Media Production

Why You Should Consider Producing “Spec” Commercials

I’ve been surprised at how few young directors and producers understand the value of producing “spec spots” for their reels. Spec spots are simply made up commercials – “fake spots” if you will. They’re not paid for by a sponsor, they’re written and produced by the filmmaker for the purpose of creating an impressive demo reel. The truth is, many of today’s top movie directors and producers started as commercial directors, and many of those used spec commercials to open that door.

Recently, I asked commercial producer Mark Thomas, Managing Director and Executive Producer at Cultivate Media about the practice. Here’s what Mark said:

There’s no question a significant number of major commercial directors used spec reels to start their career. If you’re talented and driven, there’s no need to wait to get hired, just produce your own spot. After all, it’s not broadcast anywhere, it’s only used to display your talent. Here’s one spot that has the industry buzzing right now.

That director comes out of arguably the finest school in the world for developing commercial directors: Germany’s Filmakademie of Baden-Wurttemberg. Here’s another commercial that came from that school.

Spec spots ARE the best way to break-in…provided they are as well done as these. In advertising, it’s always concepts first, executions second. So, no matter what you do spec-wise, it has to start with a strong, simple concept. One that is grounded in ad-discipline, meaning things like juxtaposition, irony and misdirects are liberally used.

There is now a site where you can search for spec scripts (of course there is). Here’s the link.  From time to time, there are some really good ideas posted there…certainly worth a look to a student looking for material.

There’s no question that the Internet is changing the advertising business, much like it’s changed the music and publishing businesses.  But if you’re really (and I do mean really) good, then there will always be room for you to earn top dollar. There are still many directors earning anywhere between $15,000 – $25,000 per day. Not nearly as many as there were as recent as even five years ago, but my point is that those projects are out there, and clients still recognize the value that a great commercial director can add to their project.

Hope this all helps…
Mark Thomas

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  1. This was not even on my radar. But I am certainly going to bring it to my students’ attention. This is great information!

  2. Great article and information! I’ve started with church commercials and I’m hoping to build my resume enough to become a major commercial director. But, I think a spec commercial is a great idea!

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