8 Types Of Scripts Every Self Respecting Screenwriter Needs To Know


Screenwriters are told to have two key types of screenplays in their arsenal. Spec scripts and original screenplays. Hands up if you know the difference between the two. For those of you who didn’t raise their hands, here are the answers:

1) ORIGINAL SCRIPT

I’m sure you can guess what this means. Any screenplay that is wholly born from a writer’s original idea. It is not based on any underlying work.

2) SPEC SCRIPT

Spec is an abbreviation for speculative. It refers to any script that is written without pay in the hopes of securing a paid writing assignment or becoming a staffed writer on a TV show.

These are scripts based on existing properties such as a film franchise or TV series. Spec TV scripts are vital to ensure that writers can adequately capture the tone, voice and characters of a particular TV show or a movie franchise.

The remaining categories refer to spec scripts too:

3) OFF BOOK SCRIPT

This type of script is for screenwriters who want to get a little more daring and show off their individual flair. It is a slight deviation from the established format of the show. It will probably get you noticed, but it will never be produced. For instance, imagine if Ray Donovan (Showtime) went to church (to pray) or Bojack Horseman (Netflix) went to an AA meeting. These scenarios are possible, although unlikely.

4) STUNT SCRIPT

This is a high risk, outlandish attempt at getting noticed as a screenwriter. It’s gimmicky and deliberately breaks all the screenwriting rules. If you’re writing a TV spec script, do everything you’re not supposed to such as writing a script for a cancelled show, being boorish, and generally writing a script that is so off the wall, it will get you noticed. Following on from the previous examples, a stunt script for Ray Donavan might be an episode of Ray becoming a born again Christian or Bojack Horseman volunteering in an orphanage.

5) ON THE BUBBLE SCRIPT

This is generally a TV term used to define a show awaiting its renewing fate. It can refer to mature TV series that have been running for several years or a newer show that has failed to gain the required traction. Screenwriters are generally advised to avoid writing these scripts even if they are of high quality. They may suggest you that you either don’t know the current TV landscape or you haven’t written a spec script for a few years.

6) CANON SCRIPT

A canon is a group of texts considered an authority on a subject. It is derived from the Greek word for rule. In the screenwriting terms, canon scripts refers to typical or the best scripts in a genre.

7) STANDALONE SCRIPT

This is a feature of series/ serialized TV, sometimes called a reserve or backup script. it captures the mood, tone, feel and voice of the show, but it doesn’t follow the established story trajectory.

These are essentially emergency scripts that are produced when there is an issue with the main script such as scripts not being turned in on time, production problems, a last minute rewrite, the producer changes their mind on the story or they simply don’t like the current script.

8) PITCH SCRIPT

This occurs when the producers, usually of a movie franchise with established characters, are asked to pitch their take on a film. This helps producers decide on a story direction and a screenwriter. Sometimes, they aren’t completed scripts at all. They can be outlines, treatments or synopses.

So now you know!

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