Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Spec Sale Analysis

Nikki Finke just posted a fascinating look at the 2009 spec sale stats. I remember seeing similar analysis of the market last year, and it's always interesting (and reassuring) to track the stats. Last year, for point of reference, our buddy Scott over at Go Into The Story counted 88 spec sales.

Some highlights of Finke's post:

• 436 spec scripts came out in 2009, of which 72 sold (17%).

• 373 specs went out wide in 2009, of which 19 sold (5%). Of those 19, only 3 sold after April 30th, out of 178 attempts during the period (1.7%).

• As for spec sals by genre, comedies led with 32% of sales, thrillers 29%, action adventures 21%, while dramas and sci-fi/fantasies tied with 10%.

• Universal and Warner Bros bought the most specs among the major buyers (6 each). But Warner Bros bought only 1 spec script in the second half of the year. Paramount & Sony tied with 5 each not counting ony's Screen Gems which bought another 3. DreamWorks had 4. 20th Century Fox had 3, but adding all its three banners, Fox bought 6 specs. Lionsgate purchased 3. New Line didn’t buy any specs in 2009.

• Relativity and Intrepid bought the most specs among the other buyers (3 each).

• Among agencies, CAA made 14 spec script sales out of 34 attempts, or 41%) same number of spec sales as last year, followed by UTA's 10 sales out of 30 attempts, or 33%, and ICM's 10 sales out of 33 attempts, or 30%. WME didn’t form until May 2009, but when you take the numbers for all three of its component companies -- Endeavor, William Morris, and WME -- the combined agency would have been a dominant #1 in total scripts sold, with 18 sales out of 47 attempts, or 38%)

• Benderspink among management companies had the most spec sales (5 sales out of 11 attempts, or 45%). Kaplan/Perrone had 4 sales out of 12 attempts, or 33%. Principato-Young made 3 sales out of 8 attempts, or 38%, while Circle Of Confusion did 3 sales out of 15 attempts, or 20%.

It's especially interesting to note that, of the 19 sales from specs that went wide, only 3 sold after April. Three sales for 2/3 of the whole year of that group. 

As writers, I think there are two ways to react to these kind of stats. You can either take it as a sign of how difficult things are and give up (which we at the League don't advise). Or, you can read all this, digest it, and realize just how difficult it is to make a sale and why your manager or agent might not yet have come through for you as you'd have liked when you first signed up with them. 

I'll do my major Writing Year recap in a few weeks, but I can tell you this: my post-Apocalyptic spec is one of those 364 specs that came out in 2009 and didn't sell (or at least I assume it is, since it did get read a few places). While I'd have loved to be one of the lucky 17%, my manager and producer kept telling me how difficult the market is/was, and they're totally right. It's incredibly difficult to make that sale. However, with the internet, we now have incredible access to stats and information that can help reassure us and fortify our knowledge of the situation. Your script might not have been the best thing execs read this year, but that might not be the reason they didn't buy it. People are scared to buy anything that's less than "a sure thing" and a spec script by an unknown writer - unless safely within the box or so brilliant it can break all the rules - just ain't a sure thing. Rest assured that you're not the only one who feels like you're pushing the boulder up a hill - we're all doing it. Let's just hope 2010 is the year when we get it to the top.