Thursday, February 12, 2009

Encouraging Stats, So Keep Writing

I got an email today from Creative Screenwriting magazine with some figures they quoted from For anyone out there who is worried that the economy - which is causing problems for the theatre and non-profit arts industries in particular here in NYC - is going to spell trouble for Hollywood, these numbers might put your mind at ease.

Year versus Box Office Sales
2009: $1.228 billion
2008: $1.041 billion
2007: $ 856 million
2006: $ 917 million
2005: $ 895 million
Here at the League, we've been having a lot of talks recently about whether Hollywood is going to start pinching pennies anywhere it can. This would mean that studios would not only reduce their slates, but buy up fewer scripts. Well, according to CS, that just isn't the case.

As sales rise, Hollywood will be picking up more and more projects, trying to meet the demand for movies as people flock to the cinema. I'm not sure whether the numbers take into account inflation or anything (or how much that would affect a five year spread), but the projection for 2009 is encouraging, to say the least.

Bottom line: don't worry yourself that Hollywood is going to put a freeze on buying material until this whole recession thing gets sorted out. People are still watching movies - in fact, they might need the escapism more now than ever. So keep writing.


Leetal said...

No, no! Don't listen! The magazine is misinterpreting the statistics! Things actually suck pretty hard. The slates ARE getting smaller. Conversely, the budgets of those few final individual films are getting bigger. The system's monopolizing. Indies can't raise money or distribute, if they weren't dead already, and the studios are shrinking slates but investing more in movies they can be SURE will succeed (meaning lots of shitty, shitty product; sequels, actioners, disaster films). The numbers you have there are growing because of those special franchises that exploded since Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter in 2001. Don't believe that these numbers mean equality, remember how much of 1.2 billion is "The Dark Night" alone. The rest of the film industry is in major trouble. We can only hope for an implosion, a Cleopatra, to fuck with the system and let the little guys bring it back home.

Cake Man said...

Thanks for commenting and clarifying, Leetal. I mean, it goes without saying that, regardless of the facts, writers SHOULD keep writing. Yeah, indies are probably drying up. Lionsgate, which is considered to be one of the two major "indie" companies in Hollywood by some people (the other being Weinstein) is very likely about to go under. In general, indies are getting harder and harder to make within the system.

BUT that does NOT mean that they can't be made. Think of it this way, product that costs little to make (or, even better, had already been made on a shoe-string budget by ambitious young filmmakers) is more of a sound investment than large-budget non-franchise films. Though, I do have to admit that of the products you slammed, "sequels, actioners, disaster films" I'm working within two of those genres (all but sequel). Yeah, that might be what's selling now, but it's also what I'm into.

Either way, I think readers can come away with insight into both sides of the argument. Kepp writing. But, it might suit you better to write those massive action films. Companies are looking for the big budget fix to their dwindling slates. I guess the question then arises: where is your cut-off line? As writers, we write specs so that we can, in theory, get future commissioned projects. Well, when does it count as selling out? I like what I'm writing, so I don't feel like I've given up my integrity. If you despise action movies, though, should you write one if you truly want to be a screenwriter now?

Leetal said...

Eh, Lionsgate is having some stock and revenue problems but so is everyone. They'll survive. People are freaking out at Paramount though, unlike Warner and Sony, which are corporate and have other revenues to back from, Paramount is on its own. It would suck really really bad if such a historic company went under.

I don't despise the three genres, I adore them, but I hate the backwards thinking that rules this business, that if you cut your numbers and throw ALL your money at the ones you trust that that's a good idea. It's SO STUPID and makes NO SENSE. They should pick up MORE projects with smaller budgets, make more money that way rather than packing a ten theater venue with nine copies of the same movie. But shortsightedness is like, in the chip that they implant in your brain once you cross the state line.

What I should have added is that there is content to be made, it's all relying on the as yet invisible idea of how to make money off the internet. If that's figured out, studios could turn into giant distribution hubs and just buy content off the net and send it to theaters themselves or something. You should keep writing because the platforms looking for written content are growing in number, even though movie slates are shrinking.

And you're not selling out. You're being a smart guy by writing for the times. If you don't agree with making something you stop. And that's that.

Cake Man said...

I think there’s a lot to study and no one, sure answer to it. If you look at Who’s Buying What, there were no fewer than 3 scripts listed today with seven figure price tags, two of which were for $2M and up. Granted, those sales were by established writers, and one was a re-write gig. (But a $2M rewrite? Damn, I want that job. That’s 8 times what I thought the normal high rate was.) The only reason I’m throwing this out there is that it strengthens the idea that this is not a terrible time to be a writer. Of course, it helps to have already sold something. Could we be looking at the start of a new trend? It’s probably too early to tell. If we ARE going toward the 2 million dollar script, though, I’m all for it.

However, you’re right about the internet. More and more is being done online these days, and, while older producers might not be completely up to date, those young and hungry underlings who have just gotten out of school know the importance of the internet and will probably figure out a way to make gobs of money off of it soon enough. Like anything, the film industry is evolving. If we’re smart, not only will we figure out the trend, but we’ll help guide it. Under no circumstances, though, should a writer think that the economy is a reason to stop writing. It might be a good idea to get another job or something to help guarantee that those bills will be paid, but quitting is not the answer. It’s not possible if you’re dedicated.

Zombie said...

It's frustrating all around. I've got a script I'd love to shoot on $20 - 40k and I'm baffled where I'd even find money for that. Maybe the downturn in the economy could generate some interest in these cheapies, but it seems to be hitting the small indie investors the worst.

Leetal said...

It never pays to quit thats all.