Everything You Wanted To Know About Specs

Scott Myers dives into the history of the Spec Script and how it came to be what it today.

What exactly is a spec script? How did they come into being in the first place? What are some of the things that can happen with a spec script? How are managers, agents, producers, talent and buyers involved in the process of acquiring a spec script? What is the state of the current spec script market? What are trends in what studios and production companies are buying in the way of spec scripts? In this special TBOS series, “Everything you wanted to know about specs,” I’m going to do my best to cover these questions and any others you might have.

Caveat: I don’t claim to be anything other than who I am. A screenwriter who broke into the business in 1987 by selling a spec script. I’ve pretty much tracked the spec script market since then, informally at first, but on a systematic basis since the early 90s. That’s why with the support of the Black List and in association with Done Deal Pro, we put together The Definitive Spec Script Sales List, listing every spec script deal I could find and verify from 1991-2012. That said, I’m sure there are things I don’t know, so I hope this is a participatory process and welcome both questions from aspiring writers and insight from established industry insiders.

As long as we’re here, I thought we should start with some historical context, drawing upon a university level course I teach called History of American Screenwriting.

First a definition of spec script. “Spec” is short for speculative, meaning a writer pens a script without initial compensation with the intent of selling the completed screenplay on the open market. As we shall see in this series, there are all sorts of variations on this theme, but let’s start with this basic take on what a spec script is.

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