WHY YOU <B>MUST</B> HAVE SPECSComplications Ensue
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

A friend of mine asked me whether I'd consider a writer for a show who didn't have spec scripts.

Not really. Not if I can possibly avoid it.

If you don't have a couple of good specs, it suggests one of two things:

a. You are way too busy to write spec scripts. You've been writing features and tv nonstop for years. Okay, fine, show me some stuff from the shows you've been writing. Or...

b. It takes you too damn long to write an episode of a show. In which case it will probably take you too damn long to write an episode of my show, too.

If you don't have a spec, and only have original work, then all I can find out is that you can write original work. But being able to come up with good characters and a consistent world, while wonderful in its own right, doesn't tell me that you can write my characters and my world. Do you have an ear for reproducing the voices of a character? Do you have a sense for the template of a show, the tone, the what the show does and doesn't do? You might have started off your original script in one direction and wound up with it going in an entirely different direction. That's just dandy, unless you're writing a show that already exists, in which case your inability to hit the mark you're aiming at could be fatal.

Also, if you don't have a current spec, I have no way of knowing how long it took you to write your original work. Whereas if you send me a Malcolm in the Middle spec -- well, who's still speccing MITM? And if you send me an O.C. spec with Alex and Lindsay in it, I know you've written the script this year. So it can't have taken you that long to write it, 'cause it hasn't been that long.

If you want to get hired to write TV, ya gotta have those specs.


Thanks for posting this; I'd wondered why they expect specs of current shows, since the specs aren't going to get produced, why writers are advised against writing specs for shows that have ended or that have been running a long time. It makes sense that the reader wants evidence that the spec was written recently.

I'm not currently planning to pursue TV writing, yet I can see why beginning writers have lots of resistantce to specs. It's difficult to write a script knowing that (a) you have to make it professional quality and (b) it will absolutely never be produced. I can absolutely see why specs are necessary... but I can't imagine it being fun to write them.

Rationally, I know that a spec screenplay is probably the same way. I know that one of the better possible results of writing my screenplay would be to get an agent who likes it, who finds me other work, and maybe even finds an option deal for my screenplay, while it never gets filmed. Still, to find the motivation to get to the end of it, I had to have faith in the possibility that the story I want to tell will reach thousands of screens. I wouldn't have that possibility with a spec TV script, and that would make it tougher.

By Anonymous 'drew, at 5:46 PM  

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