Producing Films That Sell: A Genre Guide for Filmmakers

When producing a feature film, we all want to ensure our investments are secure and our efforts are rewarded. And one way to do that is by focusing on film genres that sell.

I was recently reminded of the power of genre when a friend recently sent me a feature drama project to review.

I looked at the project and told him the prospects for selling it would be limited unless he got some serious star talent in the film. This is because independently produced dramas can be a tough sell, even with star talent.

Producing Films That Sell
Producing Films That Sell

With all this in mind, I devised an idea for my friend’s film. I reread the script and realized it wouldn’t take too much to turn his edgy indie drama into an action film with a no-star cast. It would make the writing even better.

Finding Film Genres That Sell

This suggestion came to me for one reason only – Around the world, ACTION sells. And you usually don’t need an A-lister to sell it.

While we are on the subject of “tough sells,” consider avoiding comedies that are too edgy. Meaning there’s a lot of sex, cursing, or drug use.

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Outside of appealing to the market, certain international territories (like China) have censored boards. And these countries won’t even consider films that touch on subjects they deem too controversial.

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Action films fit into a category referred to as “evergreen.”  These films play well internationally because you don’t need to know the language to understand the action. And as a result, when I attend film markets, many buyers ask if I have action films. 

In addition to action, other film genres that sell include sci-fi and horror. These films are attractive because they have an easily identifiable, built-in audience.

If you find these genres are not appealing to you artistically, you might consider making Christmas-themed dog or cat films. Or heck, sometimes non-offensive RomComs tend also to attract buyers. 

All this to say, you must find the balance between art and business. You have to decide your goals for the film. If you aim to get your independent voice out there with an edgy drama, you’re welcome to do so. Just know that this may reduce your distribution opportunities.

And if your goal is to make money on the film, your best bet would be to focus on film genres that sell. If you’re interested in learning more about developing your film, check out my series on film distribution.

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Tom Malloy is a film producer, actor, and writer. Over the course of his career, he has raised over twenty-five million dollars to produce, and distribute multiple feature films. If you're ready to "level up" your film producing, make sure to check out Movie Plan Pro. The video training and downloadable film business plan template will provide you with the same tools Malloy uses when approaching prospective film investors.