Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 'Avatar' Bounce

I am freaking ecstatic.


Because for the first time in a LONG time, I have a double whammy of very good news to write about in my Agent's Hot Sheet column for Creative Screenwriting. The source of my glee: first and foremost, "Sci-fi is back!," enthuses manager Jake Wagner from FilmEngine. Long considered persona non grata by Hollywood due to high production costs and their own slavish devotion to adapting children's toys and crappy old TV shows, original sci-fi material is suddenly IN DEMAND in town.

The studios have been on a tear, gobbling up sci-fi specs as well as projects based on source material. Recent deals include Ion, Archangels, Mass Effect, Pacific Rim, All You Need Is Kill, and more. Credit the billion-dollar success of Cameron's blockbuster for this, as well as last years Star Trek reboot and District 9, now bolstered by the great numbers for Inception. This is of course awesome news for sci-fi fans, but it's even better for writers in general.

Why? Because my sources tell me that there has been a quantum shift as of late. Avatar and Inception are original projects. No source material. Original. And the studios get that. This is HUGE. It translates into, at long last, a willingness on the part of the buyers to look at original scripts and original ideas, especially cool, intelligent and challenging sci-fi ideas. Of course, source material still helps -- Mass Effect is based on a video game, All You Need Is Kill a manga -- but still, the studios have made it clear that they are, for the first time in a long time, actively interested in original material.

Of course, don't think things have turned around completely. Despite the wave of recent sales, "They’re certainly not all selling for a lot of money," says UTA agent Julien Thuan. "That’s probably the biggest difference is that you see spec sales that are in the low 6-figure ranges versus spec sales in the 7-figure ranges."

I cover all this in depth in the next issue of Creative Screenwriting. Suffice it to say, it finally feels really good to be a writer again. Cross fingers (and gelatinous, tenticular protrusions) that it holds.

Jim C.