By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)
Actors have long worried that certain characters or film genres would limit their ability to get different parts. Typecasting can be a boon for some actors and a nightmare for others, but it can also be the same with screenwriters.
I admit that when it comes to my writing, my mind tends to wander towards a specific genre, horror, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have great ideas for comedies, dramas, etc. It’s just that what I enjoy and like to watch, so that’s what my writing tends to be about. When a writer becomes successful for a specific film or genre, then it makes it easier for them to write in that genre, but difficult in others.
People assume that since you do one genre so well that it’s all you can do. One of the greatest examples of screenwriter typecasting is William Peter Blatty. Blatty wrote “The Exorcist” and co-wrote the screenplay. It was a huge success and has become one of the iconic horror movies of our generation. It also became synonymous with William Peter Blatty.
When he went to the studios to pitch other types of movies, they pretty much shot him down before he walked through the door. No one remembered that Blatty wrote the James Bond spoof “A Shot In the Dark” or “The Great Bank Robbery.” Once he became known for horror, it was set in stone and he hard a hard time doing anything else.
Typecasting: Good Or Bad
The question becomes is typecasting a bad thing for screenwriters? I guess it all depends on how you think about it. Being known for a specific film or genre moves you higher on the list for that specific genre. So, when your pitching a horror movie to a studio, you can say that you’ve got proven success and list your credits. It may not get the movie made, but it might get your foot in the studio door.
There is no better feeling that knowing your movie has been optioned and is on the fast track to production. There’s a lot of competition out there and any edge you can have is usually a good one. If you want to be a genre writer, then typecasting it great. You get street cred in the industry and you can grow your brand into a genre specific powerhouse. If you’re known for romantic comedies, then when a studio needs a writer for their latest rom-com, then they might give you a call.
The problem comes when you want to cross genres. If you’ve written rom-coms and want to get your feet wet in horror, then studios may have a hard time believing in your ability. Odds are they’ll see your name on the script and not even bother reading it. You could have the greatest horror movie ever created, but until someone reads it, it’s just words on a page.
Blatty never quite got over “The Exorcist” typecasting in much the same way Leonard Nimoy had a difficult time with Spock for years after Star Trek ended. You can either embrace typecasting like Bruce Campbell or fight like hell to overcome it.
One way to fight typecasting is to not write several genre specific movies in a row. If you get a horror film in production, then write a comedy next. Sometimes you may have no choice, but if you don’t want to be typecast, then you need to fight it every step of the way and never give up.