Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Nickelodeon Writer's Script Review

In Partnership with the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

The Nickelodeon Writer’s Script Review is a one-day, by invitation only event designed to prepare applicants for submission to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship.

Submission Criteria: Script Review applicants need to submit a spec script based on any 1/2- hour comedic television series currently in production on primetime network or cable.

Appropriate spec scripts must be:

Comedic Live Action or Animation Based on a half-hour television series
Currently being produced for primetime network or cable
Typed in standard script format
In black ink In 12pt courier style font
On 8-1/2 x 11, 3-hole punched white paper
With only two brass fasteners (top & bottom)
All spec scripts must include a cover page listing the show name and show title, along with your name, address, email address and telephone number.

To Apply:
Send your spec script along with a Submission Release form and Schedule A to the following address:

Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship Writer’s Script Review - IFFLA
231 W. Olive Ave
Burbank, CA 91502

Submissions must be postmarked no later than Friday, August 14, 2009. Submissions with postmarks later than August 14, 2009 will not be considered.

Please note: Acceptance to the Writer’s Script Review does not equal acceptance to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship. The Writer’s Script Review is designed to prepare applicants for submission to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship – which will begin taking submissions in January 2010.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

4th Annual ITV Fest

The fourth annual Independent TV Festival starts this Friday, July 31 at the Laemmele Sunset 5 in WeHo. Check it out!

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Should I move to LA - or can I get a job from somewhere else?

Alicia writes: I just finished up my MFA and I'm trying to grow the balls to drive from my home in Jersey to LA with the hopes of landing an agency job (or any entry-level job for that matter), as well. I know times are bad. I've put in over 80 job applications at various companies (mostly in the biz) and had one offer to work for free. Honestly, I can't go without a paycheck much longer. I come from humble beginnings, and I had to pay my way through school, which means the loan payments are going to be kicking in soon. You're already out there in the trenches, and I want to know if you think your move has been worth it? Has your journey been fruitful? Have you made viable connections? I get the feeling I need to tune everyone out and just sojourn to LA. In your informed opinion, what do you think?

If you want it, go for it. There's a saying that if you can see yourself being happy doing something else, then you should do something else. But if any other job would just be a job and this is your passion, then I think you should give it a chance and try it out. Jersey will always be there. You can always move to LA, give it a few years and move back if you hate it or don't want to try to live the crazy dream anymore. That being said, be aware that there are thousands of people who DO grow the balls and move out here. Be prepared to compete with all of them for jobs. I have a lot of unemployed friends, many of whom are well-connected. You may have to find a non-Hollywood job in the meantime...but that might not be the worst thing in the world.

Yes, the economy sucks. People with experience have been laid off and will be competing with you for open positions, making it harder than ever. Shows have cut their budgets. Executives must now survive with one assistant instead of two! But I always tell people that it has never been easy. Five, ten, twenty years ago, even in the '70s when my boss says "money grew on trees" - it was still tough and competitive and took a lot of work to make it in Hollywood. If you want easy, this is not for you. Similarly, if you want a clear-cut path like 1. go to undergrad 2. go to med school 3. do your residency 4. be a doctor, this is not for you. There is no guaranteed path for success or failure. Every writer has their own story and set of unique, fateful circumstances.

As tempting as it is to stay in NJ and apply for jobs online, you're not going to get hired this way. I don't really think any of those 80 jobs ever really considered you. You need to move here. It's hard, I know, but thousands of other people do it - and they're all going to be considered before you. Click on the Job Search tab on the right for more posts about this. As for the money thing - you may want to sit tight for a year or two, get whatever random job will pay you the most and just sock money away. I wish I had, but I was too restless and excited and I came out here with no savings. I feel guilty and embarrassed every time I watch Suze Orman.

Was my personal decision worth it? I don't know. Ask me in five years...I've only been out here permanently for two. Sometimes I do get discouraged and wonder if I'll ever be successful, but I'm realistic and know it's going to take me a little while longer. I don't know any 24 year-old solidly working writers (and don't tell me about them, please). Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut, though...for a while most of my phone calls to my mother included diatribes about how college degrees are worthless, the American dream is dead, and there is no reason to believe that hard work will make you successful. Luckily for her I'm not always so dramatic.

I think you always just have to keep asking yourself: Is this what you want? Are you writing, or reading, or doing whatever you need to do to help you career? Are you learning at your job? Overall, yes - I think my decision to work at an agency has been worth it. I have learned a LOT and made some very important connections. Would I recommend it to everyone? Not necessarily. Is it the only way to go? No.

Take a chance. Make the move. Don't let yourself be a victim of the economy, of self-doubts, of naysayers, of whatever. You are the only one in control of your career, your life and your future. I know that sounds like a horrible self-help pamphlet or something. Not even a book, but a you know it's bad. But trust me on this. As long as you feel like you're in charge and you're being proactive about everything, I think you'll be fine.

I'll get more specific in a couple weeks, as I'm in the process of some big lifey things myself (sadly, no, I did not just sell a spec for a gazillion dollars). But regardless, I'm feeling positive. You can too! As my screenwriting mentor/idol/fairy godmother told me last night, "Have fun! Do shots! Have sex in the bathroom!" So I pass that advice along to all of you. Metaphorically or literally.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to Get an Agency Job Without Any Experience

A while ago, someone asked about how much experience they'd be expected to have to get an assistant job at an agency.

It depends. For a lot of us (myself included) an agency desk is our first assistant job. Agencies are centers for information, and a lot of people start there regardless of whether they have any intention of becoming agents. If you want to be a producer or executive, putting in a year at an agency is a logical first step. Many agents understand this and hire people with no desk experience. Still, it can be very useful to do internships or work in the mailroom (or both) so you at least get familiar with the world of Hollywood. However, I've known people to get hired as assistants without having done either of those things. (They often knew important people.)

Some senior agents will only hire assistants with experience. They might:
1. Steal an assistant from a lower-level colleague
2. Hire someone from a lesser agency, or maybe a management company

Otherwise, it's tough for them to find people with experience who want the job - because a person with a year of agency experience is probably looking for a different kind of desk - studio, network, production company, etc., unless they want to be an agent. And if they want to be an agent, they're probably going to stay at their current company and get promoted (unless it's kind of a crappy agency).

Sometimes it feels very frustrating because people only want assistants who have already been assistants. But how do you get that experience? I know, I know. You have to just keep trying, be confident in yourself and assure the interviewer that you can do the job (I'm sure you can). Otherwise, it can be useful to pick up assistant-type skills (phones, scheduling, etc.) as a PA or intern or temp of some kind. And don't be afraid of starting in the mailroom. I did it. My boss did it. You could do it too.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Girl power

My friend wrote this fantastic blog about sexism in Hollywood that you all should read.

I find that sexism burns quietly but steadily here. It's not overt, it's not people telling you that you won't succeed, it's not graphic objectification. It's people saying "female-driven" as if it's a genre when male-driven projects are simply "movies" or "shows." It's writing off the Sex and the City movie as a fluke. It's the refusal to buy R-rated movies with female leads. It's that 7% of the DGA is female. It's Oscar-winning movies with 1 or 0 female characters. It's "strong" female characters who are sassy and tough but wear tight leather and need men to save them. It's the fact that men see stories about women and label them as stories about women but women see stories about men and just consider them stories.

It just makes me mad.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Act Breaks in Premium Cable

Harris writes: I'm working on a one-hour spec pilot that thematically and tonally feels suited for premium cable. Should I be including traditional act breaks and such?

Great question. I say no. Anyone with other experience can feel free to comment, but when I wrote my Weeds spec I studied several real scripts and found no act breaks, so I copied that format. After a look at the Pilot School website, I found that The Sopranos is the same.

HOWEVER - and this is a big however - I'm talking about format, i.e., actually writing "END OF ACT TWO" - not structure. Premium cable doesn't give you a free pass to ignore structure. While you might not need traditional cliffhangery act breaks, you still need story turns. I thought of my Weeds in a beginning-middle-end-tag fashion: the problem, what we do about the problem, the ramifications of our choices, and the set-up for next episode's problem. Watch episodes of other premium cable shows and see how they do it. Many of these writers have also written for network or basic cable, and I bet already have traditional structure ingrained in their minds.

UPDATE: Okay, you guys have convinced me. In the interest of using your spec pilot as a sample for a variety of shows, put act breaks in your pilot. But don't put them in a spec of a show that doesn't use them.

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Interview with Pang Ni-Landrum

The Hollywood Writer's Office Assistants blog has another great interview up, this time from Pang Ni-Landrum.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Agent Season

Dan writes: I know that staffing season is the worst time for agents to consider taking on new clients. What are the best times of the year, if any?

Probably now, actually. There is no hard and fast rule, but staffing season finishes up in June, and now we're in the (short) lull before development season is in full force with lots of pitches. (Though I know many are already being set.) You will find that many agents and execs take this time to go on vacation and reacquaint themselves with their families, though.

Another good time to be sending your stuff out is early December, since many agents hope to catch up reading over the 3-4 week holiday break.

I'm not sure if these seasons are really a way to tailor your strategy - you should always be meeting people, always be writing, always be trying to get people to read. But logically, now is better than, say, February.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just a writer? Not good enough.

Check out THE MULTI HYPHENATE by Kirsten Smith, and rethink your aspirations!

(Internet Explorer users - if you're having trouble, click the link below the video.)

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Assistant Dos and Don'ts

Check out my Twirlit post:

Hollywood Assistant Files: Top 10 Dos and Don'ts

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WB Workshop

Sorry for the hiatus. I've been busy celebrating our nation's birth and watching my favorite band play with the LA Phil and whatnot. I'm sure many of you have been busy writing last minute essays for all the fellowships and workshops. James wanted me to let everyone know that the WB TV workshop website has an "online application," but actually requires you to submit everything by mail as well - so make sure you give yourself enough time. The deadline is July 25. (Thanks James!)

I will be getting to more of those questions soon. 

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