Game Over?It’s recently occurred to me as I field daily emails from people writing spec screenplays that many of them have absolutely no idea about the quest that lays before them. Which makes me wonder if they would stay on the quest IF they actually knew how fuckin’ ROCKY the road really is.

I am no mathematician but let’s see if I can make a little sense out of what WE all have to work with…

It’s been said and said and said some more that thousands of people register their spec screenplay with the WGAw and WGAe every year.

But how many thousands?

Well, if you surf the web long enough, you’re probably going to find pretty much the same information I’ve found… i.e., that the number seems to start at around 30,000 and rise all the way up to 50,000. Meaning that somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 screenplays are registered with the WGA West or WGA East each year.

But let’s not stop there…

Then of course you have writers that only copyright their screenplays… On top of that, there are a myriad of other registration services proliferating the Internet like that should probably be taken into consideration when it comes to the math.

Let’s keep going…

Yes, there are still thousands of newbie screenwriters out there that do not register and or protect their screenplays at all… They just write the thing and it’s off to the market.

So… After having talked to several people in the business who I trust when it comes to the numbers, it seems that the actual numbers of people out there writing screenplays on speculation every year ends up being right around 100,000 give or take. But let’s not gouge the numbers to make it completely unrealistic… Let’s just use the figure of 50,000 screenplays written on spec that are marketed to all kinds of studios, production companies, agencies, and management firms.

I trust that number a lot since I happen to know and have had conversations with producers who have told me that they receive an easy 10,000 screenplays a year… I’m sure that there is crossover but 50,000 spec screenplays tossed into the fray feels like a respectable number.

Now what?

Well NOW we should probably consider how long the average spec screenplay remains in circulation… From my own experience, I can tell you that I’ve had people in the business contact me as long as 6 years after I pushed a screenplay out into the market. Again, a few of the more experienced people IN THE KNOW have actually cited a figure of 8 to 10 years but again, let’s not unnecessarily gouge the numbers… Most of us can probably agree that a spec screenplay can easily float around for an easy 5 years.

Math time…

50,000 spec screenplays written every year multiplied by 5 years in circulation = 250,000 spec screenplays.

Now what?

Well, thank God there are screenwriters out there like Scott Myers who keep track of the amount of spec screenplays sold… According to Scott’s latest count, there have been 48 spec sales so far this year. The bad news is that this number is UP 60% from last year. Probably due to the economy but let’s keep spinning that positive spin on things and assume that ON AVERAGE, right around 50 specs are snatched up every year. Could be a little less — could be a little more because I know for a fact that not every spec sold gets publicity.

A little more math…

50 spec screenplays sold every year out of 250,000 spec screenplays circulating around Hollywood and various other filmmaking venues = 1 spec screenplay sold for every 5000 spec screenplays put into circulation.

Hmmm. Does that translate into 5000 to 1 odds? Let’s put that into perspective…

  • Odds of getting a hole in one: 5,000 to 1
  • Odds of winning an Academy Award: 11,500 to 1
  • Odds of being murdered: 18,000 to 1
  • Odds of being the victim of serious crime in your lifetime: 20 to 1
  • Odds of fatally slipping in bath or shower: 2,232 to 1
  • Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
  • Odds of dying on a bicycle: 4472 to 1
  • Odds of dying in a car accident: 18,585 to 1
  • Odds of winning the California lottery: 13,000,000 to 1
  • Odds of being killed in any sort of non-transportation accident: 69 to 1

So it’s easier to die slipping in your bath or shower than it is selling a spec screenplay… Makes sense since most of us take a bath or shower every day but you might want to consider spending more time in your car driving around writing your spec screenplay so that you can actually finish it up before dying.

Whew… And stay the fuck off those bicycles if you want to sell a spec script.

There’s definitely some good news and some bad news here… The good news is that since my ex-wife was possessed by Satan, my odds are getting better every day.


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