Monday, August 24, 2009

Spec scripts

Saroma writes: Do you pitch your spec scripts to the producers/creators of the shows?

No. Writers write spec scripts (sample episodes of existing TV shows) as examples of their work, usually so they can get a job on the writing staff of a show. (And generally, a different show; I've heard it's poor form, for example, to use a TWO AND A HALF MEN spec to try to get a staff job on TWO AND A HALF MEN.) Specs are useful because they demonstrate that a writer can mimic the characters and tone of another person's show, and therefore be a good addition to a staff. You don't really pitch the idea to anyone except your friends and, if you have them, your agent or manager. People like producers and creators wouldn't hear about a spec until it's done and someone sends it to them as a writing sample.

In recent years there has been a trend toward using original material (pilots, plays, features, short stories, etc.) as writing samples instead of specs. The idea is that original material gives readers a better sense of who you are as a writer - what your individual voice is, what unique characteristics you'd bring to a staff, etc. But since specs are still used (and only specs are considered in many fellowships and workshops, like the ABC/Disney Fellowship and the WB Writer's Workshop), it's probably a good idea to write both specs and original material.

Personally, I recommend tackling a spec first. The characters and world have already been created, and you'll have several episodes to watch, break down and use as templates. You also might check out the old posts from Jane Espenson's blog - she wrote a lot about perfecting your specs and pilots.

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Dan Williams said...

I can remember as a kid pretending to be certain characters and wanting to do their jobs when I grew up. Perry Mason was one and Mr. Spock was another and then there was Maxwell Smart, Agent 86. If I was wondering what show to spec, that would be one of my tipoffs.

samuelsmiller said...

over on the writer's office assistants blog they have an interview with a writer who submitted a SUNNY spec to the SUNNY guys. didn't get him a job in the room but it did get them a job as assistants on the show.

i generally agree that you don't want to submit a show's spec to the show, but the rules are changing - i think if you have the opportunity and the quality work, take advantage, especially cable.

Hamster Babe said...
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Romy Skye said...

Thanks Amanda! :D Quick question - Do your spec scripts have to be of current shows only? Can you submit material of shows gone bust? Like Friends, Will and Grace, Buffy, Gilmore Girls, etc?

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