Community Spec Script Toolkit: Part 1 – Homework
I was originally going to post one super-sized blog entry related to writing a Community Spec Script. As I approached page five, I realized two things:
- By the time I finish and post this entire Spec Toolkit, Jeff Winger will have probably already graduated from Greendale, thus negating the need for anyone to write a Community spec.
- Nobody has the time or interest to read a 10-page (single spaced) blog post written by some random guy from Virginia who has no idea what he’s even talking about.
So, here we go with my first official blog post, and Part 1 of the Community Spec Script Toolkit…
There’s no doubt that Community is quickly becoming one of the hot new shows for aspiring writers to spec. In “Comedy Spec Script 2010 – What is hot and what is not” posted on A TV Calling, Alex lists Community as a “Wild Card” show to spec. This basically means that eventually there will be thousands of Community specs thrown at Hollywood over the next few years, so it’d be smart to jump ahead of the curve and finish yours now. I, like many others, agree with Alex. It has solid writing, unique characters, a touch of fantasy, decent ratings (for an NBC sitcom) and critics seem to like it (potential Emmy nominations anyone?). So, if you can bang out a solid Community script now, you’ll benefit from being (hopefully) a diamond in the rough filled with The Office, 30 Rock, Entourage, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia scripts.
Whenever spec-ing a sitcom, I feel it’s best to fully immerse yourself into the show. I know what you’re thinking…In the words of the high school kids from “The Art of Disclosure,” Duhhhhhhhhhhh! I mean, that’s Common Sense 101…or is it? Over the years, I’ve interacted with many aspiring screenwriters and thing that surprised me the most was their aversion to reading actual screenplays and studying the craft of writing. It shocked me that someone thought they could eventually write a script, without ever actually reading one or spending the time learn the craft. Since a sitcom is an established program and there is beaucoup info available online, it makes sense to use every possible resource short of enrolling in Greendale. Do your homework!
It goes without saying (but I guess I’m saying it anyway) that you need to watch every episode. How many times should you watch each episode? Comedy comes in threes, so let’s roll with that: Watch every episode three times. If you’ve been watching the episodes regularly during the season, this probably isn’t a big deal. I typically watch each episode the night it airs, once the day after, then during the months that I write my spec, I’ll re-watch the whole season at least once. If you want to watch each episode 10 times, well, that’s great, too. However, at some point you do need to stop watching and start writing.
Other than watching every Thursday night at 8 pm on NBC (free advertisement? you’re welcome), here’s a list of some good sources for finding Community episodes:
- Buy a Tivo or other DVR and save every episode. Unfortunately, my Tivo is full of Chuck and Lost episodes…so I can’t save any Community right now…
- Hulu – Not every episode is available forever, but it’s good if you want to re-watch one within a week or two of when it aired.
- CastTV – Free episodes can be found here for the entire season (with the exception of one episode, which is actually It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you which one).
- iTunes – For those of you with disposal incomes and/or rich parents.
- Netflix – Okay, I know Community’s first season isn’t out on DVD, yet, but it will be eventually. I’m also hopeful that the Netflix Instant Stream will have Community episodes. My Roku rocks!
Now that you’re a full-blown student of Greendale, it’s time to get your hands on some actual scripts. Yes, if you want to be a writer, you will eventually have to read, too. If you’ve been to my Resources page, you’ll know that I’m going to tell you to check out Lee Thomson’s blog, which has links to the following Community scripts:
Read through them and get a feel for how the scripts are written, structured, and paced on the page. I also find the scripts good tools for understating the structure of the show and for determining when the story beats occur.
Aside from watching episodes and reading scripts, there are a lot of good sources of supplemental info online. Here are some random Community related links that may be of some use in your quest to finish a spec.
- Monsters of Television – Noel Kirkpatrick’s episode recaps provide more than just a simple synopsis. He does a thorough job of breaking down the highs and lows of each episode, as well as discussing character, motivation, and story arcs.
- A.V. Club – Much like Monsters of Television, you can find great episode recaps here.
- The Official Community Page – Duh?
- Dan Harmon Interview – Dan Harmon is the show’s creator…you should already know that.
- Community 101 – A fan site filled with Community nuggets.
I also realize that at this point in the sitcom staffing / contest season, this may be too late to be of any real use to anyone for this year. So for that I apologize, but what do you expect from me? I have zero credentials.
Now, enough procrastinating…Go find a handsome lawyer, vegetarian blonde, bird-like arabic boy, former-football stud, strong ebony Christian mom, moderately racist old-timer, and prudish girl-next-girl-sexy brunette to form your own study group and start doing your homework!
Lesson learned while writing this blog entry: Even if I didn’t want to write a Community spec, watching every episode thrice would still greatly enrich my overall quality of life. Two words: Modern Warfare.
Don’t forget to check out…
February 2011 Update:
And if you haven’t already taken it…I set up a very brief survey to get some feedback on what you guys and gals are writing. Seriously, it won’t take you long to complete it. I did it in less than a minute. (That’s not a guarantee…I can’t control how fast you type.) At the end of the month, I’ll post the results of the survey for everyone to see.