Act Outs in Pay Cable Specs? - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Q. I've written a spec destined for pay cable. But I was taught to have strong act outs, and the script actually has them. Should I leave them in my spec (so people notice my excellent act outs?) or take them out (so people recognize that I'm aiming at pay cable)?
I've wondered about this myself. On the one hand, you don't want to look like you don't know what an act out is. On the other hand, if you're aiming at pay cable, then shouldn't the script reflect that? On the other other hand, with no act outs, are you precluding having an exec think, "Huh, this would actually make a great pilot for CBS if the main character just solved crimes"?

If you read scripts as part of your living, would you expect a pay cable spec to have no act outs? If your specs are circulating, what do you do if your script is a natural for pay cable?

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I'm having the exact same issue. I've read 'Californication', 'Nurse Jackie', and 'Weeds' scripts, and they don't use act outs.
But I worked as a reader for a while, and I have to say I would expect writers to use them, just for the sake of structure (also because when I write my evals it's a lot easier). Of course I didn't get many pay cable specs, so maybe I'm just a traditionalist. But I'm putting them in my spec - if only for clarity.

By Blogger Dan, at 10:47 AM  

Pay cable still likes to think of itself as apart from the rest of television (it's not TV it's HBO!) There is nothing they like less than a show that could play on conventional. Five acts feel like network TV, no matter how much nudity and curse words you pile into the script.

Anything you do to make your pilot feel like it belongs nowhere else, the better your chance.

By Blogger Wil Z, at 8:27 PM  

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