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08/25/2006: Spec Script Superstars
Greetings from WorldCon! I'm in Anaheim, gentle readers, where I'm appearing on panels and mingling with other SciFi fans and – get this – presenting the Hugo Award for best Short-Form Dramatic Presentation. I will get to open the envelope on stage and everything. I'm nervous about it, but I think it's one of those things, like rewriting, that after it's over, you're glad you did it.
I got to share a dais today with the great Melinda Snodgrass. She's the writer with the best claim to fame that I ever heard of. She wrote a wonderful, classic episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "The Measure of a Man." It was about a challenge to the sentience of Data, the android character and it was one of my all time favorites. And here's the kicker. It was a spec script. This is the only case I have ever heard of in which a spec script was purchased and produced. Now that's impressive. Kinda makes you want to polish that spec a little more, doesn't it? You know, just in case it falls into the right hands?
I can think of one other case that was similar to this. Steve De Knight got hired onto the Buffy staff on the basis of a Buffy spec. Unheard of! You never even submit a spec of a show to that show, right? Well, in fact, he didn't. It was submitted to Angel. But Joss loved the script so well that he grabbed De Knight for Buffy. I never got to read the script myself, but I understand that it was about Xander and Buffy and how they are affected when Buffy loses her Slayer powers and Xander gets them.
Melinda and Steve did the same thing with their specs. They both took strong, well-established characters that were central to the show, and they put them through a trauma that drove at heart of how that character is defined. What does it mean for an android -- this android -- to be sentient? What does it mean for Buffy to be the Slayer? These questions are big pointy hooks. Throw them into the ocean and drag them around on the bottom for a while and you're going to dredge up some stuff.
If you can find an idea for a spec that cuts as close to the heart of a show as those two did, you'll be on your way to winning the show-biz lottery like they did.
Lunch: seared ahi tuna salad