The First Ten Pages: TV Spec Scripts

In 2008, I entered the Warner Brothers TV Writing Workshop Competition. Though I did not get selected for the program, I was in the top five percent. The studio invited those of us who “didn’t quite make it” to the WB Lot for a little insight into what might help us make it in future years. The following information was provided in a discussion forum with Chris Mack (2008 television programming executive at Warner Brothers, and head of the WB TV Writing Program) and Jack Gilbert (who read all of the 2008 spec script entries – all 963 of them!).

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST TEN PAGES:

I Only Read the First Ten Pages: Jack Gilbert read all 963 spec scripts submitted to the program. But when he says read, he really means he only reads the first ten pages. This is his first round of eliminations.  If you didn’t pass the first ten pages test you get  thrown in the “no” pile.

TV Executives Want to Say No: Television executives are always looking for a reason to say NO to you! Always imagine that whoever is reading your script is having a bad day, sometimes even the smallest thing will put you in the “no” pile. You’ve got to hit the ground running in the first ten pages!

We’re Looking for Energy: In the first ten pages they want to see energy, force, and direction! Immediately pull the reader into the story and keep the energy up!

Bring Bold Situations: Starting with an impossible situation will catch the reader’s attention. The harder the initial situation is for the characters the more likely the reader will keep reading. “I want to know how they will get out of this one.”

Don’t Be Predictable: Keep your reader guessing. Many of the scripts that didn’t make it through the first round of elimination was because Gilbert already knew how the entire script would end by page ten. Keep your reader on their toes.

Maximize Character Development: It is good practice to set up a situation in the first ten pages that will maximize the potential for character development in the following forty five pages. Utilize your characters and put them through the wringer. A great “gimmick” or “mind teaser” idea that does not engage your characters emotionally will not work.

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