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Expert top tips for writing low-budget genre movies + SQ incuBAIT DEADLINE REMINDER

Submissions now closed for Screen Queensland’s new genre initiative – SQ incuBAIT. 


SQ incuBAIT will be convened by acclaimed Queensland genre writers pictured above Shayne Armstrong and Shane Krause the creative force behind The Darkness, Acolytes, BAIT 3D, who will work with up-and-coming talent to develop strong genre scripts that will appeal to genre fans of all ages and financiers.

To assist with your applications, Shayne Armstrong has put together this list of  top  tips for writing low-budget genre movies. Please note, in the current market, low-budget usually means around $750,000 – $2 million.

  1. – Premise is key – have a great premise or hook – something that makes a good “elevator pitch.”
  2. – If your story is set in Australia, make sure it’s a premise that fits well or is believable in an Australian setting or that there are precedents for that kind of story in Australia.
  3. – Know your audience/reader. Fans/audiences/readers/filmmakers have high expectations of what is to be delivered in a film in a certain genre but also crave originality and surprise so give them generally what they will be looking for in a genre but also provide them with something original, surprising and unique WITHIN the genre.
  4. – Know your genre. Make a study of the genre you’re writing in – you can learn equally well from watching the best and worst in any genre (but of course aspire to emulate the best in the genre).
  5. – Write what you know and write what you love. More importantly, write the kind of film you’d like to see on a screen – not the kind of film you think others want to see on a screen. If you’re a genre fan and your heart’s in the right place – you’ll already be doing that.
  6. – Write something visceral – make us scared, thrilled, laugh, cry. People watch movies primarily to feel (despite what they may tell you or themselves) so make them feel as well as think.
  7. – Break the rules of the genre (but only if you know them and know why you’re breaking them).
  8. – Offer something in the first ten pages that chills, thrills, frightens, scares or intrigues. Hook readers in early or lose them.
  9. – Write like a producer – always keep in mind the cost of what you’re writing and how hard or easy it would be actually produce what you’re writing.
  10. – Avoid common pitfalls when it comes to writing for low-budget: too many characters (especially speaking roles), too many location changes, too many special effects, too long. Write with what you’ve got at hand in mind. Build your concept and story around a location. Minimal locations, minimal characters, maximum thrills and chills.

Click here to read more about the SQ incuBAIT initiative.