Spec Script Trailers: Is This a Thing?
Universal purchased a spec script for Grim Night. The premise, according to THR:
Grim Night’s conceit is that one night every year, strange creatures attack Earth and kill thousands, targeting different place[s] with no one knowing why. The story centers on a family in small town America that gets attacked and has to defend themselves.
The concept itself sounds fairly enticing. But interestingly, the teaser-trailer for the spec also made the rounds:
It had me wondering whether this was a trend in the spec market?
Now, I had heard a lot this summer about how the spec market was picking back up. Is this a useful tool in trying to expedite the process by enticing script buyers, producers, and studios in a visual sense? I can see how this can give a writer/producer a great advantage by even showing that this film can already come as a package deal — if you’ve got actors or a director interested, this kind of visual “feel reel” could be enticing to someone who is interested in financing a particular production, but isn’t quite sold on a concept. And of course this sort of thing is happening more and more on IndieGogo and Kickstarter for producers looking for financing on a project; seeing something before it’s readily available is exciting, and probably heavily encourages people to get more involved and donate. In fact, Kickstarter says that projects with a video pitch have a 50% success rate as opposed to those without, which only have a 30% success rate. The videoed projects tend to also raise more money.
Our class was privy to a mood reel over the summer for a crazy-awesome script that sold earlier this year. This teaser trailer/mood reel was created by the attached (incredibly gifted) director for the studio to get a greater understanding of the look, feel and budgetary needs of the film. It looks effing gorgeous because they did it with a serious little budget.
That being said, this kind of thing could completely blow up in your face, if you don’t have the skills to do it. I just watched one 4-minute spec teaser trailer that was slow, grainy, and SO not interesting. It was as thought the writers only made the trailer just to do it, not necessarily to sell a nebulous concept, or the visual advantages of the spec script.
One of the commenters of the Deadline article on this said something interesting, and kind of effed up:
I worked for a manager who wouldn’t read scripts from unknown writers unless they had a trailer, even if it was made using clips from other movies. There are too many writers, too many scripts, there needs to be even more of a weeding process.
Does anyone find that as disconcerting as I do? A trailer doesn’t necessarily summarize the screenplay, or the final outcome of the movie. Also, what if the trailer sucks? Like I mentioned above, I saw a few horrible spec trailers — what if the associated scripts are actually great?
What if you’re doing something truly unique? Would your screenplay then get lost just because there aren’t three other films that fit the mold?
In sum, I think spec trailers can be a great tool if dealt with properly. In the end, if you’re like this manager mentioned above, maybe unlist your phone number, hire more interns, and increase your broader knowledge of movies, so a writer can just say they’re looking to achieve the tone of Dial M For Murder, the themes of Pink Flamingos, and the look of Apocalypse Now… And if anyone can figure out how to do that, let me know. I’d be curious to see it.