John writes: Do you have a sense if the economy is negatively affecting the feature spec script market?
Hmm. Yes and no. A lot of the studios are parent companies are cutting costs across the board, demonstrated by widespread layoffs, hiring freezes, overtime slashing and other cuts in messenger services, private jets, etc. But at the same time, people are absolutely still going to see movies; Universal even had its best year ever in 2008. People always used to say that Hollywood was "recession-proof," since people still watch TV and go to movies when times are tough because they're relatively cheap forms of entertainment, and we all need to be entertained when the world sucks. (I don't think it's a coincidence that people are suddenly loving musicals like Hairspray and Mamma Mia again and not going to see war flicks like Stop Loss.) But the problem with this recession is that a lot of the studios are now owned by parent companies that ARE affected by the economy, so they have to join in the cost cutting. Anyway, studios are still making movies, and I've heard plenty of executives say they're looking for new material. Once you get an agent it will be his/her job to navigate the marketplace and figure out how to sell your work or get you a rewrite or adaptation assignment.
I think there are a couple other lessons to take away from this:
A) It will never be easy to be a writer in Hollywood. It is not the kind of regular job with a regular paycheck. Though you might make half a million dollars one year, you might make $0 for the next two. Be prepared to deal wiith a low level of security and a high level of uncertainty.
B) You can't really base your writing on trends of the industry or the economy. Maybe a company is looking for big action movies, but they might be looking for smart romantic comedies by the time you finish yours. I think it's important to stay informed and think about what audiences want to see, but you've got to write what you're passionate about.