Screenwriting : Speculation by Fiona Faith Ross

Fiona Faith Ross

Speculation

In this Q&A at New York Film Academy (2016), Max Landis says, "The spec market is dead." Discuss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZUpZO50ZYA

Dan MaxXx

Of course it's dead-- Max owns it. Nothing new. reminds me of Tarantino after Pulp Fiction success. QT was everywhere talking about Cinema and himself. this was before the Social Media boom (facebook, twitter). Spec feature market has always been like winning Mega million lottery. Amatuers do win. But generally a spec is just a writing sample to break in as a Writer.

Fiona Faith Ross

Thank you @DanMaxXx. You always have your ear to the ground, painful though it must be at times, not to mention creepy crawlies getting in. It makes sense he would want to build barriers to protect his hard-won territory. However, he mainly owns the Action genre, (and Horror?) which means writers like me can sneak around the edges.

Howard Johnson

listen and learn.

Dan MaxXx

Fiona Max actually dominates every genre-- film, TV, comic books. He is the right age, 30s. He is a rookie TV Show Runner, has 4 movies in development and he just got a directing gig rebooting his dad's movie, Werewolf of London. He is fine

Fiona Faith Ross

Absolutely, @Howard. He is incredibly creative and dynamic, and I'm happy to listen to him all day.

Fiona Faith Ross

I love those Werewolf movies.

Shawn Speake

Great share. Thank you

Shawn Speake

I'm an hour and a half behind schedule now, but it was worth it :)

Bill Costantini

Max Landis is a brilliant thinker and writer. I wouldn't be surprised if he's running a major studio soon. Nice link, Fiona. RIP LEONARD COHEN (September 21, 1934 - November 10, 2016)

Vince Conside

great share

Dan MaxXx

Dont see Landis running a studio but I do see him as the "Tarantino" of this generation- 30s white male Hipster movies

Vince Conside

So the Spec market is dead! So why would anyone (screenwriter) go into this business.

Vince Conside

The best is when he says "My dad had nothing to do with my success" or something like that. Get the f&%k out of here - His father was a legend Animal House, American Werewolf etc. Please!

Dan MaxXx

Lol Max.. u dont tell the story of Spielberg attending your bar mitzvah? I do agree- his dad had 0 contribution to the blockbuster success of "Chronicles." But his dad's name & occupation gave Max an early show biz education

Jeff Lyons

Oh boy ... his youth is showing :) That's ok because this industry ages you fast. It's like dog years.

William Martell

It's been dead forever... there were recent years where only about 50 specs sold total. I think we've been around 100 for the past couple of years. But specs are the job applications for assignments - so you have to keep writing them. And sometimes they sell.

Dan MaxXx

Per Scott Myer's twitter today, 11/16/2016: 65 spec script deals in 2016. (With 8 weeks remaining). There were 52 spec script deals year-to-date in 2015. Spec script deals are up 20% this year over last.

Bill Costantini

There is no easy entry into any entrepreneurial endeavor, folks. Smart entrepreneurs understand the difficulties that they have to overcome, and the barriers to entry - and they charge ahead. Good luck to those who enter the Writer's Arena!

Erik Grossman

65 spec scripts this year... out of how many writers trying to be one of them? The spec script market is, for all practical purposes, pootered. Most companies look at spec scripts to find writers, and bring them on to write new stuff or rewrite something they already have in development, or own the rights to and are seeking adaptations.

Thivanka Perera

One can only dream about the days when Shane Black and Joe Esterhaz were reportedly selling spec script ideas written on paper napkins ...

Matt Hurd

Love him or hate him, one of the great things about watching Max Landis talk is that he always makes you think. This whole Q&A is filled with really interesting ideas - well worth the full watch. As far as the spec feature market goes, I've gotta agree with Erik.

Bill Costantini

Erik: you put the Happy Writers pitches together, if I recall correctly. I just looked at the first ten people hearing pitches this weekend. Each one of them is looking for specific types of scripts with genres and budget ranges included. I would imagine that these people are looking for scripts that they can sell and/or produce (a few of them even say that they are looking for projects to bring to networks and companies). If all of these companies that hear pitches here...and elsewhere....were just looking for "spec scripts to find writers"...no disrespect intended to you or your last comment, Erik....but all of those folks probably already know great writers and are probably really looking for great stories. I think most, if not all, are here to find some really brilliant scripts that their companies can really make - as they state, and as advertised in the Happy Writers' descriptions for each pitch session. Isn't that correct, Erik? Someone very reputable once posted here that a top studio exec said "writers are like a box of Kleenex." That's very true - professional writers are all over the place - and the fact that something like half of the WGA members didn't make a dime off of writing in 2015 validates that thought in the industry. But how many writers - professionals or unsold writers - can really come up with a premise/concept/story with unique and memorable characters that hasn't been told before....once...twice or five dozen times in the last 100 years of filmmaking? How many of you writers can really put out a script so unique and so non-derivative, that a producer can say "honestly, there are some scenes in this movie that I have not seen before that are beguiling...and at the end, to me, it's like Shakespearean?" That's what you as writers should strive for - and the words in that quote aren't mine...those are Tova Laiter's words in the YouTube short that is the subject of this post and that she said about Max Landis' Chronicle film. And if 50 or 100 spec scripts sell in mainstream Hollywood....as Myers reports...and don't forget...he always says is an inaccurate number, since it only counts what is sold/reported in mainstream Hollywood....then spec script sales are FAR FROM DEAD. And Max Landis is wrong when he says it, too. 50 or 100....plus all of the other spec scripts that are sold and aren't counted....still are a lot of sales, and makes that market far from dead. Once again....all of this underscores.....that these producers that seek brilliant stories....are seeking BRILLIANT STORIES....and not something that they've heard before...and before....and before. Be unique with your stories, writers! Be unique!

Dan MaxXx

Wow Bill party pooper! Prod Companies can't say, "Submit specs so we can find the best, fresh & cheapest Writer to rewrite our in-house ideas because there is a new Boss in charge of development." That is a hard story to sell to the public. :)) The "Mickey fisher" success, from Contest to TV Show in 9-months sells books & seminars. Public wants to buy that story. Max Landis is such a Debbie-downer. Almost as depressing when Mystery Exec on Twitter was debunked as a Fraud. :) http://mashable.com/2015/08/19/mysteryexec-was-a-fake/#gNi2AElYikq3

Jorge J Prieto

I listen to this Max Landis , like I eating a turkey, take in the good parts, that I find credible, helpful, delicious (turkey that is) and the rest I discard, ignore....I don't want indigestion. Great points, Billy. Fiona, alway a fan. Dan MaxXX love you or hate you, your honesty is alway refreshing.

Dan MaxXx

Hey I like Max Landis. He is the Tarantino for 30s something Hipsters in skinny jeans.

Jorge J Prieto

I just want to add, that the Q&A section of this interview, is really good. The guy does have an imagination and makes some good points I can relate to.

Howard Johnson

I've been getting so many emails from people commenting on the landis video i decided to post the link to my video and see if the comments continue. likes and dislikes welcomed, its only 5 minutes. THANKS!

Bill Costantini

Howard J.....that's a great all-around piece of work. Howard J in DA HOUSE!

Stevan Šerban

If one spec is sold during the year, the market is not dead.

Erik Grossman

@Bill every prod. co and agency is HOPING to find the next great spec... if they can find it, great! But let's be honest here... how many thousands upon thousands upon thousands are writing specs... and 65 were sold. The fact is, most companies have IP's and ideas they want to produce and need written... and sure, they know a lot of great writers, but they're also looking for new, fresh voices. As Dan pointed out, they don't want to spend the upper-six to seven figure salary on a name writer - or maybe they're looking for a unique take on the subject matter/story they're looking to produce. And they aren't just looking for good writers, they're looking for good horror writers, action writers, drama writers - whatever genre of material they're sitting on that they're looking to write/produce, that's the kind of writer they're looking for. How do they find them? By reading specs and samples of the appropriate genre. Agencies, managers, production companies, they're looking for writers first and foremost. You can do a LOT with a writer. You can get them on a writing assignment, you can have them do an adaptation, a rewrite, put them in a writer's room, have them do an outline, first draft... you can't really do a whole lot with a spec script except sell it, and as the market shows, that isn't easy. There are roughly 3,000 working writers in Hollywood... and only 65 spec scripts sold. Let's be generous and say ONLY those 3,000 working writers wrote specs and tried to sell them, that would mean there's a 2% success rate of selling your script. That's a terrible success rate to base a career on... you're far more likely to find success pitching to companies, finding one that likes your writing, going in for the meeting and getting a feel for what kind of projects they're looking to do. You'll develop a script with them (maybe even develop your own original material, or the script you pitched in the first place - but then it's not a spec script, it's something you developed with them). Whatever route you go, that relationship will evolve into an option or production deal. But straight up pitching on our website and getting a script sale? Hell, writers with fields of credits and the best agents in the world are having problems getting a spec script sale. If you're pitching through us hoping for that, you're going about your career all wrong.

Fiona Faith Ross

Great post, Erik.

Fiona Faith Ross

Actually, all of you have made some cracking insights and shared your valuable experience. Any industry, including spec screenwriting, needs both frog-eyed newcomers and hoary old pros to keep stirring the pot and throwing in new stuff. If not, it declines. So here's my two pence work. As @Dan MaxXx says, ML is the leader of his tribe in that generation. He's got a lot more to offer and hasn't by any means reached full brilliance yet. I think there are lots of opportunities revealed in your comments above. My secret wish is to produce a spec script that gets me hired on a writer's team. Working with a posse of talent is one of the most exhilarating and rewarding things to do, especially for a writer, whose day job can be so lonely and isolating. And imagine, the end result if a terrific movie and you can say, "I was part of that." What could be better?

Bill Costantini

Erik: I appreciate your reply!

Stevan Šerban

Max Landis says, "The spec market is dead." I think that all of you don't see the keyword in this sentence MARKET! So we have to ask another important question, in fact, the question above all questions - "Why does the author write the spec script?" How many answers to this question can be? Let's try with two. Answer number one - Because he/she is an artist and has a need to express his/her creative response to a very specific situation in the world that surrounds him/her. Answer number two - Because the artist or the person who has the necessary skill of writing, write a story that wants to sell for a large amount of money. Does this mean that all indie films have high artistic value? Or that all blockbusters are just a money-making machines. Of course the answer to both questions is NO! The film industry is like any other industry motivated by profit. When profits can no longer find a way to multiply he is forced to create a new way to be increased. Therefore, well-paid analysts create new needs, new styles, new trends ... The writer also has to be a good analyst. Like a good analyst the writer will be able to predict the direction in which the film industry wants to go. So, "The spec market is NOT dead." rather the writers don't recognize the direction in which the industry moves. Writers don't recognize what the market wants. It is also possible that the industry is once again at a turning point. Slowly deplete existing resources and the direction in which to continue is not yet clearly defined. This situation is more like the calm before the storm.

Dan Guardino

A spec screenplay is ja screenwriter’s calling card. They should use it to open doors and make connections in the business. Anyway that is how most screenwriters break into the business. Once make some good contacts the odds don’t mean that much anymore. That is just my opinion.

John David Higham

My philosophy is that I'd rather focus on pitches to get in the door and use one of my many spec script paperweights as a writing sample to persuade the powers to be to allow me the honor of developing my ideas on paper. I've done the spec screenplay dance for over a decade and though it did lead me to some cool and groovy times when a great indie producer attached herself to it, it has not really produced any tangible results. I'd rather spend a week on an idea than a year on a script. For that amount of time, i can kick out a few books.

Dan Guardino

@John David Higham. I don’t see how someone could spend a week on an idea and pitch that to a producer. I don’t know too many producers who would even want to hear an idea for a screenplay if there was no screenplay available to read. Also, if you pitch an idea there is nothing to prevent them from using your idea and hire someone else to write the screenplay and cutting you out. Unlike most the other screenwriters here I don’t trust anyone in this business.

Dan MaxXx

yep, the spec market is dead... but not job assignment market. Every day, Deadline & Variety publish Writers who closed deals, 1st Timers & Pros like Max Landis. Listen to Bill Martell, Dan G & Erik G- they are giving you the beats of surviving as a Working Writer. The spec script gets you into the room. That is all. It gets you a free bottled water and your chance to sell yourself as the best person to write an idea for a movie or TV show. And the "Idea" comes from the Executive/Producer/Prod company. The people across the table want to feel special. They got the fancy job titles & high salaries for a reason. They want YOU, the Writer, to be a part of THEIR team. So Max Landis is correct.... but he is also being slick with his explanation, a bit ingenious in front of cameras & students at The NY Film Academy. In that Interview room, Max is the smartest person.

Shawn Speake

That's what's up, MaxXx. I'm prepping polish passes on 3 specs for Danny Manus. Hopin' for a solid sample out of the three. Definitely tryin' to grow up to be like Max!

Eric Christopherson

Tell me it's Fiji water, Dan. A boy's gotta dream!

John David Higham

@Dan. No, probably not many and it will be my task to find at least one who will. I only need one "yes," and while that might seem like a long shot, welcome to my life!

Dan Guardino

@ John. Everything we do in this business is a long shot so we all do what we think might work and hope for the best. I have had some luck at selling scripts but luck probably played the biggest role.

John David Higham

@ Dan. Indeed. I would hypothesize, however (not to define your reality), that luck probably played the biggest role in your getting your scripts in the in the door and your talent was instrumental in getting them sold. I myself have not yet sold a script though I have had a few close-but-not-quite-projects, so I'm very aware of development hazards and greatly respect anyone who has turned an idea into a film.

Howard Johnson

I guess I'll share my thoughts on the "dead spec" script issue since nobodies watching my video. Ok, so it's not the case of spec scripts being dead. It's all about networking until you find your self in a position to get paid for being creative. If selling a spec gets you there. Great! If its another avenue that's still great! Either way, once the industry sees your due diligence and that magical door opens you will eventually begin screenwriting. That's if another position hasn't stole your attention. There are so many amazing stories of how people break into the industry it would be insane to limit your opportunities to the selling of a script! Just enjoy the journey to telling YOUR success story.

Anthony Cawood

Latest Scoggins report suggest a weak year for spec sales by the studios, but what they class as non-studio (Amazon, Netflix etc) is same as last year and of course this doesn;t reflect the indies, so a weak year but hardly dead! Full report below, and really interesting in general! https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-wFhY-E0JYuaWszeGd1eElsczg/view

Dan Guardino

65 is not a real number because most spec sales never get reported. I am not positive but I think most the sales reported come from just the biggest agencies.

Anthony Cawood

I think the spec sales in the Scoggins report are all the big agencies and studios, so misses smaller studios, indies etc...

Dan Guardino

Anthony. I agree and even when the spec market was really good there was only a few hundred reported.

Dan MaxXx

real life example--- how one spec novel or script starts a screenwriting career. http://creativescreenwriting.com/bad-santa-2/

Shawn Speake

Jus wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks again for this awesome vid. Damn. Max is motivating! See you ladies and gentlemen Monday!

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