Typing Faster

May 24, 2009

Breaking In: Writing Samples

Filed under: Breaking In, Pilot School, Specs — petertypingfaster @ 8:11 pm

So, you’ve decided you want to write for television. That’s great. Congratulations. Welcome to the club. We have buttons.

What do you mean you don’t like buttons? Everyone likes buttons!

Ah well. Not to fear, I won’t hold it against you. Back to the business at hand, writing!

If you’re planning on breaking into the tv racket, the first thing you’re going to need are some writing samples. Writing samples come in two flavors: original pilots and spec scripts. Originals are your own, original ideas for tv shows, pretty obvious right? Originals are meant to show your own voice and style, and as a showcase for the types of stories you want to tell.

Spec scripts take a little more explanation.

Spec stands for speculation. These are scripts that you write for an existing series, usually a hit that’s currently on the air. This is to prove that you can emulate the voice and style of another writer. You never write a spec for the show you want to write for. If you want to work on Lost, you wouldn’t write a Lost spec. Deciding what show to spec can be difficult, and writing a good spec takes a lot of time and effort to get right.

I’ll be talking a lot more specs down the road.

Used to be you’d need at least two specs as samples, one spec would be a procedural, the other a character based show. Things have started to shift in the past few years. Showrunners have gotten tired of reading hundreds of CSI specs every staffing season, so now they’re asking to see original material.

It’s an interesting shift. Judging talent based on original material can (I’ve heard) be a bit easier. You get a feel for what people can do when they don’t have to operate within the rules of an existing show. The flip side is that you have no idea whether they can operate within the rules of the show you’re looking to hire them for. At the end of the day, if you’re being seriously considered for a gig, you’re probably going to wind up having to submit more than one sample, most likely one spec and one original.

So, you better get cracking! Because no matter what you decide to use as a writing sample, it better be the best, most polished thing you’ve ever written!


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