Saturday, May 17, 2008

Game on, people!

I post this essay every year but even if you've read it, it's a good reminder. As for the above picture, I couldn't find anything really appropriate so when that happens I post Natalie Wood photos. What can I say? I love Natalie Wood.

Now that the networks have announced their fall schedules...

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 dream sequence. 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 which, if any, studio 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!!!

7 comments:

Benjy said...

Ken,

Thanks, this is definitely good stuff to know. But how do we go about sending scripts to shows? Just find the address of their production office and send an unsolicited script?

sephim said...

It doesn't matter how good your pilot script is, they'll somehow convince you it's a good idea to change it to suit a particular demographic and before you know it, we'll have another "How I Met Your Mother" on our hands.

Or they'll ignore every new idea on the planet in favour of destroying well established British sitcoms that get cancelled after half a season.

Mary Stella said...

Ken, reading this post makes me envision a locker room for new writers with you acting the part of the inspiring coach.

I don't write for tv but now wish I had a spec script to submit somewhere.

RON JACOBS said...

Jeez, I just realized I've never sent a comment to the man who inspired me to enter the blogosphere. Since you still haven't heard enough of my days as the Sammy Glick of Hawaii radio, did I tell you about the time . . .

I just made it to the Honolulu NBC affiliate as the junior Staff Announcer. Watching for something that might get me on MONITOR, Pat Weaver's pre-TV masterpiece, I hustled an interview with 17-year-old Natalie Wood. who was staying at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Back then the water fountain in the lobby dispensed ice-cold pineapple juice. This did nothing to chill the mix of adrenaline and testosterone pumping through my veins.

The “portable” Ampex weighed more than Natalie, so I was sweating, jellified and awed shitless waiting at the door to the Movie Star Suite. It did and I nearly dropped the recorder at the sight of Her. I was a year older. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE had the same effect on me as a generation who were not even allowed to SAY the word masturbation.

I have no recollection of what transpired. I know it wasn’t a dream because I made it to the network, received my first talent fee ($20) and was finally could to tell my mother that I had met a nice Jewish girl. I’ve done my share of celeb interviews, but what a sweet way to lose my virginity.
Aloha kakahiaka to my fellow proud Northwestern parent and congrats to you, Deb and Annie.

Natalie’s first RJ

KEN LEVINE said...

Here is Ron's blog address by the way. It's a great fun read. Ron has a unique fresh voice and has only a thousand times more stories than me. Check him out.

http://whodaguyhawaiicom.blogspot.com/

I used to be jealous of Ron because he was the program director of the greatest radio station I've ever heard (KHJ in the mid 60s)but that's NOTHING compared to being alone in a room with 17 year old Natalie Wood.

Otto Grafhound said...

Ken,

By way of trumping you and Ron re Natalie Wood, I first saw her back in my autograph collecting kid days, when she did "Miracle on 34th Street" on Lux Radio Theater. Stopped her as she was heading down the stage door alleyway with her mother...Still have the autograph, among a couple hundred others...

Megalion said...

A question from the other side of the box, how does one become a WGA signatory?

I have a friend who has some great movie scripts and I'd like to help try to get her scripts sold to someone.