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Old 12-27-2019, 09:54 AM   #1
SundownInRetreat
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Default What's the scene like now?

Howdy all,

It's been a few years since I've been active on the screenplay scene and I'm wondering if it's the same for non-pros as it was 2012-2015 (ie: nigh-on-impossible) or if it's even tougher than back then? Is TBL still occasionally parachuting writers into the Big Game? Has the focus on self-produced content by Amazon and Netflix opened up opportunity for aspiring writers or have they killed off any chance of an 'in' by focussing on already-established writers? Has the growing conglomerating of Hollywood and focus on existing IP finally slammed shut the fractionally-ajar door?


Thanks in advance.


ps: why is this place so quiet? A forum means structure - topics and posts in a static place - how anyone can prefer the vagaries of social media and having to scroll for ages to try and find that thread you read a month ago.
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Old 01-03-2020, 08:44 AM   #2
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

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Originally Posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
Has the focus on self-produced content by Amazon and Netflix opened up opportunity for aspiring writers or have they killed off any chance of an 'in' by focusing on already-established writers? Has the growing conglomerating of Hollywood and focus on existing IP finally slammed shut the fractionally-ajar door?
Amazon, Netflix and Hulu are focusing on established writers. They have the money so they can afford the "best." So even with more TV series & movies for "TV" being made, from what I've seen in terms of listing deals, there hasn't been any substantial rise for aspiring writers. Maybe a few more opportunities for writers who are or were in the game, but that seems to be about it for the most part.

Working with established IP is still huge. People out here love being able to base something on a book, comic book/graphic novel, true story, article, podcast, etc. which already has a built in audience. There are still original ideas being set up, of course, but material with preexisting fan bases is as big/popular as ever in so many ways.

And some of the services out there still help a few writers here & there, but not even close to the degree that all the aspiring writers who are paying them hope for.
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Old 01-03-2020, 09:43 AM   #4
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

Curious about this too, lately. I looked up Scott Myers' spec sale analysis for 2018 the other day, and was alarmed at how depressed the market seems to be from just 6 or 7 years ago. I remember when 100 spec sales a year seemed low, and he lists only 40 for 2018.

I think the market is changing, but not closing. I think the majority of developments of original scripts tend to happen without flashy sales, and thus tend to go under-reported. My goal this year is to take a script to market. I've been watching films from the smaller players to see who's actively bringing smaller projects to the screen. It's a whole different ball game, that's for sure.
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Old 01-03-2020, 10:27 AM   #5
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

Good luck get anything mid-budget sold on spec. I don’t buy takes like “Knives Out will mean a shift back to original theatrical content!” Not at that price point anyway.

Write something cheap, contained, high-concert, and genre-y if you want to break in. Seems like those are the only naked sales from non-established writers.
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Old 01-03-2020, 01:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

It's harder than it was a few years ago. Managers are less responsive because many have had to fill the "agent" shoes in the interim with the ATA/WGA dispute, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon.

The industry is primarily, and more so than a few years ago, focused on IP driven projects. As Satrials has mentioned, the middle ground is a barren wasteland, for the most part.

There could be some opportunities in the $10-$40 mill range IF you have a high concept commercial project. Contained thrillers/horror with high concept are probably the best bet right now, but that's not to say anything else that's really good wouldn't get attention.

A manager is unlikely to sign a new writer with a low budget feature, because it isn't a financially viable way for a manager to make money. The time and effort it takes to develop a new writer means they've got to recover the time investment with something they can sell. And, in all fairness to managers earning 10% of a writer's fee, they simply cannot survive on low budget feature sales. So even at a $10 million budget, if the writer's fee is $250 K, the manager makes $25k. That's a good start, but...

Dropping down to a $5 million budget (or less) just isn't going to do it for manager when they have to do so much work up front to jumpstart a writer's career.

I have a high concept rom-com I'm working with a producer on to (hopefully) send out to mod-to-large prodcos and studios first part of this year. But who knows.

I'm considering two contained genre thriller features and a TV pilot for my next project. It feels like crime/detective has moved to TV. It also seems horror is still a good way in.

Netflix still likes things to be packaged up front, so in lieu of an agent it might be more fruitful to solicit the producers directly that Netflix and Amazon work with.

Netflix has an edge, because they secured high ticket showrunners before Amazon, Apple+, Warner and Disney were really ready to roll out their streaming platforms which means for a while, they'll have a jumpstart on strong, new content.

It's a tough time, for sure.

Another consideration on the TV side, is that studios/networks/producers who have secured IPs can package around writers. This may result in a power shift for TV writers.

Writers could lose control over the direction and vision of the project if the project is set up (packaged) before a writer is hired. At that point all a studio would really need is a writer and staff who can execute the studio's vision-- IOW, the writers may feel a shift in their "power" to the studio, because they were not an integral part of packing the project.

These are simply my opinions (and generalizations) based on what I've experienced and read in the industry in the past year.

So, I'm not sure if "cheap" is the answer, but writers have to carefully chose what projects they write next.

The Black List is really a hit or miss. They've had a lot of controversy from the writer's side of their services where a writer can receive 8s for a script's reviews and the next review can come in with a 2 or a 3. TBL digs in and asks you to prove if they didn't read it, when the issue is they have some incompetent readers.

TBL stands behind those reviews as acceptable, which is horseshit, imo. There should be an undeniable consistency between reviews, and the outliers should be the exception.

that's my current take.
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Old 01-04-2020, 03:04 PM   #7
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

RE: "... so in lieu of an agent it might be more fruitful to solicit the producers directly that Netflix and Amazon work with."

Here's the challenge with this... the producers whom Netflix and Amazon work with tend to be the larger, "brand name" prodcos.

And these prodcos, at least in my experience, are not penetrable by unknown writers. They get their materials from established agencies. So we're back to the "need an agent/manager" first quandary.

But maybe it's just me and others here have had more success. Actually, I hope that's the case as it would imply hope.
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Old 01-04-2020, 03:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

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Originally Posted by socalwriter1 View Post
RE: "... so in lieu of an agent it might be more fruitful to solicit the producers directly that Netflix and Amazon work with."

Here's the challenge with this... the producers whom Netflix and Amazon work with tend to be the larger, "brand name" prodcos.

And these prodcos, at least in my experience, are not penetrable by unknown writers. They get their materials from established agencies. So we're back to the "need an agent/manager" first quandary.

But maybe it's just me and others here have had more success. Actually, I hope that's the case as it would imply hope.
your choices are simple, to try or not to try contacting prodcos that have relationships with Netflix and Amazon.

what is certain, is if you DO NOT try you won't get anywhere.

no one is saying it's easy. the choice is yours.
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Old 01-05-2020, 09:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

So basically it's largely the same as it was a few years ago? 100 sales a year down to 40 is a drop but both results mean it' bloody hard to break in so no real change in the grand scheme of things. I read an interview with Screenplay Mechanic that painted a bleak picture for the future of cinema but whilst films like 1917, Ford vs Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood get wide releases - ie: non multiverse IPs - I'll hold out for hope for cinema. For now. It's just a case of trying to break in with a great script.
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Old 01-05-2020, 07:22 PM   #10
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Default Re: What's the scene like now?

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So basically it's largely the same as it was a few years ago? 100 sales a year down to 40 is a drop but both results mean it' bloody hard to break in so no real change in the grand scheme of things. I read an interview with Screenplay Mechanic that painted a bleak picture for the future of cinema but whilst films like 1917, Ford vs Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood get wide releases - ie: non multiverse IPs - I'll hold out for hope for cinema. For now. It's just a case of trying to break in with a great script.
IMO, "the future of cinema" and "the future of screenwriting" aren't entirely symmetrical. Sooo much of the feature work these days comes from companies that are essentially vanity projects for rich people and/or companies launched by ex-studio chiefs or similar. Those companies develop original and/or non-multiverse material for the simple reason that they have to-- and they pay writers' quotes for the same reason. While they're not entirely removed from the realities of the markeplace, those companies do have a bit of insulation-- because they're launched and run by people whose first objective is just to get into (and/or remain in) the business who simply don't have the option of coming on as producers of Marvel or Marvel-esque fare.

So those sorts of companies will keep developing scripts, and they'll keep making movies regardless of the contraction of the wide-release marketplace. If all their movies fail, the well will get shallower, sure, but it won't dry up until people decide that Hollywood's not a glamorous place to be (aka never).

Tl;dr: even if movies are becoming fewer and more similar, that doesn't mean that screenwriting jobs are becoming proportionately fewer and more similar.
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