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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About Donald L. Vasicek

Award-winning writer/filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the acclaimed Dov Simens and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin, daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor. Don has taught, mentored, and is a script consultant for over 300 writers, directors, producers, actors and production companies. He has also acted in NBC’s “Mystery of Flight 1501”, ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley, and Red-Handed Productions’ “Summer Reunion.” These activities have resulted in his involvement in over 100 movies during the past 23 years, from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56 million “Warriors of Virtue”, Paramount Classic’s “Racing Lucifer”, American Picture’s “The Lost Heart” and “Born To Kill” starring the Charles Bronson of Korea, Bobby Kim, and his internationally-known brother, Richard, who directed, Incline Productions, Inc.’s “Born To Win”, 20th Century Fox’s “Die Hard II” starring Bruce Willis with Rennie Harlan as director, and Joel Silver as producer, Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Haunted World” with Emmy-nominated PBS Producer Alison Hill, and Olympus Films+, LLC’s “Faces”, “Oh, The Places You Can Go” and the award-winning “The Sand Creek Massacre” documentary film. Don also has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include “How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced” and “The Write Focus.” He has been a guest screenwriting and filmmaking columnist for Hollywood Lit. Sales, Moondance International Film Festival’s e-zine, Screenwriter’s Forum, Screenplace, Screenplayers.Net, Screenwriters.Net, Screenwriters Utopia, Spraka & Kinsla (Swedish), Inkwell Watch, and Ink On the Brain. Writing recognition includes Houston’s WorldFest International Film Festival, Chesterfield’s Writer’s Film Project, Writer’s Digest, The Sundance Institute, The Writer’s Network, and the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Guild, Inc. Don completed producing “The Sand Creek Massacre”, a documentary film project that includes the completed and award-winning documentary short, a book, a classroom video, Interactive Media, a study guide, and a lesson plans. The film is being distributed by Films Media Group. Don is on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. He is the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company and a screenwriting volunteer on AllExperts.com. Don’s screenwriting agent is Robin Kaver of the Robert Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc., 1501 Broadway, Suite 2301 New York, NY 10036, 212-840-5751.

3 thoughts on “Spec Script versus Shooting Script

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