The 2013 Young & Hungry List Writers: Film vs. Television – A Recap of the Markets They Play In

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This past Friday we released our third annual Young & Hungry List, and for the first time ever we added an interactive PDF to the mix with bios on all of the writers. This year also marked the addition of television writers to the list because, as has been known for some time in this industry, the walls that once firmly separated writers of film and are now but a distant memory. In fact, while over 40 of the top 100 writers on this year’s list wrote for television, less than 10 of those were exclusive to the medium. This type of crossover is indicative of the changing landscape of Hollywood writing and shows that films are no longer necessarily the preferred medium of todays storytellers. Combine this with so much young talent breaking into television and it’s easy to see why many are considering this to be the golden age of the small screen.

Taking this all into consideration, many reps are now exploring and navigating both the and film worlds to keep both themselves and their clients at the top of the game. A few examples of this come directly from our list with writers like Vera Herbert, who after years on shows such as “Awkward”, set up her own series “Blink” and sold her spec “Don’t Make Me Go” back-to-back. Nic Pizzolatto not only tackled television as a writer on “The Killing”, but after setting up his own show on HBO with “True Detective”, was hired to write the remake of “The Magnificent Seven”. Mickey Fisher exploded onto the scene this Summer with “Extant”, his first project to hit the market, grabbing Steven Spielberg as an EP on its way to a 13-episode commitment from CBS. Fisher is now tackling a feature spec for his next outing. In reverse order, writer Alexander Felix, who set up his spec “Where Angels Die”, has now turned his attention to the television pilot “Big Sick”. These are just four writers from the Young & Hungry List but their are symbolic of the opportunities writers these days have.

One of the biggest reasons television has become such a desirable medium is the endless amount of storytelling opportunities it presents its writers. The creative minds behind our favorite shows have months, if not years, to tell a story that could only be told in 90 to 120 minutes if it were a film. This certainly presents itself as a draw for up-and-coming writers these days, but to fully understand how film and television compare, and how they dictate what medium a writer wants to work with, we should compare the two over the past year.

We have noticed that film is in a strange limbo as we’ve tracked the shrinking market, the trimmed slates, and the annual announcements of every major studio reinforcing the idea of “less is more”. However, while the market is said to be slimming down, the spec sales for 2013 do not necessarily echo that sentiment. Sure, sales are down (by number) in 2013, but by the end of September we’ve already tracked 94 spec sales from a market of 182 specs. That means more than half of the specs on the market this year have sold. That’s crazy! But, compare it to 2012, when we tracked 147 sales out of 361 specs. Comparatively, in 2013 we’re almost 90 specs shy of 2012 at this mark, however, the number of sales is almost on par with last years monster year, which by average would have seen about 110 by September’s end. Diminished market or not, in 2013 your spec has one of the best chances of selling we’ve seen in almost a decade. Throw in a little spec called “Pacific Rim” from Travis Beacham, which was given a budget of approximately $180 million dollars, and it’s easy to see why so many writers, including those on the Young & Hungry List, write for film.

Now, lets compare that to the market. For the 2013-2014 market over 800 pilots were picked up by broadcast, cable, and other media outlets for this Fall and beyond. Unfortunately, I don’t have the exact number of projects that hit the market, as we’ve only begun tracking pilots in 2013. However, of the 800+ pilots picked up only 148 were shot, and some 82 were picked up for 2013, or Spring 2014. Now, while the drop off is quite steep from 800 to 148, the sheer number of pilots being picked up has grown by the hundreds. For example, in 2011 that number was closer to 600. With new media outlets like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (amongst others) entering the game, the demand for original content in a television platform has grown exponentially. Combine these new platforms with the aforementioned fact that over 800 pilots were picked up and it’s no wonder that remains a desirable draw for young writers who, working under the anecdote that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”, can now write their pilots knowing there’s always a chance.

So what does this all mean?

With our 2013 Young & hungry List there were 42 writers working in television and 92 in film. Of those, only 8 were exclusive to , while 58 were exclusive to film. That means from the list of up-and-comers, more than 1/3rd of the list are already switch-hitting the at the beginning of their . Something that was unheard of in the world of television just a few years ago. With the rise of buyers, and the introduction of a new generation of writers, look for the once firmly entrenched idea of “” or “television” to forever be a thing of the past.

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