WHY THEY SAY THEY WANNA READ SPEC PILOTS - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I was just curious why showrunners in interviews, articles, always seem to make the comment that they prefer to read original spec material(pilot or film) instead of just another C.S.I. spec etc...as a writing sample?
My guess would be because they'd rather read a great spec pilot than a great CSI. After all, a great CSI is just a perfectly executed intellectual exercise (that's me being snarky about the show). You can watch a great CSI by turning on the television. A great pilot is something fresh and exciting. Reading the script is (if it's a great script) like watching the pilot to a new show that you want to start watching.

But you want to know what's the best script for you to pour your effort into. It takes much longer to learn how to write a great pilot than a great CSI.

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10 Comments:

Thanks..this kind of info is why I listed you as the best TV screenwriting site on the web.
Look forward to reading your book when it comes out.
You think that will be before X-mas or after?

By Blogger CharlieDontSurf, at 5:15 PM  

June 2006...

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:35 PM  

I'm generalizing of course, but a great CSI script only shows how well you mimic other writers and not necessarily how well you yourself write. Solid original material demonstrates your talent in its purest form. You don't get the added benefit of pre-constructed characters or someone else's cool idea. It's all you. And it either works or it doesn't. That's why we want to read them.

But you're also right about just wanting to read something original. You'd be amazed how many CSI scripts come across my desk. It used to be X-FILES and BUFFY. Now? Let's just say I'm sure the lost LOST eps are on their way as we speak.

Great site, btw.

By Blogger Andy, at 8:02 PM  

A spec pilot helped me get my first job. It wasn't my only writing sample, but I (and the guy who hired me) agreed it was the best of the two.

I think the trick is to find out what a specific showrunner wants to read, because everyone's going to be looking for something slightly different. For example, the "rule" that you shouldn't submit your spec to the show you specced has been broken by a number of working writers, but they presumably knew it was okay to break that rule with those people.

By Blogger Jeff, at 10:19 PM  

Jeff I was curious if you currently write for a show, I assume its not for DH, cuz if you do..I imagine the other writer are wondering if you sit in the room thinking..."I'd rather be writing for DH...I'd rather be writing for DH...lol
Thanks though for posting yr friends winning script...interesting to read it from summary to outline to script.

By Blogger CharlieDontSurf, at 11:04 PM  

Also, as someone who's staffed a couple times - - the sheer VOLUME of scripts is numbing. Afte ryour 10th CSI, an original anything sticks out from the crowd and generally brightens my day.

By Blogger Rogers, at 11:00 AM  

I guess that's a good reason to spec something other than CSI. For all the difficulties in speccing Lost, you can do more original stuff in a Lost spec than you could for a procedural.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:18 AM  

I've always thought it might be best to do the opposite of what the "hot" specs currently are in terms of the procedurals. Not sure if it will work long term. Instead of C.S.I. ....I do a House or Numbers or L & O: C.I. etc.
And have a bad habit of doing out there scripts which I usually get scolded by my teachers for.

By Blogger CharlieDontSurf, at 5:08 PM  

QED your teachers are idiots. For three prelim staffing spots I read 40 writers. Which specs do you think got me to call? The "weird" ones.

By Blogger Rogers, at 2:29 PM  

Yeah you don't need to remind me. Three years ago the very first screenwriting class I took at school...I decided to write a TV spec for C.S.I.
I decided I would have a episode where Grissom was driving back to Vegas and his car breaks down in Arizona. Small town sheriff picks him up and Grissom ends up getting his interst piqued by a murder that was reported that day...so he piggy backs along with the sheriff. The main theme being Big City vs. Small Town...Red State vs. Blue state etc. Also Grissom doesn't have any fancy tools so he goes to a hardware store and goes all McGuyver...actually thought the idea while flipping channels..TNT was showing City Slickers and the next channel had a McGuyver rerun.

I thought...this is a little bit out there but it might work.

My teacher's response..."This is an awful idea. You can't have Grissom not be in Las Vegas. The show is about Las Vegas. You have to have the fancy tools and equipment...that's why people watch the show.
He told me to junk the script I had started and come up with a new idea and script that actually made sense for the format of the show.

I listened to him.

Two years later when CSI..."Jackpot" aired...I learned my first lesson.
Don't listen to bitter sreenwriting "teachers"

By Blogger CharlieDontSurf, at 11:44 PM  

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