Oh, to spec…

It’s that time of year again.  That time to write a spec script.  Now, normally, they tell you… (you know… THEY…) that in order to break into TV right now, you write an original pilot.  Showrunners want to see what YOU would do if given a chance to make ANY TV show that would could.  They want to hear YOUR voice, see YOUR vision.  Which is GREAT.  As a playwright, that’s ALL that I want to do.  I want to write MY stuff.  My rhythms.  My characters.  Me me me.

BUT.  Sometimes… you have to write the spec.  (And unless you have another writing sample… like a play… you should.)  You have to start writing in someone else’s sandbox, play with other people’s toys… AND… you have to play with them EXACTLY how they would.  Ok, not EXACTLY, but, enough that everyone knows you know the show.

It’s the season because THREE opportunities are happening right now: The Warner Brothers Writers Workshop, The ABC Writing Program, and the NBC Writers On The Verge.  ALL require specs.  So…  OFF to the spec machine!

If only.  If only there was a machine.  But there’s not.  The best thing to do, obviously, is to work on a show you love and have seen a lot of.  For me, it was Castle.  It’s a genre that I like (that I want to write in), it’s got great characters (one of my strength’s as a writer) and it mixes humor and drama (something that appeals to me.) AND, I have a couple scripts from the show and that REALLY helps.  Because you want it to LOOK and FEEL like a script from the show.  (Again, you’re playing in THEIR sandbox.)

But, it’s just WEIRD.  It’s WEIRD to be writing something that is supposed to feel like someone else wrote it.  That it’s someone else’s VOICE.  I almost feel like I’m cheating.  Like I’m aping someone else’s work.  It would be like writing in the voice of David Mamet or Tennessee Williams.

As a writer I have worked hard to have my own unique voice… I WANT someone to see or read a play of mine and without having to look KNOW it’s me… But here, for a spec, that’s not the point.  The point is to write the best possible script that could fit seamlessly in with the rest of the show.

It’s a creative challenge for me.  How can I be ME, show them I’M a good writer, while using the voice of someone else?  My strengths as a writer are character and dialogue, which is already more or less decided.  So, I’ve decided to work on THEME.  To focus my energy on the theme and emotion of the show of where the characters are.  I’m lucky that the last season provides some really good space for that.

But, in the end, it’s WEIRD.  But, it’s the job that I really want.  I really want to play in the sandbox of American TV.  In the next post, I’ll talk about why.


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