Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reader questions: Ad-libs and TV submissions

"JW Doom" writes:

Is it ever okay to indicate that the actors should ad lib some minimal dialogue, like simple introductions, or exclamations of astonishment?

Yeah, I see this in pro scripts from time to time.  I don't think it makes much difference one way or another, though it's not something I'd do often.

Also when I've seen it done, it's limited to the action description.  Basically, it's just direction to a large group of people reacting to what's just happened.  (i.e. "President Collins leaves the podium and exits the White House Press Room without responding to questions.  Ad-lib press responses: "Are you going to resign?"  "How do you explain the phone logs?" etc.)

DON'T write "Ad lib" as actual dialogue.  That's just lazy and it immediately pulls a reader out of the scene.


Ron, you smell like a horse's ass!

[Ad lib]

 But if the idea is that the ad-lib is only there to add to the flavor of the scene, it's probably safe.

"Mandyloveswithoutatrace" asks:

i was wondering if there is a gatekeeper for TV spec scripts, if not do you know where they go first or if they go straight to the creator or show runner( is that what you call the person in charge or is that the same thing as saying the creator of the show) i'm trying to learn the lingo. 

Most of the time, to submit to a show-runner, you need an agent.  (I'm sure there are rare instances where you might have a direct connection to a TV writer and manage to by-pass the usual submission process, but that's a less-common occurrence.)  If you're writing a TV-spec, it's probably going to be used for one of two purposes: as a sample to get representation, or as a sample to get hired on staff.  In the case of the former, you're going to have to get it past an agency reader, just like any other submission.

But when it comes to submitting a spec to a show, you never submit your sample episode to the show you've written that episode for.  In other words, if you're writing a Criminal Minds, it's not going to go to Criminal Minds, but it WILL be a valid submission to any other crime procedural.  Assuming your agent submits the script to the show, it will likely be read by a story editor before being passed on up the ladder to the showrunner.

So once the spec has actually gotten to the show, I don't think you're dealing with a reader like me so much as you're dealing with a show staffer, but I could be wrong about this.  I've never read for a series.

1 comment:

  1. If your agent or manager submits your spec to a show for a low level writing position (like staff writer), it will have to get past the showrunner's assistant.