A very cool new website called “Spec Scout” tracks the status of currently unproduced screenplays in the Hollywood marketplace, in a variety of categories. It also offers aspiring writers a chance to get their work professionally evaluated and ranked — with the highest ranked scripts going up on their site for producers, executives, agents and managers to look at.
It’s the brain child of my friend Jason Scoggins. A former screenwriters’ agent and manager himself, he has tracked and compiled information about Hollywood feature spec script and pitch sales for years — and shared the information with the world for free in “The Scoggins Report“.
His new site does a few things that I think can be extraordinarily helpful for screenwriters — and that I don’t see anyone else doing in quite this same way. (The new services provided by the people at The Black List come close, with some key differences.)
The most obvious is that they provide a very affordable “coverage service” — where, for $147, you can get three reads of your screenplay by three separate professional readers. You will then get to read their brief “coverage”, and see how each of them has ranked your script in ten different categories, on a scale of 1 to 5.
They don’t give you guidance and instruction on how you might improve it, or work with you to help you develop the script (you need someone like me who offers script consulting for that!). But the price is definitely right to get a no-holds-barred sense of how people in “the industry” might view your work.
For those rare scripts that get a composite score above 68, the script’s logline, ranking and writer’s name will be publicly listed on the site as one of the “Top Unrepped” scripts (meaning, scripts with no agent or manager representing them yet). The writer’s contact info and the script’s coverage (which includes a synopsis) will also be made available to industry professionals who are in the business of finding new material and writers (whose companies pay $19/month for a subscription to the site).
The other cool thing the site does is serve as an encyclopedic repository of information about virtually every script that is out there in the “Spec Market”. It has separate categories for scripts that have managers and/or agents representing them, as well as scripts that have been Nicholl Fellowship finalists, or made the “Black List,” “Blood List,” or “Hit List” (each of which are industry surveys of the best unproduced scripts — most of which have been sold but not made).
It also gives updated status on each project, such as whether it’s been sold, which agents/managers represent it, what production company is attached, etc. (In some cases, there are directors and actors attached, and the script is in production or recently produced). And these scripts, too, have been read, ranked, and covered by the site’s staff.
Because you can see and compare the loglines for all these different scripts — from the biggest name “sold” projects, which are set up with top producers and studios, to the (for now) unrepped and unknown — I think the site performs one other key service. It gives writers a chance to look at all these different movie concepts in logline form, and get a sense of what makes for a sell-able one (and/or a much lauded or repped one) — in every genre.
I always say the most important thing about any screenplay’s commercial marketability is the basic concept that could be expressed in a couple of sentences. And that’s definitely what the industry judges scripts on, first and foremost. (Though, of course, the story structure and scene writing have to be executed on a professional level, as well.)
To get to see all these concepts and compare them is a great education for any screenwriter — and something that is not available elsewhere in such an easy-to-explore format, to my knowledge.
Please let me know what you think when you check it out!
I also recommend my "Ten Key Principles Successful Writers Understand", and my series of audio downloads. And if you'd like me to read something you're working on, check out my consulting page.