Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spec script no longer king in Hollywood, but not only route to success

I have to admit I have visions of sugar plumbs dancing in my head.

Here I am with a script still in the revision mode and I'm thinking about what a reasonable offer from a Hollywood studio would be. Having read (or listened to) Joe Eszterhas' book "Hollywood Animal," I figured might have a distorted view of the spec market. Esterhas went from journalist to one of the hottest writers in Hollywood mostly by selling spec scripts like Basic Instinct. He fetched $2 million for Showgirls.

This informative 2013 Vanity Fair article chronicles the ups and downs of the spec script market. A speculative script is the work of a screenwriter telling an original story not commissioned by a studio. The cold hard fact is the very few sell. According to the article, 119 were sold in 2011 followed by 96 sold in 2012.

Here is a pretty clear explanation why studios have gravitated towards tested products with built-in audiences. 
The new math isn’t complicated: pay a screenwriter $1 million for an untested, unknown idea or squeeze a movie out of an existing product with built-in branding. As a result, “developing from I.P.”—intellectual property, i.e., books, comics, video games, old movies, TV series, toys—“has become de rigueur rather than waiting for a spec to come in,” says Langley. “The focus shifted from original ideas to hedging your bets,” notes Moore. Or, as Shane Black says, “there’s only the careful choice of a product that goes through committee. It’s: how can we make movies that we absolutely know won’t lose any money?” As it happens, Black is currently directing the third installment of the billion-dollar Iron Man franchise, due for release this spring. Read the full article. 
It's the kinda thing that might drive someone towards sharp objects, but I give it no mind. The article focus on the major studios. What it doesn't address is the ability of indie producers to circumvent the studios. Developments in that realm give me the confidence my little screenplay will eventually light up movie screens even if those screens happen to fit in your pocket.

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