Friday, May 16, 2008

Expensive lessons

It's been kind of a big week. Work was BUSY. We went out with a spec. And sold it. In like 2 days. The studio exec who bought it said that she came into work to find all her executives arguing about the script's plot. "How could she? He would! She wouldn't! How could they...!" And she knew that any script that got people so fired up was a movie, and a movie she had to make.

We sold it for the amount of money I will make in 25.6 years of being an assistant (and that doesn't even include the writer's producing deal). I guess the lesson there is to write write write so that I can start getting this writing career thing going. God, please let me not be rolling calls when I'm 30. (Speaking of = I saw a great play last night called ASSISTANCE at the Working Stage Theater, about being an assistant and the insanity that comes with it. Luckily my experience hasn't been as harrowing as the one portrayed onstage, but I certainly related to the internal struggle one goes through when her life becomes taking care of someone else's life.)

My boss did tell me that he couldn't have done it without me, that I was an integral part of the process and that I was really on the ball. That was nice. He also brought me back some candy from the candy store (turns out it's not a euphemism for coke!).

Meanwhile, upfronts laid out the slate of new shows for the fall. Variety's got a nice little schedule if you want to check it out. I'm interested to see 90210, LIFE ON MARS, KATH & KIM, THE OFFICE SPINOFF, SIT DOWN & SHUT UP and SURVIVING THE FILTHY RICH. Not a ton of exciting new shows, really.

From the comments - Dan says: ScreenPlayLab hosted an event in April where the head of the Disney Writing Fellowship program spoke. He announced that night that the deadline for applications is July 31, 2008 this year.

Thanks for the tip!

On a similar note, a few of you have asked whether fellowships and contests are worth entering. I think the answer is another equivocal Yes and No. The programs by ABC/Disney, CBS, NBC and Fox are all completely legitimate, and you can be sure that the execs are going to be picking people they want to be in business with. Thing is, they're all highly competitive diversity initiatives. You've seen my picture. I'm probably not getting in. The WB program is the only one not specifically for diversity - but it's also a one-night-a-week-thing that won't take the place of your day job. Still, I've met a writer (and heard of many others) who did the WB program and subsequently were staffed on WB shows. So it works.

As for Scriptpalooza, Script PIMP, Austin, etc. - I figure they're worth a shot if they seem legitimate. I think the goal there would be to use them to find representation. Up-and-coming managers and agents sometimes look at contest winners to find new clients. The contests are filters. They figure, if someone picked this script out of a thousand entries, they've just saved me from reading a pile of crappy scripts. Does a contest win guarantee you get repped? Definitely not. You may still have to write queries, and just drop the fact that you won. We got an unsolicited submission the other day from someone who won Austin, so it obviously didn't work for him (or it got him a really small-time agent and he's looking to upgrade). That's another thing to remember - getting an agent or manager doesn't necessarily mean you've reached ultimate success. It should definitely help - but agents and managers looking to take on brand new writers may not have the resources and contacts to get you staffed or get your material bought immediately.

Anyway, the contests are usually like $50. I figure it's worth a shot for the deadline and the possibility.

A lot of you have also asked for advice on what shows to spec. I'm still collecting intel, but so far I'm getting a different answer from everyone. For example, one TV lit agent assistant said that Grey's is totally out. Then a production company assistant said that her company only reads House and Grey's specs since they're staffing a medical show. For now, I'll say, write specs, write pilots, just WRITE. And don't worry so much about the show's current plot since your readers probably won't be caught up.

13 comments:

Randall Bobbitt said...

"God, please let me not be rolling calls when I'm 30." Oh, to be young and optimistic again... Spec the shows that you know and yes the bigger contests are worth it if you place really high. If you don't, it wasn't ..

Hollie Nell said...

Actually for ABC/Disney, women are still considered minorities as writers. A friend of mine was a finalist and she's a white thirty something playwright. And despite not winning she's gotten a pretty cool consolation prize. So I think its still a good fellowship to enter to get you into the door.

Hollie Nell said...

Actually for ABC/Disney, women are still considered minorities as writers. A friend of mine was a finalist and she's a white thirty something playwright. And despite not winning she's gotten a pretty cool consolation prize. So I think its still a good fellowship to enter to get you into the door.

Hollie Nell said...

Actually for ABC/Disney, women are still considered minorities as writers. A friend of mine was a finalist and she's a white thirty something playwright. And despite not winning she's gotten a pretty cool consolation prize. So I think its still a good fellowship to enter to get you into the door.

BrK said...

Just another "specable show" question. I am just finishing my first spec - an excellent Friday Night Lights. I saw you wrote one last year. (Isn't the show the greatest thing ever?) Anyway, I know it doesn't get great ratings, it's critical buzz is a bit on the decline, it doesn't film in L.A., and because of the Direct TV deal, it won't be on network TV and possibly anyone's radar until January when it airs on NBC. Is this a useless spec? Do you think it might still be a great writing sample if paired with a great spec for a comedy, like a Desperate Housewives or a Pushing Daisies?

I am DYING to pair it with a GREEK spec, but am afraid that is way too low-rated to be of much use either. Any thoughts?


Dan

Katie said...

Dan, if it makes you feel any better, I intern at a cable network and we just hired a showrunner partially because of his FNL spec. Yes, the network has a really good relationship with him and all of the little pieces fell into place, but everyone was raving about his spec so it IS being read in some places.

Dan O'Halloran said...

Don't pass on the The WB program. After it's over, they will pay your salary for 14 weeks if a WB showrunner wants you on their writing staff (so it doesn't come out of the show budget.) That's a no brainer for showrunners.

Deadline is July 25 this year.

-DanO'

Matt-Man said...

Hello Amanda,

What are you hearing about 'the best' half-hour comedy scecs to write?

Amanda said...

To Dan -
I don't think FNL is a useless spec...but it's probably not the most useful. Also, execs/agents/etc. who watched some of the first season might not have seen any of the second, which has a lot of new characters to juggle. I would try to think of something tonally similar that is more popular. Brothers & Sisters maybe? It's a bit sillier - but it's still a heartfelt drama with relationships at its core.

To Matt - Just my opinion, of course - but 30 Rock is definitely the hottest half-hour spec right now. Office is kinda too old - and since SO many people have written them, yours would have to be the most brilliant thing ever written. Entourage I feel like is OK but could get old soon. How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory might be other ideas.

Matt-Man said...

Thanks Amanda,

you wouldn't have, or know, of any 30 Rock PDF's being passed-forward would ya?

Matt.

Angela said...

Hey Amanda,

thanks for the info on the Disney Writing Fellowship. Much appreciated!

Angela said...

Hey Amanda,

thanks for the info on the Disney Writing Fellowship. Much appreciated!

Big T said...

With the Disney/ABC Fellowship, it's not your face that's important.

It's what's behind your face that counts.