Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What to expect in an agent meeting

A reader writes: When a lit agent likes a script by a new writer enough to meet with them, what are they looking for in the meeting? What are agents hoping to see or not to see?


If an agent likes your script enough to meet with you, you've already won half the battle! Agents will not bother with a writer unless they think that writer is talented. Think about it...it takes a lot of work to get a writer a job (or sell their spec material). Agents don't get paid until you do, so signing someone is always a risk and an investment of time.


In the meeting, all you really need to do is be passionate about your ideas. (So I guess that's the first thing...have some ideas.) When it comes to an agents and managers, you want someone who is excited about you and excited about the kinds of material you're excited about. Someone who gets you as a writer. 


As a general note, I would do as much research as I could on IMDB Pro, StudioSystem, Variety, etc., about the agent's background, clients, etc. This is actually good advice for all meetings. You shouldn't feel like you need to impress them or kiss ass (they're already impressed by your script), but you don't want to come in and look too green or clueless about how Hollywood works. Agents want to represent people who are ready to be sent out on other meetings. 



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Script Frenzy starts tomorrow

Similar to National Novel Writing Month, Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or "best" scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.


Anybody participating this year?

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Monday, March 29, 2010

For anyone writing at a coffee shop who is tired of writing at a coffee shop


From my friend and fellow WriteGirl Ashaki:


The Writers Junction is now open in Santa Monica and selling memberships. I like it. You might like it, too. Free coffee and tea in the kitchen; Wi-Fi; plasma flat-screen and blankets in the break room; lovingly sarcastic television, newpaper, novel and poetry writers; and, rare appearances by a dog named Keelee. (I know that was not a complete sentence.) Monthly memberships are available in case you want just one month of writing sanity where you don't end up smelling like roasted coffee beans. Special workshops are available to members like the upcoming course on selling your non-fiction book.

Oh, and the chick who wrote this about The Writers Junction for the LA Times is also a member. 



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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Do you need to write every day?

Tony writes: Writers always say "write every day." What if you haven't found an idea you want to stick to and write yet? What do you write about every day then? I really try write every day, but some days I simply don't have any ideas. Do I just need to work through it and squeeze some creative juices out of my mind...or find a new profession? 

I don't write every day. Maybe I should, but my system seems to be working for me right now. I think the difference between professional writers and aspiring writers, though, is that pros don't wait for inspiration to strike. They can sit down and force themselves to write even when they don't feel like it, even when it's really really hard and Swiffering the kitchen floor would be way more fun. So if you're concerned that you don't have the determination to be a professional writer, make that your test. Can you write even when you don't feel like it? You're going to have to if you want to make writing your livelihood.

I do think that working through your inspirational dry spells is something you get better at with time. I haven't gotten paid to write scripts yet, but I've heard that it's easier to write when you know you're getting paid to do it. From my own experience, I do know that it's easier to write when you know people like managers and producers are waiting to read your material. 

There's also more to being a writer than churning out pages. In addition, you should be devouring scripts, shows, movies, etc. If you're having a tough day, catch up on some reading and watching. Watch actively and break down an episode or movie for structure. It's still productive.

I also find it helpful to be working on a couple things at once. If you're stuck - or if you're waiting for notes, jump over to another project. This way, you won't start to hate all of your projects and you'll be able to look at things with a fresh perspective.

If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, think about your favorite shows or movies. What inspires you about them? What things in the world really bother you, or make you want to learn more? Who in your life is an interesting character? What is a story that only you can tell?  Being an avid reader of newspapers, magazines, even Craigslist ads might also spark ideas (the feature I'm currently working on is inspired by a CL ad).

Lastly, writing scripts is impossible if you don't have a solid plan/outline/etc. Are you just starting with a blank screen and jumping right into the script? Fill in a SAVE THE CAT beat sheet first. Write a character bio (more on that later). Clarify your theme. I always want to jump into writing the script immediately because I like dialogue best, but you'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache by doing adequate prep.


(And by the way, writing every day is kind of lame. People with more "normal" jobs get weekends...why shouldn't we?)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

David Mamet explains how not to write a crock of shit

My roommate keeps IMing me various parts of David Mamet's memo to the writers of THE UNIT (you can read the whole thing on Moveline). Here is her favorite section:


ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.
DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Interview w/ Sarah Haskins & Emily Halpern

Check out this awesome interview from KeyPA.net with writing team Sarah Haskins & Emily Halpern, who wrote the spec BOOKSMART (my fave from the Black List this year). They talk about breaking into the industry, working as a team, whether jobs or agents come first, and how an unsold spec can still launch your career.


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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WriteGirl Bold Ink Awards!

Please support WriteGirl AND schmooze with big screenwriters by going to the 2010 Bold Ink Awards! Tickets are $75, or $150 for a VIP ticket. Click here to purchase!

Thursday April 1, 2010
7-9 pm
The Recording Academy & The GRAMMY Foundation
3030 Olympic Blvd (Lantana Center)
Santa Monica, CA 90404

2010 Honorees:
Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated, Something's Gotta Give)
Elizabeth Sarnoff (Lost)
Marisa Silver (novelist, God of War, Babe in Paradise)
Patricia Seyburn (poet, Hilarity Mechanical Cluster)
Lynda Resnick (entreprenuer/author, Rubies in the Orchard)

Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview with BURN NOTICE showrunner Matt Nix

"A 'showrunner' as a position is a relatively new thing. It used to be the executive producer. That's not true anymore. Now it’s evolved into this model where people look to showrunners and say, that guy is that show. It’s just become a lot more interesting to know the showrunner and to get a sense of that person.  It’s certainly not true of every show on television. But if you meet [Mad Men creator and producer] Matt Weiner, he looks like Mad Men, he sounds like Mad Men, Matthew is Mad Men, he just is." - Matt Nix


Check out the whole interview at Deadline Hollywood.




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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Working for the "suits"?

Casey writes: How do you feel about network-oriented jobs? Good experience for an emerging writer, or a good way to stay in a suit forever? I have an interview tomorrow, but in talking to other writers, I've often heard jokes about the "evil suits" in development. I think that working in television would be better than not working in television, and I know that I would be interacting with writers and producers, and witnessing that creative element first-hand. I would be reading scripts, giving coverage, sitting in on meetings, that kind of thing.

I guess I'm looking to hear if writers and producers really see development people as "suits," and if I would be viewed as less of a writer in this job. Looking further down the line, would it actually be harder to be seen for staffing jobs, or considered a "creative", with this job under my belt?


First off, congrats on the interview! I think you'd be very smart to take a job like this. You're absolutely right: working in television would be better than not working in television. There may come a point when you decide you've learned enough and you'd rather have a non-industry job while you work on your writing, but the knowledge you'd gain in this job would be invaluable for all the reasons you mentioned - reading scripts, writing coverage, sitting in on meetings, etc. You will also make great connections with writers, producers, executives, agents, managers, etc.

Usually the only people considered "suits" in Hollywood are agents and lawyers, and maybe network or studio presidents. The Big Bosses. Development execs are usually really down-to-earth, creative people - and they often wear (designer) jeans. They're not frazzled starving artists like stereotypical writers, but they're people who work with writers all day long...so I think you'd get along better with them than you think.

And even if you did find the opportunity to work for a "suit," you should jump at that as well. A friend of mine works on a show many of you are obsessed with, and he got the job because he used to work for the head of a network. When he took the network job, he was deciding between that job and another one working for a lower-level development person. Although you might be involved in more creative work if you work for a lower-level person, there are unique benefits to working for the Big Boss. When the lower-level exec found out my friend was even considering passing up the Big Boss desk, she called my friend and said, "Are you crazy?? Go work for him!" So he did, and it paid off. Because if you do a good job working for a Big Boss, then when the time comes for you to move on, the Big Boss will call a showrunner or whomever and say, "Hire my assistant." And nobody tells the Big Boss no. Ideally, you should try to work for the person who does exactly what you want to do. But in the absence of that, work for the most powerful person you can find. (Or find a job that will lead you to one of those situations.)

Back to Casey: You'd only be stuck in development forever if you chose to be. Generally, people move around a lot. Nobody will see you as less writerly for working in development; in fact, I bet they'll be glad that you know how the system works already. Trust me, tons of writers get their start this way. You have to prove yourself and focus on doing a good job, but at some point I'm sure you'll be able to show your writing to your boss and coworkers, and/or move to working as a writer's assistant, showrunner assistant, etc. But don't get ahead of yourself...the first year or so should be about learning a lot and soaking everything in.

I hope you get the job!


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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Talk the Talk: A Dialogue Workshop for Scriptwriters

Talk the Talk: A Dialogue Workshop for Scriptwriters by Penny Penniston is the first screenwriting book I've seen that focuses solely on dialogue. It quickly moves from the theoretical to the practical, including a number of interesting exercises that challenge writers to improve their dialogue within the framework of voice, character and scene development. The book is not quite as long as it seems (the font is oddly large), but if you get notes like "all your characters sound the same" or if you just think your dialogue could be improved, check it out. There are exercises for writing new scenes, rewriting current scenes and evaluating the works of others. As writers it's always important to be perfecting our craft and challenging ourselves!


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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Free Writing Event at USC

The USC Master of Professional Writing Program presents...

The Best of Times: Writing in the Age of the Internet

Thursday, March 11, 2010
6 PM -- 8 PM

The changing landscape of publishing, media, and entertainment is at once rife with challenges and opportunities for all involved. For writers, the architecture and manner of delivery may be different, but the art of story telling, and the fundamental human need for communication remains constant. How can fiction and non-fiction writers, screen and television writers, poets and journalists best penetrate and navigate the world of the Kindle, the iPad, and free online news? A panel of experts who have transitioned successfully from the old to the new world will share their experiences and address questions.

Tom Lutz, author, Editor-in-chief, Los Angeles Review of Books; Associate Professor of Creative Writing at UC Riverside and Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for Performance at UCR Palm Desert.

Johanna Blakley, deputy director of the Norman Lear Center, a think tank that studies the convergence of entertainment, commerce and society. Based at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, Blakley performs research on global entertainment, cultural diplomacy, celebrity culture, digital media and intellectual property law. Former web producer and digital archivist at Vivendi-Universal Games; Member, board of directors of Les Figues Press, a venue for literary experimentation.

James Rainey, media columnist, Los Angeles Times

Otis Chandler, CEO & Founder, Goodreads.com-- a social network for book lovers.

Zuade Kaufman, co-founder and publisher, Truthdig.com. Former reporter for Westside Weekly, a Los Angeles Times publication.

Moderator: Gina Nahai, best-selling author, Caspian Rain, Cry of the Peacock, Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith, Sunday's Silence, Lecturer, Master of Professional Writing Program

Location:

Hedco Neurosciences Building (HNB), Room 100
University of Southern California
3641 Watt Way
Los Angeles CA 90089

RSVP: mpw@college.usc.edu


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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Foreign writers?

Jojo the Swede writes: Swedes have had great success as directors (Lass Hallstrom) and especially as actors (Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Skarsgard) in the US, but how is it with writers? I have long dreamt to write for a TV drama series. The thing is, I'm Swedish, so the alternatives are the PBS of Sweden and BBC, but really - everything good comes from your side of the Atlantic. People here know more about America than their own country! Is there any interest in Europeans (who are not native speakers, as the British and Irish)? Do we have a harder time proving ourselves worthy?

I think the main point is that it's all about your script. Write a great script. I don't think your background will hurt you at all, though the fact that you're not a native English speaker may mean that you'll have to work harder to write eloquent scripts in English. Often your unique background or specific experiences can help you, and producers/executives/etc. definitely like to find fresh, original voices.

If you want to work in the American TV or film industry, your other main obstacle would be making contacts and getting noticed here. It's not easy to get an entry-level job to make connections since it's so tough to get a company to sponsor your visa (I've blogged about this before). You might try to pursue some kind of writing career in Sweden first.


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More behind-the-scenes blogs

After my last post, Dane wrote in to share the CSI:MIAMI Producer's Blog. Some of the posts are more production-related, but there's some gossip from the writers room too. (Thanks, Dane!)


I did some searching for more and it seems like a lot of shows start blogs in their beginning promotions, but then only update once. I'm hoping we'll see more pop up.



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