Friday, July 21, 2006

About that screenplay of yours...

This might actually sort of count as insider information. If you've been thinking about writing a screenplay... or if you have a screenplay in a drawer somewhere that you've always thought might amount to something if you just put a month or two of polishing into it... well, this really could be the time to pull that baby out and whip it into shape.

It's the end of July. The feature film business is unofficially on hiatus until mid-September. Oh, no one will ever actually admit that to you, but that's the rhythm of the town. (And yeah, it'll grind to a halt again just before Thanksgiving, at least as far as script sales are concerned, and resume again about a week after the Sundance Film Festival in late January.)

So you've got a couple of months to work on that script. And this fall may just be one of the better times you'll ever see to sell or set up a feature script.

That's because the WGA (that's the screenwriters' union, yes, it's an actual Federal labor union) contract with the studios is up in 2007. Traditionally and increasingly, as a contract negotiation approaches, the studios assume at least a de facto writers' strike. They're already assuming it this year because we've got a radical (the word in Hollywood is "militant") new Board of Directors who are much more willing than many, many recent Boards to go to the mattresses. They will be even more likely to assume it after the actions going on this week (which I will post about this weekend).

One of the studios' main hedges against a writers' strike is to stockpile scripts - they will buy many more feature screenplays than their usual quota to make sure that they have enough product to keep cranking movies out even if there's a work stoppage (another hedge is Reality TV, which the studios have kept non-unionized, which is also a strike issue, but that's another post!) That stockpiling frenzy will theoretically make it much easier to sell a script this fall than in ordinary circumstances. I'm speaking from personal experience, and also from wide anecdotal evidence.

By the same token, by about April 2007, when we'll actually see whether or not there will have to be a strike, the studios will have bought up way too many scripts and exhausted their 2007 budgets and will not be buying for the rest of the year.

So this fall is the magic window.

Now, please also always remember the one true thing about Hollywood:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. - William Goldman

But if there's anyone out there who has been waiting for a sign that you should just GO for it - well, maybe this is your sign.

Good luck with it!

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