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    April 2nd, 2006Jane EspensonFriends of the Blog, On Writing, Pilots

    Hi all! I was at a bachelorette party this weekend in Vegas! Whoo! Fun! Vegas seems to be THE destination for events of this type. You can count veils in Vegas the way you might count out-of-state license plate anywhere else. Between the brides and the bachelorettes, there’s enough white netting in that town to supply the Japanese fishing industry. Someone in our group actually was counting the veils. I think I heard the number seventeen. We’re heading into spring. June is at our throats again.

    Which leads us to today’s question from Tracy Berna, a friend of the blog with her own wonderful, chaotic blog. Check it out at Left Turn at Albuquerque. She asks:

    “When the hell is ‘staffing season’? I’m never really sure when it
    is or how the whole hiring cycle operates, except you’re supposed to
    have a spec ready at some nebulous time during the spring. Is there
    more than one time a year when having a spec ready is apropos?”

    A great question. The approximate answer is that staffing season is, hmm, sort of mid April to late May, with the job actually commencing on June first. But, of course, this is all subject to various factors, including:

    1. Higher level writers are hired before lower ones. So depending on your level of experience, you’re going to have a completely different season than another writer.

    2. Mid-season shows sometimes (but not always) start production later than fall shows. They may staff later than other shows. Even months later. If you aren’t staffed for fall, you are “waiting for mid-season.”

    3. Some shows (for example, many cable shows) are on a different schedule. A friend of mine was recently staffed on a Showtime show and has been reporting to work for several weeks already!

    4. It seems obvious that a new show can’t staff until the network has actually looked at the completed pilot and ordered additional episodes, so the moment of the announcement should mark the beginning of the staffing season. But sometimes a network orders additional scripts (as opposed to episodes), before they officially order the show. Or they otherwise have infused the show runner with enough confidence to go about reading specs and meeting with writers. So the season can start early.

    5. Shows that are already established and know they’re continuing, might staff VERY early, holding meetings before the previous year’s staff has even finished their work, so that they show runner will have next year’s staff (if they’re making changes), figured out before their hiatal vacation starts. This also allows them access to high-level writers before the feeding frenzy starts. For the writer, of course, this can present a problem. The writer has to decide whether or not to accept the offer from the continuing show long before they know which pilots will be picked up.

    6. Sometimes people get fired. And have to be replaced. You can scoop up an off-season job this way.

    So when should your spec be ready? Well, you should always have one ready. And you should feel free to work on each spec as long as you want, making it perfect, so rushing to get something ready by a certain date may not make a lot of sense.

    Also, unless you already have an agent, the first thing you’re going to do with that spec is to try to find one. Guess when agents are so swamped that they will often simply refuse to read anymore? Right before staffing season. You’re better off being a little off-schedule, if you ask me.

    Write your specs until they’re done. Then they’re done.

    A simple question. A long non-answer. Sorry ’bout that.

    Lunch: A veggie sandwich from the Quiznos in the Luxor Las Vegas food court. They accidently gave me a side salad without charging me for it, and when I tried to pay for it they wouldn’t let me and seemed a little angry that I was making a big deal out of it, like I was harping on their mistake. The sandwich was very nice. Toasting makes a huge difference. And the avocado spread is key.