Wednesday, July 27, 2011

THR's 25 Best Film Schools

The Hollywood Reporter has unveiled a new list of the 25 Best Film Schools.

I'm a little disappointed my alma mater, Ithaca College, didn't make the list. Since I know you're curious, we have some cool industry alums, including Bob Iger (CEO of the Walt Disney Company), Liz Tigelaar (creator of Life Unexpected; currently working on Once Upon a Time under her ABC Studios overall deal) and Allan Loeb (screenwriter of 21, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Switch and Things We Lost in the Fire). Maybe after I become super important in Hollywood I can help us make the list?

Also, for what it's worth, the list is focused on film, not television.

I loved studying film and TV in school (and it directly led to me coming to LA), but it's not a requirement for a career in Hollywood. I think anyone out here will tell you that they learned more after school then during it. I've met some really talented and successful people who went to college for poli sci or art history, and I've also met some clueless people who paid $200,000 to go to a fancy film school.

For me, the most important thing was coming to LA and doing internships - so no matter where your school is, try to spend at least a summer here. (One of the best things about Ithaca was that its Los Angeles program made that incredibly simple.)

For more about film school, check out these posts:

Is TV School Worth It?
Colleges With Good Screenwriting Programs

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Movies with stars. The other kind of stars.

Nothing says summer in LA like watching movies out under the stars! This past Saturday I saw It Happened One Night at Hollywood Forever and it was lovely. You've got two options for outdoor cinema:

Cinespia @ Hollywood Forever - Bring a picnic!

Outdoor Cinema Food Fest @ various locations (downtown, BH, etc) - this one has food trucks!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Final Draft Discount!

Want Final Draft? Click here to get it for $169 instead of the usual $249.

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Selling a pilot spec or pitch as a beginner?

Daniel writes: Most people I've talked to about writing TV pilot specs have told me that no one would buy a spec pilot script from an unknown writer, but others have told me that unknown writers can pitch ideas for new TV shows or sell their pilot specs to TV networks. From your personal knowledge, do you know if you need to be an established writer to sell a pilot? Are you aware of any examples of unknown writers selling a pilot?

I have heard differing opinions on this as well. I think the majority of people who sell pilot pitches and specs have experience. It makes sense if you think about it...having more knowledge and experience would likely result in a better pilot, and perhaps a more commercial idea. More experience also results in more connections and friends around town who want to work with you, which likely improves your chances of selling something.

Still, it's not impossible to sell an idea as a newbie. I know a young writing team, Hyatt & Umansky, that sold a drama pilot to NBC last year. Sure, networks and studios want to be in business with people who have heat around town, people their competitors are talking about...but each year, networks buy ideas from both established writers and newbies. They can't all be $500,000 ideas. Buyers also look for a variety of points of view, so they might take a chance on someone coming from features, comic books, theatre, stand-up/sketch comedy, etc. (Another friend of mine sold a pilot after his feature script landed on the Black List.) Non-TV-buzz also worked for Lena Dunham, who sold upcoming HBO series Girls after gaining heat from writing, directing and starring in features Tiny Furniture and Creative Nonfiction. Like many new TV writers, Lena was paired up with seasoned producers: Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner. Finding an established producer to help you develop and pitch your idea is definitely a way to help your chances.

Also remember that cable networks launching new scripted departments might be casting a wider net, and might be open to ideas (and writers) that other networks aren't. Matthew Weiner wrote Mad Men as a spec, and HBO and Showtime passed...but a few years later, it was a perfect fit for AMC. Weiner did have experience, yes...but I think many cable networks would be willing to take a chance on a new writer if the idea was really attractive to them.

All you need is a pitch meeting, or to get your spec pilot in the hands of the right people. Generally for either of those things you need a manager or agent, so you might want to start with that.

From my research, it seems that most shows on the air were created by people with at least staff writer experience... but remember that a bunch of ideas are purchased and then a bunch of pilots are shot before things get to the air. Also remember that spec pilots are increasingly desirable as writing samples to get you an agent or get you staffed on a show. At a beginning point in your career, I would think less about season 4 of your spec pilot series and more about how you can make the pilot script the best writing sample possible.

Also, I know that some new writers think, "I don't want to be staffed on someone else's show...I only want to work on my own ideas." This attitude isn't going to get you anywhere. If your ultimate goal is to be a TV writer, being staffed would teach you a world of things about writing - and yes, probably make the process of pitching your own pilot ideas easier.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

For those with 90s nostalgia...

TIME: Happy Sweet 16: Top 10 Reasons Why Clueless Is Still Awesome
The longer you live in LA, the more jokes you understand. This movie never gets old for me!

NY Times:The Good 'Ol Days of 20 Years Ago
TeenNick is bringing back classic 90s Nick shows like All That and Clarissa Explains it All. Can't wait to brush up on my Everyday French with Pierre Escargot!

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

When will I hear about my job application?

Nimat writes: I've been living in L.A. for a few days now and luckily, I have a friend who has been able to forward me available job openings. I sent out my personal cover letter/email along with my resume but I haven't heard back from anyone yet. When you sent out your emails and got interviews, how long before they got back to you? Should I just assume they aren't interested and ask my friend for another email with more job openings?

There is no hard and fast rule with any of this stuff, but you will probably never hear back at all. I think there may have been a time in which hiring managers confirmed that they received your application and told you when someone was hired as a courtesy. Perhaps this still exists in other industries, but for the vast majority of Hollywood assistant gigs, you will never hear anything unless you're brought in for an interview. Why? Because people get bombarded with dozens of resumes. Because people suck. I don't know. You may get a "thanks! Will pass along!" email if someone is collecting for a friend of a friend. But in many cases, you may not be submitting your stuff directly to the person who's hiring and won't be able to follow up with that person.

Sometimes job postings stay within a trusted group of 5 or 10 colleagues/friends, and in those cases, you may have more personal contact. But often, postings appear on tracking boards with hundreds of members, and all those members are forwarding to even more friends. What may seem very "insider" might end up as widely read as the UTA joblist.

If you DO hear back, it might be within hours or a day. I once interviewed for a job on a Thursday that would have started the following Monday.  If the people hiring are a bit more flexible, it might be a week or two. After three weeks, I think it's safe to assume that you're not getting an interview.

Don't take this as a huge discouragement; just remember that there is a LOT of competition for jobs, and you may have to apply to a ton of them before you get any bites.

As someone who has sorted through emails and resumes, I recommend that you keep your cover email very short and be sure to follow the specific instructions in each posting.

More info on the topic:
Cover letter and email style for job and internship applications
Your resume

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