Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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How Can I Sell Scripts to a Show I Love?
by Laura Brennan
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I'm an aspiring writer and I'd really love to write for Gilmore Girls. I have written two GG scripts already, but I've heard you shouldn't write a spec script for the show you want to write for. My problem is that no other show is like Gilmore Girls. I think I have a similar "voice" and a similar sense of humor. I would love to be able to showcase that and show the producers I have what it takes to write for them. Any suggestions as to where to start?
First of all, this happens to everyone who starts writing television. There's always one show you absolutely fall in love with and want to write for, and that's great -- because that's what gets you to write your first spec. And you learn and get better with each one you write.
But here's the thing: at some point, you'll realize that you don't want to write for one show, you want a career as a television writer. That's very different. Professional TV writers work on good shows, bad shows, and the vast number of shows that fall in between.
The truth is, by the time you're ready to write professionally, Gilmore Girls will be off the air. Not because you're not already a good writer, but because it takes time to build the relationships you'll need to break in. First, you need an agent. It's possible to sell a film without an agent, but not a TV script. You can't submit yourself in television; you need someone to get you through the door. You also need friends in the business -- they can read you and, if they like you, get you read by their friends whether you have an agent or not. Which brings me to my next point: you don't say where you live. To write for network television you must live in Los Angeles.
To write for local television, you can live wherever you want -- I wrote and produced for PBS in Maryland for years. But when I wanted to make the move into action-adventure television, I had to move to LA. You have to make contacts, you have to have access to agents, you have to read the trades, you have to work as someone's assistant on a show. That's how people get their breaks.
Now, having said that, there are exceptions. One way to break in from out of town is to enter contests. There are many writing contests, and increasingly they cater to TV scripts. That was my first break: I won the Scriptwriters Network Carl Sautter Memorial Screenwriting Contest with a TV script, and suddenly I was being read by agents and was asked to pitch to Star Trek: Voyager. I highly recommend the Scriptwriters Network -- low dues, and their two TV competitions a year are open to members only and give written feedback. They also have great guest speakers monthly, and if you live out of town you can get audio tapes of the meetings. Website is http://scriptwritersnetwork.com
Other contests can be found at http://www.moviebytes.com
Another way through the door is to write a feature. And this was your real question -- how to get noticed by GG, who legally can't read your specs for their show. Write anything that showcases your voice. A spec for another show is always an option, but you might have more fun with a feature -- and the great thing about features is they have a life of their own. Try writing a family film, or a grown-up romantic comedy about a woman with a teenage daughter. You can get these read by production companies without an agent by contacting and pitching to them directly; if it gets optioned, suddenly you've got leverage, a good shot at getting an agent, and entree into TV shows that have the same voice (like GG). Best of all, you don't have to move to LA until you already have a career brewing.
Finally, make sure your scripts are ready; get other people to read them before you send them to agents or producers (a writers group is invaluable). Referrals from friends are a great way to get read, so network. Enter contests that give you feedback and/or entree (and that don't cost too much).
Hope my answers inspires rather than discourages you -- I still love my Lois & Clark script, which was the first one I wrote. I never got a chance to work on the show, but writing that spec made me feel as if I had; to some extent, just writing what you love is its own reward. Good luck!
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Laura Brennan has written for a number of television shows, including The Invisible Man for the Sci-Fi Channel. She also co-created the children's series, Queen Augusta's Heroes.