Spec scripts, that is. I’m guessing that perhaps 90% of the people who follow this blog at some point in their lives will write a spec script. And the other 10% are involved in buying and selling them. In light of that fact, last year I interviewed a top manager and some Hollywood screenwriters about the ins and outs of what is involved in bringing a spec script to market. I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to do something with that inside information, so when Vanity Fair recently came out with this article — When the Spec Script was King — a decent piece, but pretty surface level, I figured this is as good a time as any to dig into the subject in a comprehensive fashion.
In Part 1, we looked at the genesis of the spec script in Hollywood from 1900-1942.
In Part 2, we covered the emergence of the spec script market from 1942-1990.
In Part 3, we analyzed the Boom / Bust / Boom / Bust cycle of the spec script market.
In Part 4, we surveyed the buyers, both major studios and financiers.
In Part 5, we examined the screenwriter-rep relationship in terms of developing a spec script.
In Part 6, we explored rolling out a new writer’s spec script.
In Part 7, we delved into the subject of attaching producers.
In Part 8, we considered the value of attaching talent.
In Part 9, we learned about reps wanting to “own all the tickets”.
In Part 10, we dug into how reps generate buzz for a spec script.
In Part 11, we scrutinized the practice of slipping a script to someone.
Part 12: Serendipity
Hollywood is one of the world’s most famous brands. And of course, there is that iconic sign:
If you don’t live and work in Los Angeles, you may think the movie community is this enormous entity.
It’s not. Instead it’s actually quite small, particularly if you are just talking about those who are involved in project acquisition and development. There are perhaps a few thousand people. Think about that. A few thousand people. The Hollywood film community is like a small town. Well, one where everyone is on speed dial. So serendipitous things like the following can happen.
From my interview with screenwriter Ashleigh Powell in March 2013 [emphasis added]:
Scott: So you write this script [“Somacell”]. How did David Goyer get involved and what was the process whereby it ended up selling?
Ashleigh: I wrote the script. I was going out to a handful of producers that I had already met and had a relationship with. We gave it to an exec I actually knew from my assistant days – we were both on desks at the same time and were always scheduling meetings and calls for our respective bosses. He read it and liked it, but ultimately it wasn’t right for his company. But he passed it on to his wife to read… and she just happened to be David Goyer’s Creative Executive. So that’s how it got into his hands. Which was amazing. I was just thrilled for that. Then, simultaneously, Warner Bros. somehow ended up with it. No one on my team even knew they were reading it, and one evening they called up my agents and said, “Hey, we want to make a deal on this script tonight.” It was shocking moment. It took us all by surprise. It was just a random confluence of events.
Scott: Boy, does that speak to the power of writing a great script.
Ashleigh: It’s been really fun for me to hear that people are passing the script to their friends or to other executives on their own, without any intervention from my manager or agent or anything like that. It’s just working its way around.
Like I said… small town. It’s why networking can work so well in Hollywood. There are these subcultures — movie development, TV development, production, post-production, and so on — all these aspects of making entertainment product inhabited by people who as it turns out pretty much have one or at most two degrees of separation.
So sometimes a script gets slipped to Person A who gives it to Person B who is married to Person C who works at Studio D. And you can be Agent E and Manager F suddenly getting a call from Studio Executive G saying they want to buy Script H written by Writer I. All complete serendipity.
That’s the exception, not the rule. Generally reps have to decide whether to go wide with a spec or take a more targeted approach. We’ll dig into that in next post: The strategy of targeting specific buyers.