Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spec Script Eitiquette: What NOT to do

I’ve had several people ask me what NOT to do when trying to get someone to read their spec. It’s a case by case basis of course but I’ll just share some of my own personal experiences or things I have witnessed.

I’ve had people give me spec scripts at high school reunions. Not a good idea unless it’s from the person you always had a crush on and they haven’t gained 300 pounds.

A well known comedy director was in temple during High Holiday services one year when a fellow congregant reached inside his tallis and pulled out a spec script. Not kosher.

When I was announcing for the Orioles I once got thrown out of Bobby Valentine’s office for asking tough questions. He was then the manager of the Texas Rangers. Fifteen minutes later I was summoned back, obviously to receive an apology. No. He had heard I was a writer and pitched me a movie. Try not to be an asshole first.

And then there was the time I was in a funeral home with my father making final arrangements for my grandmother who had just passed away. At one point the mortician asked what I did. When my father said I was a writer the ghoul launched into a twenty minute movie pitch. If my dad wasn’t there no one would believe that story. But it’s true. Pick your spots.

What you need to do is first introduce yourself and try to establish a relationship. How intimate is up to you. But here’s my favorite story. Years ago I and another writer, Larry, were asked to speak at a UCLA extension class. I was a story editor on MASH at the time and he was story editor of RHODA. As we stood in front of the class lecturing, a friend overhead one young woman saying to another: “I think I’ll fuck Larry. I’d rather do a RHODA”.

12 comments:

Tony Hoffman said...

Wow. Just...wow. But who fucks to write for RHODA over M*A*S*H? A whore and has bad taste to boot.

Graham Powell said...

I'm not sure Larry would say she had bad taste...

Dimension Skipper said...

But why bother with spec scripts when sitcoms have stopped evolving and are just mash-ups of tired concepts? Well, that's what Neil Genzlinger says (though I'm paraphrasing) at the NYT anyway...

Naked Truth: New Sitcoms Are Reruns

...Just wondered if you might have any thoughts on the column, Ken.

I think I agree with large portions of it, but I don't know that the tiredness and rehashing of jokes and joke patterns is all that new. I gave up on The Simpsons probably 15 years ago or more because it had devolved (imo) from good linear storytelling to disjointed rambling sight gags and formula. And so many of the single camera sitcoms do similar things... Character says something odd, then quickly cut to flashback or imagined scene illustrating the telegraphed joke, then back to present day/reality for tag joke. Repeat as often as possible. Story, plot, and characters?... What are those and why bother?

Tony said...

The story in your last paragraph reminds me of the story in the Steve Jobs biography about how he met his wife (she was in the audience when he spoke at Stanford, and may or may not have told her friends she was scheming to meet him that night).

HogsAteMySister said...

I would never pitch you a script at an inopportune time. But could you loan me $20 until Tuesday?

Michael said...

Friday question: How did you get your start as a director? Was it on one of the shows you were a show runner on? If not, was it difficult convincing the producers to give you a chance?

Mary Stella said...

Book editors have had aspiring authors toss 400 page, rubber-banded manuscripts under the stall doors of the restroom or found them on their room service trays.

Great ways to get your book not read and your name added to the list of writers those editors will never sign.

Phillip B said...

On a baseball tangent - if the two finalists for the Boston Red Sox manger's job are really Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont, the team is totally bankrupt of any ideas or ideals. (Although I think Gene Lamont is a very nice guy.....)

Back on subject, I'm sure the while dining out Bobby V has had people shove DVDs of their son playing Little League into his hands.

JP said...

True story: I'm a working screenwriter in Los Angeles. My writing partner was at the doctor's for his yearly check up. The doctor was mid prostate exam when he learned my writing partner was a screenwriter and with his hand still in the most uncomfortable of places, proceeded to pitch his movie idea.

Holly said...

How would you suggest that an aspiring writer develop a relationship with the person they are pitching a spec script to if they live in a different state, for example? Or if they don't know anyone who can introduce them to you? How do people prefer to receive spec scripts from unknown aspiring writers?

Johnny Walker said...

Great last story. The lady could have just had a wicked sense of humour... Was Larry ever "approached"? :)

Suzanne said...

Thanks for sharing. Funny stuff.

David Steinberg had a good story about being creatively approached by an aspiring writer who was a valet at his health club many years ago. The guy used to try to slip his spec scripts to the members as he pulled their cars up to the curb. Guess it worked, as he eventually became a writer on Seinfeld, etc.