us that we might suddenly become powerful –very powerful.  We’re all secretly waiting for the radioactive spider of our emotional lives to bite us and set us free.  

That’s the force behind the many blockbuster superhero films – that and snarky one-liners.

Three – Against All Odds Characters Survive

We’re all secretly – or not so secretly – afraid to die.  There are many threats to our existence, and modern media broadcasts them daily.  

That’s why audiences love to see a good “survival” scenario.  Yes, it’s because life and death stories have great conflict, but it’s deeper than that.  Storylines like this affirm a belief that no matter what we face, we’ll still be all right. And our loved ones will still end up all right.  Yeah, some minor characters will bite it, but for us it’s all going to be okay.

What Do All Three Of These Have In Common?

It all comes down to hope.  

The majority of moviegoers feel less “successful” – less loved, less powerful and less safe – than they need to feel. 

But they never give up hope.

While our media presents a constant parade of super-successful people, that’s not even close to reality for most.  And that disparity causes negative feelings.

And people don’t go to movies simply to escape those feelings.  

The movies audiences really love make them believe – despite the odds – that success (however they envision it) can still happen, that it can still somehow seem likely to happen. 

That’s wish fulfillment, and for screenwriters it’s a very powerful tool.