I’m a Canadian screenwriter with a criminal record, so I can’t go to the U.S. Is there the slightest possibility I could still sell specs in Hollywood without ever setting a foot there?
Thirty seconds of Googling suggests your criminal record is probably more akin to civil disobedience than, say, punching orphans. I wouldn’t count out the possibility of your coming to the U.S. at some point. With the right (expensive) legal assistance, many problems can be resolved.
In the meantime, yes, you could write and sell a spec from Canada. You’re at a disadvantage to be sure, but you’re really no worse off than the budding screenwriter determined to stay in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Remember that specs are not a screenwriter’s bread-and-butter. Landing assignments and setting up pitches requires meetings. It would be hard to develop an ongoing screenwriting career without being able to meet face-to-face.
Screenwriters are ultimately part of a larger filmmaking community, and if you can’t live in Los Angeles, you would be well-served getting involved with the French-Canadian productions shooting near you.