Spec Script versus Shooting Script

Donald L. Vasicek

The spec script is written on spec. What this means is that the screenwriter follows the guidelines for writing a screenplay. These guidelines include format, structure, story, characterization and lean writing.

The spec script should be perceived as a window dressing for the story and characters. Spec means simply that, the screenwriter is writing a screenplay on speculation. Speculation means that the screenwriter will pitch the screenplay to others in hopes of getting the screenplay optioned and/or purchased.

The spec script should be void of camera angles. Using camera angles in spec scripts displays the amateurism of the screenwriter, can clutter the screenplay and can be disconcerting to directors. When writing the spec script, the screenwriter must keep in mind at all times that they are a screenwriter, not a director, not a producer, not a lighting person, not a director of photography or sound person, etc. The screenwriter is the screenwriter and that is all.

The shooting script comes after the spec script has been optioned/purchased and a director has been hired. The shooting script is usually written under the guidance and direction of the director for the film. The shooting script is the genesis of the movie. It is the beginning of a technical document for the director, crew, et al. The screenwriter will work with the director in incorporating camera angles, lighting, sound, changing scenes, character and story arcs, action sequences, etc.

Some directors draw mini-storyboards in pencil right on the pages of the script. The words the screenwriter has written has inspired the director to turn these words into
images. So, the images are drawn on the script pages, and begin to replace the written text on these pages into actual scenes.

Writing spec scripts versus shooting scripts is the unity of opposites. The mingling of dualities. A dichotomy. The spec script is the creative side of the movie. The shooting script is the technical side of the movie via the director’s vision for the movie.

Falcon by Pamela Cuming

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