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Old 10-28-2013, 08:21 PM   #1
Filmmagician
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Default Pilot or Spec episode?

What's the better way to try and get onto a TV writing gig? Writing a pilot for a new show, or do people still send out spec. episodes for a show that's been around for a 2-3 seasons? I head the latter isn't done anymore.

I'd love to get a staff TV writing job - not sure what they'll ask to see.


Thanks.
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Old 10-28-2013, 09:55 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Many showrunners like to read original pilots. So, I'd write a pilot. However, sometimes they ask for a spec as a second writing sample.
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Original pilot all the way.

If you can create a new world with new characters and a compelling concept and story, then mimicking someone else's show that has already done the heavy lifting will be easy (easier).

Pilots show you are a writer and can write. Specs show you can copy someone else's voice, structure, characters.
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Old 10-28-2013, 11:02 PM   #4
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Pilots for jobs. Specs for programs.
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Old 10-29-2013, 01:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

It sounds like you might not have written a TV spec before. If so, I would suggest specing a show first. Maybe write three specs before attempting a pilot. Pilots are really hard.
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Old 10-30-2013, 04:30 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filmmagician View Post
What's the better way to try and get onto a TV writing gig? Writing a pilot for a new show, or do people still send out spec. episodes for a show that's been around for a 2-3 seasons? I head the latter isn't done anymore.

I'd love to get a staff TV writing job - not sure what they'll ask to see.


Thanks.
Option 3: work as a PA in the TV world and get to know people while you write your pilot.

Realize as you embark on this that the chances of getting a gig off of a script are vanishingly small. It can be done, and some have, but the walls of TV land are very high, and there are many guardians at the many gates. That said, those that get through the gates are relentless in pursuing the thing they love to do the most.

I had to whip out a spec to satisfy diversity program applications this spring. So it might be worth looking at *how* you want to get in first. If you're trying for a WB, NBC, Fox or Disney fellowship you might need to spec it out. Otherwise, a pilot's the way to go.
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Old 10-30-2013, 03:43 PM   #7
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoviePen View Post
Option 3: work as a PA in the TV world and get to know people while you write your pilot.

Realize as you embark on this that the chances of getting a gig off of a script are vanishingly small. It can be done, and some have, but the walls of TV land are very high, and there are many guardians at the many gates. That said, those that get through the gates are relentless in pursuing the thing they love to do the most.

I had to whip out a spec to satisfy diversity program applications this spring. So it might be worth looking at *how* you want to get in first. If you're trying for a WB, NBC, Fox or Disney fellowship you might need to spec it out. Otherwise, a pilot's the way to go.
I was a semi finalist for the Nickelodeon Writing Program. They require TWO specs. No originals. And they should be from different shows. Though ABC's program seemed to allow an original pilot.

But yeah, other than programs, managers and agents want to see original pilots nowadays.
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Old 10-30-2013, 09:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

Managers/Showrunners/Execs/etc., are looking for original pilots. However if you're new to writing I think starting with a spec is a better idea just for practice. Tackling a pilot is pretty difficult without any prior writing experience.

Starting small is important.
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Old 11-06-2013, 01:32 PM   #9
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

When it comes to staffing, almost all showrunners (both comedy and drama) want original material now. Pilots are great because they show you know the format, and they also have the potential to sell and become a show (It's not common, but I have 3 baby writer friends who have sold pilots within the last year and two of those either have gone to series or are in the process of going to series)--but I've also heard of MANY writers getting staffed off plays, feature scripts and short stories. Basically, they want to know your voice. So--original material all the way.

That said, you should write specs for practice, as mimicking another writer's voice IS something you'll have to do once on staff. Also, writing fellowships and programs (ABC, CBS, Nick, WB, etc.) only accept spec episodes. They don't accept pilots because they don't want to be sued if they are developing a similar show already.
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Old 11-16-2013, 10:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Pilot or Spec episode?

This must have changed since the 90s, because my agents always advised exactly the opposite.

The consensus was that you wrote specs for recent shows with a tone similar to the one you're aiming for. Never write specs for the actual show you want, because those intimate with its production will only see the faults in your writing.

Also, original pilots were most definitely NOT recommended, because the showrunner/producer needed to see if you could adapt to the show's tone and write established characters.

I haven't been in TV for over a decade, but I'd be shocked if the reasoning had really changed that much.
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