I recently received the question below, and since marketing television scripts is not really my area of expertise, I asked my friend, colleague and renowned screenwriting career coach Lee Jessup if she would be my guest expert. I’m glad I did, because my answer would have been sadly out of date, and Lee’s – as always – is on the money.
Q: I’m writing to ask you about TV spec scripts. How does one choose what show to write a TV Spec script for when the series is episodic and, as a result, constantly changing? I’m having trouble determining where in the story timeline to set my episode.
A: Robbie –
I find that the only reason to write TV specs these days is for the TV writing programs/fellowships. Otherwise, they rarely serve a purpose. There are only a handful of old-school show runners who are still asking to see specs from the writers they are considering bringing into the room. Most show runners, managers and agents have no desire to read them – they are looking for a writer’s voice, and what unique storytelling style each one brings to the table.
If you want to be a television writer and want to learn the discipline of writing an episode in a short amount of time (no more than 6-8 weeks), writing a script for an existing series can certainly be a good exercise. But then you should return to original content.
If you are indeed applying for fellowships, I would suggest writing your spec script in the winter, so that you’ll have a sample episode from a current season when the fellowships roll around in spring/early summer.
Lee Jessup is a career coach for screenwriters, with an exclusive focus on the screenwriter’s professional development. Her clients include WGA members, Golden Globe and Emmy nominated screenwriters, writers who have sold screenplays and pilots to major studios, best-selling authors, contest winners, staffed television writers, television writing program participants, as well as emerging screenwriters just starting on their screenwriting path. She is the author of Getting It Write: An Insider’s Guide To A Screenwriting Career from Michael Wiese Productions, and the upcoming Breaking In: Tales from the Screenwriting Trenches from Focal Press. For more about the business of screenwriting, her speaking schedule, and her coaching programs for screenwriters and filmmakers, visit her website at www.LeeJessup.com.