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02/15/2006: Specs with Chewy Surprises Inside!
Hi all! I'm heading out of town for a long weekend, so starting tomorrow the blogging will be slow for a little bit here. But know that I am thinking of you all. Special thanks to friend-of-the-blog Maggie for her continuing feedback on these humble posts. It is so helpful when I know what people need to know.
In that same flavor, another-friend-of-the-blog has registered a very interesting question. Take it, friend!
Friend: "When I first started writing, I pretty much only wrote what I wanted to write. Meaning, I wasn't thinking of my portfolio much. Just concentrating on learning (still am). Now that I'm taking a more business-y look at my writing, especially as I read the pilots for this season, I notice what holes are in my portfolio. Now, obviously I wouldn't write a Supernatural spec to get on Grey's. But, I was wondering if it would be odd... if I were to write a Desperate Housewives where one of the women has to be in the hospital for the entire episode? Like a B or C story, if you will. But something that would showcase my medical range? Is this good business sense or is this the over-thinking of a neurotic writer?"
Fantastic question. One that really made me stop and think. She is referring to the fact that you never write a spec of the show that you are hoping to be hired on -- let's call it the "target show." (Note that you may not have a target show. That's cool, too.) Showrunners don't read specs of their own shows for a number of reasons, some legal, some practical. That means that if you are targetting a specific show, you might want to get clever about it -- think about what OTHER show will best allow you to demonstrate the skills that the target show will be looking for.
I bet the showrunner at House is given a lot of Grey's episodes to read as specs, and vice versa. They're an obvious pairing. And what do you want to bet the Commander in Chief showrunner read a heck of a lot of West Wing specs? But our friend is suggesting a way to mix this up. And it's pretty interesting -- giving a not-already-built-in spin to your spec to make it more deliciously appealing to the target show.
My inclination is that this is a pretty good idea, but one with a lot of possible pitfalls.
1. This should only be attempted if the show being spun isn't twisted out of recognition in order to acheive the desired effect. I'm not a regular Housewives viewer, so I'm not certain if they would do a medical subplot. It certainly sounds possible, but this is a huge concern. If your spec House suddenly features Dr. House whispering to a ghost, then you've got a problem.
2. This depends on the assumption that Grey's showrunner is actually looking for an ability to write medical stuff. They may not care. Shows with technical content have advisors. The ability to write characters is almost certainly a higher priority. But, of course, a person can do both...
3. Finally, story should come from character. Setting artificial requirements on the setting or subject matter of a story may make it harder to come up with a truly emotional story.
But if you're satisified that what you've come up with is an emotional, non-distorted spec that shows off skills your target showrunner values, then I see no reason not to try it.
Lunch: Thai papaya salad. Spicy and tart!