A spec can be said to "hit the market" when the writer's manager and/or agent submits it to production companies and studios.
Different scripts demand different situations -- some specs might go out all at once, dozens of production companies on the same day, and some specs might get slipped here and there to this person or that person. Think of it as the difference between THE AVENGERS opening on 6000 screens and MOONRISE KINGDOM opening on 6 screens.
Right -- this is the definition I use for my newsletter (ScogginsReport.com) and the one we use at SpecScout.com.
Now think about how a website like Spec Scout could disrupt that process, presenting an opinion on a script immediately after it's been sent out, tainting reads if Spec Scout's opinion is negative. Let's say your intimate, specific script about two bird watchers who fall in love is absolutely perfect for Cross Creek, but Spec Scout gets the script before they do and calls it boring and inane with poorly drawn characters, but that's because the reader just didn't connect with the script, whereas the head of Cross Creek and all the execs there would respond favorably to the material.
Except Cross Creek's DoD reads the coverage on Spec Scout and decides it isn't worth his time -- he cracks the script but that other opinion is in the back of his head the whole time.
This is a bit unfair, since it doesn't reflect reality in a number of ways. In no particular order:
1. There are literally hundreds of examples of quirky, intimate, small, and/or otherwise less-than-commercial material that have received glowing coverage from Spec Scout. Consider several such examples from last year's Black List:
- "The Imitation Game" (Spec Scout Score: 84.1)
- "Home By Christmas" (Spec Scout Score: 82.0)
- "Bastards" (Spec Scout Score: 76.4)
- "The Flamingo Thief" (Spec Scout Score: 76.0)
If the hypothetical bird watcher love story was well written, it would receive high marks from our readers and an attendant high Spec Scout Score. If it needed work, that would be indicated instead. The point being, obviously, that it's the writing that matters, not the subject matter.
2. The last thing we want to do is get in the way of someone's career. The only time we would post a score of a script immediately after
it's been sent out is if we'd been submitted the script in advance and the reps and/or writer asked us to do so. Usually, though, we get copies of scripts a week or so after they've gone to market, and it takes us some time to get them covered. So in practice, Spec Scout can't possibly disrupt the spec market in this negative way. On the other hand, it might possibly enhance it, in that a high Spec Scout Score can be used as a sales tool from the outset, and scripts that didn't originally find a home but scored well have an opportunity to be discovered or re-discovered later.
3. Our coverage is written by readers who have extensive experience and
who we've trained over the course of dozens of sample scripts to follow our rubric. No script would be dismissed so curtly as you've described here. Each aspect of the script is given careful consideration, and the comments in each section are supported by specific examples from the script. Each reader is required to assess each script professionally (i.e., based on our rubric), but yes, this whole endeavor is inherently subjective. One reader who didn't connect with the material may well rate it a "Consider" when another reader who did respond to the material rated it a "Recommend." HOWEVER...
4. THE WHOLE POINT
of Spec Scout is to eliminate the impact one reader's poor perception of a given script can have on its chances of success
. By the time all three initial readers have weighed in, the hypothetical one grumpy reader's take is minimized.
Now repeat that for every single DoD who gets your bird-watcher script. You could've written the next great love story. Doesn't matter, though, because of one read from one reader at one random website.
Again, this just doesn't reflect reality.
Semi-publicly publishing coverage of scripts currently on the market is anti-writer and counterproductive to Hollywood.
This makes a nice button but I respectfully disagree. I think my personal, pro-writer track record speaks for itself and is well documented, and I would never have co-founded Spec Scout if I thought it was anti-writer or counterproductive to Hollywood. In fact, the opposite is true: I started Spec Scout because I thought it would benefit writers in several important ways, not least because by applying the same scoring system to spec market scripts as aspiring writers' material, we've created a way for good material from aspiring writers in particular to rise to the attention of the agents, managers, creative executives, producers, directors and the other pros who have access to the library.
This has in fact happened already. We can't mention the company or the project for a couple more weeks until the paperwork is signed and we get the green light to talk about it, but a high profile independent production company is in the process of acquiring a script they discovered on Spec Scout in the past two weeks. This particular script was by a first-timer, but it could just as easily have been a high scoring script by an established writer that simply hadn't found a home previously.
Given the state of the spec market, writers themselves as well as the business as a whole would be well served if there was no longer any such thing as a "busted spec." To put it a different way, the fact that a script didn't sell during its initial round of exposure to producers and executives shouldn't be the black mark that it is now, because the nature of the spec market has fundamentally changed since that dynamic was originally created. If our scoring system contributes to changing that perception, then our site will definitively have been pro-writer and productive for Hollywood.