Michael Jamin & Phil Hudson discuss the difference between TV specs and TV pilots, what Hollywood wants to see today, the primary job of a staff writer, and the big problem facing young writers.

Show Notes – Michael Jamin’s Online Screenwriting Course – Free Screenwriting Lesson

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael: (00:00)
When I’m running a show, we’re working it. Should we ne like no one has a stopwatch out. We’re never thinking what, 15 minutes. This has to happen. Except like, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s such a bizarre in my mind. It’s almost fascinating to hear you say that because it’s was like, whoa, we don’t do any of that. So like, it seems to me it’s making it unnecessarily hard and like, it doesn’t, it’s not helpful. You’re listening to screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael Jen. All right, everyone. Welcome to the big show today. We’re talking about specs versus pilots. What does that mean? I don’t even know. I’ve got to think this through Phil.

Phil: (00:39)
Yeah. This is an interesting one. I, one time took a kid to a lunch in film school and I told them what I was working on. And I remember thinking he brought this up and he was just using this terminology. And I know like what a spec versus a pilot is. And I know what a spec versus a commission is, but he used them interchangeably. And so I think there might be some confusion about, about these, especially in the world of television. Yeah.

Michael: (01:05)
Because there’s a lot of the words are kind of used interchangeably. It’s an it’s unnecessarily complicated. But basically when you’re trying to get a show where you’re trying to get staffed on a show, uh, you need a writing sample. And so your writing sample could be a piece, an original piece of work, like a pilot that you’ve written about. You’ve created it’s all yours. Or you could spec an existing show. So you write a sample episode of the show, Barry or whatever, and jolly just so that’s two different samples that you, you could show people in this

Phil: (01:34)
Stands for speculation, meaning you’re writing to on speculation that you could sell it or that it, that I think that’s where it comes from the film world. Right. Writing it on spec versus, um, I’ve been hired to do.

Michael: (01:45)
Right. So you’re right. In other words, don’t right. No, one’s paying you for it. But the odds of

Phil: (01:49)
It’s an assumption of risk, I think, is really what it comes down to. Right? Yeah. So writer’s Guild says, if you sell a feature on spec, you get paid more because you took the risk of writing it on your own dime versus them hiring you to do a job. And now you’re getting paid less because they’re assuming the risk that’s right. So I think that’s where the terminology comes with. Go ahead.

Michael: (02:09)
But the odds of the truthfully, the odds of you selling your spec pilot are very, very low. It’s really just a calling card. It’s a, it’s a sample of your work to get you a job on a show so that you could get so that you rise up the ranks and you earn the right at some point in the future to sell a show. So most people think, well, I got a show I’m going to sell it. It’s like, it doesn’t really work that way. Doesn’t work that way for me, you know? And I’ve been doing it for 26 years. So it’s not going to work that way for Joe average in the middle of Indiana. Right. So, right. Okay. So back in the day when I was coming up, there were four networks. So there wasn’t a lot of choice. So everyone kind of knew the same shows.

Michael: (02:46)
The big hit shows everyone watched, or at least sample they knew a little bit about. So you would write a spec episode of like, say, say Seinfeld or cheers or friends, or on the drama side, you might write a spec. ER, everyone knew those shows. So whoever was reading your shows would know the tone of it. They don’t the characters and you’d write your spec episode of that show and people would read it and they get, okay. Yeah. I’ve seen the show enough to know that this is a good sample or not. But today the market is, uh, you know, there’s so much, there’s so many shows out there and no, there are no giant hits anymore. And so there’s not one show that everyone is watching really there’s shows that like people are popular shows, like let’s say like Barry, or let’s say a Ted lasso.

Michael: (03:26)
People seem to watch those, but it’s not like it gets the millions and millions of views that everyone else, all the other show is used to get. It’s still like a tiny share. So the way the agents and, um, studio executives, what they recommend is not to write a spec episode of an existing show since, you know, no one really knows that language anymore. They want you to write a spec episode of your oven, or they want you to write in an episode or a pilot episode of, of something that came out of your own head and their original idea and original pilot, and use that as a writing sample to get you work. But there’s a problem with that in my opinion. Okay. The problem is writing, uh, writing an episode of our characters that already exist. It requires it’s actually a lot easier than creating a brand new show from whole cloth.

Michael: (04:15)
And it’s a whole different skill set. And if you’re trying to get on a, a staff of a TV show, you don’t need to, you don’t need that skill set. You don’t need to be, know how to create characters and create a world. Like all you need to know is how to, can you, what can I mimic the world that already exists? So I feel that’s an unfair burden that studio executives and agents or managers are kind of putting on new writers. Like you’re saying, Hey, this is much harder, but this is what you need to do because the world has changed so much the world of TV, at least. And you know, like I said, as a showrunner, I don’t really care if you can create these characters. I want to know if you can, uh, if you can run an episode for my characters from my world and also as a store owner, it’s harder for me to read those scripts because now it’s like, I can read an episode of friends and I know I’m dating myself.

Michael: (05:02)
I think friends, okay. Let’s say two and a half men or the big bang theory or something a little more recent. I can, um, I know those characters and know how they talk. I know how they should sound. I’m familiar with them. Uh, and it’s easier for me. It’s a lot less work for me to read a script and determine whether you are doing a good job mimicking that tone, but for new, when you create your own world, it’s like, okay, now I got to who are these characters again? I gotta flip back. I gotta remind myself who this character is. And I got to remind myself, wait, what’s the tone of this show supposed to be? Is it supposed to be silly or is this supposed to be broad? Uh, until it’s, it’s more work on my end and it’s a lot more work on the person who has to write it. Yeah,

Phil: (05:39)
Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. And so you’re what you’re saying is the job of a staff writer is to mimic the showrunners voice. And although the pilot can’t show creativity, that doesn’t showcase that skillset.

Michael: (05:52)
Yeah. We don’t need to know. We don’t need to know if you can rate it, create a show. That’ll come years later when you create your own show. So it’s a little, it’s kind of a, it’s a bummer. Um, but when you, so when you create one, so, okay. We have to accept the fact that you really don’t have any choice here. Let’s say you have to re create all these pilots. Now you are going to want to create many pilots in different tones because, and by tone, I mean, uh, is it broad or is it real? Is it grounded? Is it crazy? Is it wacky, you know, on the Simpsons, Homer went to the moon. Well, you know, on family guy, uh, you know, Peter gets murdered every episode or he takes chops, loaves his legs off, like, and then suddenly she has legs in the next scene, you know, or I’ll shoot his daughter in the face. Like that’s just off the board wacko. Crazy. That show was a really fun show. But the tone of that is just, is like almost, uh, it’s almost fantastical, whereas a show, uh, like BoJack horseman, even though he’s a talking horse, it’s very, it’s much more realistic. He’s, you know, he deals with issues of psychology and, and real problems with people. So it’s a much more grounded show, even though he’s a talking horse.

Phil: (06:59)
Okay. And so in the past, if I was writing samples of shows, I would want to take that same note. And I would say, I want to be able to write a Berry, which is a completely different tone than say, um, big bang theory. Yeah, yeah.

Michael: (07:13)
Different than any other. And also, and those, for example, and buried, by the way, a single camera show and big bang was a multi-camera show. And if you don’t know the difference, so a single camera show look kind of looks like a movie shot like a movie. Often they use two cameras at the same time they’re shooting it, but it’s called single camera. Whereas a multi-camera show sometimes called a four camera show worth. I’m going to make them confusing. Sometimes it’s called a three or four camera show, but a multi-camera show is shot on a soundstage in front of a live in front of a studio audience. So you hear those laughters and it’s, it’s, it’s very perceptive and shot. Like it’s like a, it’s like going to theater. So people, those characters never, you know, they never leave the theater, the exist only on that stage. Whereas a single camera show, like let’s say big, uh, modern family. They would shoot that on location. They go to this location, that location and the writing style is a little different. They both, you both have to understand story, uh, like, uh, a great understanding of story for both, but the way they’re written, um, there there’s some various, uh, there’s a slight difference. There

Phil: (08:13)
There’s some formatting differences too, right?

Michael: (08:15)
Yeah. And those multi-camera shows tend to be a joke heavier because you have a studio audience and there’s that pressure to keep them laughing when you shoot it. And so those shows you record a multi-camera show, uh, in both single camera and multi-camera show you are, uh, I don’t know, that’s not really what we’re suppose to be talking about, but, but I, I find myself fascinated by my own voice on a continue. Let’s go. Um, and I’m on a single camera show. It takes about a week to shoot and a multi-camera show. It takes a week to shoot, but this, the production schedules are very different. A multi-camera show. You have a day where you rehearse, you put on a show on Friday night and in front of an audience. But on that, Monday is the first day of rehearsal and you rehearsed it day two.

Michael: (08:59)
You were here set on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and finally, you know, Friday, you put up on its feet, whereas a single camera show on Monday, you have a rehearsal. I got like a table read where the actress just read it. And then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, you’re shooting the thing you are shooting it. So, and it’s because it takes longer to shoot. So there’s less rehearsal for those. So by nature of that, because you have so much more rehearsal for a multi-camera show, uh, the each line is really, is really crafted and it’s make as funny as possible. You put it, there’s a lot of pressure to make the jokes really pop. Whereas a multi-cam a single camera show. You don’t really have that same pressure. Okay.

Phil: (09:36)
Um, multi-camera show you’ve done several of those in your, in your, in both. Yeah. So in that world, you, as the writer of that episode would be on set or on the stages while they’re shooting, right. Just to rewrite something

Michael: (09:48)
For a multi-camera show, all the writers on set all the time, God, all the time, a single, single camera show because it takes so long to shoot it. Uh, there’s usually only one writer on set and that might be the showrunner, or it might be someone in the showrunners proxy. You might be a proxy, which could be the person who wrote that episode. Or it could be, let’s say a co-executive producer.

Phil: (10:07)
Got it. So, because I’m not doing specs anymore, you know, um, I’m assuming that the spec work is the real work that helps you prepare for the job of being a staff writer, because you are watching a show, you’re internalizing the voices, the characters, and you’re crafting stories that fit into that world and match that tone. Yeah. Likewise, um, I could do the same thing in the world of a pilot where, but that seems like a lot more work because I have to create the characters, the setting, the reason these people are together. And so it’s almost like, it seems like easier and better practice to do the spec, even though people are asking for a pilot.

Michael: (10:47)
Yeah. Yeah. And if your spec by the, if it’s a show that like all comedy writers know Barry, they we’ve all watched Barry. So I think that’d be okay. Show despair, even though it’s not known by the billions of people in the outside world, I think they’d be perfectly fine to spec that same thing with maybe Ted lasso. It seems to people seem to really like, um, those are probably be good specs. Uh, and I, like I said, I would, I would prefer to read that. I, and then I’m just judging it. I’m terms of like, okay, does this person understand a story structure? Uh, how has their dialogue, is it, is it punchy? Does it flow? Does a sound like the dialogue in the existing show? I don’t need to know the other stuff. The other factors that go into creating a TV show, it doesn’t help me. I don’t need that. Okay.

Phil: (11:29)
And so I write these specs, I write these spec pilots. I practice them as I think that begs the question, like how does one approach both of these situations. And so I just want to walk you through what I was taught in film school and my television writing class. And I want you to tell me if you think this seems like a good format. Okay. Sounds good. You’ve already found. All right. Let’s send the ascended episode. I do think that there, there were some things lacking here. Um, because as I’ve worked with you, as I’ve sat in writers rooms as a writer’s PA, as I’ve sat on set, as I’ve seen rewrites of episodes, I’ve noticed that there are things that we didn’t address per se in our classes. Yeah. Let’s dive in. What we were taught to do was basically watch multiple episodes of the TV show, which sounds like a good idea. And then we were basically instructed to take a stopwatch and the time every single scene and count the number of scenes, and basically just put them into a spreadsheet and say, this, this act before this commercial break, there were this many scenes and they took this long and added together. I can expect my act one for this show to be this long. Yeah.

Michael: (12:36)
Yeah. I would never, I would never approach, uh, when I was running, when I’m running a show, we’re working. It should, we knew like no one has a stopwatch out. We’re never thinking, well, at 15 minutes, this has to happen and stuff like, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s such a bizarre in my mind, a it’s almost fascinating to hear you say that because it was like, whoa, we don’t do any of that. So like, it seems to me it’s making it unnecessarily hard and like, it doesn’t, it’s not helpful.

Phil: (13:04)
I think what I took from that is what’s happening in these scenes more than what, how long are these scenes taking or what are the number of scenes? And it was really looking at, you know, who is leading this scene, who is leading these. And I think that the reason that was interesting to me is because you and I had already had some back and forth about what story structure should look like. Yeah. But in general, what I noticed when we got to the next step, you know, two steps down. So then we take it, we break our own story, we kind of fit it into this formula. And then we do a table read. And what I noticed is that most of the table reads scripts. You know, the scripts that we’ve table read in our class, they were a lot of people doing things about a lot of nothing happening

Michael: (13:44)
Or the characters. I mean, yeah,

Phil: (13:46)
It was, it wasn’t like, we’re really pushing towards one big thing. It wasn’t like we had any real focus or drive through these moments of action. And there were moments of conversation, but it was almost like every single scene was set up to be its own unique act. And they didn’t really take me anywhere.

Michael: (14:05)
It sounds like you got bogged down in the minutia, but you missed the bigger picture. Yeah.

Phil: (14:09)
Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s because there was just a general lack of conversation about actual story structure rather than, you know, here’s how many scenes you should have versus sequences you should have versus

Michael: (14:21)
Well, it’s like when I could walk as a TV writer, even though I’m in comedy, I could walk into any writers room in Hollywood. If they let me, if there were writers who are not on zoom anymore because of the pandemic, but I could walk into any writer’s room, drama, comedy, whatever, and jump right in and fit right in because we all speak the same language, which is story. And none of us are talking about holding stopwatches and, and, you know, we don’t, we just didn’t thought how we approach.

Phil: (14:44)
So I know the answer to this, but you know, just playing devil’s advocate, which I know we just tore apart recently. Um, so obviously you’re talking about Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and miss structure then, right?

Michael: (14:55)
Yeah. Yeah. And, and I’ve read that, you know, it’s a seminal work. It’s an, uh, it’s an important, it’s interesting to read, but if that Joseph Campbell and like, you know, I’m not denigrating it at all, but if it was, if it was helpful in terms of breaking a story, you’d think that would be that chart. That famous chart would be on every writer’s room in Hollywood. We would just be referring to the chart all the time to how to tell a story. And we just don’t. And to me, it’s like, it’s almost like reverse engineering, something where it’s like, okay, I’m going to make a robot. That’s take apart this robot. And then we’ll, and now we know how to make a robot. It’s like, no, no. You know how to take apart a robot. It doesn’t mean you have to build a robot. You just took one apart. Right. And so that to me was what that hero’s journey circle reminds me of.

Michael: (15:40)
Hi guys, Michael Jamin here. I wanted to take a break from talking and talk just a little bit more. I think a lot of you guys are getting bad advice on the internet. I know this because I’m getting tagged. One guy tagged me with this. He said, I heard from a script reader in the industry. And I was like, wait, what? Hold on, stop my head and blew up and blacked out. And when I finally came to, I was like, listen, dude, there are no script readers in the industry by definition. These are people on the outside of the industry. They work part-time. They give their right arm to be in the industry. And instead they’re giving you advice on what to do and you’re paying for this. I mean, it just made me nuts, man. He’s getting more unqualified to give my dog advice.

Michael: (16:17)
And by the way, her script is it’s coming along quite nicely. And oh, and I’m not done. Another thing when I work with TV writers for a new one, I’m writing staffs. A lot of these guys flame out after 13 episodes. So they get this big break. They find it to get in and then they flame out because they don’t know what is expected of them on the job. And that’s sad because you know, it’s not going to happen again. So to fight all this, to flush all this bad stuff out of your head, I post daily tips on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Tik TOK and Facebook at Michael Jamin writer. If you don’t have time, two minutes a day to devote towards improving your craft guys, it’s not going to happen. Let’s just be honest. So go find naked. Happy. Alright. Now back to my previous.

Phil: (17:01)
So, because I’ve been through your course and I’ve seen how stories are broken in an actual writer’s room, there are definitely almost beats. There are things that need to exist to help carry the story along. But the, but that’s just more of like what I would call 10 poles that would hold up the structure.

Michael: (17:19)
Yeah. Right. It’s the foundation,

Phil: (17:21)
The foundation. And then you do your story fits into that to help kind of guide us along because there’s like an internal expectation in ourselves as humans been telling stories for millennia, then that resonates with this. And I think that’s where Joseph Campbell stuff kind of coordinates here, but, or correlates here. But in general, this is, these are things that weren’t really addressed. Like, you know, back behind me, I’ve got like a wall of filmmaking and screenwriting books. I have Joseph Campbell’s here with a thousand phases. I have Chris Vogler’s the writer’s journey writer’s journey I got because it was a required text for our class. And yet we never read it in class. We never opened it. We never talked about that. I was in film school that was in film school in my specifically my TV writing class. So ultimately I think what it boils down to is this process that I w I learned, isn’t actually the way you do things, and it’s not helpful because we’re missing, as you said, the foundational things. We’re so focused on the, on the other stuff.

Michael: (18:21)
And it’s interesting to study all that little stuff is, but it’s just not how we do it on the, on a daily basis. So, you know, I, I, I don’t know why it’s they teach? You know, I get a little frustrated when I get on my soapbox, when we talk about film school. And I always say like, make sure you are, you’re clear on who you’re studying from, because you can study from a screenwriting from a professional teacher, but if they haven’t done it for years and years and years, like they’re just teaching you what they were learning, what they learned, what they were taught. You know, you’re not like I didn’t go to film school and I didn’t study any of this. Most of what I learned, I learned on the job from other writers, professional writers before me. And so I just do it the way they taught me. And that’s, that’s how we do it in the world.

Phil: (19:06)
It’s the apprenticeship model, right. Where you go and you learn through osmosis and through putting in the sweat equity.

Michael: (19:14)
Yeah. And that’s kind of, that’s how I teach in the course. I’m like, well, you know, I don’t mess around with like theory. I go, okay, let’s take an idea. Here’s an idea. How do we stretch this? Is it a good enough idea that we’ll fill, let’s say 22 minutes of TV show, or if it’s a drama obviously longer, is it a good there’s enough meat on that bone to turn it into 22 minutes? And if so, how do you unfold? All the events that occurs in this, in the plot so that it feels like an engaging story so that people are engaged in one-on-one what happens next? And I just do that by the way I was taught. So the course, that’s how I, I, I run the course. It’s like, okay, we’re going to, you’re going to pretend you’re in my writer’s room. We’re going to take an idea and we’re going to turn it into an episode of TV and we’re not going to talk theory. We’re going to do it.

Phil: (19:55)
Yeah. So when you’re reading these things, and when we’ve talked again on this podcast quite a bit about, you have to be good at your craft, sounds like that’s the quintessential thing here is you need to be able to tell a story that follows the proper structure and then entertain me is secondary to that.

Michael: (20:14)
Yeah. And, and, you know, to be clear when, when I first my partner and I first landed on TV shows, like we didn’t know how to do any of this. Like we wrote, we were able to write a story, a decent enough story from our gut. And it was good enough, but we didn’t know, we certainly couldn’t have done it on a consistent basis. Like week after week on it. You know, we couldn’t have been like a showrunner or, and so, but as you work on a show and you rise up through the ranks and you start making more money, more is expected of you. And so sooner or later, you need to learn how to do that. This, this story breaking know how to tell a story, uh, because if you can’t that you will, you will hit a glass ceiling and then you will eventually be out of work. Got it,

Phil: (20:52)
Got it. Do you have any recommendations on how to approach, you know, but you know, picking a show to follow or to spec or to follow in match the tone, or

Michael: (21:05)
I do, like, I remember years ago working with a hiring a young writer and a laced kind of, we weren’t in the rehiring. He was kind of, we were told he’s going to be on our show. And so, okay, great. The studio said that we’re like, okay, got it. And I remember asking him, are you a drama or a, would you consider yourself a drama or a comedy writer? He goes, oh, I, I do both. And I remember in my mind thinking, okay, you do, neither because you know, if your comedy got you, you say your con, you just know your comedy. I think comedy writers can do drama, but drama writers, they can’t do comedy. It’s not like you can say, I can write funny, but it’s like, you know, you can, and you can, it’s not like something you, I don’t know if I’m explaining it. Well, it’s like, you have to have a good sense of humor to write comedy. You can’t, it’s not like any drama writer can write comedy, comedy, radio, current drama, because you’re just leaving out the funny parts. You’re just not making it funny. You’re telling the story. It’s just not a funny story, but it’s all story.

Phil: (21:59)
Um, but it’s not, uh, it doesn’t, that’s I think an important note. It’s not, how can I be as funny as possible? It’s the thing that makes those shows so amazing. Are they keep you laughing? And then in one moment you’re crying, right? Like they, they hit you in the gut because it’s so emotionally real that you relate to it.

Michael: (22:16)
Yeah. And, and that’s actually why the, the hours on a sitcom tend to be a lot worse than an hours on a drama. Because in both Kansas cases, you’re telling a story, story, a story, but in one you have to make it funny. And the funny part that, that adds an extra layer of difficulty, because not all ideas are funny as we know. So

Phil: (22:35)
Pick your lane, pigeonhole

Michael: (22:36)
Yourself. I think so. I think it’s important to pigeon yourself because that’s what you’re saying. That’s how you’re marketing yourself. If you say to your, to someone, I can do anything you want, all right. I don’t really know what you want, but if you say I’m really great at writing broad wacky comedies, Ooh, that’s what I need. That’s what I need. Don’t make me do the, if I’m going to hire, don’t make me do the work of figuring out what you are. You tell me what you are. Tell me you’re great at it. And then if it’s what I need, I’ll hire you.

Phil: (23:02)
Yeah. In the, in the marketing world, we would call this niching down or niching down if you want to be more appropriate, but niching down. And you know, we try to keep it clean. But the other time I’ve heard in the marketing world is the niches. The, like your, your niche is what separates you from everybody else. Yeah. It is. What makes you the specialized expert?

Michael: (23:23)
I think people are worried about, well, I don’t want to limit my opportunities. I, cause I, I don’t care what I write, whether it’s drama or comedy or broader or grounded, but honestly you are helping yourself get hired by, by getting in that lane and becoming good at that lane. You are, it’s going to be easier for you to get hired. Yeah. So

Phil: (23:40)
It was like if one of my e-commerce clients came to me and said, I want to be the next Walmart online. I want to sell everything under the sun. I would say, okay, how many hundreds of millions of dollars do you have? You kind of be like, what versus someone says, Hey, you know, we’re a specialty craftsmen and we make the super fine, um, rare wood cutting boards. Can you help me? I’m like, absolutely. I could sell that all day because there’s an, there’s a niche there, which means less competition, less. It’s very people looking for very specific things, more likely to be able to be marketable there. And it’s the, again, the old adage from businesses, if everyone’s your customer. No, one’s your customer. Yeah.

Michael: (24:18)
Right, right. This is another example from our life. So my wife has a, um, drives a mini Cooper and she could get that repaired at any, any mechanic could work on it, but there’s a guy I don’t know, 20 miles away and who all needs works on mini Coopers. And she wants, insists on driving to him because he’s a specialist in mini Coopers. That’s all he does. And he knows it inside it. Now, now that doesn’t limit this guy, that that mechanic could work on any car, probably. I mean, if you work on BMWs, for sure, it’s close enough to mini Cooper. They own mini Cooper. But by saying that’s all he does, everyone, all the mini Cooper go owners flood to him. So he has, you know, a larger, the pie is smaller, but he has a larger share of it. So you should be a specialist too. This is what I’m really great at.

Phil: (25:02)
Yeah. I love that. So you pick your lane, you’ve pigeonholed yourself, you’ve picked your niche. And now you’re finding what kinds of shows you’ve talked about Ted lasso, and you talked about Barry. It seems like you should be matching the type of, to me, it makes sense. I want to have something that shows the type of tone for the job I’m applying for. So that would, that would dictate to me that it’s not just about having one great pilot. It’s about having a pilot that matches the tone of a Berry or a Ted lasso or a multicam that’s really popular. That kind of thing.

Michael: (25:35)
Yeah. Right. And, and so the rules, by the way, the rules that apply to someone who’s new don’t or my role is a little different. Like I like I, because I’ve been doing this so long, I can write a broad show. I can write a grounded show, a single camel account, an animated. I kind of can do it all. Uh, if you’re just starting out and I would recommend figuring out what tone you think you’re going to be great at and, and, and going down that lane. And then, and then if you like, then you want to branch out a little bit like, okay, I’ve written a spec for a broadsheet. Let me try writing a spec for a grounded show and you write one of those and make it as good as you can.

Phil: (26:09)
Um, you know, I started earlier by saying, it seems like riding that many pilots seems incredibly daunting because it’s so much work. You have to create the world and characters. And this is, uh, you know, again, I apologize bringing it back to the business world, but I think it’s a very valid point. You know, my mentor who taught me how to do e-commerce and digital marketing, he was talking specifically about how to sell things on Amazon, because Amazon lets third-party sellers sell things. In fact, most of the time you’re buying things, they’re probably from a third party seller and they have very strict regulations on who can sell what and what you need to have to sell things on there. And they do that to protect the customer. And whenever we would train and do consulting at businesses about how to list their products on Amazon, he would bring up this point.

Phil: (26:53)
A lot of people look at that and say, oh, well, it’s so much work. I don’t know if it’s worth it. And he said, you should be praising Amazon because they have made such a it’s made it so difficult that the riff Raff will stay out. Yeah. It’s just gatekeeping. And it basically, what it’s saying is if you’re worthy enough to pass this threshold, then you’re going to, you’re going to succeed because we have what you want. And we’re just, we’re basically weeding out the lazy people and yeah. And it goes back to another thing you said, he said, ultimately, you went in business by doing more than your competitor will. And so when I hear w whenever I hear that seems difficult, or whenever I feel that I might go, oh man, that’s daunting. And I don’t want to do that. That’s kind of my benchmark for that’s something I absolutely need to do, because it sets me apart from everybody else.

Michael: (27:40)
Th there’s a lot of free work that you have to do to get a job. You have to write all this writing spec scripts, that’s free. No, one’s paying you to do that. If the idea of doing free work turns you off, then writer’s not the profession for you. You know? So, uh, but yeah, you have to do. And like, and like you’re pointing out, like when something’s hard or requires a lot of work, I was like, oh good. That’ll weed out. All the people who are not serious about it, that that just cuts my competition down. Like immensely.

Phil: (28:09)
Yeah. It, I mean, and it, as we discussed already too, and I know other screenwriting podcasts I’ve talked about, it is almost easier to be in the NFL than it is to be a working writer. And so you have to approach it as a professional, not as a hobbyist, this is what you do, because this is who you are. And it’s almost like it needs to become part of who you are, what your identity is.

Michael: (28:30)
Yeah. Yeah. How often do you write? Well, the answer is every day, all the time, all the time. And when I’m not writing, while I’m thinking about writing, I’m taking notes about what I want to work on next. And so like, if you’re not sitting, like if you want to compete you or anybody’s listening, once they compete with me, you’re gonna have to step up your game because this is what I do. So if you’re not willing to do what I did well, you’re, you’re coming after my job. So this is what I do. You want to come after my job? You better be working hard.

Phil: (28:55)
Yeah. Great, great stuff. I, again, thanks, Michael. For all of this good stuff. Do you have anything else that you think is valuable on the spec or by,

Michael: (29:02)
I think that’s it. We got more pilot. We got more, um, episodes of our, of our, of our podcast, coming. I’ll have something to say next time.

Phil: (29:09)
I’m looking forward to understanding Michael. Thanks everybody else. Make sure, you know, love, leave a review, send it, share this with somebody else who needs to hear this episode. Yeah.

Michael: (29:18)
So the next one by all means, and follow me on Instagram. I’ve got smart things as hand Instagram at @MichaelJaminWriter.

Phil: (29:23)
Yeah. Again, the members of your course have all said that that’s where your gems are. That’s where all the gyms have information. So

Michael: (29:30)
Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (29:33)

Phil: (29:44)
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing, leaving a review, and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. If you want to support yourself, I encourage you to consider investing in Michael’s screenwriting course and I’ve known Michael for over a decade and in the past seven years, I’ve begged him to put something together during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Michael had time. And I have to say, I wish I’d had this course 10 years ago. As someone who’s personally invested in most online courses, earned a bachelor’s degree, and actively studied screenwriting for over a decade, this course has been more valuable to me than most of the effort I’ve put in because it focuses on something no one else teaches: story. In his course, Michael pulls back the curtain and shows you exactly what the pros do in a writer’s room. And that knowledge has made all the difference for me. And I know it will for you too. You can find more information at For free daily screenwriting tips. Follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJamminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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