Old specs never die, they just…
December 15, 2011 § 4 Comments
1. …collect dust and become a doorstop.
2. …end up as kindling in a producer’s fireplace in Aspen.
3. …become excellent writing samples.
I hope you answered number 3. I believe a spec that never sells is never dead. So, what does happen to your old spec screenplays? My ex writing partner and I would always joke when a producer agreed to read our spec, we’d envision him going to Aspen for the weekend with his pile of reads. He’d snuggle down on a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace with his Playboy model girlfriend and they’d drink wine and get cozy. Strangely enough there would be no firewood next to the fireplace, only his large pile of twenty scripts. He would tell his girlfriend, “honey it’s getting cold in here… put another script on the fire.” And she would take a script from the pile and toss it into the fireplace. Oh, the horror. My ex writing partner and I would have a good laugh, but sadly this might have been the fate of our specs.
If you set your old spec screenplay aside for a while and take a fresh look, I’m sure many of your old scripts are in need of a good polish. This is exactly what I did last year with three of my old chestnuts. I always loved these scripts, but couldn’t find anyone else to loooooove them enough to buy them. That’s okay. I knew the writing was solid, so I took the time and gave them a fresh nip and tuck — and it’s paid off in spades. This year when I pitched to a producer who loved my idea, she needed a comedy writing sample to read before she would take me into the network. As I had worked on a polish last year, my old comedy spec was ready to go and in the best shape ever. She wanted to read it right away and because it was ready, I didn’t need to take a few weeks to polish it.
You’ll always need solid writing samples in your bag of tricks and these may end up being your specs that didn’t sell. I know it seems like the end of the world if a spec doesn’t sell, but you can get meetings from your script and it can become an important writing sample. Producers, agents and managers will always need to read your material to see if you can actually write a screenplay. If your spec doesn’t sell but lands you an agent, manager or an assignment job, it was worth the effort. In fact, writing a script and finishing it can never be diminished, because you always gain precious writing experience every time you make it through and type “THE END”.
I suggest always have your old specs ready to read as writing samples. If you’re on this screenwriting journey for the long haul, you will write many scripts that don’t sell and others that do. It’s the nature of the game. Selling a spec script is like winning the lottery. I do know it’s possible because I’ve sold a spec, but the odds are not good. This is why you must use your spec scripts as way to push the ball farther along on the field so you can advance and hold new ground.
You never know where your project may end up years later. This is why I believe old specs that don’t sell, never die. They become what you make of them. If you work your old material into the best shape possible, you’ll be ready when new opportunities arise. Who knows, years later your old spec script may find new life with a producer who responds to the material and wants to produce it into a movie.
Keep on writing. Fill your blank pages and let your passion drive you through the ups and downs.
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