Spec Script Deal: “Claire”

November 27th, 2015 by

Scott Free and Black Bicycle Media preemptively acquire drama spec script “Claire” written by Brad Ingelsby. Via Tracking Board:

Ingelsby’s latest drama is in the vein of Cape Fear, but centers around a female protagonist living on a rural farm who must defend her daughter when she falls in with the wrong crowd. The role is being described as a tour de force female lead which could serve as a ‘bookend’ to The Burning Woman.

Ingelsby is repped by CAA and Energy Entertainment.

To read my March 2013 interview with Brad Ingelsby, go here.

By my count, this is the 54th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 60 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: Untitled Adolf Eichmann Project

November 17th, 2015 by

MGM made a pre-emptive deal to acquire untitled thriller written by Matthew Orton. Via Deadline:

MGM has made a pre-emptive deal for an untitled spec script by British scribe Matthew Orton about the team that hunted down and captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the major architects of the Holocaust.


The thriller spec is closer to the tone of Argo than Munich in creating thriller stakes in the manhunt for one of the most diabolical war criminals of the 20th century.


Writer Orton is out of the UK, majored in history at Oxford, and his spec CLEAN made the 2014 Brit List. He is mentored by Bridge Of Spies scribe Matt Charman, who he met via the Guiding Lights program.

Orton is repped by The Agency and Grandview.

By my count, this is the 53rd spec script deal in 2015.

There were 57 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Ascension”

October 13th, 2015 by

Twentieth Century Fox acquires science fiction spec script “Ascension” written by Shannon Triplett. From Deadline:

It’s a big sci-fi action disaster tentpole that follows a scientist who must save the world after gravity is erased from the Earth’s atmosphere.

So to the people spouting the conventional wisdom you shouldn’t write big expensive sci fi specs because there are only six buyers… one word: “Ascension”.

Tripplett is repped by UTA.

By my count, this is the 51st spec script deal in 2015.

There were 48 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Boomtown”

October 11th, 2015 by

Focus Features acquires drama thriller spec script “Boomtown” written by Matt King. From Deadline:

Story of a slick corporate investigator with a closely guarded secret who discovers a sinister criminal conspiracy in North Dakota oil boom country.

It is the first script deal for King.

He is repped by Paradigm and John Zaozirny (Bellvue Productions).

By my count, this is the 50th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 48 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Met Gala Heist”

October 7th, 2015 by

New Line Cinema acquires spec script “Met Gala Heist” written by Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer. From THR:

Described as an Ocean’s Eleven-type heist film, the story centers on two estranged sisters who create an all-girl team to pull off a heist at the Oscars of fashion, the Met Gala.

Writers are repped by Original Artists and Jonathan Hung.

By my count, this is the 49th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 47 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Free Agent”

October 2nd, 2015 by

CBS Films acquires sports drama script “Free Agent” written by Sam Regnier. From Deadline:

The screenplay by the former Paramount assistant centers on a female NBA executive for the Golden State Warriors who pursues the biggest free agent of her career while managing a messy divorce and a complicated relationship with a younger colleague and his teenage sister.

Regnier won the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship with the script “Free Agent”.

Writer is repped by Management SGC.

By my count, this is the 48th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 47 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Hammerspace”

October 1st, 2015 by

Warner Bros. acquires science fiction spec script “Hammerspace” written by Mike Van Waes. From THR:

The story is set in motion when a terminally ill teenager, while searching for answers about his missing father, finds a mysterious key that unlocks a portal to an alternate animated dimension, releasing an unexpected new friend who helps him repair his broken family.

The film is described as being in the vein of Tron, A Monster Calls (the new J.A. Bayona movie about a boy looking for a monster to help him cope with his mom’s terminal illness) and Space Jam (but without the basketball).


Van Waes is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and was a reader for DreamWorks and Paramount while writing on the side. He caught a break when his script Grave Hearts was a finalist for the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting — and this is his next one, his first studio spec sale.

Conventional wisdom nowadays: Don’t write a big budget science fiction spec script. First off, there are only 6 buyers who can afford $100M which severely limits your options. Second, there’s a prevailing attitude in Hollywood that science fiction is a hard genre to write, so the suits tend to rely on a set of established writers who have a proven track record.

This project is not only science fiction, it’s also got an animation component making it an even more challenging script to set up. Yet once again, a writer proves you can toss conventional wisdom out the window… as long as you write a great script.

Writer is repped by CAA and Grandview.

By my count, this is the 47th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 47 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “The Wind at Spanish Needle”

September 28th, 2015 by

Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s White Horse Pictures acquires the rights to drama western spec script “The Wind at Spanish Needle” written by Simon Nagel.

Logline: An old, blind gunslinger treks across the Mojave Desert to a mountain peak in the Sierras to reunite with the love of his life.

I had the opportunity to work with Simon on “The Wind at Spanish Needle” as a mentor during the 2014 Black List Screenwriters Lab, so I reached out to him for more background on the project:

The deal went down pretty casually, which was a big surprise. When the Lab was announced on Deadline, my good friend Austin Reynolds (who was on the actual Black List a couple years ago) recommended “The Wind At Spanish Needle” to an exec he knew at White Horse Pictures. It was really as simple as a text between them– “You really need to read this.” The exec, John Rita, went to AFI with us. I didn’t know John that well, but we were always friendly. It just goes to show that the nature of all things movie related boil down to personal relationships. My friend saw an opportunity to help me out and John remembered me well enough to give the script a read. It also was a tremendous help to have the Black List stamp of approval on the script! It gives the material a validation to readers and executives that they don’t have any face palm moments ahead of them before reading a script.

I had to do one pass over the script before the papers were drawn up. There were a couple minor– but tricky– notes to address. One had to do with the backstory reveal.

The issue was “This is great and we all have strong feelings about it, but how specifically should we feel at the end of it?” It was really an issue where I had to go back and make the sequence less literary. The flashback has a myriad of emotions to it, but I had to simplify it to “They were in love and they couldn’t be together,” with no nuances of “maybe this wasn’t the right relationship for them.”

It helped with the end, which was the toughest issue I had to address. The original happy ending was nice, but it felt wrong. Any more journeying didn’t feel right (or real). I think that was the biggest thing that I took away from notes from the Lab as well. The solutions we all discussed in Las Vegas were trying to alter the script in ways to make that ending feel more earned, but the answer that later revealed itself was that the end didn’t match the story that came before it.

The revisions create a more powerful ending (and dramatically appropriate), and also much more moving. It was the thing that got White Horse to say yes to the script.

The email back from Nick Ferrall, White Horse’s Head of Production, was simply “Wow.” The papers were drawn up shortly after. It was a great feeling!

Right now, White Horse is trying to get the thing packaged with directors and actors, etc. There are some great names that I’m SUPER excited about (although I’m not sure I can name them yet). I will say that the director list features some of my all time favorites, which was crazy. It felt like everyone at White Horse was reading my mind. They love the script and I feel like I’m in really good hands.

I reviewed my notes from our lengthy workshop sessions and, indeed, we did devote considerable time to analyzing and brainstorming the story’s last act. Interesting to hear from Simon that it was his new ending which convinced the execs at White Horse Pictures, which also includes Jeanne Elfant-Festa and Cassidy Hartmann, to option the screenplay. It’s a terrific story with well-drawn characters and a strong emotional core, and deserves to get produced as a movie.

These Black List screenwriting workshops have proved to be remarkable on multiple fronts. Everyone who participates comes away galvanized creatively, so there’s that, but now we’re beginning to see the fruits of the writers’ shared labor translate into success in the marketplace. “The Wind at Spanish Needle” is the second Black List workshop script to find a home, the other being “The Longest Birthday” by Savion Einstein.

Needless to say, I am proud to be involved as a mentor in the Black List screenwriting workshops and look forward to the next three mini-labs in Chicago (October 3-4), San Francisco (October 17-18), and Los Angeles (November 21-22).

Simon is repped by Meyer Management.

By my count, “The Wind at Spanish Needle” is the 46th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 46 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “The Virginian”

September 24th, 2015 by

New Line acquires historical action thriller spec script “The Virginian” written by Michael Gunn. From Deadline:

The script’s movie potential is best described as Last of the Mohicans meets Braveheart. A down-and-out, young George Washington — desperate to join the British Army — accepts a dangerous mission to conquer a French fort and save the American colonies.

Continues a Hollywood trend to take historical figures, real or fictional, and transform them into action heroes.

Writer is repped by Paradigm and Principato-Young Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 45th spec script deal in 2015.

There were 45 spec script deals year-to-date in 2014.

Spec Script Deal: “Humbug”

September 17th, 2015 by

Universal acquires family fantasy spec script “Humbug” written by Todd Jones and Earl Ritchey Jones. From Deadline:

Universal Pictures has won a four-studio bidding battle to acquire Humbug, a spec that is fast coming together for Ice Cube to star in the title role, with Tim Story directing a contemporary retelling of the Charles Dickens’ tale A Christmas Carol. In the modern version, Cube will play a wealthy real estate mogul shown a path to redemption by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Universal prevailed over MGM, New Line and Disney in a script deal worth high six figures against low seven-figures for scribes Todd R Jones and Earl Richey Jones. They originally set this script up at Relativity, and got it back as that company was heading into Chapter 11.

Writers repped by UTA.

By my count, this is the 43rd spec script deal in 2015.

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