Spec sales are at an all-time low. What's that mean for writers in 2019?
We all have the dream of writing the spec screenplay that sells for a million bucks and introduces us to Hollywood. Hell, I have an Oscar speech that I've perfected in the shower. But in recent years the spec screenplay market has taken a huge hit. It seems like sales each year since the 2007/2008 strike has gone way down. And Hollywood's changing, IP-driven, landscape has dissuaded buyers from shelling out cash for original ideas more and more.
Lucky for us, Scott Myers, of Go Into The Story and The Black List, has diligently been tracking spec sales for the past twenty years. He recently released his report analyzing this year's sales along with the sales of scripts for the past several years.
Scott compiled the screenplays, loglines, agencies, and buyers.
This is incredibly useful in analyzing the way the business is skewing and what's selling right now.
By digging into these you'll get a clear sense of what is selling right now, and how it might affect some of your own creative choices. Maybe you want to zig when everyone zags, maybe you'll see something so close to your idea that you have to adjust it. Maybe you'll see something close to an old idea that inspires you to dust it off and give it a fresh look
We compiled all the data into two super useful infographics that can help you easily identify what is selling in each genre, subgenre, and how spec sales have fluxuated over the years.
Keep reading to check out Scott Myers's official spec script breakdown.
Scott Myers's 2018 Spec Breakdown
Here is the entire list of 40 spec script deals from 2018 including links to my blog posts covering each acquisition. Scott also dug deep and did a personal analysis of these sales.
2018 Spec Script Deals
Compiled by Scott Myers
1. Title: Varietal Logline: The logline is being kept under wraps, but it is known to be a sci-fi-based psychological thriller centered on a married couple. Writer: Adam Bloom Genre: Science Fiction Thriller Agency: APA Management: Kersey Management Buyer: Universal Pictures Date:2/1/2018 Notes: First-timer.
2. Title: Infinitum Logline: A high-concept sci-fi action love story, intersected with some theoretical physics. Writer: Marc Guggenheim Genre: Science Fiction Agency: WME Management: Syndicate Entertainment Buyer: Sony Pictures Date: 2/7/2018.
3. Title: Hustle Logline: The project follows a washed-up basketball scout who discovers a Chinese streetball phenom and sees him as his ticket back to the NBA, talking him into coming to Los Angeles to train for the draft. The phenom is thrown into the hype machine of pro basketball prospects and must deal with being away from his family and village for the first time while the scout tries to put back together the pieces of the family he left behind. Writer: Taylor Materne Genre: Sports Drama Agency: CAA Management: Oasis Media Group Buyer: Universal Pictures Date: 2/14/2018. Notes: Bidding war. High-six figures. Lebron James attached as a producer.
4. Title: Naked is the Best Disguise Logline: Disguise, which takes place over the course of one night, is set in a near future in which new technology allows one person’s memories to be extracted and inserted into someone else. It centers on an illegal memory dealer who is accused of murdering a man who she does not believe she even knows. Writer: Graham Moore Genre: Science Fiction Thriller Agency: CAA Buyer: Studio 8 Date: 2/28/2018 Notes: Moore to direct. Pre-emptive acquisition.
5. Title: Invasion Logline: A home invasion that happens during an alien invasion Writers: John Swetnam, Harris Wilkinson Genre: Science Fiction Thriller Agency: Verve Management: Industry Entertainment (Swetnam) Buyer: Blumhouse Productions Date: 3/11/2018 Notes: The deal includes progress to production language.
6. Title: Michael Zero Logline: Michael Redmayne is forced to hunt down and kill his clones after they desert the war they were created to fight, in order to wage one of their own against the Corporate State that made them. Writer: Adam Alleca Genre: Science Fiction Action Agency: N/A Management: N/A Buyer: Millennium Films Date: 3/14/2018.
7. Title: The Liberators Logline: Tells the story of the 761st regiment in World War II, an entirely African-American combat unit whose heroism led to the desegregation of the armed forces. Writer: Madison Turner Genre: Historical Action Drama Agency: CAA Management: Grandview Buyer: Warner Bros. Date: 3/20/2018.
8. Title: The Beast Logline: After a passenger plane goes down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a woman finds herself washed ashore and the sole survivor on a mysterious island where she faces her worst fears. Writer: Aaron W. Sala Genre: Horror Thriller Management: Madhouse Entertainment Buyer: The H Collective Date: 3/20/2018. Notes: Pre-emptive deal.
9. Title: You Should Have Left Logline: The unsettling tale of a wealthy man with a younger wife and a six-year-old child. Mistrust and suspicion characterize their marriage while they are in a remote location that may or may not be obeying all the physical laws of the universe. Writer: David Koepp Genre: Supernatural Thriller Agency: CAA Buyer: Blumhouse Productions Date: 3/26/2018. Notes: Adapted on spec from novel of the same name. Optioned by Koepp and Kevin Bacon. Koepp to direct. Bacon to star.
10. Title: Intruders Logline: A family has to survive an all-night alien home-invasion. Writer: James V. Simpson Genre: Science Fiction Thriller Agency:Verve Buyer: Paramount Pictures Date: 3/27/2018. Notes: Second ‘home invasion meets aliens’ spec script to sell within 3 weeks (see Invasion).
11. Title: The Toymaker’s Secret Logline: A CG/live-action fantasy about children’s toys brought to life by a toymaker in Victorian England and who have been living in secret in the same house until present day. When a new single mother and daughter move into the home, the duo find their world upended. Writer: Alex Garland Genre: Family Fantasy Agency: WME Buyer:TriStar Pictures Date: 4/11/2018. Notes: Paloma Baez is attached to direct. She is Garland’s wife.
12. Title: Thug Logline: An ex-journeyman boxer and aging enforcer for a San Pedro Gangster attempts to get back into the lives of his estranged children and clean up the messes of his past while coming to terms with the ruined landscape of his twenty-year career in crime all the while as the criminal underworld won’t loosen their hold on him. Writer: Tony Gayton Genre: Crime Drama Agency: APA Buyer: Tooley Productions Date:4/25/2018.
13. Title: Ironbark Logline: A British businessman helps the CIA penetrate the Soviet nuclear program during the Cold War. He and his Russian source provide crucial intelligence that ends the Cuban Missile Crisis. Writer: Tom O’Connor Genre: Historical Drama Agency: UTA Buyer: FilmNation Entertainment Date: 5/3/2018.
14. Title: Escape From the North Pole Logline: a young girl who, after being told that Santa Claus isn’t real on Christmas Eve, is kidnapped by an evil elf named Bucklebee. After escaping, the young girl teams up with a good elf, a reindeer and a Russian explorer to rescue Santa from a band of evil elves and save the North Pole. Writers: Paul Laudiero, Ben Baker Genre: Action Fantasy Agency: WME Buyer: Filmula Date: 5/9/2018. Notes: Script was on the 2017 Black List.
15. Title: The Oberlin Incident Logline: N/A Writer: Cory Goodman Genre: Horror Thriller Agency: Verve Management: Aperture Entertainment Buyer: Paramount Date: 5/23/2018. Note: Script sold in auction for high-six figures.
16. Title: Rawhide Down Logline: Chronicles the day of the attempted assassination of Reagan in real time, told from multiple points of view: the Secret Service agents who tried to protect him, the officers investigating the shooter John Hinckley, and Cabinet members engaged in a power struggle as they awaited Reagan’s fate. Writer: Alex Cramer Genre: Thriller Agency: Verve Management: Circle of Confusion Buyer: Global Road Entertainment, Gran Via Productions Date: 5/31/2018. Notes: Script sold for a reported mid-six figures.
17. Title: Satanic Panic Logline: A pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope has to fight for her life — and her tips — when her last order of the night turns out to be high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice. Writer: Grady Hendrix Genre: Horror Management: Aperture Entertainment Buyer: Fangoria Films Date: 6/1/2018.
18. Title: Aporia Logline: Grounded sci-fi drama with time travel elements. Writer: Jared Moshe Genre: Science Fiction Drama Agency: ICM Partners Management: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment Buyer: Paramount Pictures Date: 6/4/2018. Notes: Pre-emptive pickup.
19. Title: I Am Yours Logline: A Fatal Attraction stalker vibe. Writers: Ryan Belenzon, Jeffrey Gelber Genre: Thriller Agency: WME Management: Syndicate Entertainment Buyer: Paramount Pictures Date: 6/13/2018. Notes: Reported six-figure deal.
20. Title: Charlie 3D Logline: About the first fully, 3D-printed man and his search for identity and love. Writer: Scott Speer Genre: Science Fiction Drama Agency: UTA Management: Artists First Buyer: Mandalay Pictures Date: 6/12/2018 Notes: Option deal.
21. Title: The Throwdown Logline: A comedic look at gentrification and the culture clash around food when two Latina American cousins from the Bay Area find themselves fighting over an inherited rundown restaurant and the one thing that originally brought their families together — their late grandfather’s family recipes. Writer: Emilia Serrano Genre: Comedy Agency: ICM Partners Management: 3 Arts Entertainment Buyer: Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Date: 6/12/2018 Notes: One of two spec scripts written by Serrano acquired by Sony.
22. Title: Untitled Quinceañera Project Logline: A cultural coming-of-age story about a career-driven Latina American during her “double quinceañera” — celebrated at age 30 because she missed having her first quinceñera at 15. She invites her parents, best friends, and brazen married cousin to a work trip disguised as a double quince, inviting trouble that could jeopardize her job and her relationships. Writer: Emilia Serrano Genre: Comedy Agency: ICM Partners Management: 3 Arts Entertainment Buyer: Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia Pictures Date: 6/12/2018 Notes: One of two spec scripts written by Serrano acquired by Sony.
23. Title: 1917 Logline: A World War I drama. Writers: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns Genre: War Drama Agency: CAA Buyer: Amblin Partners Date: 6/18/2018. Notes: Spec package with interest also from Paramount, Sony and New Regency.
24. Title: Last Christmas Logline: Holiday romance set in London. Writers: Emma Thompson, Bryanny Kimmings Genre: Romantic Comedy Agency: The Agency Buyer: Universal Pictures Date: 6/27/2018. Notes: Paul Feig attached to direct.
25. Title: Superfecundation Logline: A charmingly chaotic woman who is struggling to figure out her life, and finds herself in a unique situation when she becomes pregnant with twins by different fathers — an actual rare occurrence known as superfecundation. Writer: Savion Einstein Genre: Comedy Agency: Gersh Management: Bellevue Productions Buyer: Screen Gems Date: 7/19/2018. Notes: Einstein is a 2014 Black List feature writers lab participant and a semifinalist in the 2016 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.
26. Title: Sucide 21 Logline: Assisted suicide is legal for adults over 21. A young man and woman meet at a death clinic and decide to spend their last hours together. Writer: Greg Wayne Genre: Science Fiction Thriller Management: REALM Buyer: Catapult Entertainment Group, Needle’s Eye Productions Date: 7/26/2018. Notes: Writer conceived, developed, and wrote the script in the 24 week The Quest master class with Scott Myers. Option deal.
27. Title: The Fishermen Logline: A soft-spoken Vietnam-era top sniper now dying of cancer who becomes a vigilante killer with the help of a sympathetic policeman. Writer: John C. Richards Genre: Action Drama Agency: APA Buyer: Voltage Pictures Date: 8/11/2018.
28. Title: Singles Day Logline: It centers around an actual long-held Chinese holiday that falls on November 11 (its 11.11 digits signify being alone) in which celebrants take pride in being unattached. It is considered the anti-Valentine’s Day and is embraced by young people. It is a huge celebration in China, where e-commerce giant Alibaba last fall reported record Singles Day shopping sales splurges that reached $25 billion. While romantic comedies have had a tough time in Hollywood, they are a hot commodity in China. Writer: Lillian Yu Genre: Romantic Comedy Agency: UTA Management: Management 360 Buyer: New Line Cinema Date: 8/20/2018. Note: Script went out and sold on the weekend Crazy Rich Asians opened.
29. Title: The King Logline: An historical epic based on the true-life story of Kamehameha, the king who was the first to unite the Hawaiian islands. Writer: Randall Wallace Genre: Historical Drama Agency: WME Buyer: New Line Cinema Date: 8/29/2018. Note: Dwayne Johnson attached to star, Robert Zemeckis attached to direct.
30. Title: Salt of Joy Logline: A love story set in the afterlife where themes of selfless love and redemption are explored. Writer: Rich Greenberg Genre: Romance Drama Agency: Gersh Buyer: Luma Pictures Date: 9/1/2018.
31. Title: Happy Anniversary Logline: A happily married couple’s anniversary celebration goes awry when they find themselves victims of a sinister home invasion. Writer: Holly Brix Genre: Dark Comedy Thriller Agency: Verve Buyer: Paramount Pictures Date: 9/19/2018.
32. Title: Tenfold Logline: A former operative returns home for his estranged daughter’s wedding, only to witness her brutally gunned down in a hotel lobby. When the police are unable to help, he decides to rely on his training and instincts to track down the men responsible. Writer: Allan Ungar Genre: Action Agency: Verve Management: Zero Gravity Buyer: Voltage Pictures Date: 10/1/2018. Notes: Ungar to direct
33. Title: You are Leaving the American Sector Logline: A young CIA officer stationed in West Berlin in the early 1980s who uncovers a classified military operation that threatens to tip the world into a nuclear war. Writer: Jared Cowie Genre: Spy Thriller Agency: UTA Management: Jon Kanak Buyer: Parallel Films Date: 10/2/18. Notes: 2014 Black List writer.
34. Title: Wink Logline: A Cyrano de Bergerac-like tale of what happens when you take over your mother’s social media profiles. Writer: Brad Desch Genre: Romantic Comedy Agency: ICM Partners Management: 3 Arts Entertainment Buyer: Warner Bros. Date: 10/5/2018.
35. Title: Untitled John Lennon and Yoko Ono Project Logline: N/A Writer: Anthony McCarten Genre: Drama Biopic Agency: CAA Buyer: Universal Pictures Date: 10/23/2018.
36. Title: Genesis Logline: A mother fights her way across the post-apocalyptic remains of the country to reach the daughter she hasn’t seen since the start of the chaos. Writer: Brian Michael Scully Genre: Science Fiction Action Thriller Management: The Muraviov Company Buyer: Bad Idea Date:11/2/2018. Note: Kate Bosworth attached to star.
37. Title: The Best Friends Logline: Described as a high concept, slightly meta take on romantic comedies. Writer: Chad Kultgen, Amy Rhodes Genre: Comedy Agency: CAA (Kultgen) Management: MXN (Kultgen), Rhodes (Brillstein Entertainment Partners) Buyer: TriStar Pictures Date: 12/7/2018.
38. Title: Wolf Country Logline: A beloved Colorado lawman who lives by his own version of the truth is headed for prison. Before he gets there, he escapes custody. A young female sheriff who still believes in right and wrong must go it alone chasing him through the rugged Colorado wilderness. In bringing him to justice she must first come to terms with the complexities of the man who taught her everything and who also happens to be her father. Writer: Pete Begler Genre: Adventure Drama Agency: WME Management: Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment Buyer: Endeavor Content Date: 12/10/2018. Notes: Pre-emptive deal. Mid to high six figures.
39. Title: The French Quarter Will Not Be Spared Logline: A new take on the vampire genre set in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. The goal is to make a visceral and socially relevant horror film in the vein of A Quite Place or Get Out. Writer: Anthony Jaswinski Genre: Horror Agency: Paradigm Management: Circle of Confusion Buyer: Lionsgate Date: 12/10/2018.
40. Title: Guysmaids Logline: N/A Writer: Danny Segal, Isaac Schamis Genre: Comedy Agency: CAA Buyer: Twentieth Century Fox Date:12/19/2018. Notes: Pre-emptive deal.
What Do These Spec Sales Mean?
Well, we're in the worst year since 1992. Hooray.
There are a few factors to look at when you start analyzing the numbers.
The first is that studios are making more and more sequels and reboots based on the pre-existing properties they own. We've all seen the adds for Ghostbusters, Men In Black, and endless other properties that harken back to the '90s and '80s. It's all coming back to lure modern audiences without studios having to introduce people to new characters and to take new risks.
We've talked about this before, but movies are big business. Companies have decided that its easier to make money with tentpole films than it is to release original ideas and take on a lot of risks that they won't find fans.
The second issue is the rise in television. With so many jobs moving from features to television, many people are trying to break in with TV samples instead of features. Many of companies that used to develop movies have shifted and are now splitting time trying to get TV shows on the air. There are many outlets buying as well. So TV seems to be where a lot of opportunities have shifted.
But it's not that simple.
There's Hope For The Spec Market
I know it might seem like the Great Depression for feature screenwriters, but there's a reason to think this trend might buck. And 2019 might be a banner year for spec sales.
We have covered streaming wars before, and the content race is on between Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and others. Netflix recently said they plan on producing around 90 original features a year. Those ideas have to come from somewhere. And chances are, they won't all be sold because of IP.
If other channels want to keep up, they'll probably do the same.
Also, I like to point to public sentiment. I have traversed all over Reddit Screenwriting and found that lots of people want to watch original ideas and original movies.
Look at the way Set It Up went viral?
If we all continue to vote with our movie stubs and support these kinds of movies, Hollywood will get the message.
Summing It All Up
What can we take away from reports like these?
It's nice to know Hollywood is still investing in Science Fiction and that Drama specs still go strong. If you're trying to break into Hollywood, the best thing to help you is a great screenplay. No matter what it is. Remember, these are the specs that sold, but this list doesn't cover which open writing assignments were booked.
Studios hire writers all year round for their projects, and typically if you're a young writer who has shown potential, they want to hire you. Mostly because you'll be cheap.
Also, with such a glut of TV out there, writing a TV pilot pits you against a ton of people for a limited amount of jobs. The best way to break in right now might still be a feature spec. It's where you can show the most of your voice and story capabilities.
If you want to start your feature film script, consider following our Free Screenwriting Seminar.
Now get out there and get writing!