This is a sobering but important article on the reality of submitting TV scripts written by Chad Gerwich for Script Magazine that folks on Twitter's #tvwriterchat and others among you who are trying to get your spec TV scripts read and even sold.
Just a couple of snippets:
TV shows don’t accept submissions from outside writers.
Most TV shows — from sitcoms and dramas like Raising Hope or Hawaii Five-Oh to sketch, talk, and variety shows like The Colbert Report or The Tonight Show — are written by staffs, groups of (usually) five to 10 writers hired to architect the season and write every episode … so they’re not actively looking for new scripts, writers, or story ideas.
And lastly … yes — the world of professional TV writers is, ultimately, a fairly small pool … so even when shows hire new writers, or new shows put together a staff, they’re hiring from the same well of writers that’s been circulating for years. This isn’t to say those writers aren’t talented. Far from it … I find that most TV writers, especially the veterans, are A) incredibly passionate and talented, and B) absolute experts on structure, character, joke-writing, etc. But even the freshest voices can become un-fresh, and the true geniuses — the Larry Gelbarts and the David Chases and the Louis C.K.’s and the Joss Whedons — only come along once in a blue moon.
Having said that, the WGA, the Writers Guild of America (the labor union governing professional screenwriters), in an effort to inject new blood into the writing world, does require TV shows that have been on-air for at least a year to farm out 2-3 freelance episodes per season to writers who aren’t on staff.
Most of the time — and by “most” I mean “pretty much all of” — these freelance scripts are given to either:
- The show’s writers assistant
- The assistant to the show’s showrunner or executive producer
- A personal writer-friend of the showrunner, often someone who’s already an established professional writer