The last few years have not been all that kind to screenwriters. The Hollywood spec script goldrush of the early 1990’s seems like an age ago now with spec sales falling to an all time low of just 58 in 2005.
Yep, 58. Out of probably 100,000 spec scripts written and registered with the WGA that year.
I spent a fair bit of time in LA in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I was even part of that goldrush myself, selling two spec scripts to the major’s. It was a heady time. Wall Street had the brokers that called themselves the Masters of the Universe – we were the Gods of LA. Bright young talents, penning the next blockbuster for Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts. We’d saunter through the gates of Columbia Pictures, or Paramount, or Fox, drop our latest work on the exec’s desk and walk out with the million dollar cheque. We wrote like we were in a hurry and partied like The Wolf of Wall Street.
Back then Monday mornings were abuzz with scripts being couriered to eager heads of development. Agents would bark down the phone at studio execs, telling them they had a hot script on it’s way over and they better fuckin’ read it right fuckin’ now before any else does.
The words “we’d like to make an offer” rang out almost daily.
Then it all stopped. Executives suddenly realized they had shelves full of material that had never been produced. Multi nationals bought up the studios and looked for intellectual property and brands. The age of the franchise had begun and the spec script party was over.
Perhaps that is, until now. In 2011 spec script sales topped the hundred mark. In 2014 it was 148. That’s still 148 out of 100,000 and we’re never going back to the glory days but for the screenwriter the fact that people are buying again is good news. Now more than ever we need to hone our craft and write movies with heart and intelligence and passion. There is an audience out there and there is a career out there.
We may no longer be the Gods of LA but we’re back in the game. Motherfucker. (sorry that slipped out, had a bit of a flashback)