It's going to be years before we understand the lasting effects the pandemic had within Hollywood. The immediate effects are hard enough to handle, from assistants losing their jobs to studios selling off assets to production companies folding.
2020 was a really hard year for Hollywood. And it hit screenwriters especially hard.
Without the ability to buy and shoot ideas, Hollywood greatly reduced the number of specs it bought, down from 32 in 2019 to 25 this year. Spec scripts used to be hot, especially in the 90s. There was a period where studios were buying over 150 of them a year. New writers were breaking in, and we were seeing some incredible films come from them.
That trend died when studios began focusing on IP, and things have gotten worse. These numbers have been trending downward for over a decade. Scott Myers of Go Into the Story breaks down the numbers, and this year, they feel bleak.
Aside from the 2010 outlier, this was just another year where studios decided not to take a risk on buying original ideas. That's a huge bummer. It makes writing specs way more of an exercise than a fiscal opportunity, and it shows that becoming a professional screenwriter by selling a spec is getting harder and harder.
As he explains, this is not an exact science, but he has been tracking these for a while, and I think he provides the best insight.
A healthy Hollywood buys a lot of specs and fosters writers—that is and always has been my belief. I think that streamers have generally ignored this market, and I hope there is a run on specs as vaccinations ramp up and people can get back to shooting again. Spec scripts are a gold mine for new ideas and a way to create your own IP.
I am hoping for a huge bounceback in 2021 or 2022, depending on when the pandemic gets under control. Studios and streamers will need to make up for the lost time. With places like Netflix releasing 70-ish movies a year, I am hoping other companies buy specs to make up the difference.
Let us know what you think in the comments.