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Thread: TV show and sample scripts

  1. #1
    Wasting time MonaLeigh's Avatar
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    TV show and sample scripts

    How do you find out if a tv show will accept a sample script, if you know they use many different writers?

  2. #2
    carn the mighty hawks !! John Paton's Avatar
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    phone them - maybe

  3. #3
    Perpetuous Revisasaurus
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    What I've read is that generally if you want to write for a particular show, write a sample of another show in the same genre -- preferably something that has a chance of staying on the air for many years so the shelf life of your sample will be as long as possible.

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    practical experience, FTW odocoileus's Avatar
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    Right now, there aren't any US shows that accept unsolicited scripts. In the past, some shows in the Star Trek franchise were open to submissions.

    Scripts for fictional TV shows are written by either staff writers or freelancers. Staff writers get hired through an arduous process commonly known as "staffing season." Basically, you need to have LA agent with TV connections who can get your sample script in to the head writer. She and her team read hundreds of scripts and hire a few people, usually people they've worked with previously, usually people with strong recommendations and good connections.

    Freelancers are hired on a per script basis, rather than for a whole season, and they get hired the same way as staff writers do. Usually, freelancers are former staff writers with established relationships who are currently out of work.

    The sample script, always referred to as a "spec script," can't be from the same show that is doing the hiring. Usually the spec script is from another show in the same genre. So if you were going for a job on Without A Trace, your might use a Law and Order SVU spec.

    The process is roughly,

    1) Learn to write really well
    2) write three great specs
    3) meet the right people
    4) get the right agent
    5) get an entry level TV job, usually as a low level assistant
    6) get a staff job.

    If you're already a star in some other area - stand up comedy, say, or feature film screenwriting, or New York playwriting, or science fiction paperbacks, you can jump several rungs on the ladder. With luck, you might be able to get on staff right away.

    There are also programs like the Disney Fellowship and the Warner Brothers fellowship that can jumpstart a TV writing career.

    http://www.wga.org/subpage_writersresources.aspx?id=156
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  5. #5
    Wasting time MonaLeigh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odocoileus View Post
    The sample script, always referred to as a "spec script," can't be from the same show that is doing the hiring. Usually the spec script is from another show in the same genre. So if you were going for a job on Without A Trace, your might use a Law and Order SVU spec.
    I have heard that before. Why is that? I would think they'd want to see if you could write for their show.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW odocoileus's Avatar
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    Two reasons.

    Legal. People can and do sue a show when they think some of their ideas were used in an episode. So the writers protect themselves by refusing to look at anyone's scripts or stories related to the show. If they never saw it, they didn't have access, and you can't steal what you don't have access to.

    Quality. The writers know the show and its characters much better than anyone outside the show does. The writers have a much better grasp of the vision of the showrunner (head writer-executive producer) and the skills and preferences of the actors. So scripts submitted by outsiders are almost always going to be off in one way or another.
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  7. #7
    Wasting time MonaLeigh's Avatar
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    Makes sense, thanks.

  8. #8
    Banned NikeeGoddess's Avatar
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    also it's because they don't buy scripts. they hire writers. so if they got a sample script (of another show) and thought you had the mad skills they would hire you to write a script for them or hire you to join their team of writers.

    tv sample scripts are writing samples. you cannot sell them. you must sell yourself as a writer.

    as you probably already know there are only 2 main Dexter writers so that's a tough one to break into.

    sample scripts for Dexter should be from shows that have intense characters rather than blood and gore. maybe something like Nip/Tuck or Damages... or maybe The Closer which is more lighthearted. think cable tv shows.

  9. #9
    Wasting time MonaLeigh's Avatar
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    Thanks. I was always curious about how tv writing went. I think I'll stick to the bigger screen.

  10. #10
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    TV is actually an easier sell, and where the money is.

    You might want to read around on the forum at http://tvwriter.com/

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW odocoileus's Avatar
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    What do you mean by "easier"?

    What do you mean by "sell"?

    It's harder to get a staff job than sell a low budget feature.

    TV writing is generally harder than feature writing. TV scripts have to be written and revised rapidly to keep up with the weekly broadcast schedule.

    A TV script has to be the same but different every week. That is, follow the show's template and give the viewers what they expect, but surprise them at the same time. This has to be done every single episode, for a twenty three episode season.

    TV scripts are written for production by groups of people. Writers without good social and political skills can have a hard time lasting out a season. You have to play well with others, even if the others are stark raving insane.

    Whereas a feature audience is essentially trapped in the theater for an hour and a half, a TV viewer can change the channel at any time, or go get a sandwich. So TV scripts have to be structured to keep people paying attention. Feature writers don't have to worry about bringing the audience back after the commercial breaks either.

    TV money is better. Steadier at the entry level, and enormous at the top.
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Madbandit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by odocoileus View Post
    What do you mean by "easier"?

    What do you mean by "sell"?

    It's harder to get a staff job than sell a low budget feature.

    TV writing is generally harder than feature writing. TV scripts have to be written and revised rapidly to keep up with the weekly broadcast schedule.

    A TV script has to be the same but different every week. That is, follow the show's template and give the viewers what they expect, but surprise them at the same time. This has to be done every single episode, for a twenty three episode season.

    TV scripts are written for production by groups of people. Writers without good social and political skills can have a hard time lasting out a season. You have to play well with others, even if the others are stark raving insane.

    Whereas a feature audience is essentially trapped in the theater for an hour and a half, a TV viewer can change the channel at any time, or go get a sandwich. So TV scripts have to be structured to keep people paying attention. Feature writers don't have to worry about bringing the audience back after the commercial breaks either.

    TV money is better. Steadier at the entry level, and enormous at the top.
    Good advice.

  13. #13
    Black hole of writing... WriterGirl2007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustry Joe View Post
    TV is actually an easier sell, and where the money is.

    You might want to read around on the forum at http://tvwriter.com/
    This is a GREAT website.

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    If you don't know what "easier" means I can't really think of a word that would make it clear. Same goes for "sell", I guess.

    What I'm saying is this: your chances of getting money writing for TV are much better than your chances writing a movie script (which are astromically bad)

    There are many different approaches to TV sales, from getting a staff writing job to selling a network or channel on a pilot. And there are more networks all the time. Court TV is buying shows, for instance.

    As far as being easier to write a feature than a TV script, I heartily disagree.

    For one thing, as you point out, they tend to be written in teams. A movie script has to have a tightly defined shape...from introducing the characters to a boffo ending.

    Not so TV series. You are working with established characters. You don't have to make them, just understand them. And their establsihed characteristics make a lot of things easier. If you write the line, "Daphne looks at Niles and he dies a thousand deaths" people know exactly what is going on, and what David Hyde-Pierce's take is going to be.

    You don't have to wrap all these people's lives up in one finish: just an incident, they will continue on.

    Writing the 7 act (or whatever for whatever show) structure of TV isn't harder than a movie, it's much easier. Restrictions like that generally bring out creativity. And you have a tight format that bends your story into shape. Is it harder to color in a coloring book, or create pictures on a blank page?

  15. #15
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin rkbentley's Avatar
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    If you are looking to write a spec for a specific television show it's best to mimic the format they're in.

    When I was interested in doing a LOST Spec I found a place called Hollywood Book and Poster, they have a wide range of TV Scripts that you can buy and they'll send out to you.

    I'd recommend them or check eBay, many times copies of scripts can be found on eBay for relatively cheap.

  16. #16
    Black hole of writing... WriterGirl2007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DustySterling View Post
    How do you find out if a tv show will accept a sample script, if you know they use many different writers?
    Never write a sample script for the show itself. They can't accept it.

    Some shows *do* accept freelance scripts and don't just use the staff writers they hired. Also, the WGA has a great program in place for possibly freelancing/interning with a show. You can find out more on their website. (Obviously with the strike, nothing's going on right now.)

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW odocoileus's Avatar
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    http://www.craftyscreenwriting.com/TVFAQ.html#different

    Epstein nails it.


    I began my screenwriting career in features. Now that I've got a few tv shows under my belt, I think I can safely say that TV is an entirely different animal from features. The same rules apply to features as to TV; but many more rules apply to TV. In other words, TV is harder.


    Another way TV is harder is that it has an internal structure that you cannot ignore. "We make our money on teasers and tags, ins and outs," as my showrunner on Charlie Jade, Bob Wertheimer, loves to say. TV is all about commercial breaks. A TV story is structured with a cliffhanger at the end of every act, just before every commercial break. Anything to keep the viewer tuned to your television show; anything to keep them from changing the channel to Battlebots. Every show has a format. For an hour drama it's four acts with, usually, a teaser and a tag. The teaser grabs you and pulls you in. The tag keeps you watching the credits. Everything is there to keep you watching.
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  18. #18
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    Right now, there aren't any US shows that accept unsolicited scripts. In the past, some shows in the Star Trek franchise were open to submissions.

    Scripts for fictional TV shows are written by either staff writers or freelancers. Staff writers get hired through an arduous process commonly known as "staffing season."
    I guess the last writers' strike changed this, but the old way was so much better.

    When I wrote for TV (no sales, but I did get attention, spend that, I say) I just made phone calls to them, ready to pitch for their show. If they liked the pitch, they'd send me a bible and a few samples. I wrote the scripts, then they'd accept them, look them over, and (in my case), reject them.

    One show was just great to write spec for. I had one script shot down by the bean-counters because two scenes were too expensive. The producer loved the tale, though, and suggested it be written in novel form. (This came from the Script Consultant, which I suppose now is the show runner.) Two more were still in the running when the show canceled, and I had the green light on a couple more.

    It was nice hearing from them, getting feedback from them. I never got 'liner notes', probably never got far enough, but the pitch 'meetings' were fun for me. I didn't feel overly nervous, and the conference calls had a bunch of people on the other end. I don't recall a single negative statement. Sure, there was the 'I don't think that one is for us, what's next' and off I'd go on the next pitch.

    There weren't any guarantees, but at least I knew I was writing what they wanted.

    I don't think this new way of getting fresh ideas into existing TV series has worked so well.

    I sure hope it goes back to the old way. It's fun, there is communication, and everyone is working to see a good show stay on the air.

  19. #19
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Re: TV show and sample scripts

    Hello,

    There are many different script you can get from source. Now you can get free web scripts and buy scripts from the internet for the website development.

    Thanks,
    Eddie Wilson
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    "There are two ways to spread happiness; either be the
    light who shines it or be the mirror who reflects it."

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