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"Widows, Brad and Fifty-Something Scripts...in Space - Your TV SPEC Perfection Guide." Part One.

Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday February 12th, 2001. Buscemiarts@hotmail.com

Sorry the title of this column evolved into a plotline for a Godard film. You may have noticed, my "launching" theme in past columns. You know, those cute little parallels to our writing careers and interplanetary space travel. Because selling a script can sometimes seem like launching a Saturn V for God's sake. We're talking - planning and hard work - squared. Well, it was a stretch this week to tie the space theme with writing, but I did it! And I discovered a valuable lesson: If I add the words "in space" to the end of any title, then the theme is a lock. (I knew all that Muppet Show viewing from my youth would pay off one day.)

What does all this have to do with TV Spec Scripts? You know those fifty-something paged scripts (If you write one-hour, like myself.) that have four or five acts and sometimes a teaser. Well let tell you about the past week and all its mishagos and then the title will make perfect sense to you. Soooo,



It began like any Monday, my first thought was "It's only Monday, I don't have to worry about the column until Saturday." But then I remembered, "Oh, this is the week I start the multi-part epic look at TV specs. An informative, interview laden, comical and sometimes poignant study." Okay, maybe not poignant but I did want to include the interviews with writer's of current series'. I'm sure like you, you've written these types of scripts before and you've done your homework. You watch the show. Take exhaustive notes on the show. Get a hold of a script from the show. You know the drill. But I'm sure, if you're like me, you want to know - from the people who write these shows - what are they REALLY looking for? Mechanics and structure are a given, but what grabs these people? What magic element are they looking for? What will guarantee the writer a meeting? Now we're talking. The password. The secret code. Well, it's dramatic equivalent anyway. These were the questions that had to be answered...right after lunch.

So after a great meal I began the column like this:

"If you're attempting the TV Spec script for the first time you might want read a good book about it. My personal favorite is: Writing For Television by Stuart M. Kaminsky. It's a quick read, still very relevant and loaded with insight from Garry Marshall, Larry Gelbart and Harlan Ellison."

It was at this point I switched gears to work on my own one-hour spec (that needed to be completed this week). Also had to ready my screenplay for a competition (needed to cut out ten pages!) deadline in a few days. But not to fear, I'd work on the column after dinner.


By now the "day job" is slowly taking over the week and worse I have 5 other writing goals to do. Sunday nights I go over my Monthly Goals and determine what needs to be done in the coming week to get there. (Remember planning and working - squared.) So by now I'm envisioning a column about the weeks where you're trying to balance ten things at once. But my balancing act wouldn't even make to the GONG SHOW and it's all because of those damn BRADS!


I never imagined running out of brads could ever be a problem...in space. (Got to keep that theme alive.) You see this week, in addition to finishing my TV script first draft; I had to enter my screenplay (freshly re-written, another Flash Forward Goal for 2001) in the Script Writer's Network Carl Sautter Memorial Scriptwriting Competition. If you don't know about SWN check out their website (www. Scriptwritersnetwork.com) and consider joining. I've been a member for about three months and it has been invaluable to me - and I haven't even been to a meeting yet! So I had cut the 10 pages out of my screenplay in part by eliminating WIDOWS. Widows are the last words of a sentence that wrap around down to the next line. If you can get rid of them, then you save a whole line and if you do it often enough - you start to save pages. (I learned about this, from Terry Rossio's column at www.wordplayer.com, check it out!) So the script is ready to go except, I'm still out of brads. I simply must get them first thing tomorrow.


It began like any Thursday: "Oh, s***, it's getting close to Saturday - the column." I had a long day ahead at the "day job" so I left my lap top at home because their wouldn't be any down time to write. Wrong. After driving to the location, I find out the shoot is delayed by 4 hours. No problem. I'll buy some brads and send off the script. Four stationary supply stores later and all I can find are some wimpy lite-beer equivalent brads. These flimsy things wouldn't hold 20 pages together. I need the beefy type. I couldn't believe I was in Burbank - home of Warner Bros. and Universal and I couldn't find a brad to save my life. And the clock is ticking on the CONTEST deadline! I found real-writer's brads eventually at The Writer's Store (www.thewritersstore.com) in Santa Monica. I put them in the copy of my screenplay and found out all the pages were slightly crooked. No, not the copies. My originals. I called my wife in a panic to troubleshoot our printer. She's handy that way and after all these years, she's been conditioned to remain calm during my various writing calamities.


By now the week was like this:

10 pages cut from screenplay.
52 Page first draft of TV script done.
Lifetime supply of brads purchased.
Crooked copies of screenplay burned and proper copy submitted to contest.
(That's right, got the SWN contest submission entered with a full 9 hours to spare!)
Columns completed for Monday February 12th: 0


There I was looking back at all I had accomplished during the Week. I was remembering the one night Flash Forward seminar (www.flashforward.com) I had attended on Tuesday as well. I had learned so much in just that one night, mapping your goals, hit-lists, statistics and mentors. I thought: "What a great column, that would make." That's when it hit me - the column! It's Saturday, and it's not done! I always have it done by Saturday (usually 11:58PM.) It's 12:30 am as I write this.


10 PM. In two hours this column will be late. The secret code, the magic key, the words of wisdom from the masters themselves would have to wait until next week. Yes this would be a two-part column. My only hope is you remember this Fellinified tale when your week seems to be an endless sprint with no finish line in sight. I leave you with this, my moment of Zen for the week:

One of the speaker's at the Flash Forward seminar was, Tami Alecsa, an Actor and Producer. She told a great story. When she meets new people in the business if after talking with them realizes, they can do nothing to help her (and her career)...then she must be there to HELP THEM. She would then concentrate on what she could do for that person. I really believe in that philosophy. That, and always having a large supply of brads.

To Be Continued....

WEEK 5 STEPS: Enter scriptwriting competitions. Complete TV spec First Draft and get ready to rewrite. Attend a one night Seminar and you might receive a moment of Zen.


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