Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reader question - writing musicals

Jordan wrote in with a question that I'm honestly surprised I haven't gotten more often:

While I understand the conventional wisdom to not include songs in specs, what about when it is the driving force of the story (like a musical)? Would it also be bad for the writer to go out of their way to commission original music for the show or musical if they aren't well versed in song writing? Are these two genres the exception to the rule or is it better to have a track record before writing a music-driven show like Glee or a musical?

As far as most people reading this blog are concerned, it's a bad idea to write a musical. It's really, really hard concept to sell on spec. I'm mildly shocked that the success of Glee hasn't provoked a few more movie musicals, but I think a big part of Glee's success comes from the fact that it uses popular music that everyone is familiar with (be they classics or current Top 40 hits.)

As far as if it's a bad idea to commission original music for your own script if you don't know songwriting, in theory, there's nothing bad about it. There are plenty of musicals - either Disney films or Broadway shows - where the writer of the "book" is completely different from the song composer. But then... those are rarely written on spec. If I was to embark on such a project, I'd want to be sure that the song composer I was working with was someone I had a good working relationship with, and who shared my vision of the script. You should take it as seriously as if you were hiring a co-writer... because you are.

In practical terms, I'd say you need a track record before creating something like Glee. Musical shows have murderous production schedules and no network would be crazy enough to put an untried show-runner on a project like that.

In my long time as a script reader, I've read precisely ONE musical script. And unfortunately, the writer didn't see fit to include a CD with his original music score so I was stuck trying to imagine the melody from the lyrics. Suffice to say, the script didn't get a "Consider."

The only way I could see a musical getting you any traction as a newcomer is if you went out and shot it yourself. I remember a few years ago there was a short film called "Zombie Love," a musical with zombies. It did well at a few festivals, but I don't know if it opened any doors for the writer or director.

So if you're asking me if writing a musical is worth your time right now, my answer would probably be "no."

PS: I can't believe some people call you BitterScriptWriter. I guess they have become so bitter about reading they take it out on you. ;)

Yeah, seriously people... it's not that hard. My names right at the top of my blog and on the Twitter account.

1 comment:

  1. Come on, you haven't considered starting a Twitter account for BittrScrptWrtr, posing as an alter-ego to yourself?