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Old 07-18-2016, 09:14 PM   #1
Terri
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Question Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

From all that I've read and heard, it seems like everyone's (or nearly all screenwriters) aspiring to get hired into the writers' room for a TV show. I know this can pay well.

But am I the only one who wants to create TV shows (write original spec pilots) and simply sell them, and move on to my next venture? I have many ideas and take my time developing them so it's not like I'm churning out crap hoping something will stick.

Don't writers hurt themselves when they insist that they be attached to their shows? (ie. You want my script? Then, you have to hire me to write for the show!)

OR on the flipside, does it make the screenwriter seem like they don't care about their pilot if they aren't pushing to be attached to the show beyond writing one episode?

I like my original ideas and I know spec selling it an uphill battle, but it's what I enjoy. It's not out of the question, but it's just not a route I'm actively pursuing. I'm OK with coming up with the pilot and having a group of other very talented writers take over.

I hope this makes sense.

Last edited by Terri : 07-18-2016 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 07-19-2016, 09:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

Jeff's probably the best one to talk about this. Wait a few days and see if he does...
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

It is really ****ing hard to sell spec pilots without any experience in television. Typically you work on a show, move up the ladder, and when you get to about the co-producer/producer level, you go out and pitch ideas to networks during development season. If you're lucky, they buy the idea and you go off to write the pilot, and once January rolls around you're hoping to get a pilot order so you can go off and shoot it. Then in April/May you're sweating it out hoping your pilot gets picked up and turned into a series.

Cable buys all year round, but they're pickier about what they put into development.

As someone who has never worked in TV, but who has gone out with spec pilots, pitched series, and even signed an if/come deal with a studio, I can assure you that the path you're choosing is not only very difficult, but also incredibly short-sighted. You should be trying by hook or by crook to break in anyway you can. And honestly, if you're out there trying to sell, but were offered staffing meetings, would you really refuse to take them? Of course you wouldn't. At least I hope so.
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Old 07-19-2016, 01:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

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Originally Posted by Terri View Post
But am I the only one who wants to create TV shows (write original spec pilots) and simply sell them, and move on to my next venture?
No. In fact, I'm sure there are thousands of writers out there that would also see this as a sweet deal, but the only way I can see this happening is if you have a track record of creating great TV shows. Original spec pilots are a dime a dozen. Having a creator the network trusts to carry a series on for multiple seasons is what they're really paying for 80% of the time.
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Old 07-19-2016, 02:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

I know of a few feature writers who sell specs on occasion. But then you have to establish yourself as a feature writer first, of course.
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Old 07-19-2016, 07:50 PM   #6
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

1. Unlikely to work. If they love your spec enough to make it into a show, they'd want your involvement. A TV pilot isn't a complete story - it's the first 30 or 60 minutes of a story that will be told over 50-200 hours. They're buying your voice and vision. You don't sell the first scene of a spec feature and say "good luck from here!"

2. You would take a MASSIVE financial hit. Instead of making 20-50k an episode, you'd get 50-100k to sell the pilot (and maybe some small royalty payment). And then profits: they vest in stages based on your involvement. You don't fully vest until you've worked on the first two seasons of the show. So you'd probably get only 25% of the profits, which in success, in tens of millions of dollars lost.

3. Can't imagine a rep who would take out a pilot saying "the writer isn't going to be involved."
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Old 07-19-2016, 09:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

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1. Unlikely to work. If they love your spec enough to make it into a show, they'd want your involvement. A TV pilot isn't a complete story - it's the first 30 or 60 minutes of a story that will be told over 50-200 hours. They're buying your voice and vision. You don't sell the first scene of a spec feature and say "good luck from here!"

2. You would take a MASSIVE financial hit. Instead of making 20-50k an episode, you'd get 50-100k to sell the pilot (and maybe some small royalty payment). And then profits: they vest in stages based on your involvement. You don't fully vest until you've worked on the first two seasons of the show. So you'd probably get only 25% of the profits, which in success, in tens of millions of dollars lost.

3. Can't imagine a rep who would take out a pilot saying "the writer isn't going to be involved."
Strange. I've read other stories and the feeling seemed to be, even when a spec sold, TPTB simply didn't want to involve the original writer (I guess they meant unknown writers.)

Well... I'll see what happens when it happens and go with the flow
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Old 07-20-2016, 09:15 AM   #8
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

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Strange. I've read other stories and the feeling seemed to be, even when a spec sold, TPTB simply didn't want to involve the original writer (I guess they meant unknown writers.)
On feature films, yes. This can be frequently true for unknown writers, sadly. Heck even known writers can get tossed.

In TV, they pretty much always want the original writer attached, as Jeff noted, since it's an ongoing story. They even set your position, as I've understood it, in terms of what else you can and can't be involved with in regards to other shows & projects. Now, in the long run will you be as involved as an unknown writer. Possibly/probably not. They'll bring in an experienced showrunner, like Jeff, to run the show and be the "CEO," so to speak, but contractually they'll look to tie you up surely.

Now, if you pitch a reality TV show idea and they buy that, whole different story almost certainly. (I had a friend do that some years ago and he was instantly persona non grata.)
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Old 07-21-2016, 03:01 PM   #9
UnequalProductions
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

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Originally Posted by Terri View Post
Strange. I've read other stories and the feeling seemed to be, even when a spec sold, TPTB simply didn't want to involve the original writer (I guess they meant unknown writers.)

Well... I'll see what happens when it happens and go with the flow
DDP is right above that this is mainly a feature thing. In television, they'll just being in an established show runner to work above the original writer and have the final say on changes.
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Old 07-21-2016, 05:53 PM   #10
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Default Re: Zero interest in joinging the writers' room... just want to sell spec pilots

There are a number of people who do something along these lines. Chuck Lorre, Greg Berlanti, Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, etc.

Although if you were to delve into it, you might find that for the most part they didn't write the pilots for all the shows and they'll split created/developed by credit with some lesser known name. More like they lent a hand in the development process and are attached as Executive Producers. Exactly how heavily involved they then are in the day-to-day production for all the shows I couldn't say, and I imagine only people who work with them could really tell you. But they definitely don't wipe their hands clean and have no involvement, which seems to be what you're looking for.

Obviously, those people are all very well known and successful as well. It's a select few who actually have multiple shows going at once. I'd probably stick to worrying about getting one on the air before you start dreaming about having three.

Although I guess you could sell a bunch of pilots that never go anywhere beyond the sale. That's actually more common than not.
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