Aspiring screenwriters took heart on Sunday night: a spec script won an Academy Award. Dustin Lance Black spent years researching the life of Harvey Milk and writing a script, all on his own dime, before crossing paths with director Gus Van Sant.
Upon such triumphs do thousands of would-be Hollywood scenarists base their dreams. The odds are heavily stacked against them. Daniel Snyder once worked alongside Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary at a video store, so he knows a little bit about impossible dreams. For his documentary Dreams on Spec, Snyder followed three aspiring screenwriters for a full year: David, who works at a talent agency; Joe, who day trades in the morning and writes the night away; and Deborah, a laid-off development executive struggling to get her project off the ground. Snyder also interviewed a host of successful writers, including superstars like James L. Brooks, Nora Ephron, and Carrie Fisher.
Dreams on Spec is very much an "inside Hollywood" story, a low-key tribute to cinematic dreamers. David seems to have achieved his dream by selling his first script (fans of Leslie Vernon: Behind the Mask, take note), but then has to deal with the reality of not being in control of the project. Joe spends years trying to fine-tune his script. Deborah faces the prospect of having to get a "real job" if she can't get financing for the script she wants to direct.
You can watch Dreams on Spec, which is embedded below for your convenience, absolutely free, courtesy of SnagFilms. (Sorry, pesky legal rights restrict this to US viewers only.) After all, aspiring screenwriters need to count their pennies until they get nominated and need to rent a tuxedo on Oscar night.