by Marla White
Halloween is behind us and the all Christmas music radio station is already fired up! Believe me, I get it, I wish we could just focus on one holiday at a time, right? Get me through Thanksgiving before I have to start thinking about being both merry and bright!
You know what else is around the corner, whether we want to believe it or not? Staffing season!
I know what you’re thinking – it’s not until March! That’s four months away!!! But when I was an executive I have to tell you one of my biggest pet peeves was getting the same sample year after year from a writer. When I’d call begging for something new to read, the excuse was always the same - the writer hasn’t had time to write a new sample. Well folks, put down the pumpkin pie and get to the computer because now is the time to make the time.
Think about it - if that same sample hasn’t gotten you a new or better writing gig is it possible it’s not as good as you thought? It certainly isn’t as fresh as it was back when it didn’t get you the job the first time around. Even if it got you on a staff, everyone who was going to love it has probably already seen it.
So what ARE people looking for in a staffing sample?
1. Be Memorable! A great staffing sample isn’t necessarily a show that could easily be sold. Execs and producers reading for staffing will read easily over 100 scripts, so go bold or risk getting lost in the shuffle. There’s a fairly well-known “Friends” spec script called “The One Where They All Got Aids. “ It was pretty wild, but to this day I remember it and people still talk about it.
2. Original Vs. Spec. The short answer is - yes! Have one of each ready, you never know what the producer of the show you’re dying to get on is going to prefer.
3. Tonally match the show you want to write for. It’s fairly impossible to write a spec in the short time between pilots being picked up and staffing meetings being set, so either have a very specific tone you want as your signature or write a few just in case. When we were staffing “Outsiders” for WGN I would have given anything for there to be at least one “Sons of Anarchy” spec script out there that matched tone.
So rather than putting on ten pounds eating turkey and watching football, flex those writing muscles and be ready to get the staffing job of your dreams!
If you want to hear more about how to crush it in a meeting, go to:
Stage 32 on Thursday, November 22
to hear my live webinar about that very topic!