Friday, July 26, 2013

Screenwriting links: Friday, July 26

My first writing job: ‘Orange Is the New Black’ [Death and Taxes]

Inside Look at How Netflix Launches an Original Series [Techland]

Warner Bros Turns To The Black List To Find Screenwriters In Under-Served Demos [Deadline]

Writers Room' shows TV's creative process []
"Hosted by Jim Rash - the Academy Award-winning cowriter of The Descendants - Sundance Channel's The Writers' Room, which premieres Monday, takes us to the heart of the creative process behind six current shows, including HBO's Game of Thrones, Showtime's Dexter, and FX's American Horror Story."

Monday, July 22, 2013

26 Minority Screenwriters to Inspire You

In April, Amanda posted 30 Female Screenwriters to inspire you, which included female feature screenplay writers. I wanted to do a similar post, this time focusing on minority screenwriters. This 2013 report from the Writers Guild of America shows that just in TV staffing, the percentages still aren't great for women or people of color. But there are some minority screenwriters who have made a name for themselves both in film and television. This list includes some juggernauts, some up-and-coming writers, and writers who have been in the business for a few decades.

I hope these names can inspire you. As you'll read in her article below, Issa Rae, the writer/star of the Awkward Black Girl webseries, sent a "letter to Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood nearly a decade ago. "That movie just changed me," she said. "It was a simple love story. I hadn't seen that. And the fact that it was written, produced and directed by a black woman made me think that I could do it, too."" Gina Prince-Bythewood is on this list and many other lists featuring women and minority screenwriters, and now Issa Rae is making her way on to these lists. You and I can be similarly inspired and one day we'll make it to someone's "list of inspiring writers," not limited by color or gender.

Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal)

Tyler Perry (Tyler Perry's Madea Series)

Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project)

Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing)

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)

Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl webseries)

Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)

Yvette Lee Bowser  (A Different World, Living Single)

Shalisha Francis (Castle, S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Aisha Muharrar (Parks and Recreation)

Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Black Nativity [upcoming])

Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees)

Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)

Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game, Being Mary Jane)

Felicia D. Henderson (Moesha, Sister, Sister, Soul Food, Gossip Girl, Fringe)

Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy)

Kriss Turner (Something New)

Dee Rees (Pariah)

Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans) 

Rob Edwards (Treasure Planet, Princess and the Frog) 

Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S., Herbie Fully Loaded)

Sunil Nayar (Oz, CSI Miami, Revenge)

Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals)

Sebastian Gutierrez (The Eye, Snakes on a Plane, Gothika)

Michael Elliot (Brown Sugar)

Who are your favorite minority screenwriters?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Screenwriting links, Saturday, July 13

Tig Notaro Says Being a Woman in Comedy Was Never an Issue [Twirlit]

'On Writing' with 'Weeds' and 'Orange is the New Black' pioneer Jenji Kohan  [Examiner]

6 Most Influential Women Writers You've Never Heard Of [Policymic]

It's Not Personal [Vela Magazine] - "But there seemed–not everywhere we went, but frequently enough for it to be a topic of discussion each night over nerve-calming beers–to be several presumptions at work when women pitched these stories: 1) that women would not write a journalistic story unless it had a personal angle and 2) that the personal should trump the journalistic, because what would sell was not necessarily the strength of the writing or reporting but the familiar formula of the young woman on a journey…the cover with a bright daisy and a cast-off pair of flip-flops on a serene beach."

‘Pacific Rim’ Premiere: Screenwriter Says Godzilla, ‘Jurassic Park’ Inspired Him [Variety]

'The X-Files' Turns 20: 'Breaking Bad' Creator On What He Learned From Mulder And Scully [Huffington Post]

Fruitvale Station: Interview Ryan Coogler [The Script Lab]

Black List to Host Inaugural Screenwriters Lab, Mentors Incude Billy Ray and Kiwi Smith [Indiewire]

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When is it time to quit my assistant job?

J writes: When is it time to move on to another position or leave a company? I've been at a small TV production company for about a year. I began as an intern and worked my way up to an executive assistant to the EP one of the highest rated reality shows on the air right now - but I'm over it... I feel as though I given everything I can, I find my daily tasks to be the same thing every day and it's just so boring. I want to write for scripted TV but the company I work for only produces reality television. When is time to move on and find the next job? How do I move on with out my boss hating me?

Good question! I think that when you're A) not learning anything and B) not making contacts, it's time to move on. Reality TV can be an especially tough place to get stuck, because I don't think you're going to be able to move into scripted as a result of this job. I also know people who got stuck in reality TV, got promoted and now feel like they're too comfortable and making too much money to jump over to scripted, where they'd have to start closer to the bottom. 

That being said, I don't think you should quit until you find a new job. Right now you're in a good position, since you're making money and can do your job pretty easily. You also now have that first assistant job under your belt, so lots more employers will consider you. In terms of your boss hating you: unless you agreed to stay for a certain amount of time and you're leaving sooner, your boss shouldn't be mad...I'm sure s/he realizes that you don't want to be an assistant forever. As long as you give notice (two weeks is usually standard) and help your boss find a replacement (it's customary for assistants to collect resumes and screen people - probably including the company's interns - before sending them in to interview with the boss), you're fulfilling what's required of you. Some bosses are whiny and unreasonable, and hate the idea that their life will be disrupted by this change, so you may face that... but you're not doing anything shady by quitting. Some assistants feel that they're not able to be open with their bosses about going out on job interviews; you'll have to decide if you want to come clean about that (other assistants within the company might be able to advise you about what former assistants did). Also, you may get offered a job and be asked to start in sooner than two weeks, and you'll have to figure out how to deal with that... but I generally feel that you need to fight for the job that's best for you. Don't miss out on a great opportunity because your boss will be annoyed. It can be an awkward situation (and you should see if your new employer can wait a bit longer), but someone can cover the desk and life will go on. 

Once you feel like you've made enough industry contacts and need to focus on churning out more scripts (it doesn't sound like you're there yet), you might find that it would actually be better for you to stay in a job that's just a job. [Here's a post with more about that.] In that case, you simply want the highest-paying job you can find that also allows you to write at work OR features short enough hours that you can write a decent amount on the side. You also want a job that won't completely zap your brainpower; the trouble with script coverage is that after a full day of covering scripts, I'm not always mentally able to focus on my own writing. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What kind of internships do I need?

Ally writes: I’m college senior in New York City with six internships under my belt, three of which are administrative/ communications related, the other three in television and film. One of them was with a well-known film studio, the others two with independent, semi-well connected production companies. Basically, I’m reading a lot of scripts and running errands in the city. Since I want to be a script reader and television writer and I have a year left of school to apply for internships, I’m wondering: where should I go next? Should I continue applying for development internships with production companies, where I do coverage for free all day? Or should I apply to high profile film studios within other departments for the aesthetic sake of my resume? 

Also, I know you’ve addressed this before, but do you think its wise for an aspiring writer like myself to move to LA and apply for agency work? Or should I just take the HR job that pays well, work on my specs and hope I get selected for a writing fellowship/ miraculously find an assistant position posting online?

It sounds like you are doing everything right - and I don't think there's a "right" answer to your question. Six internships is a lot! If you want to be a writer, I do think it could be useful for you to be at an agency or management company, just to see that side of it, but don't think about it as the way to get represented there - it's probably just too soon for that. Really, any internship - development, studio, production company, etc., would be valuable. You just want to be A) learning something and B) meeting people who can help you get a paid job once you graduate. Variety on your resume is good, but since you'll be looking for entry-level jobs when you graduate, it won't matter all that much. Just HAVING internship experience is probably the most important thing, in terms of your resume, if you get job interviews on your own - but making connections with your internship supervisors can be crucial for hearing about jobs (this is how I got my agency job). Don't be afraid to ask your internship supervisors for help with your job search; even if there are no open positions at the company, these people likely hear about openings elsewhere. Read more about internships here, especially this post about evaluating whether an internship is worth it.

Yes, I do think moving to LA is necessary once you graduate, if you want to be a writer. Unless you have really strong connections to industry people in NY, LA will be an easier place for you to find a job. It's just a numbers thing. And when it comes time for getting a job, not internship, try to get one that will get you closest to writers - whether that means agency, development, PA on a show, etc. You can find out more about the job search here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The long game of short films

Looking for a way to break into Hollywood? Pro writers have taken a variety of paths: Querying, interning, PAing, mailrooming, fellowshipping. But there's no guarantee that any particular path will work for you, and if you're itching to get away from the computer screen and make a movie, it might be time to consider a crazy option: actually making a movie.

It's expensive to produce an entire feature - so how about a short film?

Short films have been an avenue for aspiring filmmakers to showcase their chops - writers included. And now, with remarkable new and accessible camera technology, crowdfunding sites Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and web hosting platforms like Vimeo, YouTube, and the fledgling new IndieFlix (think "Netflix" for independent projects), there's never been a better time to get into the short film game. If you don't want to direct the script, you'll need to find a director, but beyond that - one short piece worthy of festival showings could become your calling card and do wonders for your exposure.

Here are two examples of writers who experienced success with the short film path:

--Dan Goforth and Margie Kaptanoglu jumpstarted their careers not with a hot spec, but with festival love their short films garnered.

--Kaleb Lechowski, a writer and animator whose sci-fi short, R'ha, has already attracted a crop of Lucasfilm talent ready to expand it into a feature.

Whether you write a gritty micro drama, comedy sketch, or a blockbuster-sized proof-of-concept, there's another factor to consider as a writer working and collaborating at the grassroots level: more creative control. Shawn Christensen, already a working screenwriter in the studio system, took a quick reprieve to write, direct, and star in Curfew, a charming dramatic short that won an Oscar last year. When asked why Christensen made a short after already having a feature career on the rise, he replied, "so I can have control over my writing."

So - where to begin? Sadly, writing a short film doesn't mean you can take a shortcut through concept, character, structure and story. Here are some resources to help you started writing a short film script:

7 Rules For Writing Short Films [Raindance Film Festival]

Sundance Institute ShortsLab NYC (July 14, 2013)

Sundance Institute ShortsLab LA (August 10, 2013)