Spec Script Deal: “Untitled Gary Deal”

August 20th, 2015 by

Lionsgate announces it has acquired an untitled science fiction thriller spec script (aka “Sarah”) written by John Gary. From Deadline:

Lionsgate’s Summit Entertaintment label just acquired an untitled spec script from screenwriter John Gary, described as a “grounded” sci-fi thriller which is a character-driven property in the vein of Luc Besson’s box office smash Lucy. The original script was called Sarah. Another strong female leading a pic? No argument here.

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Gary wrote the script based on an original idea from Robinson apparently. Execs at Lionsgate — Gillian Bohrer and James Myers — loved it and picked it up.

Gary is repped by ICM Partner and The Gotham Group.

By my count, this is the 42nd spec script deal in 2015.

There were 40 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Okay, now that all those details are taken care of, I thought I would use this announcement as an opportunity to discuss the nature of reporting spec script activity. As I have always acknowledged since tracking deals on the blog since I launched it in 2008, this is an inexact science.

Start with the basics: What exactly is a spec script? In the purest terms, it’s simply this: A script which a writer has written without any compensation in the hopes they can sell it. Spec as in speculative.

But would we consider a script written by an established pro writer like Cameron Crowe or Diablo Cody to be a spec script if they wrote it without any upfront compensation, but there was an implied deal in place with a studio or production company?

What about scripts which takes months, even years to get set up? I have had people email me about a reported deal suggesting that because the script is years old, it doesn’t qualify as a spec script because – basically – a spec script is (to their mind) something someone writes, it immediately goes to market, and voila – sold. Obviously that does happen, but increasingly we see scripts which come out, don’t get bought, and, for example, land on the Black List, then several months or years later, they end up landing somewhere.

Look, the days of the Go Go Spec Script Crazy Days of the 80s and early 90s are gone. So this notion of a hot spec script being hand delivered around town, execs forced to read it in a sealed room, then make their offers within the hour… that’s from a different era. The buyers play things much closer to the vest in the acquisition market, so yes, some spec scripts take a long time to get set up.

Speaking of a long time, let’s take a look at the Lionsgate deal for John Gary’s script as described above. Here is a series of tweets John authored yesterday:

On the face of it, isn’t it a little odd that Deadline is reporting the Lionsgate deal yesterday while on the exact same day, I featured an interview with John in which he discussed the very same script?

This raises another issue in tracking spec script deals: Sometimes the studios or financiers do not want the information of a deal made public. Sometimes they wait for months to make an announcement. I mean, John’s deal technically happened in 2014, however I’m going to include it in my 2015 report because that’s when it was announced.

Again inexact science.

But here is the biggest single issue: When online outfits report deals as sales when they are not actually sales. A sale is an outright acquisition of a property. That is different than an option. An option gives a producer exclusive rights over a property for a set period of time in order to develop the material, seek financing to make the movie, attach talent, and so forth. They do not acquire the script with an option. Only the rights to the material for a specified period of time.

There is a big difference between a sale and an option, not the least of which is the money. Whereas the former can result in six figure compensation, an option is often no more than $10K or even less. Sometimes there are free options.

Here’s why this matters to the screenwriting community. In today’s interview with John, he talks about The Hope Machine, the cottage industry which has sprung up over the last two decades feeding off the growth in interest in screenwriting. The so-called screenwriting ‘gurus’. Dozens of outfits offering script consultations. The myriad contests and competitions. All of them charge money, in some cases a lot of it.

In order for them to lure as many customers as possible and maximize their profits, it behooves them to sustain the illusion of a hot spec script market.

And so you will see a conflation of an option as a sale. Even a free option. I’ve seen instances where someone dubs a writer signing with a manager as a sale. Why would they do that other than to inflate the number of ‘sales’ as part of their marketing strategy?

Here’s a relevant thread of tweets from my Twitter feed yesterday:

While what I do at GITS may be inexact for reasons described above, it’s my policy to only post about deals when they can be confirmed as actual transactions. And when I can find out if a deal is an option, I designate it as such.

So when I come out with my annual spec script report in January and you compare my numbers to some of the other outfits out there, my totals always lag behind theirs. None of us may know exact sales figures, but you can be assured of this: I am not inflating numbers to hype The Hope Machine. I want to try to get as accurate an overview of the spec market as possible, so we have credible information.

Remember: When it comes to consultants, contests, and ‘gurus,’ buyer beware. And don’t forget, you can learn the craft of screenwriting by doing this: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Here endeth my sermon and with that, I extend my congrats to John Gary on his Lionsgate deal.

And if any of you have questions about spec scripts, feel free to post them in comments.

Spec Script Deal: “The Libertine”

August 16th, 2015 by

Warner Bros. acquires drama spec script “The Libertine” written by Ben Kopit. From THR:

The scandal involving French economist Dominique Strauss-Kahn is getting the movie treatment via Warner Bros., which has pre-emptively picked up the spec script titled The Libertine by Ben Kopit.

The deal also includes a blind script component in which Kopit will write another script for the studio in the near future.

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Strauss-Kahn was the managing director of the International Monetary Fund until 2011 when he resigned following allegations he had assaulted a hotel maid. The economist was placed under house arrest but the case fell apart due to the questions surrounding the credibility of the maid. A later civil suit was settled out of court.

The script is described as being a layered comedic dramatization on the scandal.

Kopit, a recent graduate from the UCLA MFA screenwriting program, is repped by WME and Mindframe Films & Management.

By my count, this is the 41st spec script deal in 2015.

There were 38 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Crash Site”

July 29th, 2015 by

Alcon Entertainment acquires science fiction spec script “Crash Site” written by Chuck Pfarrer. From THR: “Plot details for the project are being kept deep in a government bunker.”

Pfarrer is repped by WME and Apostle Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 40th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 38 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Bed Rest”

July 27th, 2015 by

MGM acquires thriller spec script “Bed Rest” written by Lori Evans Taylor. From Deadline:

Spec is a Hitchcockian thriller in the vein of Rear Window and What Lies Beneath, centering on a pregnant woman who is isolated and confined to bed rest.

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This was a competitive situation with interest from multiple studios.

This is the first deal for Evans who is repped by Kaplan/Perrone.

By my count, this is the 39th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 36 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “The Edge of Normal”

July 19th, 2015 by

Bold Films acquires thriller spec script “The Edge of Normal” written by Matt Venne. From Variety:

“The Edge of Normal” tells the story of a woman who escaped captivity from a sadistic sexual predator when she was a teenager. Ten years later, she remains haunted by her memories as she struggles to pull her life together. She finds ultimately herself drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game with a clever psychopath who seems to know her every move.

Based on Carla Norton’s 2013 novel. Competitive bidding situation.

Writer repped by APA and Industry Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 38th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 36 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “The Fixer”

July 17th, 2015 by

Fubar Films acquires 2013 Black List thriller spec script “The Fixer” written by Bill Kennedy. From Deadline:

Set in the gritty intersection of the Los Angeles nightlife and organized crime, the plot follows a mob fixer who retires to repair his broken personal life but, finding his son distant and uninterested in a relationship, once again is drawn into the criminal underworld and finds a willing protégé in a young drug dealer.

This is an option deal.

Writer is repped by WME and Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 37th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 34 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Prince Charming”

July 7th, 2015 by

Walt Disney Pictures acquires fantasy comedy spec script “Prince Charming” written by Matthew Fogel. From THR:

Disney pioneered the recent and lucrative trend of taking either old animated classics or fairy tales and spinning them into live-action features.

And since no other studio has done more to ensconce the idea of Prince Charming into the public mind — with movies such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella — it is most appropriate the studio take a close look at the man as well.

Details are being kept behind a moat, but the script is described as a revisionist take on the fairy tales.

More from The Guardian:

Prince Charming will not follow the titular character, but rather his brother who has struggled to compete thanks to a lack of charm.

The script was offered to studios last week, but Disney outbid them all, hoping to follow its ever-increasing list of live-action kids’ movies. As well as the success of Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent and Cinderella, the studio has also planned new takes on Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Mulan, Pocahontas and The Jungle Book.

Red Riding Hood. Snow White and the Huntsman. Cinderella. Prince Charming. Live-action versions of fairy tales is definitely a ‘thing’.

Writer is repped by UTA.

By my count, this is the 36th spec script deal of 2015.

There were 31 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Move That Body”

June 22nd, 2015 by

Sony acquires R-rated comedy spec script “Move That Body” written by Lucia Aniello and Paul W Downs. From Deadline:

She [Aniello] is attached to direct a female-driven comedy described as The Hangover meets Weekend At Bernie’s, and he [Downs] is attached to play the male lead.

Aniello and Downs are co-executive producers of the Comedy Central series “Broad City”.

Writers are repped by UTA and 3 Arts.

By my count, this is the 35th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 31 spec script deals in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Free Fall”

June 15th, 2015 by

Universal Pictures acquires spec script “Free Fall” written by Gregg Maxwell Parker and Sean Finegan. From Deadline:

When a man joins his estranged daughter on a mountain climb in an attempt to repair their relationship, a tragic accident leaves them stranded hundreds of feet in the air. As a storm sets in, the two must fight against the elements and terrifying heights in order to survive.

Writers are repped by Paradigm and Madhouse Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 34th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 30 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “The Water Man”

June 14th, 2015 by

Walt Disney Pictures acquires drama spec script “The Water Man” written by Emma Needell. From Deadline:

The Water Man is a magical family drama about a precocious young boy Gunner who, in order to save his ill mother, runs away from home to find a mythic/legendary character called The Water Man, who has been rumored to be able to cheat death. While extremely close to his mother, he and his father Amos have an adversarial relationship and are forced to learn about each other as Amos goes on the search for his son.  It has elements of Stand By Me mixed with the tonal ambition of classic Steven Spielberg films like E.T. or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Writer is repped by WME and Anonymous Content.

By my count, this is the 33rd spec script deal in 2015.

There were 30 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.