Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TV writing podcast Children of Tendu wraps up "Season 1"

Molina (left) & Grillo-Marxauch

To an intimate, live audience of exclusive Twitter invites, the Children of Tendu podcast recorded their 13th and (for the time being) final episode this week. Hosts and TV writers Javier Grillo-Marxauch (CharmedLostMedium) and Jose Molina (FireflyCastleSleepy Hallow) held an open discussion with the crowd, fielding questions about TV writing, reminiscing, and offering up the same generous insights and sharp irreverence that has made their new podcast so popular with aspiring writers.

Topics included how maintain emotional health while being a writer in Hollywood ("Get a psychotherapist."), how keep perspective while getting notes ("You write for free, you get paid to take notes."), and how not to become a clinging neurotic with your reps ("Seriously-- get a psychotherapist."), just to name a few. The full episode is now available for download, along with all other 12 episodes.

The hiatus comes just at the end of staffing season, as both hosts move on to more television work: Grillo-Marxuach will continue is work on Syfy's Helix, and Molina will start on Marvel's new Agent Carter series. Luckily for us, the pair is planning on coming back for a "second season" of podcasting, with more guests and shop talk.

In the meantime, they encourage questions on Twitter. You can find Javier Grillo-Marxauch @OKBJGM, Jose Molina @JoseMolinaTV, and the podcast account at @ChildrenofTendu. They also have a pretty sweet Tumblr full of supplemental material.

Let's hope season 2 comes quickly!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Creative Spark: Tina Gordon Chism & Dustin Lance Black

Academy Originals has launched a YouTube series of interviews with professional screewriters about creativity and the writing process. Take a look!

Friday, May 23, 2014

5 Questions with 'Hit the Floor' Staff Writer Judalina Neira

Judalina Neira is a Staff Writer on VH1's Hit the Floor, which premeries its seecond season this Monday, May 26 @ 9/8c. 

On Twitter, she's @TheJudalina.

1. How did you get your job on Hit the Floor?

​Y'know how they always say that right when you stop looking for something, that's when you find it? (Yeah, I hate that saying, too. I should really stop looking for my lost keys for them to magically appear in my hands?)

Well, I guess "they" are right, because that's exactly what happened. I'd been so excited to be hired as a writer's assistant on Do No Harm in 2012 and to be in NBC's Writers on the Verge program in 2013. But even still, I was getting close but no cigar on the staffing circuit. It was last summer, after the traditional network staffing season had already finished, I was freelancing while working on my tan, when my agents told me I had a meeting for Hit the Floor.

A marathon session of the show, and a few in-person and over-the-phone interviews later, and I got a call saying I had the job. I think I played it pretty cool when my manager called with the news. Immediately after, though, I turned to my roomie and started to cry: "I'm getting into the union. I'm going to get health insurance." (I swear, the WGA did not pay or otherwise endorse this statement!)

2. What was writing your first episode like? 

Like a lot of serial dramas, we break story as a room and the first couple episodes were assigned early on (so I knew within a month that I'd be writing episode 6). We had a loose idea of what big serialized story points we wanted to cover and then, as a room, pitched other more stand-alone stories to fill in any gaps.

One of the best pieces of advice I got on writing TV was while visiting Josh Friedman in The Finder's writers room during the NHMC writing program. Josh said study your showrunner's writing style. Down to the punctuation. Do they use -- or - ? Are they more poetic or prosaic? Are there words they're partial to? I'd keep a copy of my showrunner's outline or script on my desk and consult it to match character tone/voice.

All that said, you are going to be rewritten. Hopefully, though, you're turning in something where your boss feels like the rewriting is minimal and not like, "Oh god. There goes my weekend."

Notes are your scary-looking but actually really awesome friend. A chance to test out if what you're intending to do on the page is coming across. If something's not clicking with the network or producers, it's definitely not going to click for the audience.

3. Some people say that staff writers need to shut up and listen, while others say that you need to speak up enough and contribute enough ideas to earn your keep -- how have you approached that/what is your participation in the room like?
​I'm a mouthy, Puerto-Rican​ gal, so my gut is always to speak up. That being said, the only real answer to this question is: It depends on your room.

Being in a writer's room is like striking up a conversation with a girl sitting alone at a bar. You've gotta be sensitive and really read the temperature. We're a small room so there's space to pipe up. But just like chatting with the hot girl at the bar, it's important to remember to listen, take cues, be respectful and most importantly, do your general best not to say stupid stuff.

4. How did you get your agent and/or manager?
​Most of the reps I've worked with so far I've met at various mixers/social functions. I love to drink and chat to strangers​. That's just me. If that's not you, reader, fear not. Referrals from repped friends or producers/execs, etc are the most common way, I believe. But if you, too, are partial to drinking and schmoozing, the above rules about chatting with the hot girl at the bar also apply to chatting up industry folks at events.

5. What's something you've learned about writing or the industry from your job?

​There is no one single way to tell a story. This lesson makes me so happy, because sometimes when I'm working alone, I think - "Crap. This is terrible. This is WRONG. This is never going to work."

Then I remember every time I've seen a writer pitch a story or write a scene that was an approach I would have never considered that totally works. Then I go home and remind myself in my own writing: "Alright, girl. It's okay. You're not wrong, you just haven't figured out the Tim Gunn of it yet." With the Tim Gunn being only the best creative advice given ever: "Make it work."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shit Writing Syndrome and the evolution of a 'Community' script

Shout out to my awesome pal Jess for alerting me to a great post by TV writer Andy Bobrow, "How writing for the TV show Community Cured Me". Here's a snippet of advice:
Keep the two percent that isn’t shit and delete the ninety-eight percent that’s shit. Rewrite it. Within your re-write, there will be two more percent that isn’t shit. Then just keep tossing the shit and replacing it until the ratio is tolerable.
It's helpful to know that even professional writers struggle with crappy writing -- but more helpful is that Andy posted his first writer's draft of the Community episode "Mixology" as well as a much later draft the script. It's rare that we get a chance to see how a TV script evolved into what we finally saw on screen. Study the differences!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Upcoming fellowship & writing program deadlines

Are you applying to any writing programs or fellowships in 2014? There's still time left for a number of big programs. Here are the upcoming deadlines:

Feature writing:

Austin Film Festival
Open: now
Late deadline: May 31

Final Draft Big Break Contest
Open: now
Deadline: July 31

American Zoetrope
Opens: June 1st
Deadline: Around September 11

Try next year:

Nicholl Fellowship

Film Independent Screenwriting Lab

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

TV writing:

NBC Writers on the Verge
Open: now
Deadline: May 30

WB Writers' Workshop
Open: now
Deadline: May 31

Austin Film Festival
Open: now
Late deadline: May 31

Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship
Open: now
Deadline: June 13

Try next year:

CBS Mentoring Program

Nickelodeon Writing Program

Monday, May 5, 2014

10 DON'Ts of Hollywood Networking

DON'T ask for a favor the first time you meet someone. 
Networking should be about building mutually helpful relationships, not about asking strangers for favors. Don't immediately ask people to read your script or get you an agent.

DON'T ask for a million things at once. 
Once you've developed a relationship with someone, be smart about what you ask of them. Don't ask for notes AND an a rep referral AND a job all at once. If you need all of these things, maybe you should ask for overall advice and see what the person offers.

DON'T ramble in your emails. 
Many writers write several paragraphs about their background or their thought process about a script. Get to the point.

DON'T send your script to people before they've agreed to read it.
This gets agencies and management companies into problematic legal situations (they may need you to sign a release form first). With individuals, it's presumptuous. Once you've gotten to a place where you feel comfortable asking for a read, email people first and ask them if they have time to read and would be willing to read.

DON'T send your script to a large group in a mass email or message. 
This is impersonal, presumptuous, and likely to result in annoying reply-alls. Unless you're in a specific writing group, you need to reach out people personally. You should also ask how they're doing and how their stuff is going, which you can't do in a group email.

DON'T ask for jobs in a mass email or Facebook post. 
Similarly, this seems arrogant - and I just don't think you'll get much of a response. You want me to get you a job, but you won't even reach out to me personally? It also feels like you're placing the burden on me (I have to reach out to you) when you're the one who needs a job. It doesn't take that long to send a few different emails.

DON'T add people on Facebook when you've met them once or never met them at all.
There are exceptions to this, such as when you've developed a friendship over Twitter or email -- and everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to sharing publicly. But overall, don't be too Facebook-happy. In my experience, people don't usually become Facebook friends after one very professional general meeting.

DON'T ambush pros after panels or events and ask them to read your script.
I know sometimes it seems like THIS IS YOUR BIG CHANCE -- but it's just tacky and it's not going to work. These people already get lots of submissions and have plenty of friends and assistants asking them for help. If you happen to meet someone at an event and then develop a relationship with them, great. But you're not going to develop a relationship in the minute it takes for them to get off the stage and away from aggressive fans.

DON'T argue with someone who's said no. 
If someone passes on your script or declines to help you in some other way, you need to accept that and move on.  Being rude or aggressive is not going to work in your favor.

DON'T beg people to follow you on Twitter.
Fans who write "Notice meeee!" on every post Lena Dunham writes are baffling to me. If people want to follow you, they'll follow you. The best way to get followers is to write informative, entertaining and/or funny posts. If you're not going to ADD something to their feeds, then they have no reason to follow you. Sure, go ahead and interact with writers, directors and producers you admire -- that's why they're on Twitter. But if all you write is "Follow me!" and don't post anything useful, why should they follow you?

Do you have any to add? Write them in the comments!

Related posts:

How to Make Producers Hate You

All Posts About Networking