Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Do producers and agents require a spec script from an existing show?
(I know. What kind of answer is that? Hear me out.)
First of all, I’m only talking about comedy specs. The drama world may be different. I don’t know. I'm not dramatic.
Back in the day, spec scripts were the required writing sample. These are episodes of existing shows that perspective scribes write on speculation. Producers and agents and studios and networks needed to see if you could write in the voice of shows currently on the air since any job you would get would be on one of these shows.
Spec pilots were frowned upon. Showrunners weren’t looking for original voices; they were looking for people who could write in the style of their series.
Something switched along the way. Now the preferred writing sample is a pilot. I think networks are just so desperate for anything new they want to see original material. And once that original material has sufficiently impressed everybody, the writer can get a job on an existing show writing in the style of that show, not their own.
Yes, it makes a lot of sense.
Personally, I think it’s a disservice to a young writer to make him write a spec pilot. Pilots are different animals, extremely hard to pull off. Veteran writers have a bitch of a time with pilots. Asking a newbie to do a pilot is like asking a songwriter who does thirty-second jingles to turn in a symphony. But that’s a rant for another time.
So if pilots are what everybody wants, why write a spec?
Because it’s always good to have several samples of your work.
Because it’s always helpful to have a variety of styles. In other words, if your pilot is single-camera, having a multi-camera spec would be a plus.
And mainly because once someone reads and likes your spec pilot they’re invariably going to say, what else does he have? So even though they don’t tell you this, a spec from an existing show is still mandatory.
Now the big question is, what show to spec?
I’ll discuss that tomorrow.