Write an Alternate Finale? - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Q.  As a fan of the show Stargate Atlantis, I wasn't entirely happy with the recent season finale. I'm thinking about writing an alternate finale as my submission to the ABC/Disney Fellowship.
This is risky for a couple of reasons.

One, Stargate: Atlantis is not a show you can count on anyone having read. It's just not one of the shows that show people are watching. That's why you call agents' assistants to ask what shows people are speccing. You should spec one of the shows everyone's speccing, because those are the shows people are watching.

Two, it's really hard to write a satisfying season finale. Much harder than writing a "center cut" episode. There's just a lot more work to do resolving story arcs and tying up loose ends, while creating a convincing hour of television. So you're raising the bar for yourself.

Finally, the season finale is the culmination of the whole season. You're trying to show how you can pay everything off better than the showrunner. But the reader may not have even seen more than one or two episodes of the show you're writing. You can rely on any decision maker to have seen BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but you can't count on him knowing every last detail of which Cylons are "out" as Cylons to the humans, and which are secret, and what Baltar did on New Caprica, etc. A season finale is more dependent on detailed knowledge of the season than any other episode. Readers who aren't fans won't get it; readers who are fans may have very strong opinions about whether your approach is canonical or not.

Now these are only risk factors. If your Stargate:Atlantis alternative finale reaches a big S:A fan, and it sings to him, then you have broken out of the pack. High risk can bring high gain. A highly competent CSI may not grab anyone who's had to read twenty other highly competent CSI's. Anything you can do to set yourself apart can work in your favor.

(But I still wouldn't do this for S:A. I just don't think it's got enough buzz.)

Labels: ,

6 Comments:

I think it'd be a horrible idea. The finale sucked, yes, but saying "hey guys, your finale sucked, let me show you how real writers do things" is a bad idea.

By Blogger Carlo Conda, at 5:34 PM  

I'm not sure I agree, Carlo. Kay Reindle got her break by critiquing Chris Carter and explaining how she'd have done better. Saying an episode sucks is easy, but saying how you'd do it is hard, and if you can do that well, you might impress the showrunner.

That said, you never show a spec to the show you're speccing, anyway, so it's a moot point.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:34 PM  

"That said, you never show a spec to the show you're speccing, anyway..."

Dumb question here, but: why?

By Blogger Brandon Laraby, at 10:41 AM  

They know too much. They'll see everything that's wrong with it. I don't think I could read a NAKED JOSH or CHARLIE JADE spec without thinking, "That's not how *I'd* do it."

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:06 AM  

Oddly, after hearing the rule for years that you would never show a spec to the show you're speccing, I got asked to do exactly that. I sent a prod. co. a pilot, and they said "Ooh, actually, we only want to see an episode of our own show."

Which seemed totally strange to me, but of course I did it. And now they'll probably see EVERYTHING that might be wrong with it and not hire me. But at least I have a new sample.

By Blogger SeeDoubleYou, at 3:00 PM  

Coming in late on this one, but I always figured you wouldn't want to send a spec script of a particular show to that particular show without it be it being requested first because of issues of a spec writer making a big fuss or trying to file some kind of lawsuit if that particular show "executes" their ideas. At least if it's done upon request, the people for a show could have the speccer sign an agreement that they wouldn't cause any problems afterward (but then again, that might be dumb of the speccer. . .oh, the complicated web!).

By Blogger The_Lex, at 3:06 PM  

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