The Business of Screenwriting: Everything you wanted to know about specs [Part 5]

Part 5: Developing the Spec Script

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 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, and back again of 1990–2012.

In Part 4, we surveyed the buyers, both major studios and financiers.

Part 5: Developing the Spec Script

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Story prep can look a bit like Carrie’s wall in “Homeland”. A writer’s reps can help as a “sounding board”.

Every screenwriter is different. Some have agents. Some have managers. Some have agents and managers.

Every screenwriter-rep relationship is different, too. Some writers pretty much do their own thing. Some writers work closely with their reps, especially managers. How close? Check out these comments from Chris Fenton, literary manager and producer of H2F Entertainment from an interview I did with him:

Here is a perspective from Jeremiah Friedman who with his writing partner Nick Palmer sold the spec script “Family Getaway” to Warner Bros., wrote the remake of , and sold the pitch “Speeding Bullet” to Universal:

But as Justin Rhodes (“Second Sun,” “The Breach,” “The Join”) reminds us, screenwriters can and should understand the basics as well:

Bottom line, no script goes out until it’s ready as neither writer nor rep wants to be connected to a sub-par product. That can mean many long months of prep, writing and rewriting.

At some point, your spec is ready. What happens then? Tune in next week where we take an inside look at what can be a simple or quite complex process — bringing a spec script to market.

Let me end with an observation from Chris Fenton:

“Writers should always be writing.”


For more Business of Screenwriting articles, go here.

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