What, exactly, is a spec? Is you’ve perused the pages of our annual best specs of the year list – The Hit List – you’ve seen the definition we continually associate with the term spec:
“On spec, made, built, or done with hopes of, but no assurance of payment of sale.”
The term is one that defines not only what the spec script is, but also the passion, drive and perseverance a writer must command to set out and tell their story. While it is often seen as the loneliest endeavor within this industry, it is also one of the most creative, rewarding, and fulfilling things a writer will ever do. The spec script is one of the few places left where a writer’s thoughts, ideas, stories and characters can all make the leap from the sandbox of their imagination onto the empty pages in front of them, and in doing so… can make their dreams come true.
Our 2015 Spec Book is the most comprehensive document of its kind, providing not only a listing of each spec that hit the market from December 1st to November 30th – complete with details about the writer, the reps, and the script itself – but a thorough analysis of the market as a whole, incorporating the data we’ve gathered and the numbers we’ve crunched over the past five years as the industry’s leading spec market tracking site. The Spec Book includes charts, graphs and grids that break down the spec market by genres, agencies and management companies, with year-by-year and month-by-month comparisons. Combined with our 2013 and 2014 Spec Books, these resources provided an incredible insight into not only the spec market, but the entertainment industry as a whole.
Just check out a few of the amazing statistics that hide inside the pages of the 2015 Spec Book…
Let’s Talk Numbers
In 2015 375 specs hit the market, and of those, 129 were sold. That’s just over 34% – seven percentage points higher than in 2014. It’s down, however, from 2013, when 421 specs hit the market, with 148 of those going on to sell. In 2015, the specs which were ultimately set up spent an average of 27 days on the market, further proving that patience is a virtue. October was the most popular month for specs to hit the market, with 47 dropping in just a few weeks – a signal that reps were hoping to get their clients’ work out before the industry broke for the holidays. Good thing, too, since December was the market’s coldest month: only 4 specs out, and just 4 set up overall. That’s just a sampling of the amazing statistics our annual spec books cover.
The Genre Games
We’ve also broken down the 2015 specs by 10 of the top genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romantic Comedies, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, and Thriller. Under the constantly shifting influences of cultural trends, budgetary factors, and box office revenues, the commercial appeal of each genre varies from year to year. Thrillers dominated the market this year, with 156 suspenseful specs hitting the market with 53 set up – again, roughly one third. Part of the thriller’s consistent appeal on the market is related to the fact that it’s often cheaper to produce and is not particularly dependent on top-tier casting. But the second place position is more competitive than ever. 2015 saw dramas and comedies move ahead of action scripts – a stark contrast to 2014 – with dramas in particular showing an increase in popularity, jumping from 93 to 122 in just a year. 2015 saw, once again, few romantic comedies hit the market, with only 5 out – up just slightly from the 2 that hit the market in 2014.
Who’s Your Rep?
The proverbial grease that keeps the wheels of the spec market turning – the agents, managers and representatives – have not been forgotten. Rather, we’ve provided a full analysis of how 16 agencies, 88 management companies and over 370 individual reps performed in this year’s spec market, including the number of writers who sold specs repped by each company, as well as which individuals and companies had the strongest performances in 2015.
UTA, for example, led the crowd of over 100 different companies who represented this year’s spec market by taking out 43 specs and setting up 19, or 44%. But while UTA went out with the most specs, Gersh successfully set up over 68% of the specs it took out, selling 15 out of 22 to hit the market. WME’s Solco Schuit maintained his remarkable track record, setting up 7 out of 7 specs taken out, while Echo Lake, Grandview, Circle of Confusion, and Madhouse all continued to make strides for their clients in this year’s market. All of this data is much more than simply keeping score; writers need to know which reps and companies will best serve their interests if they’re going to succeed on the spec market.
The Spec Market All-Stars
This year’s market also featured multiple all-stars: some of the industry’s hottest up-and-coming writers whose efforts have led to their being honored by all four of the most prestigious ‘best of’ lists in the industry, including The Hit List, The Young & Hungry List, The Blood List, and The Black List. Included in this elite group of up-and-coming screenwriters are Bed Rest scribe Lori Evans Taylor, The Book of Harold author Owen Egerton, and David Chirchirillo, whose Eli stormed the market last year. The buzz surrounding these all stars is exciting, but what’s fascinating is what they share in common: all of the scripts that the writers in this group ultimately sold were thrillers.
The State of The Spec Market
Just like the path a spec takes on the market, the spec market itself is always evolving and changing. Whereas just a few years ago we saw 10-year lows in regards to specs out and set up, those numbers have gradually climbed back up – though the number of specs that occupy the market on a given year continues to fluctuate. The increasing importance of pre-existing IP has changed things as well, with buyers exploring the literary world – including the brave new frontier of self-published eBooks – for the next great movie idea.
The Spec Book is a reflection of the state of the market, a remarkable tool not only for established industry professionals but also for aspiring screenwriters. Studying the spec market can help a writer decide what to write next, or at the very least, decide who might best represent his or her work. The spec market can reveal to the writer what’s selling, what’s not selling, who’s making the deals, and who’s buying. In short, tracking the spec market gives the writer an upper hand in understanding the ebb and flow of crucial trends, a competitive advantage that could make all the difference in launching a career.
Each day this week we’ll be posting a new feature that goes deeper into these topics and more, providing further analysis and sweeter statistics to help create a more complete picture of the current state of the spec market. Because in an industry where knowledge is power, there’s no such thing as too much information.