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Friday, August 17, 2007

Q. Would it ever make sense to write a spec of a British (or Canadian) television show (e.g. Jekyll or Doctor Who)? For when someone asks for additional material? The shows might be more obscure, but if you had an excellent stand alone episode it might help you to stand out from the crowd. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?
If you're trying to write for US TV shows, I don't see how it helps you. I'd guess maybe one in ten network execs are going to be familiar enough with DR. WHO to evaluate how lovingly you recreated the cheesiness. And what if you nail it, and the exec thinks you're a "British-style" writer? (Whatever that means.) Unless you're certain that everyone in showbiz is watching a show, it's probably a waste of time to spec it.

I've heard a lot lately about spec pilots being the thing to write these days, anyway. I think you want to shoot for one extremely solid spec script (LOST/HOUSE/DESPERATE etc.) that shows you can write someone else's show, and one spec pilot that shows your range and creativity.

UPDATE: Peter asks about writing Canadian specs for Canadian shows. This comes up every few months ago. I wouldn't. Canadian execs and showrunners mostly watch American shows. You might be able to use a CORNER GAS or a SLINGS AND ARROWS, but why put all your effort into such a thing when you could cover all your bases with a 30 ROCK or a FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS?

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5 Comments:

Does the same hold true if you're a Canadian trying to break into the Canadian scene?

I've been tossing around a great (at least in my opinion) spec idea for "Intelligence" that I'd like to write somewhere down the line. If it turns out well I was going to consider using it in my application to next years CFC Prime Time program.

Think I'd be better off with an American spec, even for something as "Canadian" as the Canadian Film Centre?

Your thoughts, as always, are much appreciated...

-Peter

By Blogger Peter, at 1:23 PM  

Over here (UK), we're told by the Beeb at the writers' room and by various writers like Tony Jordan that people aren't looking for material, they're looking for "voice" and "talent", but these are so hard to quanitfy I wonder sometimes if it would be advisable to get people to write specs for stuff like Dr. Who and soaps like Eastenders to see who can "fit" the mould they've already laid out. As a reader I've had many clients who've been given a trial episode of something on TV and then not "broken the code" of writing for the show in question. Can't help wondering if less time would be wasted doing it that way from the start... Great blog by the way.

By Blogger Lucy, at 2:45 PM  

I'd have to say writing for LOST is extremely complicated. It's very hard to make a spec script for a Lost episode make sense with the rest of the series. Not to mention, if you get a reader who understands the show completely up to this point in the show, they will realize where your storyline/mythology/behaviours are inconsistent with the show. That's true for many shows, but the fact is that Lost's entirety is much more complex than many other shows on the air today. If you're going to write a spec script for it, make sure you understand the show inside and out.

By Blogger Carlo C., at 5:22 PM  

Peter, the year I attended Prime Time, I believe two of the residents got in with Corner Gas specs. And one was looking to write Slings and Arrows while he was in the program.

I think as far as CFC goes, Canadian or American, all that matters is that your spec is golden.

(But I guess that idea applies across the industry, doesn't it?)

By Blogger SeeDoubleYou, at 6:03 PM  

Once you've got at least two specs for on-air primetime US shows in the bag, I've heard that it's nice to have something offbeat for a third.

A play, a pilot, a feature, a stunt spec, or a non-US show would all seem to fit the bill.

By Blogger Piers, at 7:34 AM  

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