A couple weeks ago I had dinner with a bunch of aspiring doctors. (Doesn't it sound funny when you apply the Aspiring label to other industries?) I am jealous of them because their path is so clear: go to college, go to grad school, do your internship and residency, boom. Doctor! Of course they have to be good at what they do, and I am not for a second saying it is not a challenging career - but they do not go through the uncertainty of the path itself the way we do.
The way I see it, the steps to becoming a TV writer are:
1. Write a great TV script
2. Get someone important to read it (and like it)
Alas, it is a simple concept with a more complicated execution. Step 1 might involve reading a zillion books and scripts, watching hundreds of shows, taking classes, going to panels, joining a writers group, staying up late to write because you need a day job to pay the rent, etc. Step 2 might involve getting a job as a PA or assistant, working your ass off for a couple years doing stuff you hate, relentless networking, winning a contest, blanketing the town with queries, etc. And you might get halfway through the steps and have to start over several times.
So what else can you do to expedite the process and get noticed? The internet is a wonderful thing. You might start a blog (getting noticed was never my intention with this blog, but I'm thrilled to have earned some readers), or make a short for YouTube. Maybe you can make several shorts and put them on your own website like Stephen (he got a pitch meting at a cable network). Remember the Doctor? He now works for the head of our Interactive Media Department - or as my boss likes to say, The Internet Guy. (Later on I'll post about how I use the fact that my boss thinks I am a Computer Genius to my advantage.) He knows a lot about developing shows for the internet...and also about the digital world in general. His advice for people putting shorts online:
1. Keep it under 7 minutes. Online videos work best when they can be consumed in small bites. This way, people can watch them in their entirety during their downtime at work.
2. Go for comedy. It's too hard to tell a dramatic story (well) in under 7 minutes. Also, people are more likely to pass them on if they think their friends will laugh. People are also more likely to watch.
3. Get a celebrity. OK, that's kind of hard, but my friend says that a big name will get people watching, and is easy for people to search for. On the search topic...it also helps to give your idea a simple, memorable title.
4. Be Rick Astley. :)