Q. The one thing I would love to see more than anything is a first time staff writer's spec/specs that got them staffed. I know personality and all is a big part too...but always curious how good/original their spec's actually are in order for them to rise above all the rest.
That's a challenging idea. What immediately comes to mind is "no way I'm letting anyone see how bad a writer I was five years ago!" Another issue is that television has changed and grown, and whatever Ken Levine's specs were when he was first staffed, for example, might seem hackneyed simply because television was hackneyed
. If you read a Gilligan's Island
now, whether spec or produced, you'd see the flip cut coming a mile off --
There's no way I'm putting on a red dress
and dancing the samba!
in a red dress, dancing the samba.
But then, another name for the flip cut is "the Gilligan."
It's that old remark about Shakespeare: he's that guy who writes in clichés!
Television has changed. You could look at a perfect Miami Vice
spec, for example, and fall asleep at the pace the plot develops. But the same is true for the produced scripts from the show. One plotline? One
Another problem is that until you're good enough to get staffed, you may not realize just why Ken Levine's spec was so brilliant at the time. You just wouldn't see it. Part of learning your craft is seeing other people's craft. The more I know about writing, the more I can appreciate other people's writing.
And then, of course, there's personality. You do get staffed for personality. You get staffed for quick wit and likability and being easy to be around.
I guess my question is: what would you get out of reading Josh Schwartz's no-doubt-kickass Original Spec? Would you feel daunted, and quit? Or figure you just have a lot to learn? What would you get out of reading my not-so-kickass ancient Buffy
spec? Would you figure "Heh. If Epstein could get staffed with this junk, I'm not so far off"? Or would you figure that no one in show business can appreciate a good script and it's all a crap shoot?
I feel that if you need to be a TV writer, you probably will. And if you don't need to be, you probably won't. Like any other endeavor, the laurels go to the ones who devote themselves to their calling. I find that tracking other people's genius is too wearing. There are people whose scripts I think suck who luck into stuff. There are people like Denis McGrath who I hope will throw me some scripts when they get their own shows. I just try to worry about making my own scripts as good as they can be while still finishing
them, and praying now and then that I continue to be able to support myself in this crazy business.
Labels: spec scripts