Spec Script Market is booming!

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It seems like I can’t turn around lately without seeing an article about how the spec screenplay market in Hollywood is at its highest level in 5 years!

October 2011 saw 18 sales, [correction: 20 sales!] the biggest month for sales in years, including three from relative newcomers.

Check out these snippets from a recent article on thewrap.com:

“We already knew that 2011 was going to be the hottest spec market in five years, but October’s numbers are beyond all expectations,” said Jason Scoggins, author of the Scoggins Report… “And when you add in pitch sales, buyers’ appetites have never been stronger.”

After three years of reboots, sequels and prequels, the market for original scripts is finally sizzling again in Hollywood.

No fewer than 18 spec scripts – screenplays written without a contract – were sold in October. That’s the highest monthly tally since before the Writers Guild strike in 2007-2008.

In total, 86 spec scripts have been snatched up through October – more than the number that sold in all of 2009 or 2010. [Src.]


We’d all love to think the increased market activity happened because the studios are finally getting the message that audiences are sick of all the remakes and reboots, right?! Well, that’s not the whole answer, but it’s definitely a big part of it, according to super-manager Brooklyn Weaver of Energy Entertainment:

“A lot of the safe bets in terms of branded [intellectual property], the Harry Potters or the Hasbro products, have had their run, or have not worked out. When you look at things such as ‘Inception,’ what’s working is the original ideas from original voices.” [src]

It also has to do with an increase in buyers.

The “majors” are back in the buying game as the worst of the recession slump passes by (knock on wood) and they need to fill their coffers; they include Fox, Warner Bros, Sony, Universal, Paramount, New Line, CBS Films, Summit, Lionsgate and Relativity (which now has its own distribution).

The “mini-majors” also bring buying power to the table; companies such as Alcon, Gold Circle, Intrepid, Mandate, and Millenium/Nu Image.

They’re all looking for content to feed into their international distribution pipelines, which are only getting bigger in our ever-expanding digital marketplace.


I always look at the summer box-office for clues as to industry behavior, as that’s the season when the studios make the most bank.

The summer of 2011 saw a number of franchise films either under-perform or outright bomb (Cowboys & Aliens), and the real success stories were smaller films like Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses and The Help. This fall, the big success story thus far is Paranormal Activity 3, which cost only $5 million and opened to $53 million!

None of these successful films had huge stars, but all had very strong stories anchored by Big Ideas.


Everyone’s talking about the 7-figure script sale by first-time screenwriter Lauryn Kahn for her spec comedy feature, “He’s F*$kin’ Perfect.” The title will no doubt be changed, but that hasn’t lowered the project’s heat factor. As Nikki Finke writes, Emma Stone is circling the film and it may be fast-tracked into production.

After spending four years as Adam McKay’s assistant, [Lauryn Kahn] leaves the job tomorrow to write scripts full time. Exiting the $40,000 a year job seems less daunting after she landed $1 million against $1.5 million for He’s F*$kin’ Perfect, her very first feature screenplay. [src]

Lauryn Kahn’s sale is an example of one of the key components to many of these sales: talent attachment. In this case, her script came with the producing power of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who have a track record of hit movies. Now, not everyone is the personal assistant to an A-list director, but that doesn’t stop you from delivering the first and most important thing you’ll need to attract a big name: a great screenplay.

As I’ve always stressed, you can’t control who you’ll run into at a cocktail party, but you can control the thing that matters the most when you’re an emerging voice: the quality of your work.


Another method that writers are using to boost heat on their scripts is the spec trailer (or “sizzle reel”). Alan Bey and Brandon Bestenheider, the writers of Grim Night, a recent six-figure horror sale to Universal, used this trailer to boost awareness and spark a bidding war…

Pretty creepy, huh? It’s rough, but it’s filled with enough familiar elements (grim reapers, a quarantined town, a home invasion scenario) to suggest a high-concept pitch that can be sold easily in a commercial spot or theatrical trailer.


With that said, we can analyze this year’s sales figures even more — for example, in terms of genre, you’ll find that Thrillers lead the year with the highest number of sales, while Comedy is down from 2010 and Sci-Fi is above the last two years.

But I encourage you to follow your muse, not the numbers, when it comes to choosing which script to write and market.

Write a movie that YOU would pay money to see, in a genre that you understand well.

If you feel you’re close to that crucial submission-ready level, then I encourage you to buckle down, polish that diamond in the rough and get it out there. And if you’re at an earlier phase, then set your sights on the opening of spec season in 2012, which will follow the Sundance Film Festival that runs January 19-29, 2012.

February and March are big months for the spec market, and they are right around the corner. With the holidays coming soon, you know you’re going to be super busy up through New Year’s, so set your writing schedule now and stick to it!

With that said, I’d be honored to help you reach your goals through any type of coaching, script analysis or even by just introducing you to my e-book, which you can learn more about here. But my schedule is filling up, so please contact me soon via any of the email forms on the left side of my site pages, like here, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. Until then, as always, I say…

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Dan Calvisi

Related: Choosing a Script Service

RelatedDon’t pay for Coverage!

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