By Justine Owens.
Whenever the discussion of “trends” comes up in screenwriting circles, the seasoned advice is to avoid drawing any conclusions from them and stick to your story. But actually, it’s a bit of a catch-22 situation.
Often, if you set out to write something “on-trend,” by the time you’ve written it, whatever was trending when you started has already been milked for everything it was worth, and everyone’s moved on to the next big thing.
But examining what’s happening in today’s cinema and television and how viewers are choosing to consume media can signpost you to new opportunities to develop your storytelling skills and present new possibilities in terms of getting your story produced.
So, much has been made of the negative impacts on the entertainment industry in the last few years. The pressures of the pandemic, the volatility of employment, growing cultural malaise, and general cynicism have been felt by many screenwriters.
But I would also like to argue that what has quietly been growing in the background is a powerful combination of convergence of storytelling techniques and an expanding field of expressive opportunities.
The audience of today is a demanding one, and rightly so. The rise of personal political activism and advocacy for greater diversity has mirrored the move away from a dependent relationship with network schedules and toward a rise of selective binge-watching on subscription streamers. The pandemic’s check on major studio distribution schedules has changed the debate about what constitutes a proper “release” and growth in the number of industry accolades for independent films.
Over the last few years, what has become startling apparent is that “television” is no longer a poor relation in the family. The popular shows of today not only frequently match the budgets and cast lists of films but have also embraced the more innovative storytelling techniques and the supporting production technology that facilitates those “wow” moments formerly only seen on the big screen.
So, let’s take in 5 emerging storytelling trends in today’s entertainment industry.
Potty-Mouthed Period Drama & Sexy Bodice-Rippers
Granted, period drama has been a stalwart of television for many years. But recently, there has been a clear move away from classic adaption into a more irreverent — yet one might argue relevant — storytelling style. From Bridgerton to The Great, Dickinson to Versailles, we are being confronted with modern-day protagonists setting their goals and facing down their challenges in the context of historical stories. This refreshing reminder that people have always been people lends even greater authenticity and potency to an examination of the constraints of the past — and today!
Diversity and the Female Protagonist
The rise of the female protagonist has surely not escaped anyone’s notice in recent years. And the industry has quickly moved from simply balancing the numbers to creating a series where almost all the cast is female: Fleabag, Killing Eve, Better Things, Maid, and most recently Chloe (from our roster director Alice Seabright). All these shows point up the potential for not just representing more women on screen, but different types of women; flawed women, evil women even. The same is beginning to happen for diversity in race and ability, and more slowly concerning age. We applaud those who continue to increase the opportunities for entertainment to mirror the diversity of the world around us.