There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to creating a sequel, and these writers want to help.
There are two types of sequel screenwriters in Hollywood. You have those who have earned the opportunity to build on their previous work, and then some are hired to take existing IP and create something new.
Creating a sequel to a beloved film is extremely difficult due to the pressure to meet the expectations of fans who loved the original. These fans want to relive their viewing experience of that first movie, and the studios want a financial (and critical) repeat of the first movie’s success.
Between the studios and the audience’s expectations for the film, the audience is the most difficult crowd for the screenwriter to satisfy. They can’t take too many big creative swings because they might taint everything that made the original movie special, but the screenwriter can’t stay too close to the original or he’ll face backlash for not approaching the narrative under a new angle, opening up the universe of the film a little more.
So how do you write a successful sequel to a beloved movie? Vulture spoke with 10 screenwriters who’ve worked on multiple genres of sequels with a variety of successes, and here’s what they learned from their experience.
Do not reverse your intentions for fear of rejection
Michael Green was faced with the daunting task of writing Blade Runner 2049. Green had the benefit of developing the script for the film with and for Ridley Scott and was able to present his story and gain Scott’s blessing to follow his intuition.
Green approached the writing process by thinking, “Okay, I’ll hit it as hard as I can, and if they don’t like it, they can always hire someone else.”
If you’re already doubting your idea and tearing it up before it’s written, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Green wanted to keep Rick Deckard in the story but wanted to open up the world by doing someone else’s story.
“At the end of the day, it’s all just fanfiction,” Green said.
You don’t have to be a fan of the original movie
Not everyone will like the original movie they’re writing a sequel to, and that’s okay. Daniel Waters found himself in this exact situation when he was hired to write the sequel to Tim Burton Batman.
Rather than focusing on the plot elements of Batman returns, Waters focused on the characters.
“It was kind of this weird movie of weird people interacting in a town, and I didn’t concern myself with A to B,” Waters said. Tim Burton didn’t give Waters specific guidelines because the director didn’t want the film anywhere near his first Batman, and Waters found himself in a predicament where he didn’t have to follow the Catwoman of Penguin characters’ past stories.
Return of Batman was a film about superheroes and villains living together in the crime-riddled capital of the DC world. Although Water wasn’t happy with the script he wrote, he feels he’s created a version of the DC characters that fits Tim Burton’s world.
Read the dialogue aloud
The beloved original films have beloved characters who have very particular dialogue that will be quoted until the end of time. When this character’s dialogue begins to change, fans will notice and feel like their hero isn’t portrayed properly.
Live free or die hard screenwriter Mark Bomback found himself challenged to perfect John McClane’s voice. Often he would read the dialogue he wrote in his best Bruce Willis impersonation, trying to emulate the witty, wicked lines that make McClane a fun hero to cheer on.
Remember you can’t please everyone
Brannon Braga and Ron Moore sat down to write their first film Star Trek: Generationswho would be the seventh star trek movie and a sequel to the TV show. Braga and Moore faced many challenges: two captains, the fans, their lack of experience and the studio.
When the film was tested, audiences didn’t respond to Kirk’s (William Shatner) original unceremonious death at the end. Audiences hated it, and Braga and Moore rewrote the ending to be much more dramatic. Fans still didn’t like the idea that Kirk was dead, but the story appealed to Shatner and the studio.
“You are always, in the back of your mind, thinking about the fans. With star trek, you realize that there is just no satisfaction for everyone,” says Braga.
Extend the first story, don’t repeat it
John Wick was a revenge story that everyone instantly celebrated and savored for the stunts, cinematography, and well-crafted story. When the studio decided to greenlight a sequel, Derek Kolstad was tasked with writing a new movie that did as well, if not better, than the first movie.
Kolstad visualized the world of John Wick like a quilt that he could add as the franchisee went on, allowing more and more pieces to be added to create a fully realized and functional world.
“You want to deviate a bit from your sequel lead to get a 3% perspective shift on the world to make it feel bigger. Then when you reprise your lead role, it’s like, “Oh fuck yeah, John Wick!” said Kolstad.
Learn from experiences
Reid Carolin wanted to separate Magic Mike XXL from the more serious and dark tone of the world of striptease explored in the first film. Carolin intended to create a road comedy that highlighted the lighter, more fantastical side of dance that he and Channing Tatum loved.
“We couldn’t be happy about that,” says Carolin.
He went to Vancouver to talk with Tatum about what happened when he went to stripper conventions to get script inspiration. Tatum recalled everyone getting in the back of the U-Hauls and ecstatic, rolling their faces, talking, and then going dancing.
This story inspired Carolin to create a moment where reality meets fantasy, which “was the moment when it got real and kinda weird and outside the confines of normal screenwriting,” Carolin says.
Explore themes and elements from the original film
creep 2 was not a sequel intended to exist as a sequel to Crawl. Instead, Patrick Brice wanted the film to be something that indulged in the more zany themes and elements of the first film.
Horror forces writers to answer the question “Why is that person still there?” Why are they putting themselves in danger? and creating a logical answer tells more about who the characters in the story are and their intentions in the bizarre world of horror.
Gender can also create heightened emotional responses when characters face death.
The sequel doesn’t have to be a real sequel
The Kent Osborne sequel, Uncle Kent 2, has absolutely nothing to do with the original film, and that’s the point.
Osborne wanted to create a sequel to Uncle Kent, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what the story would be. After getting too high one night, Osborne decided he would write until he stopped getting high.
Writing down any idea can lead to the realization that there is a much bigger story in that simple idea. The sequel doesn’t have to be a direct tie-in to the first movie, but a different story that involves the same character at a different point in their life.
Expand on what made the first film memorable
Larry Gross considered Another 48 hours. in the service of the star and actor that Eddie Murphy had become since the release of the first film. Gross wanted to give Murphy the freedom to expose his extreme behavior which the studio had initially pushed back against.
The film was a love letter to Murphy, and Gross knew he could write a script that accentuated Murphy’s comedy chops that made audiences laugh.
Don’t be afraid to be weird and weird
The Witch Blair has been a wayward franchise that hasn’t had a solid sequel that can stand alongside the original film. Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard dabbled in creating a sequel to the original film in 2016, but decided to stick close to the existing mythology rather than create something weird or quirky enough to stand on its own. own legs.
“When you’re guessing a viewer’s desires, you’re often on the wrong track,” says Barrette. Barratt and Wingard had a great deal of creative freedom when it came to creating Blair Witch, but the two decided to do something more mainstream that would appeal to a hypothetical audience.
When you start creating something that’s aimed at a hypothetical person, you’re no longer creating art that speaks to you as a writer or a filmmaker.
As a creative person, you have to create things that you think are good. If you make a mistake, learn from the mistake and try again.
Do you have any writing tips that every screenwriter should know? Leave your tips in the comments below!