EVEN SORKIN WRITES SPEC PILOTS - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

According to Variety, Aaron Sorkin is going out with a spec pilot -- a behind the scenes show about a Saturday Night Live type program. Sports Night, if you will, at a variety show.

You'd think that the more successful you get, the more you'd be willing to write on spec. After all, when you write on spec, you get to make the show exactly the way you like it before anyone else meddles. The more successful you are, the more likely someone will actually buy it. Most of us, though, as soon as we can get paid to do stuff, go for the money rather than the freedom. Partly that's because the more involved the network is in development, the more likely they'll support it getting on the air. Partly because so few things get on the air that you need the development money to stay afloat. (And when I say afloat, I mean, afloat in a styrofoam chair in your pool in Bel Air. But you knew that.) But partly it's because we've had enough rejection, thank you, and enough risk, and now we'd like to know we're getting paid for stuff. But there's a creative cost for that.

I think the trick is to keep a good mix of commissioned stuff and original stuff going. All commissioned stuff makes Jack a dull boy. (Though writing other people's stuff can be creatively engaging too.) All original stuff makes Jack a poor boy unless Jack is phenomenally lucky...

The other trick is to make sure you spend a lot less than you make. The more money in the bank you have, the more you can write what you want. The more you write what you want, often, the more people like it. One of the most lasting bits of screenwriting advice I ever got was from my teacher Sterling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night). "Don't get divorced," he said. He stopped writing original specs after his first alimony payments kicked in. Keep your annual nut below what you can make in 9 months, and you will always have 3 months available for creative thinking...

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3 Comments:

Big time TV producer said this to me to explain how rich he was:

"I can survive two more divorces."

By Blogger Robot Porter, at 7:13 PM  

A 'behind the scenes' show about a variety show...

Why didn't they just announce "We're doing a version of the Muppets except with humans..."

Mac

By Blogger Mac, at 7:40 PM  

Another method to keep the creative muscles exercised while writing on assignment is to write that novel, play, or comic book that you've always wanted to see.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 11:17 PM  

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