Want to become one of those writers? First you'll need a good spec script (short for spectacular scriptment) to prove you have what it takes. If you're not capable of writing one, steal something off the internet.
Step two: get your spec script in the right hands. This part is pretty self-explanatory, so we'll move right along to...
Step three: cash that sweet, sweet first paycheck. Congratulations, you'll never have to work again! (Which is good, because after they discover that your script was cut-and-pasted from a Final Fantasy slashfic site, you won't.)
Sound easy? Trust me, it is. Every staffing season I invariably find myself attached to six or seven shows without even trying. And although the shows will all fire or sue me eventually, that's still six or seven paychecks rolling in simultaneously. And that, my friends, is what being a true artist is all about.
So...an asskicky spec script. How do you write one?
1. Right for the Wright Show
Some screenwriting "experts" will advise you not to write spec scripts for the shows you want to join. It should be pointed out, however, that many of these same experts are the people who told me to stop putting man-eating octopi in all my scripts, which kind of throws their entire screenwriting expertise into question.
Listen, David Chase is sick and tired of getting spec scripts for thematically-similar shows like The Shield and The West Wing. I'm sure he'd be delighted to open up his mailbox to find a fresh and shiny Sopranos script waiting for him. Especially if he found a $20 bill tucked between the pages. You know how those Italians love their money.
2. COVER YOUR BASES
Let's say you're interested in writing for two different shows. The amateur screenwriter will toil away for hours--sometimes even days--until he emerges with two polished and professional spec scripts.
What a goddamned sucker. If you're a pro, you write ONE script. Period.
Here's how you do it:
EXT. FOOTBALL FIELD - DAY
I don't know much about sports, but does this qualify as a late hit?
THE BLACK GUY looks at her with adoration in his eyes.
THE BLACK GUY
Man, you're witty. And pretty. So witty and pretty, and your flaxen hair, oh, how it glows.
(He pokes the dead guy with his black finger.)
Poor old Jock McRunner. Who do you think killed him?
Isn't it obvious?
(Her eyes rise to the heavens.)
It was Captain William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica.
THE BLACK GUY
Dag, yo! I'll go get our spaceship.
3. SHAKE THINGS UP
Showrunners spend every waking moment of their pathetic little lives slaving away to continuity and logic. Or, as I like to call them, Enemy Number One and Enemy Number Two. Do you think they want to waste their free time reading realistic, meticulously-researched scripts? Of course not!
Spec scripts are an excellent opportunity for you to flex your imagination (or Google someone else's imagination, which is often more rewarding). So have fun with your script, and feel free to ignore previously-established continuity if it suits your bastard whims.
Here's a good example from a Two and a Half Men spec I sent around last year. You'll note that it probably retains the general spirit of the show (I say 'probably' because I never got around to watching the damn thing) while jettisoning all that other stuff I couldn't be bothered to research.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
CHARLIE'S forehead is slick with cokesweat. He forces the barrel of his .357 further down ALAN'S throat.
Say my name! Say it!
Fuck you, white boy! I'm the Angel of Death!
(He pulls back the hammer.)
Say my name!
You're...oh God, you're the Angel of D-death!
Charlie's eyes burn with a terrible fire.
4. TIE UP THE LOOSE ENDS
If you want a surefire way to impress a showrunner, use your spec script to answer all the show's big questions.
It's no secret that series like The X-Files survived for years simply by flinging fresh mysteries at the screen faster than a monkey in a shit factory. After all, a series doesn't have to answer any of its central questions until its very last season, by which point the showrunners will have already retired to some tropical paradise filled with coconut-flavored drinks and Cambodian boywhores.
Here's where you come in. If you can solve all of the show's big mysteries in the space of a few dozen pages, you'll be an automatic hero. At the very least, think of the hush money they'll have to pay you! This is why I always advocate making your spec script the show's very last episode. (The Latin term for this particular episode is finale, with fin meaning "the end" and ale meaning "the stuff you drink after something ends.")
Below is an example that elegantly and awesomely illustrates this strategy:
Hey there, Freckles. Hey there, Jumbo. Hey there, Rex Morgan, M.D.
Dude, I figured out what the numbers mean!
They're the launch code for a nuclear warhead!
I'm a dramatically worthless plot device!
LOCKE, SAYID and MR. EKO enter the cave.
Hey there, Stepfather. Hey there, Bollywood. Hey there, Cocoa Moses.
My friends, I have bested the Monster in mortal kombat and it is no more.
Dude, you killed the Monster? What was it?
(staring hard at the camera)
It all makes perfect sense! PERFECT. SENSE.
If anyone needs me, I will be standing just off-camera, grimly doing nothing.
Hey there, New Pubes.
(dunking a basketball)
I must have created the bees with my psychic brain, just like the polar bears and the Others and everything else that is still a mystery!
This reminds me of a time I was forced to make a painful personal decision.
(His eyes grow misty and faraway.)
But what does it all MEAN?
Uh-oh, fifteen minutes to Wapner!
TITLE CARD: THE END (?)