LOS ANGELES - It's not surprising -- as has become clear in the giddy productivity and oceanic email volume of these post-strike days -- that many writers turn out to have written scripts on spec over the past few months. Who can blame a harried artist for seizing the rare opportunity of 100 days in a row to put pen to paper and finger to keyboard without the threat of interruption by pedantic studio notes calls, shrill showrunner assignments or agent-mandated meetings? It comes as something of a shock, however, to discover that while the creative half of our business was quietly typing their way ahead of the game, the executive half turns out to have been doing the same thing. Brazenly defying the mandate of "pencils down," executives have apparently written on spec hundreds of emails, letters and faxes that are now being proudly submitted to writers across Hollywood. Apparently these documents are pre-prepared rejections of the scripts and screenplays that writers have sent, are preparing to send -- and in some cases, are vaguely considering sending sometime in the future.
"I was pretty shocked to get the email [from Paramount]," says a prominent screenwriter who asked to remain anonymous. "At first I was impressed that the studio was reaching out to me so quickly after the WGA vote. But then I read the email, and it was all about how he didn't see a way to take on my screenplay, but thanks for sending it -- 'great hook, good dialogue' -- and how he hopes to work together in the future. The thing is: I didn't have a script yet. I was working on one, sure; but I would come home every day from all that marching and -- I don't know -- my back hurt, and my legs were kind of exhausted, and my wife would get on me about some playdate for our daughter and before you know it the afternoon was shot. I meant to; I just didn't get it done. And now, frankly, there doesn't seem to be much of a point."
A prominent television comedy showrunner reports receipt of a similar message, this one a letter from ABC Studios after her Disney-based email account had been disabled with the suspension of her overall deal. "I have to say: it was pretty convincing," the scribe admits. "Apparently they liked my spec pilot, but didn't see a way to get it on ABC's air, given the amount of reality programming occupying primetime slots and given the general 'uphill battle' that comedy faces. And apparently my concept and characters were not 'female-friendly' enough for their demo. I only wish I knew the story or the characters they were referring to," she considers. "I could have made them, I don't know, sisters." Then -- against all odds -- hope enters her voice: "Maybe I will."
Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.