Q&A: Quality vs Commerciality

Q: A couple months have gone by since I completed my two screenplays. I have queried multiple agencies through the proper channels and have not gotten any success. All of my main characters are Sikh because I am also an aspiring actor and my dream is to act in and direct my own work. Is it wrong of me to write screenplays with Sikh characters and hope that someone will option my work, or should I start writing in order to sell my work instead of writing good quality screenplays with unique characters?
(The two log lines were included with the question, which I will keep confidential.)

A: I can’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t write. But I can say that an unproven writer who insists on writing screenplays about Sikh characters for American audiences and continues submitting his screenplays – including one about a young man’s suicide – to Hollywood agents (who are interested in movies with high commercial potential), and who then attaches himself to act in the project, should not expect a positive response.

Your question also implies that you have only two options: writing work that sells or writing work of quality. But if you truly believe that nothing Hollywood produces or profits from has any artistic merit, then Hollywood isn’t the place for you. You’ll either be miserable because you’re selling out, or miserable because you can’t sell your work.

It’s fine to write about Sikhs, or whoever else you wish to. But then market those scripts to companies who have previously financed scripts about (and for) Sikhs. If there are none, and if you are serious about wanting a career as a Hollywood screenwriter/actor/director, create screenplays with real commercial appeal. Or at least screenplays that share some similarity with previously successful low budget/independent productions.