Archive for February 2010

The Return of the Spec Market?

February 22, 2010

It’s long been spoken around Hollywood that the spec script market is dying. But a recent bidding war over Shawn Christensen’s script “Abduction,” followed by a hot, million-dollar sale to Lionsgate, has suggested that maybe things are ready to perk up again.

A script written “on spec” means that the writer has written it with no promise of compensation, as opposed to it being written on assignment (a company is paying the writer to write a specific idea or story). An agent, manager or other representative of the script will circulate it to buyers (in industry parlance is this known as “going out with the script”) in hopes of making a sale. The attachment of a high-wattage star, or an A-list director, will often sweeten the deal.

Obviously, having a spec sold for a million dollars is the dream of any hopeful screenwriter. But in recent years, that dream has become more and more distant as fewer and fewer specs are sold. Buyers are hanging onto their money, developing more projects in-house and then hiring already proven writers to adapt them on assignment. It’s dreary news for writers hoping for a big break, because as the spec market dries up, fewer agents and managers are willing to take a chance on circulating the work of a new talent. Success stories like M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense,” or Michael Martin’s “Brooklyn’s Finest,” which inspire bidding wars and huge sales, are few and far between.

That’s why it’s welcome news that “Abduction” became such a hot commodity. Every studio wanted it; Lionsgate finally got it. (It helped that Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob in the “Twilight” movies, is attached.) Because Hollywood is a place of trend-following, another spec, by writers Sonny Lee and Patrick Walsh, was just picked up by Montecito Pictures, which has a deal at Paramount. Could we be seeing the return of the spec market? For the sake of the new, undiscovered talent out there, let’s hope so.

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Profile — Mark Boal

February 10, 2010

There are many talented women in Hollywood and far too few of them have a voice — unless you count the voice you hear when you call your agent and someone answers, “Reppy McAgentson’s office.” We don’t count that.

That’s why I like promoting good writing from women in the entertainment business. This profile of Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal, by Catherine Clinch, is well-written and very informative for new screenwriters, to boot. Enjoy.

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A New Gig

February 9, 2010

ScriptBird is now a presence at PhotoCine News! What is Photocine, you ask? Well, they describe it on their site much better than I can:

PhotoCine News is the first blog dedicated to the convergence of photography and video. As photographers retool their skill set to this emerging medium, PhotoCine News is dedicated to delivering the latest news and innovations in this brilliant new genre. This leap forward for the photography industry brings it closer to the gates of Hollywood with the potential for influential short films. With that in mind we deliver news from the movie industry that affects the photocine filmmaker. Along with the PhotoCine Conference and Film Festival, PhotoCine News is the definitive destination for the filmmaking photographer.

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It’s exciting to be a part of this new movement, helping photographers to break into the entertainment field, and to be working with a group of smart, innovative people.

Monday Box Office Analysis — February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010

About two years ago, I became a fan of a silly little project based on the latest Nicholas Sparks novel. In the script, a young couple falls head over heels in love over a two week period, then is separated when he must leave to go fight in an undisclosed war in the Middle East. It was unrepentantly sappy, unabashedly romantic, and I correctly predicted that teenage girls were going to go nuts over it.

Sure enough, DEAR JOHN cleaned up at the box office this past weekend, de-throning AVATAR after its seven-week reign. Why did this happen, when everyone was so sure DEAR JOHN was going to top out under 20 million?

I’ll tell you why: it’s because studio executives still have no idea what kind of projects appeal to young women. They especially don’t know how to bridge the divide between teenage girls and adult women, and when they run across this kind of material (such as the TWILIGHT franchise), they’re just kind of happily baffled. They ride the wave of success, but they don’t know how to replicate it. And when they see a project like DEAR JOHN, instead of comparing it rightfully with THE NOTEBOOK, whose model it faithfully follows, they instead compare it with utterly crap “chick lit” projects like WHEN IN ROME or LEAP YEAR.

In another entry, I’ll try to explain the formula that makes for a successful generation-bridging film that appeals to female audiences. For now, though, I’ll stop by saying, HA.

1 Dear John SGem
$32,400,000

2 Avatar Fox
$23,600,000
$630,093,000

3 From Paris with Love LGF
$8,120,000

4 Edge of Darkness WB
$7,005,000
$29,097,000

5 Tooth Fairy Fox
$6,500,000
$34,333,000

6 When in Rome BV
$5,504,000
$20,899,000

7 The Book of Eli WB
$4,835,000
$82,163,000

8 Crazy Heart FoxS
$3,650,000
$11,188,000

9 Legion (2010) SGem
$3,400,000
$34,678,000

10 Sherlock Holmes WB
$2,630,000
$201,579,000

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