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What is a “spec script?”

Posted in - Uncategorized on August 7th 2015 0 Comments 2014-03-08 15.56.54

A “spec script” is a movie written on “speculation,” which is to say it is written without a deal or sale already in place, and without being commissioned.

A writer isn’t paid to write a spec. She does it on her own time with the hopes of selling it to a buyer, or to use as a writing sample.

In television, “spec” usually refers to a writer’s sample script for an existing television show. For example, an aspiring comedy writer might write a sample episode of a highly-rated comedy currently on the air. His intention isn’t to get this script produced, but rather to show his comedy writing ability and get staffed on a different show.

Young Hollywood writers’ portfolios usually contain two to three spec features, as well as a few television samples.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, spec scripts were a primary factor in hiring decisions for television writers rooms. In recent years, network executives and showrunners are increasingly asking to read “spec pilots,” which — much like a spec feature — are scripts written without a deal or sale in place and without being commissioned.

Most spec pilots are not purchased or produced, but there are exceptions. Matt Weiner wrote Mad Men as a spec pilot in 2000. As a writing sample, it helped him get hired on The Sopranos. Only after that show ended did Mad Men get made.


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