Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fifteen working writers name the TV spec episodes that helped start their careers

Completing my series last week on "How to write a spec episode" made me nostalgic for a Twitter thread I got going about six months ago. Lately, the practice of writing spec episodes has fallen out of favor. For the most part, they're only used for programs like the Disney ABC Writing Program and the Warner Bros Television Workshop, as more and more showrunners want to see original pilots from prospective staff writers.

It wasn't always that way. Up until recently, writers would write spec episodes for a series similar to the one they were submitting for. You never submit your spec episode to the show you've spec'd - for two basic reasons. First, they know their show WAY better than you do, so they'll be far more harsh on things that feel wrong for the show, whether it's getting a character's voice slightly wrong, getting something minute wrong about their house style or episode format, or just telling the kinds of story they have reasons for not telling. The second reason is perhaps even more obvious - if they never read a spec of their own show, they can't be accused of stealing it should the show do something similar to this spec episode.

What this means is there are several generations of TV writers who came up by writing spec episodes, perhaps of shows vastly different from the ones they are famous for. With that in mind, I tweeted out a call for writers to tell us the specs that got them hired or repped. The result was one of the more amusing threads I've been a part of.

I'm sure this'll provoke a unanimous chorus of "Nah Bitter, we're good" but if any of the writers in this post - or any other working writers for that matter - are interested in putting their spec episodes out there for people to read, I'll gladly host them. Just email me at the address you can find on the side of this webpage.

Joe Henderson (Lucifer, 11.22.63, White Collar, Almost Human)

Taylor Elmore (Blood & Treasure, Limitless, Justified)

Justin Marks (THE JUNGLE BOOK, Counterpart)

Mike Royce (One Day at a Time, Men of a Certain Age, Enlisted)

Amy Berg (Counterpart, Da Vinci's Demons, Caper, Person of Interest, Eureka)

Jordon Nardino (Star Trek: Discovery, Quantico, Smash, Desperate Housewives)

Benjamin Raab (Arrow, Scream, The Flash, Beauty & The Beast)

Bo Yeon Kim (Star Trek: Discovery, Reign)

Robert Hewitt Wolfe, (Elementary, Andromeda, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) who probably made enemies of several people in this thread with this disclosure.

Bryan Q. Miller (Shadowhunters, Sleepy Hollow, Defiance, Smallville)

Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Containment, Legacies)

Who else wants to read a Buffy spec from the co-creator of The Vampire Diaries?

Chris Luccy (Undateable, Melissa & Joey, Better With You)

Dan Steele (Faking It, Hart of Dixie, Gossip Girl)

Lynn Renee Maxcy (The Handmaid's Tale, Covert Affairs)

Daniel Thomsen (Westworld, Time After Time, Once Upon a Time,

Jorge A. Reyes (Kevin Hill, Queen of the South)

Quite an interesting mix of writers and shows, no?

Related posts:
Writing a spec episode - a 10 part series.
Anatomy of a TV spec - Don't Trust the B---- In Apartment 23

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