There has been a notable uptick in movies from American producers going into development in the past two months, coinciding with the Cannes Film Festival’s annual film market. The Marché du Film, which is typically the largest such market of the year in terms of attendance, confirmed record-breaking numbers in the last week of May with over 14,000 accreditees present. This year it represented the last opportunity for buyers to assess potential new US projects before the walkout instigated by the Writers Guild of America officially began to disrupt the content pipeline.
The number of projects Ampere tracked going into development in the US during April and May 2023 was up over 35% on the previous year. April 2023 saw double the orders compared to the same period in 2022, as last-minute scripts reached production and sales companies before a May 1st deadline they imposed on writers whose films they were taking to the Cannes market.
The uptick in development orders is representative of the fast-tracking of both in-house projects by studios concerned about the potential impacts of the strike, and of independent productions by sellers keen to capitalise on the demand for new ready-to-shoot scripts. Overall, 79 US movies received development orders through April and May 2023, with 42 originating from major or mini-major studios and the remaining 37 being sold and/or backed by independent companies. The majority of the latter are package deals with scripts and talent attached, brought to market by independent sellers in the hope of attracting buyers keen to shore up their supply of new films.
Ampere’s research shows that 67% of these 79 newly-in-development US films reportedly have completed scripts already attached. However, the presence of a completed writer’s script does not guarantee a smooth path through production. Such projects will inevitably require re-writes as they progress, and the possibility of outsourcing to writers outside the US is politically fraught. Given that overseas unions with close ties to the American industry, such as the Writers Guild of Great Britain, have cautioned members not to cross picket lines on WGA projects in production abroad, there is understandably concern within the industry that a protracted strike might lead to packaged projects being pushed into production “unpolished”, causing issues further down the line. And with the Hollywood actors' union SAG-AFTRA voting to strike if it is unable to agree upon new contracts with the industry’s major players by the end of June, the future of these fast-tracked projects is far from assured.