Once upon a time, there was a thriving ‘spec script’ aspect to the Hollywood filmmaking industry. On a weekly basis – so the legend goes – agents would send out stacks of screenplays, written speculatively, and would broker deals with studios that would lead to interesting movies. Since around 2008, that ‘spec script’ aspect has been drastically reduced – and now the instances of speculative screenplays being purchased are relatively few and far between. For this reason, the news that Lionsgate has beaten out competition to snap up a ‘spec script’ titled Couple Up, is well worth celebrating.
The concept of the ‘spec script’ has been responsible for some of the most classic, iconic movies in modern cinema. Even some of the most successful film franchises – including Lethal Weapon and The Matrix – were borne of the sale of speculative writing. The change in the attitude of Hollywood studios toward speculative writing arguably coincided with a number of events – including a writer’s strike, and a global economic crash – in addition to the fact that giant corporations have increasingly taken over those studios and production companies that would potentially purchase movie scripts.
The resulting shift toward worldwide marketing strategies has subsequently led to a greater emphasis on brand development, and the expansion of existing properties – leading to the current movie marketplace, which is flooded with sequels, reboots and cohesive cinematic universes. Original, independent, speculative ideas are in woefully short supply.
So, when fledgling screenwriter Joshua Friedlander (whose only project to reach the screen thus far is 1999’s Suicide Blonde) writes a speculative script and sees it sell, in a competitive situation, we can rejoice at a small victory for real creativity. With the deal having just been put together and agreed upon, little is known about Couple Up, beyond the fact that it will see an estranged married couple wish they had never met, in a moment of exasperation – giving rise to a situation vaguely reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life. A director has yet to be assigned, and there has been no casting announced – but Couple Up will certainly be one to watch for.