I got this question recently:
Just to set the scene, I am a very new writer into the film industry with no contacts as I’m sure is the same situation with many other writers. I believe I have a very interesting and unique storyline, which either way could be shortened into a feature film but also easily adapted into a series. I personally prefer a series as I believe it can become a very complex story while maintaining the key interests of today’s audiences. For example, it has the characteristics of a current very successful series but with a very different storyline.
What I would like to know is, in terms of success stories, the chance of it ‘making it’ and what producers are looking for, what would be better to write, a feature film or a television series?
First, read my post about creating your own television show,
How to create an original television series (breaking into television writing).
If you’re sure your idea would work best as a television show then my advice is to put it on the back burner until you’ve established yourself either as a television writer or a feature film writer. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have contacts and experience and getting an original show off the ground may be possible. But as a novice it’s probably not possible.
So with that said, you need to come up with other ideas. If all of your ideas are original ideas then turn them work on ones that will work as a feature film. While it’s very difficult to sell a feature film script for anyone, especially novices, it is possible. I wouldn’t try and squeeze an idea that you feel should be a television series into a 2 hour movie. Just move on to your next idea.
One important point that many beginners don’t realize is that a career as a screenwriter isn’t about one great idea. It’s about consistently coming up with great ideas and being able to consistently execute those ideas. Many wanna-be writers fall in love with their one “brilliant” idea (which usually isn’t half as great as they think it is) and they spend years working on it. My advice is to write it up – quickly – and then move on to another idea… and another… and another. And by your fourth or fifth or maybe even sixth script you might actually write something that’s pretty decent.