Candy Is Dandy, But Scripts Are Quicker

I was talking to someone in the industry a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised by how positive this person was about the fact that I’d just written a new feature script on spec.  “You would not believe,” this professional said, “how many writers simply don’t write scripts on spec.”

I confess, I was a bit confused. I thought that was, well, our job.  “So what do they do all day?” I asked.

“Oh, a lot of them just write outlines. Draft after draft of outlines, while they wait for the project to sell. The fact is, if they wrote a spec, the projects probably would sell. But they don’t. And meanwhile, the people writing specs sell projects…”

I may have paraphrased a little, but the basics of the conversation are true. Scripts sell where pitches and outlines won’t, because they give people a clearer idea of what it is they’re buying – not to mention demonstrating your commitment to the project. Personally, I’ve just this year had my first ever project optioned from a pitch. Everything else, whether it got made in the end or not, has been optioned from a spec script.

So the advice is clear. Go forth and write scripts, because scripts sell.

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5 comments on “Candy Is Dandy, But Scripts Are Quicker

  1. theamericanspeaks says:

    Recently I’ve spent a lot of time writing short film scripts. Do you think short scripts are worthwhile for showcasing talent or style or would someone be better off ploughing everything they have into a feature script?

    • debbiemoon says:

      Personally, I think short scripts are only any use to you if they’re going to get made. The good news is, it’s never been easier to get friends together, shoot on your phone camera, and post to YouTube. Then you have a solid sample of your work, filmed.
      If for any reason they’re not going to get filmed – perhaps you write in a genre that’s hard to pull off on a limited budget – then I’d say, stick to writing features/TV.

  2. I’ve had very much the same experience, mainly with TV scripts. As someone who’s written on longrunners but never got anything original off the ground (yet!), I kind of feel it’s incumbent on me to put the work in as proof of concept (can this work, and can this guy execute it?).

    The upsides of this approach are that development people seem much more willing to meet even if the piece is not for them – they might like your style, your voice. Concepts/outlines, even brilliantly executed ones, don’t have the magic dust of a good script. And as Debbie says – if you do this, you’re immediately marking yourself out as a contender. I can’t count the amount of times development people have told me what a pleasure it is to read a script as opposed to outline/treatment/whatever.

    My cautionary note is this: writing scripts takes time. An original TV hourlong, I’m starting to find, takes me in the region of 3 months (and that is fast). That’s not an insignificant amount of time, and as such it’s worth thinking harder before you leap to script. If I’m making a months-long commitment to a script, I want a palpable sense that it’s either going to get me meetings or (the jackpot) get made.

  3. Myles says:

    I think the other thing about having to sit down and write the script is, you’re much more likely to write something you really care about and love and believe in because you’re going to have to spend so much time on it! And like you said in your other blog – that means the love is likely to shine through and be noticed by the reader.

    And don’t do what I did when I was a bit greener which was to write an example episode of something you love. I wrote an episode of Doctor Who from the Tennant/Tate era and thought that might be a useful thing. Of course I quickly discovered that nobody wanted to read it who was anything to do with Doctor Who. What I will say is that someone at Kudos did read it and liked it so that was at least something. And I learned loads from writing it too – it was helpful to have existing characters to plug into, while getting to grips with the length and format side of things. So it wasn’t a wasted experience – more of a self-development thing.

    After that I just started to concentrate on my own ideas. I have one show in development as a result of working on my own material. Hopefully one day one of them will blossom into an actual show.

    Thanks for your blog Debbie. I love reading it 🙂

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