Writing on ‘Spec’

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    • #43067
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      A while back EarlC had a thread about ‘Working on Spec’ (the ‘speculation’ of a successful project with pay based upon success.) One of the hardest gigs in production to work on spec is the most important Writing. In narrative but not as fully in documentary filmmaking, the writer is the driving force of moviemaking. No script, no movie. Despite this horrendously important point, writers are considered ‘eight-class citizens’ when it comes to the production process. Good directors understand the value of writers and put them to good use. However, that is rarely the case. Here is a really good doc dealing with spec writing and how writers and directors deal with the process. It’s a feature about 1hr 27 minutes. If you can sit in front of the computer that long, it’s worth the watch. Depressing, Enlightening and Inspiring are my words for ‘Dreams on Spec’.

      http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/dreams_on_spec/

    • #180457
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      I voted “maybe” because it really depends. Working for yourself isn’t exactly the same thing as doing spec work for an outside client, but take for wxample my documentary project. I’m pouring abut every spare second of my life into it right now, on speculation that once complete, it will play at film festivals nation whide and garner me some income for my troubles. That’s worth it to me. On the other hand, if some potential client asked me to bend over backwards so “maybe” they could pay me, I don’t think I’d jump at that, unless the deal was good, and the chances of getting the gig were better.

    • #180458
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      Jim,

      I hear you LnC. I’ve had spec gigs passed my way and I’ve produced spec gigs. Working on spec is like casual sex, no guarantee you’ll get a ring out of it or even being good. Most likely you’ll just get screwed.

      When I produce a spec gig these days, 99% of the time I’m the Exec. That way I know everyone involved will get a square deal. On those rare 1%er’s, if I find a project interesting enough to work on spec I’ll throw my hat in. A couple of years ago some folks trying to start a reality tv show approached me to shoot their pilot for them. Though I personally despise RTV it seemed like a good project and I was in between my scheduled paying gigs. Long story short, it was the usual BS. The folks making the program wanted 100% control over everything though they weren’t paying. I was willing to do an in-field cut during production so that when they left it would be with something tangible to watch in hand. My only proviso was I would keep the original footage until they paid my fee. Picture lead and balloons. They weren’t hearing it and they got some wannabe college schmuck to shoot it and one of the people I know that stayed with the project said it was so bad he left the production halfway through. Oh and the show never got picked up. Imagine that.

      It was interesting watching those folks in the film go through the process of writing then pitching their film for financing. It was really painful to watch. Having gone through the ‘rejection cycle’ once, I realized I didn’t have the time or the patience to wait for someone else’s opinion. Early on I recognized if films with my name on them were ever going to be made, I had to be the one to do it. It has absolutely not been easy though when things fall into place it may seem like it later.

      But you are right, it would have to be one serious sweetheart deal with some bennie’s attached.

    • #180459
      AvatarAnonymous
      Inactive

      The thing that most bugs with working on spec is that it’s so backwards from modern society.

      Imagine if I walked into a grocery store and asked if I could take the food home, cook it, and then come back later to pay, but then only if I decided it was to my liking and it was the best food out of all the stores I went to.

      Or what if I went to a restaraunt and informed the server that I’m going to order the best meal in the house, and after I finish that meal I’m going to deeply consider whether it was what I really needed at the moment and if I could get a better meal elsewhere, and even if I loved the meal, there’s a fair chance I’m not going to pay for it because I just didn’t budget for that sort of expense.

      They’d throw me out, and rightly so! ANd yet at times we video producers seem to salivate for the chance to whip up a lilet mignon for someone who might eat it and bolt for the door.

      If the client is so sure that they need the video, they need to be willing to pay for it. If they’re not sure, they shouldn’t be trying to get the video produced.

      Working on spec is a bit like throwing a handful of darts at a dartboard, hoping one will hit the bullseye.

    • #180460
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      Jim,

      You’re echoing the sentiments from the video submitted by VideoChick. The reasons working on spec can go down the way it does is because a) potential buyers know they can get away with it, and b) because we content producers accept it. And you’re correct, if you tried to pull any of the things you mentioned on your doctor, accountant, lawyer, dentist even you’d get hauled into court and have your wages garnished. Until the system changes and or we producers change, nothing will change.

      Unfortunately, the greatest drawback created by the digital revolution is though it allowed many more people to dare make films it didn’t come with financing. Yeah, the gear and the software got cheap, but unless you can get everyone involved to work for free, get support gear for free, get lodging and meals for free making movies still costs money. That money has to come from somewhere or somebody and if the filmmaker is not the one holding the purse strings as the system is today you’ll have to play by their rules.

      Another jacked-up thing is 95% of independent films that get made start out as spec gigs. Movies like, ‘I’m Gonna’ Git ya’ Sucker’, ‘El Mariachi’ and ‘Clerks’ were all spec gigs paid for by their creators. These movies literally made their creators hollywood players but never would have gotten made traditionally. So the ‘bad news/good news’ is; if you’re not connected into the Hollywood system and you want to get your project made it will assuredly be done on spec. For the last 15-20 years be it films, music or television, the mainstream outfits that do all the distributing of content figured out that it’s much cheaper to market ‘a finished product’ that they didn’t have to initally invest in. You the content producer do all the work or ‘Cook the meal’ and they eat it. If they like it, they ‘buy the recipie’ (if they don’t try to steal it) and if you’re savvy enough, they’ll bring you along to work on ‘your’ project that they now own and control.

      Most producer’s go along with that because curiously, in this business you need only sell one hit to get paid forever. It’s weird, but think of how many terrible flicks get made all because they have a name person attached who had one hit. That’s why we producers are willing to constantly ‘throw our handfulls of darts’. In this business, there’s a reasonable possibility one of those suckers will ‘stick’. Funny thing is, the ‘big boys’ do the exact same thing the indy’s do. Only diff is, they have the cash and resources to do it.

    • #180461
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      Whether working on spec or a paid gig, the most important important aspect for the intrepid Indy filmmaker to contend with isn’t the script, but how will the film be financed?

      Even if your fortunate enough to have the cash to make your movie, did you factor in money for promotions, film festivals, private screenings? All of that stuff costs money too! Currently, indies make their movie and toss it up on YouTube or Vimeo, etc. and say, ‘please watch my movie!’ But with hundreds of thousands of people doing the same thing the chances of anyone seeing it are slim. Not to mention, with you putting it out for free how do you recoup the money you spent making the film? Here is an article by Indie Wire’s Andy Lauer discussing the 10 most important points of independent film financing in todays economy.

      http://www.indiewire.com/article/is_the_world_as_we_know_it_over_10_insights_on_film_financing_today/

    • #180462
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      As if to answer and create more questions, here is a video from the ‘Film Fella’s’ webseries that discusses the challenges of getting your completed film out to audiences and how to make money doing it.

      FilmFellas – webisode 9 from Steve Weiss, Zacuto USA on Vimeo.

    • #180463
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      Here’s another webisode of ‘Film Fellas’ that really gets into the potential of marketing your films via the web through social networking.

      FilmFellas webisode 12 from Steve Weiss, Zacuto USA on Vimeo.

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