Saturday, October 31, 2009

Schmoozing the assistants?

Jennifer writes: One of my instructors at UCLA Extension told us the best way to get get staffed on a show these days (if we don't yet have an agent) is to try and get in good with the assistants on various shows, so they'll read our material and if we're lucky, pass it on to their bosses. He said this is probably a more helpful and productive route than trying to land an agent first to get us a job second.

What are your thoughts on this from your experience? And if you agree that "getting in" with the assistants is the best way to go, how in the world do you go about doing that? Start cold calling or emailing them from some production company staffing lists that exist somewhere?

Networking is definitely important, but I think there's some flawed logic in your teacher's advice. Why would those assistants want to help you? Don't you think that they are aspiring writers too, and want to use their positions to get their own writing opportunities? Their bosses are too busy to read a million scripts by I bet the one script that gets handed over will be written by the assistant. Besides, you're asking for a favor that you have no right to be asking for.

Instead, focus on making FRIENDS. Cultivating RELATIONSHIPS. People want to help their friends, not random cold callers.

As for getting staffed - if you can't find an agent yet, I would recommend you become one of those assistants on a show, at a production company, etc. I realize it's hard - and you may have to be another kind of assistant first (PA, office PA, agent assistant, manager assistant, etc) - but being a showrunner assistant or writer's assistant can be a path to getting a freelance episode, and then getting a staff gig. It doesn't happen for everyone, and it doesn't happen on every show, but I have seen it work for some people. And even if you don't get a script or get staffed, you'll still be learning about the craft and meeting professional writers who may be able to give you notes or, if they like your work, refer you to their agents.

Related posts:
That Guy
Favors, Cahones, Contests
Respectful Networking

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The lack of women in late-night TV

Check out this really interesting Vanity Fair piece by Nell Scovell about the sexual favoritism at Letterman and the disappointing lack of women writers in late-night TV.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Upcoming WGA events

Make sure you're checking the WGA website I have linked on the right for cool panels and events (here's their calendar). There are too many for me to feature them all, but they're a great opportunity to hear from writers you admire!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Advice from Carter Bays

Really enjoyed the 826LA panel last night. I'm generally kind of sick of panels, because it's either really basic advice I've heard a million times (like "write every day" and "try to get a job on a show"), or it's really upper level stuff I can't relate to (like "ugh, it's so hard when your quote drops from a million to half a million"). This panel was a nice medium, since the panelists treated us like we were beginners, but we knew what we were talking about.

When asked if new writers should try specs or pilots, Carter said he didn't think it really mattered. You just have to "make people laugh." Putting your stuff on the Internet might also be a good idea; he said that he hasn't hired anyone off a YouTube clip yet, but you never know.

He also stressed that with writing pilots, you should go for a show you're passionate about - and something that can generate 100 stories you'll want to write.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Entertainment Weekly

I'm not making money off this or anything...but I thought you guys might want to know that you can get Entertainment Weekly for $10 a YEAR at this site. I've always found it to be a fun mag if you're a fan of all things TV & film. Just the right amount of snark.

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Colleges with Good Screenwriting Programs

Tobie writes: I was wondering if you could tell me what colleges have good screenwriting/playwriting courses?

Here is a list of schools that I know people have enjoyed and/or resulted in them coming to LA and getting a job in Hollywood. I'm sure there are others out there; feel free to comment. Definitely give prioirty to any school in LA (or that has a LA semester program), since that allows you to do really valuable industry internships while you're still in college. (Any schools in NY also would be attractive for internship possibilities.) Note that just because a school has a screenwriting or playwriting program doesn't mean it has any connection to Hollywood. If you really want to pursue this as a career, you need to study craft AND the business of it all.

Ithaca (I went here and it led to me studying in LA and ultimately moving here)
Boston University
University of Miami
UT Austin (one of few public schools with an LA semester program)
Notre Dame (not sure about their programs, but I have a bunch of friends who work in Hollywood who went here)
Yale (same as above)

Keep in mind that being a screenwriter or TV Writer doesn't require a degree (but if it's the only thing that really interests you, I say go for it.)

You could also attend a different school and then study in LA through a school that does have a program here.

Related posts:
Is TV School Worth It?
Grad school? UCLA Extension?
Getting a Head Start

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

TV Writer Panels Benefitting 826LA

826LA Adult Writing Seminar Series: TV Writing! A Four-Part Miniseries

Sundays, October 11, 18, 25 and November 1 at 7:30 p.m.

826LA East
1714 W Sunset Blvd
LA CA 90026
(213) 413-3388

Join us in a panel discussion with professional writers from some of the best programs currently on TV. Our hilarious panelists will discuss such topics as creating one s own work vs. staff writing, business vs. art (and whether it s always a vs situation), long days, stale jokes, breaking new ground, and the looming threat of new media. Panelists will also answer your questions and give tips for breaking into the business.

$25 per installment or $100 for the full miniseries
Tickets prices are non-refundable. All proceeds go to 826LA.

For a limited time get $10 off one installment (of your choice) or 25% off of the entire series (it's like getting one free!).

826LAML01 to get $10.00 off of one installment 826LAMLA01 to get 25% off the entire mini-series.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Each seminar will feature 3 - 4 writers and, in some instances, include an industry executive. All panels moderated by Ben Blacker.

October 18, 7:30 p.m.
Carter Bays
Samantha McIntyre
Warren Bell
Sam Register
David Schulner

October 25, 7:30 p.m.
Chrissy Pietrosh & Jessica Goldstein
David Slack
Jerry Stahl
...To be continued

**About 826LA**


826LA West
685 Venice Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90291

826LA East
1714 W. Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026

826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: DineLA Restaurant Week

DineLA's Restaurant Week offers specially-priced lunch and dinner menus at restaurants all across LA. I had some delicious salad, pasta, and chocolate cake (you can never go wrong when the word "decadence" in the name) at Taste today. Check it out!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Industry vs non-industry jobs

Elyse writes: I’m moving to LA in February, and I’m looking for some employment insight. Since you’ve gone from an industry to non-industry job, you seem like a good person to ask. I have basically two options:

1. Since my goal is to eventually work as a TV writer, it seems like a no-brainer to take whatever industry job will have me, and make some solid contacts while I pay my dues and learn the ins and outs of the business.

2. Obviously my goal is to leave my current career (copywriter). But in light of how the economy’s been tanking, it almost seems like a more even-handed approach to nail down a job in my current field, then write/network like crazy/take some classes/hunt for a less-than-terrible industry gig in the off-hours. I know that in a lot of ways, this plan is a far cry from the first-hand experience I’d get as an assistant – but, since I can’t afford to go potentially months without paid work, I do want to be realistic.

As someone who’s been on both sides of the equation and actually lives in LA, what would you recommend? I’m stumped.

Good question. I would read through my old posts about the Job Search for more. Here's the thing: right now, you are an outsider. And in order to be a successful writer, you have to get on the inside somehow. Some people sort of slip inside by winning the ABC/Disney or Nicholls Fellowship, or they might have strong connections through their family. But the vast majority of us can't expect to be successful this way. I recommend that people get industry jobs so that they can become insiders. Make connections. Learn how it all works. Meet friends who will champion their writing. Without that, you're kind of doomed.

I don't work in the industry anymore, but I did for 2-3 years. Without the information I learned and the contacts I made, I don't think I would be equipped to forge ahead in my career.

For you personally, you don't really have to decide right now. Save some money and move to LA. Once you're here, try to get an industry job. If that doesn't work, at least you have your copywriting skills to fall back on.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Fan Friday: Ze Frank

I started following Ze Frank a few years ago when I lived in New York. With a combination of info, commentary and humor, he's a great vlogger who now does mostly political stuff for Time. I think what I love most about him is that he's got a very creative way of looking at things. A new lens. A voice. Whatev. Check him out!

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Thursday, October 1, 2009