The year twenty-fourteen was a transitional year for screenwriting and the entertainment industry in general. In some ways it was the year we had all been waiting for since the arrival of the internet; streaming content dominated television, and TV awards shows and ratings became a deeply debated topic.
It was a year Americans with Tivo, DVR, and other digital recording devices time-shifted television shows at an extraordinary rate. Reports say as much as 60% of TV audiences don’t watch at the designated time. Netflix’s chairman said the rating system has killed TV. Netflix is planning on releasing around twenty new shows per year!
There has also been a trend of A-list movie stars who now are turning to television. The title characters of True Detective dominated headlines and when season two was announced it was hard to find an actor or actress in Hollywood who was not mentioned in the rumor mill. Producers and creator Pizzolatto finally agreed on Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Elizabeth Banks. All of them dying to have the next phenomenon dubbed “the McConnissaince.” The only thing that diverted attention was the ongoing debate on Pizzolatto’s plagiarism which few pundits understood but everyone had an opinion on.
But HBO faced bigger issues this year. Other cable networks took leaps forward in terms of high-quality programming. FX, AMC, and even Cinemax scored award nominations. The times certainly are changing.
In the feature film space, this was a year dominated by sequels – though that’s not surprising given the current trends of studios. Surprisingly, this year’s sequels here were not only well-received at the box office but also well-reviewed by critics. Captain America: Winter’s Soldier, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes all sucked up plenty of cash and also received favorable reviews.
We also saw Universal join in the “shared universe” space as they released Dracula: Untold with plans to utilize their monster universe of The Mummy, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman for crossover films and one large team up. Dracula opened to middling numbers but Universal still has plans to keep pushing ahead.
Marvel continued its domination of the superhero space, adding another blockbuster to their impressive slate with Guardians of The Galaxy. Warner Brothers, not to be out done, announced Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice with Zach Snyder winning the lottery to direct and Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, and Henry Cavil facing off against Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. But fans will have to wait until 2016 to get a glimpse . . . at least we’ll get a trailer next year!
Sony struggled with the underperforming Amazing Spider-Man 2 . . . though that wound up being the least of their problems as their controversial comedy The Interview sparked North Korean hackers to release confidential emails and documents. The scandal forced Sony to cancel the release of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview in an unprecedented move.
This was a big year for indie film as well. Leading the charge was Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. A rare film that outperformed expectations, topping many lists as a favorite for Best Picture. The President himself named it his favorite film of the year. Vying for their time in the spotlight are Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Notably, Universal was the only major studio that shied away from big-budget franchise sequels, opting for more moderately-budgeted pictures which included: Lone Survivor ($149 million worldwide on a $40m budget), Ride Along ($153m/$25m, with a sequel on the way), Endless Love ($34m/$20m), Non-Stop ($222m/$50m), Neighbors ($268m/$18m), A Million Ways to Die in the West ($86m/$40m), The Purge: Anarchy ($110m/$9m), Lucy ($458m/$40m), Get On Up ($31m/$30m), As Above/So Below ($40m/$5m), A Walk Among the Tombstones ($53m/$28m), Dracula Untold ($212m/$70m), Ouija ($72m/$5m), Dumb and Dumber To ($116m and counting/$35m), and the upcoming Unbroken which cost $65m to produce.
Remarkably, the studio reported a record year in earnings without a single massive-budget tentpole franchise film.
Outside of all this we have to take into account the growing popularity of web series and podcasts. Who didn’t listen with intent as Serial attempted to solve a modern murder mystery? And how many people loved getting Jerry Seinfeld comedy every week with a cup of coffee?
On the screenplay side of things we’ve had a big year for spec sales. Several million-dollar sales to studios like Winter’s Knight and Catherine The Great crowned what is shaping up to be a year where we finish ahead of last year’s 182 specs sold. That means things will be looking up for writers, unless they’re Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino was involved in a landmark case when Gawker leaked his script, The Hateful Eight, to the general public. Leaked scripts are a way of life in Hollywood but Tarantino was not ready to back down. He first cancelled the movie, then did a live-read of the script, then announced the project was back on, to shoot in 70mm.
According to the Scoggins Report – December 2014 Spec Scorecard 87 specs sold this year along with 58 pitches. The vast majority of those specs were Action/Adventure tales (21) with the next highest genre being Comedy (12). Colombia bought the most specs (9) with Fox (8) and Universal (6) rounding out the top three. CAA clocked in the most client sales (20 ) follows by WME (14) with APA at a distant third (7).
Our ScreenCraft team has had a great 2014; last year’s ScreenCraft Fellowship winners, T.A. Snyder, Robert Haffey and Amanda Parham, all signed with agents and managers and now have projects in development with various production companies around town!
We also had ScreenCraft Comedy winner Jared Frieder and runner up Katiedid Langrock sign with top managers! Jared went on to win the Austin Film Festival Comedy Contest, and his script was featured by The Black List as their “Script of the Week.”
ScreenCraft is ending 2014 on a strong note, with our second annual Fellowship, featuring d mentors Jen Gisanti, Jordan Horowitz, Michael Costigan, and Scott Neustadter to take on a new group of writers and give them creative and career advice. We also have the Family-Friendly Film Screenplay Contest featuring a stellar panel of judges from Sony Pictures, Affirm Films, and Chernin Entertainment.
Our most popular blog article by far and away was our list of Pixar’s 22 Rules on Writing. Some other favorites were our post on writing loglines, and interview with Layover director Joshua Caldwell, and the Top Screenwriting Terms.
This year we bolstered our readership, with over 400k of you scrolling through our site!
We’re growing with our writers and excited to see what 2015 holds for you and for us. We have a few very exciting announcements we’ll save for the New Year but for now we want to thank all of our fans who have followed us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr. It’s been our pleasure providing you with blogs, interviews, events, and helping you with your projects and careers.