They Used My Spec Idea! - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Q. You've commented in the past that a good spec should last a few seasons, but what happens if the show uses one's premise? I had the lovely experience of watching "House" last night, only to find that the show used the same disease and unusual treatment as I'd used in a spec I wrote over the summer. The episode's B-plot was a conflict between House and Foreman about Foreman's career development; I included a similar conflict in my spec. Granted, the reason I wrote the spec was to submit it to fellowships over the summer, which I did, but now I worry that I can't use the script going forward.

I know most readers won't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the show, but the last thing I want is for my spec to land in the lap of someone who does and who then thinks I recycled an episode. Am I worrying over nothing? Or should I just suck it up and resign myself to another spec, another month of medical research so all-consuming I wander around muttering to myself about the distinctions between hypoperfusion, hypoxia, hemoptysis, and hypotension?
Hmmm, interesting question.

I'm torn. I doubt that many agents watch HOUSE consistently, or pay close attention to the medicine when they do. I would worry more if you have the same patient. I'm not a big HOUSE fan myself, but I think the attraction of the medicine is to watch HOUSE fence with the patients. The memorable moments probably aren't the medical ones. You can probably still use it.

After all, I doubt there are very many ailments HOUSE hasn't used by now. And showing your chops as a researcher -- though it sounds like you have great ones -- is less important thanshowing that you can catch the voices and reproduce the template of the show.

But you're right, it has gone down in value. I wouldn't spec another HOUSE though. No one's going to read two HOUSE specs from you. I'd spec something else next -- something character-based, not procedural.

Any agents care to comment on this?

Labels: ,

5 Comments:

Interesting you use House. I wrote a pretty solid House spec and they still haven't used the two ailments from my script at all, or the overall circumstances, but as soon as they changed the format of the show with the new doctors, THAT is what did in my script.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 11:40 AM  

I wouldn't worry about it. With spec episodes, if the writing sings and the script is solid storywise, nobody in town cares if something similar to it has actually aired. My House spec landed me the job I have now, and a virtual facsimile of it aired a few weeks after I'd finished it (perhaps inevitably, since it was based on the Russian polonium poisoning case, a story every show was doing for a while). It can be something to laugh over when you get the meeting -- everybody out here knows the spec game, this happens literally all the time. Back it up with a solid pilot and you'll be fine...

By Blogger taylor, at 3:59 PM  

@ EmilyBlake, are you sure your House is done in by the format change? I had a first season Buffy spec -- Miss Callender was alive in it! -- and no one minded reading it. Most working writers and agents probably didn't watch the show that religiously, so despite being outdated, the spec read like a Buffy ep to them. It was still getting me work as of 2007. If I were hiring I would read a House with the original Cottages.

By Blogger GH, at 6:52 PM  

Thanks for answering the question! Just to clarify, I meant to ask if I should write another "House" spec to replace the current one, which I wouldn't submit if people thought it was a problem. I'm working on a separate, character-drama spec now.

By Blogger kimshum, at 1:24 AM  

I think people answered that. Don't write another HOUSE spec. Write a character spec. Then write a pilot.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 7:48 AM  

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