I must admit I've slightly lost enthusiasm for writing feature spec scripts at the moment. I have four scripts at various barely-started stages, with my current plans for completion being to leave them in a special folder on my laptop and hope special Apple pixies finish them in the night, which apparently will totally happen after the next update.
Part of the reason I'm focusing more on telly at the moment is the sheer unlikelihood of a film based on an original script actually making into the cinema. I had a vague idea in my head that original scripts probably make up about a third of finished films, the rest being based on novels or plays, remakes of foreign language titles or television shows.
As research, and a way of putting off writing actual scripts for a bit longer, I thought I'd try an TOTALLY UNREPRESENTATIVE AND UNSCIENTIFIC experiment. Walking past my local cinema in Falmouth, thought I'd have a quick look at what's on/coming up. Here are the contenders (I haven't seen any of them by the way #youngchildren):
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Woman in Black
We Bought a Zoo
This Means War
First thing: I tried to write down as many of the titles as I could when I got back without looking them up, which meant three of the films had to be renamed from 'Del Amitri', 'The Great Big Mandarin Hotel' and 'Spy vs Spy'. Which was close, but I digress.
Let's see which of these films is based on an original script.
'Bel Ami' is based on the second novel by Guy de Maupassant, so that's an adaptation.
'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is based on the novel 'These Foolish Things' by Deborah Moggach.
'The Woman in Black' is based on the play based on the novel by Susan Hill, so a double adaptation there (a description I've just made up).
'We Bought a Zoo' is based on a memoir by the same name by Benjamin Mee.
'John Carter' is, as any fule kno, based on the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
'The Raven' is based on the life of Edgar Allen Poe, but not on a biography, being rather a 'fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet and author pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in Poe's stories' (thanks wikipedia). Which means it is based on an original screenplay, by Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare, hurrah!
'This Means War' it turns out was originally called 'Spy vs Spy, so point to me, and does seem to be an original screenplay, although the fact that four writers are credited (and I suspect a few more lurking in the background without credits) makes me suspect this is based on a high concept by director McG, or an exec producer in the food chain, who had an idea about two spies fighting over a chick, and got a procession of writers to fill in the details. Could be wrong though, I'm happy to be corrected.
'Contraband' is is a remake of the 2008 Icelandic film 'Reykjavík-Rotterdam'.
Which means there's only one film out of the eight, 'The Raven' which I'd be confident as describing as being derived from an original screenplay. What does this prove? Well, studios really don't like putting their cash into unknown properties, and after the apparent tanking of 'John Carter', which seems to have gone the same way as 'Conan the Barbarian', 'Solomon Kane', and to can extent 'Clash of the Titans' (although this does seem to be getting a sequel) they may be looking at redefining what exactly constitutes a 'known' property, at least when the lead role is played by an relatively unknown actor.
Which means if you're writing a script based on an original idea that burst out of your headbrain, it probably has a much better chance of being made if it doesn't require an FX budget of eleventy squillion pounds. I know this seems obvious in retrospect, but part of me has been going 'lalala they can do anything with computers lalala' and now I've taken that bit away and shot it.