Querying TV Specs?Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Q. In your book you talk about querying before actually writing the screenplay to test the value of the hookCan you do the same thing for TV specs, to see if you should even bother writing it?
Er, no. You might query producers or agents about your spec feature to see if anyone's interested in the hook. But you're not writing a spec TV script in order to sell it. You're writing it to show you can write TV. A clever hook is a good idea, but producers and agents really need to see your writing chops.

On the other hand if you're talking about a spec pilot that you hope to sell, you can certainly pitch your TV show concept to people in the biz, to see if they warm to it, before investing in writing a spec pilot. You'll want to do this in person, so you see their reaction up front; also they'll be less likely to steal your idea; also, your concept will improve itself as you pitch it. I spent four days in the Rocky Mountains the week before last, pitching a couple of series ideas to producers. We've since had offers and we'll be optioning them shortly. Then we'll take the pitches to networks to see if they'll pay Lisa and me to write a pilot. So in that sense, you can query a TV spec pilot. But it's really a different thing.

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Interesting -- that goes against the advice I've generally received, which is not to query until you have the script ready to send... because what happens if they want to read it? I wouldn't have thought that "Uhh sure, I'll get back to you in a few months..." goes down too well with many producers?

Or do you consider there to be a difference between 'canvas querying' - i.e. ascertaining whether there is interest in the idea as you have described in this post, and 'please could you read my script querying'?

By Blogger Claire, at 9:05 AM  

As I explain in my book, the moment a producer says "yes" to your query, he immediately forgets all about it. So if the script comes a little later, he probably won't even notice. And if he does, he won't care. You can always says you decided to polish it some more.

I know it's heresy, but I was a development exec for years, and that's my theory.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:26 AM  

Well then I'll take your word - thanks!

By Blogger Claire, at 7:00 AM  

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