Spec Script Sales Break Records

The heady days of two or three six figure script deals per week are back!  Gotcha. Dare to dream…

Jason Scoggins’ comprehensive guestimate (is this an oxymoron?) of the spec and open writing assignment market shows what’s hot right now.

Last year’s spec market was like a sugar rush which fizzled out by April. Although 21 scripts sold by this time last year, the equivalent figure is down by around 50% this year to 11. We don’t know what momentum will carry the market during 2010, so cautiously don’t expect selling surges later in the year.

Sony-Columbia-Tristar claimed late last year that it’s 2010 development and even acquisition slate had been allocated. Coupled with it’s glut of projects in development (rumoured to be around 60), they are unlikely to make any major purchases this year. Disney is formally decommissioning it’s Miramax arm and associated producer deals. Universal is also amid funding strife with it’s GE parent. All this amounts to dampened buying activity. However, there are smaller film financing minnows swimming the waters. They may take up some of the slack in the absence of key players shelling out top dollar.

In terms of genre, there was a strong appetite for thriller scripts purchased this quarter (46%) and comedies (36%). Action projects rounded off the remaining sales, dropping to around 18%.

So what does this mean for you as a writer? Nothing really, other than just keep writing and recognize that your chances to selling a spec script this year are anyone’s guess. At least last year we had certainty of depression.

Notice that drama sales are freefalling despite the success of “Precious” and “The Hurt Locker” at the Oscars. I even managed to read a book; “Push” by Sapphire, something I do once a decade. Still it shows I’m taking my career seriously.

Where was I? My mind isn’t what it used to be after my recent birthday. Ah yes.. Genres. Many writers tend to flood producers with films similar to those recently winning awards in the hope that the buzz will translate into interest. Since these projects could have been in development for five to ten years prior to their awards, your project is old hat to them.

It took the U.S. almost a decade to consider making a film about 9/11. Global audiences (east and west) were suffering still post-traumatic stress to face up to it. Movies about Iraq (The Green Zone, In The Valley Of Elah and even The Hurt Locker) were box office toxins. Even the post-Oscar media blitzkreig didn’t substantially improve The Hurt Locker’s box office locker. The only exception was the delightful gorefest called “Inglourious Basterds” (did I spell that correctly?), which titillated audiences, but dismayed historians.

Five of the six major studios aren’t actively developing war films. In fact, they’re actively rejecting them. So don’t write them with the expectation of a quick sale. Media saturation causing audience desensitisation and fatigue, worthiness, earnestness and self importance are cited as factors for poor box coin of such films.

Keep writing folks.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley Benthien says:

    Hello there, thanks for the information. I’m busy working on a spec script regarding Greek history and mythology. The story I’m working on will have more of a Troy/Alexander feel rather than 300/Clash of the Titans. I believe when I’ve finished the script it will be an epic but obviously that is for the producers to decide. Does anyone have any incite on what the big buyers opinion might be with regards to this genre type? Any feedback will be appreciated.

    1. JG Sarantinos says:


      Right now I believe that we are all “Greeked” out so it may not be the best time for such an epic script. It sounds like this will be a medium to high budget movie which makes things harder. If you are an emerging writer, you may have an even tougher time to sell it. Having said this, mythology is timeless, so your script can be a writing sample at the very least.



  2. JG Sarantinos says:

    It’s extremely difficult for a native English speaker to write a TV script, let alone for someone learning it as a second language. A production company will want to see an entire polished script before they’ll even consider you to write on their TV show. You need to have been working as a TV writer for many years before anyone will look at a pilot script.

    As an Egyptian, you probably speak fluent Arabic. You may wish to consider that market since you are more familiar with the language and culture.


  3. saidu says:

    We’re all having the same problem of spec sale.I live in France and I have write 3 three scripts which are presently in the hand of a producer.He’s such a great producer base on his credits.But he’ve never paid me northing yet.Recently,he’s working on a script but get from nowhere to complete it.So he gave me the script to do some or write it in a rewrite form.But He told me that he’s not giving me it as an assignment,just let me try it out.If I work it well,he’s interested in it.Now I’m really concern about this.Does he really mean he will give me some bucks later?What impressed me about him,on the day of our meeting,we talked alot like old friend.He became fond of me at that very day,and told me to send any finish script that I may have.Tell me something,as a new writer I’m both curious and panic at the same time.But does this producer really want to work with me for some bucks?

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      La petite reponse est non mon ami, tristemente. Un bon producteur devrait tu payer pour tout ton travail s’il aime ton scenarios

      Bon chance!

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