Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Staffing season

Now that the networks have announced their fall schedules and have done their dog and pony shows for disinterested advertisers who are only at the upfronts announcements for the booze and to ogle Lena Headey, star of THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (hence the sad excuse for the picture).

IT’S STAFFING SEASON!!!!

When a showrunner hears from the network that his pilot is not being picked up, his typical reaction is “Oh shit!” If he hears that it is getting a pick up, his reaction is also “Oh shit!” Because now he has to make the show. First order of business is putting together a staff and crew. Showrunners will get calls from agents they’ve never met, climbing on the phone and saying “Hey, guy, how was your weekend?” Like they give a shit how your weekend was. Submissions will be arriving by the truckload.

MAKE SURE YOUR SPEC IS ONE OF THEM.

You’ve slaved away for months. You’ve given it to people you trust and have revised and polished it. You’ve wisely taken out that ten page dream sequence and major battle scene. Now you’re ready.

A couple of things to remember: Readers WANT to like your script. You may only get five or six pages to grab them but they’re desperately looking for the next great writer. Even if there are 500 scripts in the pile, if yours is good it’s going to be recognized. So make sure it’s in that pile.

If you have ANY connections, now is the time to use them. Call in favors. Reconnect with your estranged father. Email your former fiancĂ©e who you caught sleeping with your estranged father if her new boyfriend is in the biz. Drop the lawsuit against her even if she’ll make a call on your behalf. So what if it’s humiliating? You’re a writer. Get used to humiliation.

If you can get an agent, even a shitty agent, get him. As long as the agent is a WGA signatory you’re in business. It doesn’t matter that he’s currently renting Philip Marlowe’s old office and his last successful client wrote for MR. PEEPERS. You can do the legwork yourself. Print a bunch of copies of your spec, get his office to stamp them, then send them out yourself.

In some cases being with a small agency can be a plus because if you’re with WMA you know your agent has bigger clients he’s going to push first. That said, if WMA will take you on, thank the Gods and take it.

Check to see if any studios will accept unsolicited scripts.

And finally, send your script to EVERY show you can. Don’t be picky. Send it to network shows, C/W, cable shows, Disney Channel shows, the Cartoon Network – anybody.

The goal is to get noticed. The goal is to impress. The goal is to get hired.

New writers will get their first break this staffing season. New writers will get discovered. Why not you??

Now get on that pile!!!

25 comments :

Allen said...

they still staffing?

Ken Levine said...

Baby writer positions, yes. The last couple of weeks have been staffing producer level. And usually they don't focus on entry level positions until those things are in place. How many openings there are? That I don't know. But if you've got a spec, get it around NOW.

And best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Is there an age that you think beginning writers shouldn't cop to? I got the impression that agents don't like newbie comedy writers over 30 and that drama writers get a little more time.

Ken Levine said...

That's the beauty of a script. No one knows your age just by looking at the cover page. If a producer is impressed by the work then usually age doesn't matter.

Blarneyman said...

Wow, Ken. I've never seen you so passionate! I'm imagining you on a podium rallying the geeks and freaks to unite and storm the walls!

Joshua James said...

Hey Ken,

My manager told me that he couldn't really get any of my samples in to be considered because I'm in nyc and would need to be in LA for a bunch of meetings before anyone would consider hiring me . . .

Is it telling me the truth? You know I got mad-good samples . . .

Liz Finn-Arnold said...

Ken,

Do you have to query first or is it okay to just send the spec out directly?


Liz

RAC said...

Wow, sounds super easy, Ken. No wonder everyone says you have to live in L.A. to break in. From out here in the boonies, it seems as likely as Paris Hilton serving more than 72 hours in the county slammer. (Yeah, she's out this morning.)

The reason baby writers are so young is not so much age discrimination as it is the ability to tolerate poverty until hunger and a day job intervene. Or until your friends boot you off their couch and cut off your Ramen Noodles addiction and order you to stop siphoning gas for your Jeep and hide the cable to their laser jet printer. Fucking Hollywood friends: I washed your dishes and your spoiled dog Stella for six months, doesn't that count for something?? If you're reading this, you're dead to me! (Could you look under your couch - I think I'm missing my Ralph's discount card.)

Dante Kleinberg said...

Sounds hectic. Glad I'm not in TV. I can't wrap my head around putting all your effort into something (in this case, a TV spec) that you know for a fact will never be published or produced.

I mean, I SUSPECT nothing I write will ever be published or produced, but there's at least a modicum of hope.

cary said...

So Ken,

Do you count as "any connection?" If so, I have an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Spec with your name on it.

Cheers.

Jaded and Cynical said...

All together now:

I should put you away where you can't hurt and maim us

But this is LA and you're rich and famous...

Ken Levine said...

The one restriction I have re my blog is that I won't read any spec scripts. If I said yes to one I'd get 500. I'm happy to offer online advice (such that it is) and encouragement but I'm afraid I can't read specs.

Sorry. Hope you understand.

lonerhino said...

Is that a picture of Marlyn Manson?

Ian said...

"You’re a writer. Get used to humiliation."

Somehow this just makes me reach for the Tums...

Curt said...

Ken:

I've been subscribed to your blog for less than a month, at the suggestion of Mo Ryan, so this may be a bit on the basic side: How do I get (or assemble) a list of possible prospects for scriptural inundation?

Also, my spec script is an original pilot. Is that acceptable? If so, is it _really_ acceptable? Thanks.

Beckylooo said...

While I'm eternally grateful for the advice and humor offered on this here blog, as a baby writer who's been hustling for a little over a month now, I can confidently say that if you're sending your stuff out now you've missed the boat. I can't speak to 1/2 hours but every hour long where I have a connection is staffed and a week or more into writing.

Ken Levine said...

If in fact shows are already staffed, which they may well be, then they've accelerated the process a little. And perhaps because of the possible writers strike they have. Hey, what do I know? I'm blogging, not staffing.

Obviously, the intent of this post was not to provide false hope, but be more of a wake-up call.

Hopefully, if you have a spec it'll already be in.

Zak said...

Ken, won't your agent get mad at you for undermining their job?

ZAK

Jimmy Rabbit said...

Ken,

This may be a little out of your area of expertise since you've been doing this professionally for longer than I've been alive, but how do you query an agent with a spec TV script?

I've done this many, MANY times with spec screenplays -- is it the same process?

"Dear So-and-So,

I am currently seeking representation for my OFFICE spec script, titled 'Jim and Pam Do Dwight.'

[Logline here... *shudder*]

[Credentials, if any.] Look forward to hearing from you, blah blah blah.

Respectfully,
Desperate Writer"

Or is there some other protocol?

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

After reading the above posts, I see a whole lot of prospective students for next year's "THE SITCOM ROOM".... You must be licking your chops (not pork, obviously)...

cary said...

"The one restriction I have re my blog is that I won't read any spec scripts. If I said yes to one I'd get 500. I'm happy to offer online advice (such that it is) and encouragement but I'm afraid I can't read specs.

Sorry. Hope you understand."


You would have been disappointed if I hadn't at least asked.

NOW I can say I exhausted all my contacts.

Dwacon said...

Unfortunately, I've been squandering my writing time on the pile of well-polished feature specs. But then again, I got into the WB fellowship many moons ago on a Night Court script that I frantically wrote a few hours before the midnight postmark deadline... so lightning could strike twice...

jd said...

jimmy_rabbit, that's funny. My Office script is "Dwight and Jim do Pam". Script, fantasy, whatever.

Max said...

Okay, here's my situation. This is my first staffing season ... well, first with an agent, anyway. I had a round of meetings with studio execs, which all went well. I think they recommended me to show runners and I know my agent sent out scripts. No meetings yet. I had more or less given up hope of getting a staff job until I read this. I also had an offer for a teaching job for the fall, which my agent recommended I should take. He also said how there's just not much out there for comedy writers at the moment. This sure sounds like I'm out of luck.

The question then, if nothing does happen, what's the next step? Write a feature? A pilot? Send out anonymous poisoned cookies to writers who already have staff jobs?

Dhppy said...

Whoa! I so didn't think about the poisoned cookies to staff idea. But some people in my writers group are staffed, so they could bring some of that back to me.