This Week in Coaching: Industry Update!
This Week in Coaching is back with stories from the career-coaching front lines
As a professional industry observer, the question What’s happening in the industry? is one that I have heard often, from writers breaking in who are seeking to understand the landscape, as well as working writers looking to confirm suspicions or get a sense of what’s happening outside of the unique bubble in which they are working, or not working. But never have I heard that question more often than I have since the pandemic began; in fact, I heard it so often that at some point I was recording a bi-weekly podcast titled UNSCRIPTED with the good people at Final Draft, just to keep everyone as updated as I could as things ebbed, flowed and changed.
We are now post-vaccine rollout and onto the fears of the Delta variant, and things in the industry continue to move dynamically. With that in mind, combined with the fact that I still hear the What’s happening? question ALL. THE.TIME. in my day-to-day coaching life, I figured it’s time for a write up, with a caveat that this update is true for the moment, and may shift, change, augment or adjust as things continue to evolve in these unpredictable times.
But the bottom line, for now, is this: Things are definitely looking up! What do I mean? Let’s break it down:
The entertainment industry is a resourceful one. After all, it’s been said more times than I can count that showrunning and producing is really all about solving problems and putting out fires. And the industry has done just that to combat the affects of the pandemic, figuring out how to get back to production, which did come to a halt at the onset of the pandemic pandemic. This is not to say that material did not get produced in 2020, but there was definitely a lull, a time in which writers were writing, but directors, actors and crews were in a holding pattern, waiting for things to once again pick up.
And pick up they did. Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter published an article stating that production days in Los Angeles this past quarter (Q2, 2021) have not only reached pre-pandemic numbers, they’ve actually exceeded them. The reason that this is a big deal is because Los Angeles is not a cheap production hub; it does not offer the same levels of incentives as Georgia or Louisiana (to name a few), or the mothership of incentive offerers, Canada. And yet, production days have picked up here and are now 7% above where they were pre-pandemic, which indicated that producers, en masss, figured out how to keep productions going despite all the set-backs and challenges.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the bottle neck of projects in development left over from pre-pandemic times, and how those have to get pushed through before development on new projects starts to take off. Studios and networks have spent a lot of time and resources (see: $$$) on projects they are still fully committed to get into production in order to see returns on their investment. The good news is that the majority of these projects are now in various stages of full realization, and I am finding that my working writers are starting to encounter more and more opportunities for development in both the film and TV sectors. In other words? More pitches are going out. More projects are getting sold. More new Open Writing Assignments (OWA’s) are up for grabs. On the professional writers side, we are getting back to a level of activity that is keeping many working writers quite busy.
However, per The Tracking Board, we did see a decline in spec scripts (specifically features) going out this past month. However, with many reps and executives taking much-needed vacations, this was, in many ways, expected. In fact, I’m hearing from many of my working writers who have new material ready to go out via their representatives, that their reps are in a holding pattern, waiting for executives to get back from global vacations and get their heads back in the game. I am curious to see what happens in the spec space in the late summer and fall months!
On the TV front, writers rooms are up and running both as full- and mini-rooms for TV shows spanning from network TV to streamers such as Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon. While most rooms continue to be on Zoom per network mandates, I am starting to hear about a few rooms starting to come back in-person, which everyone has been eagerly looking forward to . I know that a lot of writers who don’t live in Los Angeles are hoping that this Zoom room reality will become our new normal, and allow for writers to staff regardless of geography; unfortunately, I find that most everyone hates zoom rooms, so I do expect most rooms to go back to in-person in some capacity just as soon as it is deemed COVID-safe to do so.
New staffing (i.e. staffing of writers who have not worked on a writing staff in a writers room before) does continue to lean heavily into diversity, as we continue to seek to offset the absence of diversity exhibited in writers rooms in writers room of old.
I know many writers are waiting to hear back from the network TV writing programs they’ve submitted applications to a few months back: I hear that CBS is now scheduling interviews; WB’s TV Writers Workshop has begun reaching out to semi-finalists with requests for original pilots; ABC/Disney is expected to reach out to writers who have moved forward to phone interviews in late September/early October. There is no word yet on when NBC’s Writers on the Verge, which is under new management this year, will open for submissions, though a statement shared its organizers in the beginning of the summer suggested that the program will be opening to submissions before summer is done.
As for contests, most are closed for submissions for the year, and many have begun to announce its semi-finalists, finalists, and even winners. The one big competition that’s still open? The Final Draft Big Break Contest still has a number of deadlines (3 in all!) so if you’re looking for competition opportunities, this is definitely one to submit to!
Do you have any questions about what’s happening in the industry that I haven’t answered? Send those to me via my contact form, and you may see the answers in a future update!