i run an online sitcom spec writing workshop. it’s 8 weeks long, and we go from logline, to outline, to draft. if you’re interested in signing up for the next one, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
here are what past students had to say:
we had a mixer with writers from the various network writing programs, including cbs, wb, disney, the new fox program, and us from nbc wotv. there were maybe 40 writers plus the people who run the programs. it was really crowded, and a lot of fun.
here’s something you might not have known: many writers go through multiple programs. this is my second program, and i met others who went through 2, 3, and even 4 programs. people who are good enough to get into one often times get into another. but why would a writer do multiple programs? because getting into a writing program is no guarantee. it’s not like winning the lottery. obviously, the ideal situation is you get into a writing program, and then you get an agent and get staffed immediately after. that doesn’t always happen though. the programs are a chance to meet other writers, work on writing samples, and meet execs, but yeah, there are no guarantees of getting staffed.
fellowship deadlines are around the corner, and someone had a few questions about specs.
I’m currently on my 3rd draft for my Happy Endings spec and have a few questions about it.
1.) I have a main character drifting aimlessly through the B & C plots and not really contributing anything to the story should I even bother including them? Outside of a few lines in the cold open.
I feel like these programs want you to demonstrate your understanding of the show’s voice, which means incorporating every main character into an A-B-C storyline. Shows like Community have characters barely appear in an episode and it works. I’m also not Dan Harmon though.
2.) I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to introduce new characters into a spec. I understand not creating new characters where the entire episode revolves around them, but what about a minor character that serves the plot? For instance I included Penny’s boss, a character never mentioned before, but fits into the show’s universe.
3.)Is it ok to introduce new locations? I’ve only been using established sets so far.
4.) What do judges want more in a sitcom spec? One bursting with jokes or funny plots that are tightly constructed? I guess this depends on the sitcom as well.
good questions. here are my thoughts:
after struggling for weeks, i finally finished my pilot, and i’m happy with how it came out!
i had a lot to think about after the last round of notes and the feedback from the table read. at times, i wondered if i should give up on it completely, throw it away, and just write a new pilot from scratch. instead, i let the script sit for a couple weeks, and i let the notes sink in.
around this time, i had a meeting with my wotv mentor, who works in comedy development at nbc. he was nice enough to read my script and he gave me some very insightful notes, and that’s when things started to click.
writers on the verge is officially 12 weeks long, but the writing workshop part is 10 weeks, just like jen grisanti’s 10 week telesminar class. it was our first class after the holiday break, and the last class we got in depth notes on our scripts.
at the very end of 2012, i started a full time job doing design, and although i was grateful to have money coming in, it was really hard to make time to write. luckily, i wasn’t working for most of the program and i got this job at the very end. several of the other writers also weren’t working during the program, but a few had full time jobs the whole time and managed to get their work in every week, and their material was always solid. i don’t know how they did it, but it was impressive.
so i got more notes on my pilot.
the big notes were:
SPEED DATING FEEDBACK
we got notes on how we did during our speed dating meetings with executives from last week. karen and julie ann said our year overall was one of the highest scoring groups.
some of the things the execs looked at:
flow of conversation
how well we listened
did we ask questions
how well we handled questions they asked of us
I met Erica when I started a pilot writers group last year. She was the first to respond to my post on the yahoo message board, and I knew I wanted to work with her right away. She was a finalist in the ABC/Disney Writing Program, won Scriptapalooza, worked in the industry, and liked the Simpsons. I got to know her through our writing group, and I asked if she’d share some of her experiences.
You came to LA knowing nobody. What was your first job in the industry, and how did you go about getting it?
Yeah, that was pretty scary. Even scarier was the fact that I thought I could live in Orange County and commute to work. I thought: “Thirty miles should be about thirty minutes. No problem.” So that was a fun lesson.
My first job in the Industry was as an assistant to a Producer who shall remain nameless. His wife didn’t like how friendly I sounded on the phone and by day two his other assistant told me I didn’t need to come in on Friday… or ever. So that happened. Sorry, I feel like I should unload on everyone so it feels more authentic.
The one I truly count as my first job was as an Office PA on the TV show Medium. Since I didn’t know anyone in LA my only thought was, “I need to contact every single show and see who will give me a chance.” I was extremely eager and not willing to take no for an answer. I bought the Creative Directory (back when it still existed in print) and I literally went through the entire book and called every single show, scripted and reality, asking if I could send in my resume, even when they told me they were staffed. After about a month of doing this I got a call from a few shows. One was The Amazing Race, which I actually agreed to take because I had no other bites at the time and I needed a job. Of course as soon as I said yes to that job, I got a phone call from the show, Medium. They interviewed me that day and then about an hour after I left the interview, they told me I was hired. I felt bad about calling the guys at The Amazing Race to turn the job down but I knew I wanted to be in scripted TV and couldn’t pass this chance up. I made it! Kinda.
I met Karen in 2009 when I was a Finalist for the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship (as it was called then). Even though I didn’t get in that year, Karen was very encouraging and supportive, and told me to stay in touch. I wrote another script, applied again, and was lucky enough to make it into the program the following year where I got to work with her and learn from her. It was an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to have had that opportunity. I wanted to do an interview with Karen to talk about some of the details of the Program.
What’s your favorite part of running the Nickelodeon Writing Program?
Oh! That’s an easy one… The best part of my job is unearthing new talent, watching them develop into strong writers, confident individuals, and (as corny as it may sound) helping to make their dreams come true!
2012 was, without exaggeration, the most difficult year of my life. it started with a root canal caused by grinding my teeth, the pressure which killed the nerve. grinding my teeth came from the stress of finishing the nick fellowship in oct 2011 and having nothing tangible to show for it. i had had no writing job, no agent, nothing. although i never regretted leaving my stable job as an art director for the nick fellowship, life after nick was definitely filled with anxiety.
so 2012, january to august – horrible! massive depression. financial pain. unexpected betrayal. loss of hope. doubt. lots of doubt. i made a chart.
question from emma:
I stumbled upon your blog, and I really enjoy reading it and getting an inside look of the industry. I’m an aspiring TV writer (drama), and I was wondering what your opinion is on TV writers having feature scripts. I’m enrolled in film program, and I’ve heard both things — 1.) if you want to write TV, it’s completely separate from the feature industry, so just make sure you have polished pilots and specs, and 2.) You should have some polished features, even if you want to do TV writing. If you have time, could you maybe shed some light on this?