Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rule of Two?

Tonight it is, because I have only two things to say. A statement and a question:

1. The shower curtain scene, though overused, terrifies me every single time. I know "it" is never behind there, but I have to cover my eyes every time. I am going to successfully use a shower curtain scene someday, and "it" WILL be behind there.

2. When writing a spec of an existing series, how important is it that the series is currently on the air? What is the grace period for how long a show can be out of production before your spec is no longer acceptable?


  1. Has to be currently be on the air. Unless you're doing a stunt spec, but I wouldn't recommend those unless you're the second coming of Aaron Sorkin.

  2. Mmm... I don't know, Peter. Our mutual friend and CFC Showrunner was pretty adamant that during this year's selection process, after reading several 30ROCK and The Office spec's, it was refreshing to read a MASH script and... something else that I can't recall off the top of my head. But something long past.

    I think it all depends on the person who will be reading it. Aforementioned person has a fondness for WKRP... if I was trying to impress him, that's what I'd write.

    So... do your people research. If you're still unsure, then it's probably better to go with the safe bet and stick to something current. But if you know what your reader will like, and you're capable of nailing it, you might just stand out in the crowd.

    My two cents.

  3. Oh - and always write what you know. Know the show inside out, upside down.

    Okay. Time to blog my own blog... only two hours left for today's deadline.

  4. I'ma stick to my guns. Speccing a show that's off the air is a risky move for established writers, and it's a down right bad one for beginners.

    You write specs to show that you can emulate another writers voice and to demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of the industry (what's popular, what's not popular and even the fact that you know what a spec script is). In order to accomplish those things not only do you have to familiar with the show, but so does your reader. Speccing a show that's off the air is a hindrance as opposed to a help in that.

    Take a really popular spec of yesteryear like The West Wing (or MASH, or Cheers, or even Buffy) for example. How long has it been since you've seen that show? Would you be able to tell if someone was doing a good job emulating Sorkin's voice? Could you tell if they'd nailed the characters? The tone? Could you answer those questions off the top of your head or would you need to go and look at some episodes on dvd? Now would you still be willing to look up an obscure show, or even a once popular show that you just haven't seen for a while, when you also have a stack of 70 other specs to read?

    Most showrunners wouldn't bother. They're too busy.

    Also I've yet to meet an agent in Canada who'd read a stunt spec.

    You write a stunt spec as your third or fourth writing sample, after you have a polished pilot and a traditional spec.

    Also I would never in good conscious recommend writing something for one specific showrunner (network exec, yes, showrunner, no). Writing samples are going to be used far and wide, why waste your time targeting the tastes of one specific individual when the chances are good that you'd never use it for anyone else?

    A lot of showrunners say they like to read something a bit different. That's what pilots are for. Stunt specs are setting yourself up for failure, unless you're insanely talented.

    Oh, and one last thing (I'm tired, rambly and grumpy, apologies), stunt specs are probably limited to shows that have been off the air for 15-20 years. MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc. Hell, probably the most famous stunt spec was a feature version of the Peanuts characters when they were all thirty years old working in a coffee shop. But you can't really do a spec of a show that's just been off the air for a couple years. You just look like you're out of touch if you do that, so don't do it.