In 2013, I posted some analysis of spec script deals from 1991-2012:
Recently we have seen quite a few studies and analysis pointing out gender inequity in the entertainment business including independent films, television, even the theater. Now we can add spec scripts to the mix.
The post included an infographic of spec script deals by gender from 1991-2012, based on the database of deals aggregated and archived on this site here.
The numbers showed that during the last two decades, only 1 out of 8 spec scripts that sold were written by a woman. We have updated the numbers to include 2014 and 2015 results and here is a revised infographic:
In 2014 of the 78 writers who were involved with reported spec script deals, 12 of them were women (15%).
In 2015 of the 69 writers, 10 of them were women (14%).
Thus the questions persist: What is the deal here? Does this mean there are fewer women interested in screenwriting? For example, only 28.6% of applicants for the 2013 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting (my most recent information) were women, but female writers involved in only one out of eight spec script sales translates to 13%.
Given the consistency of that percentage over the years (13-14%), clearly we are looking at a systemic issue.
The Black List is trying to do something about this inequity. For example in October, I participated as a mentor in a Black List Screenwriting Mini-Lab in New York City in association with the Athena Film Festival. There I and three other mentors worked with four women writers on their feature script projects. In addition, a Women In Film/The Black List Episodic Lab was recently announced, an eight week program beginning in August 2016 with eight women writers to be selected.
There’s much to be done. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Note: It is impossible to track every single spec spec transaction. The numbers here are based on the best information available.
It’s 1989. My writing partner and I are meeting with director Joel Schumacher about a sequel to the movie The Lost Boys, a surprise hit which he directed. As I sit listening to his ideas, I am thinking, “This isn’t a sequel. It’s a remake.” With one difference: There are girl vampires.
Assured that Warner Bros. has signed off on Schumacher’s take, we go off and write the script. It’s an awfully lot like the original — but with GIRL VAMPIRES! — yet the message we keep getting from Herr Director: It’s okay.
These are vampires… but they are GUYS!
When we turn in the script, it’s not okay. The big note? “This feels more like a remake than a sequel.”
Guess who throws the writers under the bus? “I don’t know what they were doing. Those ideas never came from me.”
And so another casualty of Development Hell.
But here’s the thing: Turns out we were about 25 years too early. Because what we were writing was a requel.
What the hell is a requel? Thanks to an article in yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter, we now know:
Hollywood’s done the remakes, reboots, prequels and threequels. The latest obsession: the “requel,” a movie that’s both a reboot and a sequel, blending old with new in an effort to extend the life of a franchise and, in the best cases, reinvent it for a “universe” of follow-up movies.
That’s precisely what our version of The Lost Boys 2 was: A reboot and a sequel, blending old with new — WITH GIRL VAMPIRES!
God knows, we would have been heroes with that script in today’s world!
More from THR:
When it works, it’s a potent combo. During the March 25-27 weekend, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice — a reboot of the Batman franchise in the post-Dark Knight era that’s also a sequel to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel Superman movie — debuted to a March record $166.1 million in North America and $422.6 million globally, making it the No. 1 superhero launch to date.
Unlike BvS, most “requels” revive franchises that have been dormant for years, if not decades. Steven Spielberg struggled for years to bring Jurassic Park back from extinction but couldn’t find a way in. Finally, Spielberg, producer Frank Marshall and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow embraced the 1993 original and returned the action to the fictional Isla Nublar with new dinosaurs and stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Jurassic World roared to $1.67 billion globally.
Six months later, an even bigger requel arrived in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams’ love letter to 1977’s Star Wars that shrewdly paired new actors with original stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. The Disney/Lucasfilm movie has earned a mammoth $2.06 billion globally and, more importantly, set the course for a series of follow-ups and spinoff movies. “With Star Wars or any project that revisits a world or characters that are known and beloved, it’s essential to remember and honor what made the original resonate with people in the first place — otherwise you wouldn’t be going back — but it’s equally important that you bring something fresh and relevant,” says Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. “There has to be a way in for today’s audience.”
The emergence of the requel is nostalgia — one part of the New Four-Quadrant Movie Model — meets the fear of greenlighting movies to the max. It is ‘similar but different’ with the axis tilted far toward similar. Similar as in ‘Safe’.
And audiences seem to be eating it up.
Which means this is your immediate future, movie fans: Requels. Who knows? Maybe you have The Lost Boys 2 — WITH GIRL VAMPIRES! — to blame.
For more of the Hollywood Reporter article, go here.
In the movie industry, a four-quadrant movie is one which appeals to all four major demographic “quadrants” of the moviegoing audience: both male and female, and both over- and under-25s. Films are generally aimed at at least two such quadrants, and most tent-pole films are four-quadrant movies.
Male. Female. Adult. Children. Been around for quite a while. However it seems to me that’s the old four-quadrant approach, one that’s being replaced at the major Hollywood studio level by a new model comprised of these elements:
Spectacle. International. Franchise. Nostalgia.
Let’s consider the emergence of each.
Spectacle: Hollywood has always had a fascination with big, bold, brash movies. Consider the 1923 silent movie The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille, story by Jeanie Macpherson:
Walls of fire! The parting of the Red Sea! DeMille was the king of spectacle movies and for decades the major studios of Hollywood have relied on this type of entertainment to make a big splash in movie theaters.
Two things. First, it used to be the studios would only make a few spectacle movies per year. Why? Because they are expensive to produced. The rest of their slate typically would be comprised of a range of other movie genres and budgets to feed into their distribution system. That’s all changed. Consider Walt Disney Pictures. As reported in a recent Forbes article:
They have three animated films (Zootopia, Finding Dory, and Moana), two Marvel movies (Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange), three “animated classic made into live-action fantasy” offerings (The JungleBook, Alice Through the Looking Glass,and Pete’s Dragon), a Steven Spielberg-directed Raul Dahl fantasy (The B.F.G.) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Most of the 13 movies in Disney’s 2016 release slate rely heavily on mammoth stunning visuals which raises the second point: With the development of digital technologies and computer generated imagery, the spectacle of today is more spectacular than ever. Consider the trailer for the upcoming Paramount / MGM remake of the classic movie Ben-Hur:
Compared to the trailer of the 1925 original, it’s easy to see just how far the capability to create amazing visuals in production and post-production has led to a flood of big budget Hollywood movies awash in spectacle.
Of course, the major studios wouldn’t be making spectacle movies unless they had an audience. And boy, do they in large part due to the second corner of the New Four-Quadrant Movie Model.
International: When I first broke into the business in the 80s, people used to refer to box office revenues outside North America as the “foreign market”. A rather dismissive term, but perhaps explicable seeing as domestic revenues comprised 70% compared to 30% from overseas theaters and ancillary streams.
Now it’s completely the opposite: What we now call the international market is responsible for 70% of box office revenues, a number which figures to continue going higher with China’s rapid expansion as a movie-going nation along with growth in other countries.
What this means is no major Hollywood movie gets greenlit without due consideration of how it’s going to play in countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. That means story, setting, a reliance of visual storytelling, even casting.
Let’s consider one movie as an example:
The cast features 3 characters from the U.S., 1 from the U.K., 1 from Japan, and 1 from the Middle East, and a plot that takes the story all around the world, each of which widens the movie’s appeal for international audiences.
Speaking of China, everything points to it becoming a touchstone for major Hollywood movies as it was in The Martian which featured a significant subplot in which the Chinese National Space Administration emerge as part of the heroic rescue effort. To date the movie has grossed $628M in total box office revenues, $400M of which has come from the international market and fully $95M – nearly a quarter of the money generated outside North America – from China.
The conventional wisdom nowadays is that big spectacle movies translate well in international markets in part because they are less reliant on dialogue and more on visual storytelling, the more eye-popping and mouth-gaping, the better. Moreover these type of movies are what Hollywood – and Hollywood alone – has the resources and expertise to develop, produce, market, and distribute. “Big Hollywood movie” seems to translate into any language around the world.
Franchise: One thing about big spectacle movies aimed at huge markets, both domestic and international, is they cost a lot to make. What used to be an unthinkable amount of money for a movie, say, $100M production budget, is now at the low end of major Hollywood studio releases. We are talking movies with budgets of $200-250M even before marketing costs.
With those type of costs come significant risks and there have already been some big budget box office misfires released in the first quarter of 2016, Gods of Egypta notable example. This risk has led to Hollywood’s third corner of the New Four-Quadrant Movie Model: Franchise.
Hearkening back once again to the 80s when I first entered the movie business, the financial model was a studio would only consider greenlighting a sequel if it could be projected to make back 50% or more of the original. In other words, it was assumed sequels would generate less revenue than the original.
Cut to 2001 with the movie The Fast and the Furious. Total worldwide B.O.: $207M.
In 2003, the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious: Total B.O.: $236M.
In 2006, the next sequel The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift didn’t do nearly as well: $158M. But look at what’s happened since:
By the way, the international chunk of the Furious 7 haul in theatrical revenues was $1.16B, three times the amount of domestic box office.
Is it any wonder Universal has sequels 8, 9, and 10 already on their release slate? Every 2 years, they can point to a FF sequel and feel pretty damned confident they are going to make a killing. Hence the value for a studio to have several franchises on their development slate.
So the other day when it was announced that Netflix had ponied up $90M for Bright, a package that included David Ayer (director), Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (actors), and a Max Landis spec script for which they paid $3M, there was this note in Deadline:
Though it will be R-rated, Bright is much closer to Men in Black‘s commercial qualities and VFX than anything Netflix has done before, and it is meant to launch a franchise [emphasis added].
All of those remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels we see every summer and Christmas holiday season? That represents Hollywood addiction to franchises – and that is going away no time soon.
Nostalgia: The top two movies in domestic box office in 2015 were Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Jurassic World. Both movies are awash in nostalgia.
In SW:TFA, we thrilled to see our old friends — R2D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and [spoiler alert] You Know Who at the very end.
In JW, there was a kind of meta-nostalgia at work since the characters were revisiting the old haunts, the audience got to experience what they experienced, but also revisit what we had felt when we saw the original Jurassic Park. This is driven home no more clearly than by comparing these two scenes:
In Jurassic Park, the famous ‘Spielberg stare’ features the characters gawking in amazement at their initial glimpse of the dinosaurs. In Jurassic World, we see the same stare only it’s people astonished at seeing the park for the first time. In a way the characters are like us as we revisit our first trip to the movie Jurassic Park. And that tips off one nostalgic bit of business after another… after another… after another in JW.
I should note that if the nostalgia craze is driven by audiences wishing to relive moments from their past, it also can work with the old four-quadrant model: Adults who get to see movies like Star Wars and Creed, recalling films from their youth, along with children and teenagers.
One final point: Since nostalgia movies are based on preexisting material, this also plays into Hollywood’s obsession with pre-branded content, another piece of conventional wisdom about maximizing profit and avoiding risks.
So there you have it, the New Four Quadrant Movie Model: Spectacle. International. Franchise. Nostalgia. Frankly, I think it’s transcended the old model, at least insofar as the major Hollywood studios are concerned.
But all things must change and with the success of Deadpool, perhaps Hollywood is on the verge of a new New Four Quadrant Movie Model featuring this element: R-Rated Superhero Movies.
Takeaway: As writers, if you want to work in the mainstream commercial tentpole space, you have to be cognizant of these four narrative elements because that’s what they are: Dynamics you will want to exploit in your story. If, you prefer dramas, comedies, horror, thrillers, and indie films, fortunately there are production companies and financiers eager to procure and make these type of movies to fill in multiple niches the major Hollywood studios overlook in their rush to big profits via big budget movies.
That said, no matter what type of stories we choose to write, we can use these four quadrants as reminders:
Spectacle: Movies are primarily a visual medium.
International: Expand your consciousness as to who your audience can be.
Franchise: If your story opens itself up to sequels, great.
Nostalgia: Don’t forget that audiences want to feel something when they watch a movie.
Cassian Elwes. Lynette Howell. Christine Vachon. Three producers who have a pronounced effect on the independent movie culture. Their producing credits include All Is Lost, Big Eyes, Boys Don’t Cry, Far From Heaven, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Dallas Buyers Club among many other notable titles.
For the second year in a row, they are promoting the Horizon Award:
What is the HORIZON AWARD?
This award is part of the solution to a not just a growing problem in filmmaking today, but rather a systemic breakdown in who is being afforded the opportunity to get behind the camera. This year 2nd Annual Horizon Award will be given to 2 female directors who will receive an all expenses paid trip to the 2016 Sundance Film Festival where they will meet with producers, filmmakers, festival programmers and others in the film industry to help put them at the head of the line as for too long they have been forced to stand in the back. In addition to the trip and introductions, the winners will also each receive a $1,000 cash prize.
Why two women directors?
Gender Disparity in Filmmaking The simple fact is that there are not enough female directors in the film industry. A 2012 report published by Women In Film and the Sundance institute showed that of the the top 250 domestic grossing movies worldwide in 2012, women comprised only 9% of directors.
More recently, a 2015 Study was published and showed that of the top 100 domestic grossing movies in 2014, only 1.9% had a female director. The purpose of the horizon award is to confront this discrepancy by giving a female college student or recent graduate the opportunity to have their work seen by some of Hollywood’s most influential directors and producers and raise the profile of female filmmakers.
What We Need By donating, you are contributing to an important effort to provide opportunities for highly talented young female directors looking to succeed in the film industry. To make this possible, we need to raise $20,000 to provide travel, accommodation and other expenses for the winner. Cassian Elwes will personally match the last $5,000 donated towards the award. Any money above $20,000 that the campaign makes will a) help fund future horizon awards to make it an annual opportunity, and b) establish partnerships to create more opportunities for female film making.
One thing I have been about at Go Into The Story since Day One is to support more and different movies created by more and different filmmakers. We cannot control the major Hollywood studios and their obsession with remakes, reboots, and sequels. What we can do is support efforts to engender greater diversity among writers and directors in the hopes they will create distinctive stories which both entertain and speak to the human condition.
To support the Horizon Award 2016 like I have, you may visit their Indiegogo site here.
As we ‘celebrate’ Force Friday, where consumers are in a frenzy snapping up new Star Wars toys, it’s good to remember that it all starts with story. It’s no surprise that Disney – which owns Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilms – understands this. Check out Walt Disney’s organizational chart back from the days Walt himself headed up the company:
Notably missing from the chart is a big fat circle named MERCHANDISE. Nobody knows merchandise better than Disney and in one way of thinking, Star Wars is not so much a movie franchise, as a toy franchise.
Takeaway: Stories are intellectual properties which can literally reap billions of dollars of revenues for corporations like Disney. And if story is the foundation for everything, as evidenced by its pole position in Walt’s chart, that means storytellers are a critical piece of the puzzle. So when you see this:
Remember… that piece of merchandise was created by a writer and their words.
HT to Deborah Kawaguchi for sending this tweet my way.
Over at the Black List, among the titles the super bright Terry Huang has is Director of Data, and his latest post features some interesting… well… data.
I’ve been recently providing data to a screenwriter to help her pitch her new female-driven comedy and thought it would make an interesting case study. Basically, she’s going out to financiers to ask for money to direct and wanted help to make a financial case to back the film.
Here are two interesting charts of data Terry uncovered:
We were looking specifically at female driven comedies, so I wanted to look at what someone could expect to get for financing such a film.
This chart shows male versus female comedy budgets year over year.
Female = blue, Male = red
Female led comedies get far less money for production. The median budget for female led comedy is around $20 million. For reference, the median male comedies are given about $7 million more each year.
So I sort of knew how much a female comedy was historically financed at, but how did it the return compare to male driven comedies? Did male driven comedies warrant the higher production budgets based on their theatrical grosses?
The answer was not really.
If you look at the gross for male versus female, you find that even given substantially lower budgets, female performs in line with male comedy and sometimes outperforms.
Female = blue, Male = red
When you look at the median film for female comedies, it more often than not returns higher than the median male driven comedy (7 out of 11 years shown), even though if you look at the chart above the median male comedy gets again about $7 million more in production budget (as stated previously).
So I went into it trying to figure out a way to make a case for the female driven comedy and it wasn’t that hard. It turned out that female driven comedy more often returns its budget.
It seems then that studios are probably overspending on male content and underspending on female content given the grosses. They should probably be more selective about the dollars they give out to male led movies and a little more generous to female led content.
Charlton Heston once said, “The problem with movies as art is they are commerce.” At the end of the day, someone has to pony up the cash to get a movie made. Hopefully armed with information like that which Terry has surfaced, writers and directors who are promoting a worthy female driven comedy will find more receptive financiers.
I have no idea who @MysteryExec is. All I know is it’s been a blast tracking his lifestyle via his tweets which for long stretches of time have involved providing behind the scenes snark about his work environment and anything to do with the Valley, then heading out for play time which typically translates into consuming copious amounts of Chivas 18 while chasing female companionship in the watering holes of Westwood.
But in the last few months, something happened to @MysteryExec. Yes, he still pursues carnal knowledge bathed in scotch, but in a moment of what I can only imagine was akin to achieving “total consciousness” a la Carl from Caddyshack, @MysteryExec realized something: The Hollywood filmmaking community can do better.
In fact, @MysteryExec coined a hashtag to that effect: #BeTheChange.
For all we know, @MysteryExec may be some community college dropout working as a stock boy at a pissant Radio Shack in Pacoima, but when he goes into #BeTheChange mode, it doesn’t matter: He is a prophet crying in the wilderness, proclaiming the truth from high atop Mount Twitter.
Writers, heed @MysteryExec’s call!
Dig deeply into your characters.
Make them come alive and lift off the page.
Find what is unique about them that takes them beyond cliché .
Zero in on something about your characters that generates resonance for a reader.
Don’t be afraid to break with formula whether it’s plot, genre, gender, race or a character’s country of origin.
If a character surprises you with something they say or do, chances are they will surprise a Hollywood reader, too.
As it turns out, @MysteryExec is not a studio executive. He’s also likely not a stock boy at a Radio Shack, but apparently a screenwriter along with his partner in virtual ‘crime’ @MysteryVP, also a screenwriter.
So does this implosive development undercut the message ME has been promoting via social media the last 2 years? Some reactions from folks who work in the business:
Anyway, Mystery Exec: if you're out there, I think you're a good egg. Good luck going forward.
Let me close by saying this: Hey, @MysteryExec and @MysteryVP! If you can generate the heat you did with your @MagicalMysteryTrip, I would imagine you can probably write the hell out of a script. So why not emerge from your @MysteryCocoon and join your fellow screenwriters in the bright haze of smoggy Hollywood and beyond? We welcome you both with open virtual arms, a bottle of Chivas, and whatever meds ex-@MysteryVP happens to fantasizing about at the moment.
Son, it ain’t time to be knockin’ on heaven’s door. It’s time to be rockin’ in the free world!
Definition: Trying to recapture the glory of a dormant franchise.
Definition: It’s really the same thing as a reboot.
Example(s): “Mad Max: Fury Road.” While promoting the film earlier this year, the director George Miller and the star Tom Hardy insisted it be called a revisit.
Definition: Acknowledges only the cherished entries in the franchise and ignores the others.
Examples: According to David Ellison, the producer of the recent “Terminator: Genisys,” it “is not a remake, it’s not a reboot, it’s not a sequel — it’s really a reimagining based on the Cameron source material.” Best that we all forget “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003) and “Terminator Salvation” (2009).
“Jurassic World” also falls in this category. Even as early as the fall of 2013, the director Colin Trevorrow hesitated to use the word “reboot” while also saying goodbye to continuity from “The Lost World” (1997) and “Jurassic Park III (2001).”
Definition: New cast, same origin story. Needed when the previous entry is perceived to have failed creatively or financially. Skating by on brand recognition.
Examples: “Fantastic Four” (due in August) and “The Transporter Refueled” (set for September).
Definition: Altering the continuity order of a franchise, to the edge of all logical sense.
Examples: The “Fast and the Furious” films. “Fast & Furious” (2009), “Fast Five” (2011) and “Fast & Furious 6” (2013) all take place before the events in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (which came out in 2006 and was the third film in the series). But “Furious 7,” which came out in April, takes places afterward. Not confusing at all.
Of course, all of these owe their origin to the Big Daddy of all the “re”-terms in Hollywood: Recycling.
Any of you happy with Hollywood’s “re”-whatever obsession?
Some of you probably saw this Den of Geek article from last week, but even if you did, I think it’s worth the time to consider the way the spec script market used to be, back in the Go Go days of the early to mid-90s. To wit, this article: The fate of the $26m scripts Joe Eszterhas sold in the 90s.
That’s right. $26M. That figure alone should give you some sense of what the hell was going on two decades ago. Studio money was plentiful. Hype was king. And spec scripts were a hot commodity. How hot? Consider this list of deals Eszterhas set up in a few short years as detailed in the article cited above. I have divided them into movies which got made and movies which didn’t get produced:
One Night Stand: $4M
Basic Instinct: $3M
Reliable Sources: $2M
Male Pattern Baldness: $2M
Original Sin: $600K
Sacred Cows: $500K
There was a point where Eszterhas was literally making multimillion dollar deals based on story ideas he had scratched onto a napkin over a lunch meeting. He was that hot. How did he get there? This:
Produced in 1992, Basic Instinct generated an astonishing $353M in worldwide box office revenues. I remember when the spec script went out. Here is P.1:
INT. A BEDROOM - NIGHT
It is dark; we don't see clearly.
A man and woman make love on a brass bed. There are
mirrors on the walls and ceiling. On a side table, atop
a small mirror, lines of cocaine. A tape deck PLAYS the
Stones "Sympathy for the Devil."
Atop him... she straddles his chest... her breasts in his
face. He cups her breasts. She leans down, kisses him...
JOHNNY BOZ is in his late 40's, slim, good-looking. We don't
see the woman's face. She has long blonde hair. The CAMERA
STAYS BEHIND and to the side of them.
She leans close over his face, her tongue in his mouth... she
kisses him... she moves her hands up, holds both of his arms
above his head.
She moves higher atop him... she reaches to the side of the
bed... a white silk scarf is in her hand... her hips above his
face now, moving... slightly, oh-so slightly... his face strains
The scarf in her hand... she ties his hands with it...
gently... to the brass bed... his eyes are closed... tighter...
lowering hips into his face... lower... over his chest... his
navel. The SONG plays.
He is inside her... his head arches back... his throat white.
She arches her back... her hips grind... her breasts are high...
Her back arches back... back... her head tilts back... she
extends her arms... the right arm comes down suddenly... the
steel flashes... his throat is white...
He bucks, writhes, bucks, convulses...
It flashes up... it flashes down... and up... and down... and
EXT. A BROWNSTONE IN PACIFIC HEIGHTS - MORNING
Winter in San Francisco cold, foggy. Cop cars everywhere.
The lights play through the thick fog. Two Homicide detectives
get out of the car, walk into the house.
An attention-grabber right off the bat. Here is how Den of Geek describes the way the Basic Instinct script deal went down:
Originally entitled Love Hurts, it became Basic Instinct on the morning its auction effectively began, as the screenplay was sent to every production outlet in Hollywood. The plan was to try and get them to outbid each other, to drive the price up. The plan worked.
The auction started at 10 one morning. “By noon”, as Eszterhas tells in his book, “we had offers up to $2 million.” The eventual winning bid? Carolco’s. It paid $3m to Eszterhas, and as part of the deal, it paid a further $1m to Irwin Winkler to produce the movie. “A New Era Dawns In Hollywood” read the subsequent Varietyheadline. And it wasn’t kidding.
Agents sending out a spec at an appointed hour. Agents hand carrying scripts to buyers, then insisting they read the script while supervised by an agency rep. Specs sent out with kitschy items to generate heat, like ticking clocks for the script “Ticking Man” which ended up selling for $1M… and never getting produced.
Yep, it was a whole bunch of fun there for a few years with spec scripts as the hot commodity in Hollywood. And no one reigned over that domain more than Joe Eszterhas.
The $26 Million Dollar Man Himself
Today? For sure, it ain’t like that. The studios, each of whom has been acquired by ginormous multinational corporations, have bent their business practices to the bean counters. Their obsession is more with franchises and repurposing preexisting intellectual property.
However the spec market, while not nearly at the level it was when Eszterhas was stomping around the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire, yelling invectives at CAA — he didn’t actually do that, just wrote an infamous letter which was faxed around town — is still a thing. Every year, a significant number of writers sell or option spec scripts, many of them outsiders using it as a way to break into the business. Even if a spec doesn’t sell, it can act as a writing sample which gets the writer representation, meetings, and possibly open writing assignments.
Plus there’s this: There are a lot more buyers around today than there were in the early to mid-90s. And many more platforms for scripted entertainment including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and the like.
So while we can’t expect to jot down “Boy meets girl” on a napkin over lunch with a studio exec and have them whip out the corporate checkbook, inking in seven figures before we’ve had a chance to digest our kale and quinoa… but a spec script still is a powerful tool.
If you need a reminder of that fact, you need look no further than Joe Eszterhas.
What’s remarkable is how much this approach parallels Disney’s philosophy today. Swap out Disney Radio for Disney Magazine, add ancillary revenue sources such as video games and Broadway musicals, and basically what you see in this sketch represents how Disney, expert at repurposing content, goes about their business. And at the root of it all: IP. Intellectual Property.
That’s where writers come in. If you create content a studio like Disney believes they can exploit for profit, you put yourself in a position to reap some benefit from your inspiration.