I was going to call this post "Market Research" - but I didn't. Are you kidding??? Imagine the sound of all the delete keys being hit at once. That's because when we think of market research we think of these nonsensical diagrams above.
But if we are to succeed as writers (and film makers) then shouldn't we try to understand our market a little bit. If we don't then this is the scenario...
You spend a year writing a spec script. People quite like it but won't make it because they know that the industry can't support your $10 million World War One epic. At the moment not enough people will pay to see it. So that's that.
Well if you knew that at the start you might not have done it, or you may have reduced its priority and written another one of your great ideas first. All market research means is finding that information out early.
Questions that might be going through your mind:
One: Yeah, but Tim. You said we must write the stories we want in a recent post. Now you're saying write for the market. Wrong! I'm saying that any idea you are putting foward must be a good, personal vision idea. But instead of spending 6 months writing one script you could work up 6 ideas to market research.
Two: But nobody buys treatments / outlines! Correct. But you're not selling anything are you. You are doing market research. Its nice to offer people a meeting where someone isn't trying to pitch / flog something. Its just a chat to discuss your feature treatments. Of course, if your lead happens to like the idea then this is good news for your market research and good news as you can put them top of your list of people to send the script to when it is finished.
Three: Does it work? Yes. This was my stategy last year at Cannes. I got 20 meetings from a standing start - no previous contacts.