cover image The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market

The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market

Thom Taylor. Harper Perennial, $16 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16171-2

In a book that serves both as an expos of Hollywood business practices and a how-to manual for aspiring screenwriters, Taylor, a writer for such magazines as Movieline and Locations, explores the practice, surprisingly common at Hollywood studios, of purchasing and developing unsolicited scripts. The timing is right: the spec market is still booming after 20-somethings Matt Damon and Ben Affleck sold Good Will Hunting for seven figures. This meticulously researched, occasionally overwrought book (one exec uses his phone ""as if it were an implement in the war of deal making before one's enemy gets the chance to bear arms"") chronicles the interactions (and clashes) among writers, studios, agents and directors, while detailing the homogenization of Tinseltown--from the job-security fears that prompt executives to imitate rather than create new ideas to the growing importance of boiled-down pitches. Taylor argues that by aggressively pursuing box-office receipts, studios can undermine not only the potential artistic merits of a film but its profits, too, as audiences tire of being fed pabulum. Despite some Panglossian tics (he persistently touts Seven's originality), Taylor's insider look is an enjoyable read, especially in the detailed accounts of struggling writers making their first big sales. Come to think of it, there just might be a script in here somewhere. (Apr.)