Chris Erskine

R.I.P. for the spec script, long a source of some of Hollywood's most beloved films.

R.I.P. for the spec script, long a source of some of Hollywood's most beloved films.

The once-mighty movie “spec” script, long a source of some of Hollywood’s most-beloved films, was pronounced dead after a lengthy illness. As befits many screen legends, the spec script died alone and in search of validation from a fickle, what-have-you-done-lately kind of town.

So-called specs, unsolicited screenplays that writers submit to producers in hopes of bypassing the studio system, resulted in such celebrated movies as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Good Will Hunting.”

“Yes, the spec feature script is pretty much dead,” confirmed David Howard, a tenured professor of screenwriting at USC who, as a writer himself, was close to the...

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