Friday, August 28, 2009

UCLA Writers Faire

E Dot and others have written in about the UCLA Extension's 10th Annual Writers Faire, which takes place this Sunday, August 30. You can get to know the instructors, attend mini-panels, learn about graduate programs, network, and get a 10% discount on fall classes. Also, it's free!

Click here for all the info.

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Fan Friday: Kate's La Petite Choue Blog

Happy happy Friday! This whole screw-having-a-day-job thing has allowed me to spend more time exploring the wonders of the Internets. I actually read the New York Times! It's amazing. Today I'd like to point you over to a fun lifestyle blog called La Petite Choue by my friend Kate. I have no idea what that means, but everything sounds romantic in French, right? She talks about books, restaurants, music, cooking, etc. - and makes me want to venture to the East side.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Baby Blue's BBQ Lunch Special

I probably shouldn't be eating out - and I definitely shouldn't be eating BBQ. But since Baby Blue BBQ's of Venice opened a new location in my beloved WeHo, it's hard to say no. Their lunch special is pretty rad: you get a pulled pork, beef brisket or BBQ chicken sandwich AND a side (like gooey mac & cheese) AND a drink, all for $10.50. Or, you can splurge on a PoBoy, burger or jerk sandiwch for $11.50. Lunch is served weekdays from 12-4.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spec scripts

Saroma writes: Do you pitch your spec scripts to the producers/creators of the shows?

No. Writers write spec scripts (sample episodes of existing TV shows) as examples of their work, usually so they can get a job on the writing staff of a show. (And generally, a different show; I've heard it's poor form, for example, to use a TWO AND A HALF MEN spec to try to get a staff job on TWO AND A HALF MEN.) Specs are useful because they demonstrate that a writer can mimic the characters and tone of another person's show, and therefore be a good addition to a staff. You don't really pitch the idea to anyone except your friends and, if you have them, your agent or manager. People like producers and creators wouldn't hear about a spec until it's done and someone sends it to them as a writing sample.

In recent years there has been a trend toward using original material (pilots, plays, features, short stories, etc.) as writing samples instead of specs. The idea is that original material gives readers a better sense of who you are as a writer - what your individual voice is, what unique characteristics you'd bring to a staff, etc. But since specs are still used (and only specs are considered in many fellowships and workshops, like the ABC/Disney Fellowship and the WB Writer's Workshop), it's probably a good idea to write both specs and original material.

Personally, I recommend tackling a spec first. The characters and world have already been created, and you'll have several episodes to watch, break down and use as templates. You also might check out the old posts from Jane Espenson's blog - she wrote a lot about perfecting your specs and pilots.

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Write your dream wedding for $$ (well, ££)

Jenny wrote in to let you all know about a writing contest that could win you 500£, an iPOD Touch or more. All you have to do is write 250 words about your dream wedding. The deadline is tomorrow at noon GMT (I think that's tonight at 4 am PST), but she says there haven't been that many contestants so you all have a pretty good shot.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Fan Friday

Each Friday, I'll feature something I'm a fan of. This week it's Whitney Matheson's blog Pop Candy at She's a voracious consumer of pop culture, and the breadth of her content is pretty astounding. Check it out!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

2009 Television Writers Program, sponsored by the National Latino Media Council

The 2009 Television Writers Program presented by the National Latino Media Council has extended its deadline for applications to September 14! Don't miss the opportunity to apply for this exciting program.

This program is not for beginners. It is for writers who can write at least a one half-hour comedy or a one-hour dramatic television script in English within a five-week period of time. The program will take place in Los Angeles, CA from November 7 to December 12.

Each participant is expected to complete at least one script by the end of the five-week session, which will then be read by network executives. Those writers whose scripts show promise will be interviewed and mentored by the network executives with the idea of placing them on a show. Nine of our writers from previous sessions have already been placed.

A stipend of $250 per week will be given to each participant.

Flight, housing, and meals will be provided. The program will commence on November 7. If selected, you must be available to fly and stay in Los Angeles, CA from November 7 to December 12, 2009. Writing samples must be in English and television scripts are preferred. Please note that writing teams are ineligible. The deadline for submissions is September 14. Scripts will be evaluated and program participants announced on October 19.

For writing samples to be considered, please submit the following:
Program application
Writing sample (1) hard copy and saved on a CD (PDF format)
Notarized release forms
A paragraph explaining why you want to write for television

To download program application and release forms, please visit

Writing sample must be postmarked by September 14 and sent to:
National Latino Media Council
55 S. Grand Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105

For more information please call Acasia Flores at (626) 792-6462.
Program Sponsored by: NBC, ABC, Southwest

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Part Two

Cleempfshk. That's the sound of my plastic hangers sliding across the wooden bar in my hallway closet. (Okay, I'm no onomatopoeia expert - but I do love metaphors.) I just moved all the skirts and pants and button-up-shirts of my work attire out of my room, because I'm not really going to need them anymore.

Friday was my last day at the agency.

No, I didn't get a sweet writer's assistant gig (though I interviewed for eight). No, I haven't sold my feature spec for some huge number against some huger number. And no, I didn't get fired! I quit. Here's the thing - I started working at the agency in October 2007, telling myself that it would only be a year. Then I spent a few months in the mailroom. Then the strike hit. Then I finally got a desk and the year started over. Finally Day 365 on the desk came, and I announced I'd be looking for jobs. Then Day 366, and 367, and 368...

Cut to July of 2008, day 4-something-but-I-stopped-counting-a-while-ago. I was still in the same job. I was lucky enough to score some good interviews through friends, but none of them panned out. I got a lot of "We love you, but"s. We love you, but we're hiring the showrunner's friend. We love you, but we're promoting from within. We love you, but we're cutting the budget and not hiring anymore. Then staffing season ended, and my prospects started to dry up. I started considering development jobs, feature jobs, whatever, at least they pay more - but those are pretty scarce. Problem is, nobody's getting promoted right now - which means no assistants are leaving their posts. Most of the people I know who work at production companies and studios have been in their positions for two or more years.

But I couldn't stay at the agency forever. I had learned what I was going to learn, and I had made the connections I was going to make. There really was no point to staying there any longer, especially since the salary didn't allow me to save any money. So I started looking for other things. I had heard about other writers finding well-paying work as tutors, so I started applying for tutoring jobs. And I think because I have some experience from college and some experience from volunteering with WriteGirl, I was able to find one with a reputable company. It's not a full-time thing (although 16.5 hours a week of tutoring would pay the same as 40 hours of my old job), but with a little blogging and possibly other occasional part-time gigs, I think I should be able to make ends meet. It helps that I'm not used to making much.

I kind of expected all my assistant friends to gasp and say WHAT? YOU'RE LEAVING THE INDUSTRY? - but everyone has actually been really supportive. I've been congratulated a lot, which is pretty funny, the concept of being congratulated on quitting my job during a recession when I don't have a full-time job to replace it. Still, I'm really happy about it. I do realize that most people get staffed on TV shows as a result of being a writer's assistant or showrunner assistant - and I'm certainly not ruling out the idea of finding that kind of job in the future - but for right now, I'm gonna focus on writing while I pay my bills with non-industry stuff. I think it's also worth noting that in features, nobody really cares what showrunner loves you. You do need to get your script inside the iron walls of Hollywood somehow, but it seems that beyond that, it really is about the script. (As opposed to TV, where I've heard instances of assistants getting to write scripts even if nobody's read a word of their stuff.) Everybody loves the story of the guy who's living in his grandma's basement in Jersey and then he wins the Nicholls or whatever and gets plucked from obscurity. I started out being all ra-ra-ra TV, but since I've worked in features, and since I'm feeling good about my romcom, I've started to think maybe I could pursue that route. (Go ahead, make your joke about how I'll have to change the name of this blog.)

I still recommend getting a job in the industry for the learning experience, but I don't know if you necessarily have to stay there forever. There was an interesting interview with TV writer Scott Rosenberg on the Hollywood Writer's Office Assistants blog in which Scott recommended working in the industry for a couple years and then getting the eff out - he said he even became a truck driver. Because you don't want to get burned out, and you don't want your job to prevent you from writing. I think a lot of aspiring writers find themselves in one of two situations: 1. they have a grueling industry job and when an Important Person says "send me your script," they have nothing to show; or 2. they have a bunch of scripts sitting on their hard drive and nobody to send them to. You do have to gain connections somehow - but you also have to write. I'm hoping the connections I have will come through for me...and for right now it's writing time.

Bleh, okay, enough of that. If you have any questions about my agency experience, please do comment or email. I'm not going to reveal and juicy secrets, but I can certainly advise and reflect.

And as for this blog, expect more posts. And perhaps some weekly features - I've already decided that I'll be doing Thrifty Thursdays, where I feature cheap drinks, lunch specials, etc. for all my fellow economically challenged Angelenos. W00t!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paley Fall TV Preview Parties

Paley's hosting its annual Fall TV Preview Parties September 9-15. Admission is free, but RSVPs are required.

Weds 9/9: Fox: Glee, The Cleveland Show, Brothers

Thurs 9/10: NBC: Community, Trauma, Mercy

Fri 9/11: CBS: Accidentally On Purpose, The Good Wife, NCIS LA, Three Rivers

Mon 9/14: CW: Melrose Place, The Vampire Diaries, The Beautiful Life

Tues 9/15: ABC: Hank, The Middle, Flash Forward, Modern Family, Cougar Town

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

John Wells, Greg Garcia & more

Changing The World: One Story at a Time
Presented by Humanitas with the Writ ers Guild Foundation

Tues, Sept 15 @ 7:30 pm
Writers Guild Theater
135 S. Doheny Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90211

An evening of discussion with major Humanitas writers as they discuss how their work has made a difference. How has their work helped to change lives? How have their stories been used to effect educational or social change? Speakers include Kirk Ellis (Anne Frank, John Adams), Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl), John Wells (ER, West Wing), Paris Qualles (A Raisin in the Sun) plus TBA. Moderated by John Horn (LA Times). Presented with Humanitas to benefit the Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library and other Foundation programs.

Tickets: $20 General; $15 WGA member; $10 Student with ID

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Writing Contests

Joel writes: Have you had any long term success with submitting your work to the various TV/Film writing contests out there?

No. I think all of the studio-sponsored fellowships and workshops are absolutely worth applying to (even if you're not "diverse"), but keep in mind they are extremely competitive. As for some of the other contests, I'm skeptical. There's really no harm in trying, I guess, but I wouldn't count on them as the only way to try to get your work out there. I think that fellowships, workshops and contests are only a small part of getting people to read your work.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Script Format: The Hollywood Standard

A new edition of The Hollywood Standard was just released, and I encourage you all to check it out. No one will take you seriously until you have mastered script format. I maintain that the best way to soak it in is to read as many professional scripts as you can get your hands on (and if you don't work in the industry or have friends who do, there are some great sites with real scripts like Pilot School and Simply Scripts). Still, every now and then you'll come across a unique formatting dilemma and you'll need a guidebook. The Hollywood Standard is your book!

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