This is a pretty good overview of the business of screenwriting and its transformation as of late due to the influx of new technology and change in general business practices throughout the industry.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------When the Spec Script was king
By Margaret HeidenryOnce derided as “schmucks with Underwoods,” screenwriters saw their stock soar to seven-figure heights with the advent of the frenzied “spec”-script market. That bubble burst in 2008, but will the schmucks rise again?
THE REMAINS OF THE SCREENPLAY Technology has robbed the medium of its romance.
FADE IN: CITY OF ANGELS
lies spread out beneath us in all its splendor, like a bargain basement Promised Land.
CAMERA SOARS, DIPS, WINDS its way SLOWLY DOWN, DOWN, bringing us IN OVER the city …
—Opening of the screenplay for Lethal Weapon, by Shane Black.
Monday mornings in Hollywood used to mean something. Back in the 1990s—before the weekend box office was entirely dominated by sequels, prequels, movies based on board games, and other pre-sold “franchises”—Monday mornings were when original screenplays hit the auction block, and here’s how it used to happen: A lit (literary) agent called a series of studio executives and barked, “We’re going out with a hot spec.” Within the hour, a phalanx of messengers descended on the agency’s front desk, took copies of the script, and dashed off to the major studios—Columbia, Paramount, MGM, Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Fox—and to mini-majors such as Miramax and New Line Cinema.
Some hundred hours later, by sunset on Friday, the efforts of a year or three of a writer’s life might be deemed worthless by a tsunami of “passes” from studio mouthpieces. Just as often, though, during the spec boom years, which lasted roughly from 1990 to 2008 with various peaks and valleys, came the six magic words: “We’d like to make an offer.” Not only were spec sales the industry’s own version of a Hollywood ending, they also broke in a passel of Oscar winners: Alan Ball, who sold American Beauty to DreamWorks for $250,000 in 1998; Callie Khouri, who sold Thelma & Louise to Ridley Scott’s production company for $500,000 in 1990; Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who were movie extras before they sold Good Will Hunting to Castle Rock Entertainment for $675,000 in 1994.
“When I came into the business, in 1996, the spec market was this mythical thing,” recalls writer-director John Hamburg (Meet the Parents; I Love You, Man). “Everybody had a shot at becoming a millionaire overnight.” Indeed, competition for material grew so fervent that Harvey Weinstein, Miramax’s hard-charging co-founder, offered to buy screenwriter Troy Duffy his favorite bar in exchange for Duffy’s 1997 spec, The Boondock Saints—on top of a six-figure purchase price.
Joel Silver, the producer of Lethal Weapon and The Matrix, both of which began as spec scripts, makes it sound as if buying specs was like harvesting low-hanging fruit. “In that period, you could read a script and say, ‘This is a movie. It can be cast. It can go.’ ” The bull market for specs continued into the 2000s, and then—pick your metaphor—the bank closed, the railway was routed to another town, the well dried up. In 1995, 173 specs were sold. In 2010 the number was 55, roughly where it had stood for at least half a decade. What killed the spec market? To a great extent the same force that has upended so much of the industry: technology.
The film business began as a magic trick, a play of light and shadow. Thomas Edison’s first customers were so awed at seeing a moving image that they were sold on the medium just by watching a five-second film of a man sneezing. When the visual novelty waned, early directors recognized that movies were missing an essential ingredient to sell tickets: a story. And yet, beginning with the earliest screenplays, in the 1910s, writers usually found themselves at the bottom of the totem pole, dismissed as “schmucks with Underwoods,” a reference to the screenwriter’s typewriter of choice.
Catty-corner to L.A.’s popular mall the Grove, with its movie-set-like Main Street, sits the Writers Guild Foundation library, home to writer-director Billy Wilder’s personal, linen-bound copy of his screenplay for Sunset Boulevard. The picture, released in 1950, gave audiences one of their first glimpses of a screenwriter. William Holden’s Joe Gillis is a cynical hack, lousy with hard-boiled bitterness about career failure. Other portrayals of screenwriters, from Humphrey Bogart’s Dixon Steele (In a Lonely Place, also 1950) to John Turturro’s Barton Fink (in the 1991 film of the same name), perpetuate the profession’s desperate, slumped-shoulder image. The common villain in these film noirs is the studio system—inspired by Henry Ford’s assembly-line production—where a writer could pay his or her Schwab’s Pharmacy tab only by toiling under contract, cranking out what Life magazine referred to as “uniform mediocrity.”
When Jack Warner ran his studio, during Hollywood’s Golden Age, the mogul was rumored to have examined writers’ pencils to ensure they were acceptably worn down each day. Specs—as in “speculative,” meaning an original idea not owned or commissioned by a studio—were written only by out-of-work hopefuls. In 1933, when Preston Sturges sold what is widely considered the first spec, The Power and the Glory, to Fox for $17,500, plus back-end revenue, he said his vanguard achievement “made nothing but enemies for me” within Hollywood’s rigid power structure. Happily for his peers, the movie tanked, and Sturges tucked tail, writing studio-dictated scripts for the next seven years, until he established himself as a writer-director.
When the Supreme Court broke the studio system’s monopoly on production and distribution, in 1948, the schmucks took their Underwoods and left the writers’ buildings. In typical Hollywood dramatic fashion, there was a prolonged death rattle, with vestiges of the studio system—such as writing under contract if not on-site—lingering for another decade. But the shuttering of dream factories and their ability to quickly churn out pictures (the number of MGM’s releases fell by more than half from 1940 to 1955) also gave rise to “development hell.” Scripts competing for fewer green lights got endless “notes” from execs, which usually demanded Sisyphean re-writes.
Novelist and screenwriter William Goldman (All the President’s Men, The Princess Bride) circumvented the circle Dante forgot. Though Goldman wrote Harper, Paul Newman’s 1966 picture, for Warner Bros., he had never wanted to be a part of the waning studio system, because, as he emphatically states, “I hate Los Angeles.” Thus, when he became intrigued with a notorious Old West outlaw, Goldman simply decided to tell the story himself, writing a spec script titled Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Goldman sent it to his agent, Everett Ziegler, and says that “when it got out, there was this freak thing: every studio wanted to buy it. The price kept getting higher and higher and higher, until it got to $400,000—the highest price paid for an original screenplay.” Goldman sighs. At 81 he still seems astonished by the payday: $2.7 million in today’s money. “It went for so much money and it was a Western and nobody knew what the fuck we were doing.”
What Goldman did—besides writing what would become 1969’s highest-grossing film and a multiple-Oscar winner—was help create a new business model: write first, sell later.
Still, few followed Goldman’s lead. Mitch Glazer, a veteran screenwriter (Scrooged, Great Expectations) and the creator of the Starz television series Magic City, explains what he, and other writers, did instead of laboring on a spec with no guaranteed buyer: “I went into a studio and pitched—or was pitched by them—closed my deal, and went off to write. I was a working writer with a young family and needed the assignment … and commencement check!”
Then came the longest strike in Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.) history, which the trades would later refer to as “the bloodbath of 1988.” It lasted for five months, and when it ended a pile of original screenplays, which the unemployed screenwriters had banged out in their ample free time, flooded the market. Walt Disney Pictures, still something of a G-rated mini-major in the 80s, was making a play for major-studio status and needed to juice its development slate. (Warner Bros. released 24 movies in 1988 while Disney eked out 2.) Other ambitious minis, like free-spending Carolco Pictures, were also competing with studios for material. Enterprising agents realized a game-changing opportunity was afoot and quickly hustled their way to center stage.
Agent oral history, passed on in agency mailrooms filled with Ivy League grads hoping to become future titans, has crowned a “spec king”: Alan Gasmer, who agented at the William Morris Agency for 24 years. At the boom’s zenith, 1995, Gasmer helped sell 14 specs for a combined $6 million, including the hit Rush Hour. “After the strike, there was a hunger,” says Gasmer, who now runs his own management and production company. “So I looked at the system and fundamentally changed the way specs were sold.” Pre-strike specs were typically sold through open-ended auctions, but Gasmer realized that “weekend reads” gave decision-makers too much time to talk one another out of buying something. To reduce the chatter, the agent set a five-day countdown on a spec sale, which began Monday and expired on Friday. The simple addition of a looming deadline heightened need: aggressive buyers were soon bidding on material the same day it went up for sale.
“Heady days” is how Donna Langley, co-chairman of Universal Pictures, remembers the period. “Screenwriters could pretty much guarantee they would sell their projects for a lot. That was how the system functioned.” The going rate for an original screenplay? While mid to high six figures was the norm, one of the first specs to see a $1 million payday was 1990’s The Ticking Man, about a nuclear-armed sentient robot hell-bent on destroying Moscow. Brian Helgeland, who co-wrote the screenplay with Manny Coto (and later won an Oscar with Curtis Hanson for L.A. Confidential), had the idea to send ticking clocks to buyers in advance of the script. Stories about alarms suddenly ringing in meetings spread throughout Hollywood, and when the script went out the following week, it sold in hours to Largo Entertainment. Fourteen specs sold that year, 10 for a million or more.
The New York Times’s July 1990 article “Thrills? Millions? ‘Spec’ Scripts Bring Big Bids” detailed the unheard-of $1.75 million Shane Black scored for The Last Boy Scout, which was nearly doubled a mere 67 days later by Joe Eszterhas’s $3 million bonanza for Basic Instinct. Eszterhas reportedly wrote that script in 13 days; a two-page outline he subsequently turned out fetched $2.5 million. “Eszterhas used to call and wake me up at night saying, ‘I just sold something for more money than you, ha-ha,’ ” Black says. “I was like, ‘Joe, I don’t care, man.’ ”
Just 23 years old and fresh out of U.C.L.A., Black had helped kick-start the spec era with 1984’s only widely publicized sale: Lethal Weapon, which went for $250,000. “Suddenly, from working a temp job for $7.50 an hour, I had all this money,” Black recalls. In his case, the price tag turned out to be a steal; Lethal Weapon earned $120 million worldwide when it was released in 1987, spawning three sequels and becoming a billion-dollar franchise.
Though some of the more prominent spec-script sales led to flops, including The Boondock Saints and Radio Flyer—a 1992 film whose script, written by David M. Evans, sold for $1.25 million—the box-office success of Lethal Weapon and Eszterhas’s Basic Instinct (which grossed $353 million globally) turbocharged the market. By 1994 “everybody, everybody, was selling specs. It didn’t seem that unusual. It was more like ‘Why can’t we do this?’ ” says writer-director Deborah Kaplan (Can’t Hardly Wait, Made of Honor). In 1994, when Kaplan, then 24, and her writing partner, Harry Elfont, wrote The Family Way—about a woman impregnated via a sperm donor who then tracks her down—it sold in days for $400,000. The writing duo went on to sell two seven-figure specs, Married in the Morning and 99 Problems—neither of which, like The Family Way, made it out of development hell.
“Part of the fun of a spec sale was the franticness of it,” says J. C. Spink, of the management agency Benderspink, which has sold the specs American Pie, Monster-in-Law, and, more recently, We’re the Millers, which is being made with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. “Messengers were coming in and out,” Spink continues. “It felt like the Wall Street trading floor.” Agents might arrange matters so that the subject of a past grudge would get a hot spec after everyone else. Or not get the script at all. Gasmer recalls one female development exec who called demanding a copy of a certain property. When he refused, tempers flared, with this closing directive to Gasmer: “Take that script and shove it up your ass.” His reply: “Maybe I will.”
Though some scripts were assigned “coverage”—Hollywood’s version of CliffsNotes, written by paid readers for their over-scheduled bosses—many studio executives actually read the scripts that landed on their desks. “There was a sense of urgency,” says Matt Moore, executive vice president of Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films. “Something about opening the envelope, knowing you needed to shut your door and read this right now!” The wholly original story, sprung purely from a writer’s imagination, was contained in fewer than 120 three-hole-punched pages held together by two—never the déclassé three—brass brads. Executives were inundated with specs, with a Monday stack of must-reads a commonplace event. Despite the constant deluge, finding and landing a great screenplay gave execs an adrenaline rush.
Not every spec auction ended with Moët popping. John Hamburg remembers his then agent, Ari Emanuel (now co-C.E.O. at William Morris Endeavor), calling after reading his 1996 spec, Safe Men, a comedy about two untalented singers mistaken for safecrackers by a Jewish mobster. “Ari said, ‘This is huge. You’re going to be a millionaire!’ I was dreaming about how I was going to spend that million bucks,” says Hamburg. “A week later, Ari called back and said, ‘Everyone’s passed.’ ” (Hamburg directed the movie himself two years later.)
But if a spec was hot, agents, studio executives, and producers would perform a complicated pas de trois. While “the town” (as players call Los Angeles’s 468 sprawling square miles) battled over the property, lit agents wielded two weapons: their speed dials and information. Surprising to no one, agents ignored moral standards. “Certain agents, who will remain nameless, would lie,” says Ramses IsHak, formerly an agent at William Morris, now with United Talent Agency. “They’d say, ‘We have an offer from a studio. Which studio? Doesn’t matter. We have an offer from a studio and we have another one that’s on the way.’ It was all bullshit.”
Since Hollywood runs on equal parts ego and competition, decisions were often motivated by two of the sexier deadly sins—greed and envy. Mark Canton, former chairman of Columbia Pictures, who says he’s had a total of “27 titles in this business,” and has worked on films ranging from Caddyshack to 300, remembers, “I was very ambitious. When I liked something, I had to have it. The whole business structure was to beat out the other competitors and get the material. We didn’t want to know that [another studio] made something that we could have bought.”
“A torrid amount of money” is how much Canton, as Columbia’s chairman, needed to take Independence Day—the 1996 blockbuster that launched sitcom star Will Smith’s movie career—off the market. “I remember literally running around the studio—it was nighttime in Japan—because we needed their approval,” Canton says, referring to executives at Sony, Columbia’s parent company. 20th Century Fox won that battle, according to Variety, “by agreeing to pay or play fees of $7.5 million to the filmmakers,” which included writing fees rumored at $1.5 million. Spec prices then went to “a whole other level,” says Canton. “The Independence Day level.”
Producer Dean Devlin, who spec’d Independence Day with director Roland Emmerich, will not confirm Variety’s report, citing a contractual obligation with Fox not to do so. He does admit the sale launched “the most amazing weekend of my life. We sold it Friday and by Monday morning we were in pre-production.” Hooray for Hollywood? Not exactly. “A lot of studios wouldn’t talk to Roland and me for quite some time after that. They were really upset they didn’t get the project.”
In the movie business, everyone knows his or her place; writers traditionally found theirs at the lunch table in the far corner, nowhere near the cool kids. “Writers are nerds. When you go to a party and a director walks in, he’s got a girl on his arm; he’s got an eight ball in his pocket,” says Shane Black. “Where’s the writer? Over in the corner, whining about ‘my residuals!’ ” But during the rah-rah spec years, Black and Eszterhas made screenwriting cool, and girls elbowed directors aside to get to them. According to Joel Silver, “That was the first time in Hollywood when writers were thought of as an ‘element.’ People were looking to their work as a direct conduit to getting a movie made.”
Black’s two spec sales after Lethal Weapon vaulted him into the 1 percent, culminating with the 1994 auction of The Long Kiss Goodnight, a Bourne predecessor about a woman suffering from amnesia who discovers she’s a C.I.A. assassin. Black’s agents at ICM pulled a power play, as the writer explains: “They actually would say to execs, ‘O.K., we don’t want to send it out.’ ” Instead, for one day only, if studio reps wanted the privilege of bidding on The Long Kiss Goodnight, they had to drive to ICM, read it in situ, and then fight traffic to persuade their boss to cough up seven figures. Black adds, “I mean, it was that level of ‘Screw you!’ ” After a bidding war, New Line Cinema wrote a double-take check which no spec had previously commanded: $4 million. Black’s score held the record for a decade, until the Denzel Washington vehicle Déjà Vu, by Terry Rossio and Bill Marsilii, sold for $5 million in 2004.
As Devlin experienced with Independence Day, Black’s good fortune wasn’t celebrated in all quarters. “Variety’s Peter Bart had this editorial about what a hackneyed, blood-spattered, bullshit, page-turner piece of crap had sold,” recalls Black. “He used the word ‘vomit’ a couple times.”
Bart and others got to experience no small amount of Schadenfreude at Black’s expense: The Long Kiss Goodnight, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Geena Davis, Harlin’s then wife, and Samuel L. Jackson, barely got to second base at the box office when it was released, in 1996, taking in a wan $89 million worldwide. “Cut ahead to 2001,” says Black, “when I finished a script for something called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and all of a sudden not only is it not ‘Read in the office while we run a clock on you,’ it was ‘I submit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and maybe in a week or two they get back to me.’ Suddenly, I had no power.”
As the new millennium dawned, Black’s powerful, screw-you image had been replaced by Nic Cage’s meta-portrayal of real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman—with his flop-sweat insecurities—in 2002’s Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze. The pendulum had swung back to schmucks. In 2002, there were 114 spec sales. By 2005 the number had slid to 58.
High-profile bombs weren’t the only reason the spec market cooled off. By the mid-90s, multi-national conglomerates—among them, News Corporation, Sony, Viacom, and later General Electric—had acquired every major studio but Disney. “When corporations were coming into play in terms of owning studios … brands, like Batman, became an important icon for the individual studios,” Canton says. Seven Batman movies later, development slates beholden to a worldwide marketing strategy have put the squeeze on originality.
Another factor has been the collapse of home-video sales. Silver explains: “Those mid-range movies were really affected. If we just did O.K. theatrically, we could always make our profits in the VHS/DVD world.” Case in point: Eszterhas’s $2 million spec Showgirls, which saw limp box office in 1995, but went on to gross close to $100 million in VHS sales and rentals. “The collapse of that business? Can’t blame anything on that but the Internet and the economy,” says Silver. And as Hollywood’s cash flow slowed—home-video revenue fell by more than $3 billion from 2007 to 2011—development funds used to buy specs began to dry up.
Something else happened: a sea change in how Hollywood itself works. One day, no one knows exactly when, agents stopped messengering scripts around town. Instead, IsHak says, “you just e-mail-blast it.” Producer Luke Ryan, of Disruption Entertainment, based on the Paramount lot, adds, “Now when an agent’s pitching me a spec, it lands in my in-box before we get off the phone.” Gone is the tense anticipation as a messenger makes his or her way across town, followed by the crisp tactile thrills of glossy agency-embossed envelopes, cover letters, and brads. Today a script is digital static, a title next to a virtual paper clip, closer in form to spam than to Billy Wilder’s copy of Sunset Boulevard.
And as e-mailing scripts has become standard, the industry has seen the development of a new tool that has undercut the traditional agents’ art of rumor-mill manipulation: the tracking board. Started by assistants around 2000 as a way to share information, tracking boards have evolved into an online instant-monitoring system, used by almost everyone in Hollywood to follow the status of every movie project. Now Hollywood’s entire caste system can click to see the actual status of a spec—who has it, who doesn’t, who bid, who passed.
“When people just had telephones,” says Spink, “there was confusion, and I always found confusion led to sales. Could you insinuate things? Everybody did. Now, if it’s not true, tracking would reveal that within three minutes.” Without the ability to bullshit, top agents now find themselves at the mercy of lowly studio assistants with their bosses’ tracking-board password.
If the W.G.A.’s 1988 strike helped launch the spec market, the next strike, which began on November 5, 2007, and bled the film business for 100 days, was toxic. Spec-script sales, though declining steadily, had managed to hold on through most of the 00s. But the extended pause of the W.G.A. strike left the screenwriter community feeling like a film frame caught in front of a hot projector bulb. Business-as-usual melted, blistering until the emulsion finally burst into flames. As one insider says of the strike, “It was the ultimate Pyrrhic victory. Writers won the battle and lost the war.”
With the development process suddenly halted, studio executives found themselves with fewer calls to return and no new scripts to plow through. Spink puts the prolonged intermission in context, explaining that normally in Hollywood “it’s very hard to strategize, because you’re putting out so many fires during the day. During the strike, studios for the first time had four months to actually think about how the business was being run.” Studio heads calculated how many of the specs they had hemorrhaged money for actually made it to the screen. One example: Fees paid to Joe Eszterhas alone for unproduced screenplays total more than $10 million over the years. Worse still, many seven-figure specs that had made their way to multiplex openings had been critical and commercial disasters. Were the high-concept hooks many specs relied on for industry “heat” and big sales ultimately not conducive to making good movies? William Goldman shrugs when asked that question. As he famously wrote about Hollywood, and recently reiterated, “Nobody knows anything.” Except other Hollywood figures, who knew better than to answer the same question when I put it to them. High concepts never go out of style, and no one wants to risk premiere invites by slagging the town’s bread and butter.
In the spring of 2008, the industry emerged from the strike hobbled, only to confront the nationwide economic face-plant that fall, which vaporized the studios’ capital. Financial companies such as Merrill Lynch, which once lent Hollywood billions, grew stingy. Studios responded by further slashing development funds and releasing fewer movies—104 by the major studios in 2011 as opposed to 124 in 2006. Entire genres fell by the wayside. (So long, Meg Ryan.) And after a mini spec-buying spree post-strike to satisfy built-up demand for product, studios began seeking movie ideas elsewhere. “It’s very rare to see a spec sale for high six figures—to the point where if it does happen people are really talking about it,” says producer Moore. “Even $100,000, people talk about it.” And the days of bidding wars, he adds, “are so long gone.”
By many accounts, “the Harry Potter effect” has forever changed Hollywood. Though franchises date way back in film history—by one count there were 47 Charlie Chan pictures, and James Bond just celebrated his 50th anniversary as a movie character—the success of the Potter films, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the later Twilight and Hunger Games series, all of which were based on already popular books and made with initially little-known actors, has upset Hollywood’s traditional balance of power. “The star system has changed,” says Universal’s Langley. “Back in the 90s, writers could tailor a screenplay as a vehicle for a hot actor. Audiences have become less loyal to favorite actors.”
The new math isn’t complicated: pay a screenwriter $1 million for an untested, unknown idea or squeeze a movie out of an existing product with built-in branding. As a result, “developing from I.P.”—intellectual property, i.e., books, comics, video games, old movies, TV series, toys—“has become de rigueur rather than waiting for a spec to come in,” says Langley. “The focus shifted from original ideas to hedging your bets,” notes Moore. Or, as Shane Black says, “there’s only the careful choice of a product that goes through committee. It’s: how can we make movies that we absolutely know won’t lose any money?” As it happens, Black is currently directing the third installment of the billion-dollar Iron Man franchise, due for release this spring.
Though separated by more than six decades, Sunset Boulevard and The Artist share the theme of silent-screen stars trying to stay relevant, much like Hollywood itself in 2013. With domestic movie-theater admissions down almost 20 percent this past decade, the business finds itself on the precipice, with the iPhone and Xbox leaning against it. But Hollywood relies on the cliché of dreamers hitting rock bottom only to soar again.
In that vein, the spec market is showing signs of picking up, with 119 sales in 2011, up from 55 in 2010. Last year the number dipped to 96, but the year was notable for two specs sharing “Die Hard in the White House” plots selling within weeks of each other. One, White House Down, sold for seven figures and was fast-tracked into production with Independence Day’s Roland Emmerich as director. It will be in theaters this summer, arriving just a few weeks after Iron Man 3.
“A good idea can come from anywhere,” says Langley, whose studio reportedly shelled out $5 million for the e-book phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. Though not a spec script, the erotic trilogy that began as fan fiction and became a worldwide best-seller shares a similar up-from-nowhere spirit. New media, while whittling away audiences, have also unearthed fresh voices. The Academy Award–winning screenwriter Diablo Cody was discovered via her blog. Kelly Oxford, a housewife from Alberta, Canada, who amassed hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, recently sold her first screenplay, a spec. Another spec, The Disciple Program, was snapped up after a series of teasing tweets hyped it, reminding Hollywood of pre-tracking-board days.
“It was dead for so long,” says Paradigm talent agency’s Valarie Phillips of the spec market. “And then these past six months—with those two White House specs, with Fifty Shades of Grey—all of a sudden, the magic’s back.”
At least that’s what the dreamers are saying in Hollywood …
BUTCH Good. For a minute, I thought we were in trouble.
CUT TO THE SUN dying.
PULL BACK TO REVEAL THE SOLDIERS, tense and ready and
CUT TO THE CAPTAIN moving swiftly around the perimeter, gesturing his men forward, and as he does
CUT TO … BUTCH AND SUNDANCE [emerge] into the last of the sunlight and then comes the first of a painfully loud burst of rifle fire and as the sound explodes—
THE CAMERA FREEZES BUTCH AND SUNDANCE —Ending of the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, by William Goldman.Will the Spec Script Rise Again in Hollywood? | Vanity Fair