Sunday, January 4, 2009

John August on How Spec Sales Break Down

If you've spent any amount of time in the spec screenwriting market, chances are, you read a lot of headlines about Sally Screenwriter selling her spec for a six figure amount. These days it tends to be about $100-$200K if you get lucky; it used to be a lot higher, before studios cut down on production.

There's a ton of books on how to write a script, and plenty of books dealing with how to sell. Some even mix the two elements (Michael Hauge). There's very little information provided, however, on what to do once you do break in. After all, only a very small percentage of people who write scripts actually manage to break in.

A couple of weeks ago, John August (Go, Charlie's Angels) posted an item at his blog that deals with what happens after you've made a sale.

The six figure sales, after all is said and done, is just figurative. The writer doesn't recieve the whole amount unless the movie is made, and even then, the money goes to agents, managers, and lawyers first. This particular quote stuck out for me:

Nearly every screenwriter I speak with has a similar story — you’re never as broke as when you first start making money.

And here's another:

Once you start making money, there’s a natural instinct to upgrade every aspect of your lifestyle, which has probably stalled out in a post-college, heavy-Ikea phase. Don’t. You’ll burn through your money and wonder what you spent it on. Instead, buy one thing you really want and can afford. Make that your reward.

Someone should have told me this when I was writing my big spec in college: after I paid off my student loans, my plan was to travel around Europe. Maybe I could still do that on a spec sale, but not in the way I had it all mapped out in my head. If someone had told me this seven, eight years ago, however, I would've been in for big dissapointment of my life.

At my age now, though, this information hardly disappoints me. If anything, hearing information like this makes screenwriting look more like approachable (if still very hard to get into) occupation.

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