Friday, September 16, 2011

What to wear at meetings

First off, a Happy Birthday to my idol. I love you, Dad.

Now for some Q’s and A’s.

Al starts us off:

If I am lucky enough to get a meeting for an assignment with a showrunner, what does that meeting look like? What should I prepare? Obviously be ready to talk about story ideas for the show, but what else should I consider.

Know as much as you can about his show. Otherwise, besides having some story ideas in your pocket, just be yourself. Don’t try to dazzle him. These are usually casual meet-and-greets. Always follow up with a thank you note.

Also, I was raised to wear a suit to any job interview, even at McDonald's but somehow I think a suit would be inappropriate for this sort of meeting. Am I off base about this?

Unless you’re meeting the showrunner of SUITS I would go more “business casual” (if there is such an expression). Sports jacket, collared shirt, nice slacks, decent shoes.

My partner and I once had a meeting with a showrunner to pitch story ideas. A young woman writer also had an appointment to do the same thing. She came in a see-through blouse. Guess who got the assignment?

From Ben K.:

When my young nieces were visiting recently, I became aware of a whole new world of preteen sitcoms on the Disney Channel and other cable stations. I'd heard of "Hannah Montana," but now there seem to be dozens of these things. They appear to be based on a very traditional sitcom format, though with more slapstick and extra-broad humor.


So could shows like these be a stepping-stone to "regular" sitcom writing? Or are they a ghetto that a writer would never get out of?

If you’re offered a job on a Disney Channel sitcom JUMP AT IT. Yes, they are broad, but you’d be surprised how many good writers are attached to some of these shows. You’ll learn a great deal.

Quite a few young writers have made the jump from Disney shows to network series, but often it will require a spec script from an existing network show.

When FRASIER co-creators, Peter Casey & David Lee originally wanted to write for CHEERS they had to write a spec CHEERS first. And at the time they were the showrunners of THE JEFFERSONS.

Melissa C Banczak asks:

How much outlining do you and David do before you sit down to write a script?

About ten pages, double-spaced. We try to be as detailed as possible, often including lots of jokes. The better the outline, the easier it is to write the script.

But one caveat. You have to be willing to deviate from it once you get into the draft. Don’t lock yourself into the jokes or story turns if they don’t seem to work. Sometimes problems will arise that you only discover once you’re in the middle of it.

So think of the outline as your GPS system. Sometimes you realize there’s a better route and take that instead. The GPS will adjust.  It may hate you but it will re-calibrate.

Jim wants to know…

Have you ever been approached to write scripts for video games?

Since there’s another Ken Levine who created BioShock and is one of the Gods of the gaming world, my guess is he’s the one who is sought out to write video game scripts. And if anyone would contact me, I bet it would be by mistake.

I once got a call asking if I’d write a jingle for a commercial. I thought, huh??? Turns out there’s yet another Ken Levine, who’s a musician.

But if someone wants to create the AfterMASH action video game I’m available for the script.

What’s your Friday question?

20 comments:

Brian said...

You went out and bought a bunch of see-through blouses after that meeting, right?

Chris G said...

I've been rewatching Cheers from the start on Netflix and I've noticed that the second episode of two-part stories always have pretty lengthy sequences to fill viewers in on what happened last time. Some of them (like the second part of the story about Coach's lottery-winning fiancee) are REALLY long -- up to three or four minutes of the show's 24 or 25 minute running time. Was this standard for sitcoms at the time? Were you trying to play with the format by presenting them as characters directly telling the audience what happened last time instead of just presenting some clips from the last episode?

Amy said...

What is a showrunner?

Tim Dunleavy said...

Amy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Showrunner

David Schwartz said...

For my first interview in television (for a production assistant job on a variety show), I showed up in a suit, tie, the whole "job interview ensemble." The guy interviewing me thought I was the xerox repairman. True story. I did get the job, though! Even at the lowest rung of the ladder that that job was, some of the contacts I made have lasted forever.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken said...

"A young woman writer also had an appointment to do the same thing. She came in a see-through blouse."

I guess having hard nipples will get you the job every time...

Amanda said...

I have a question for next Friday: This may be more a question about movies than TV, but when you have an actor perform their part of the script, but then all of their scenes end up cut from the movie, do they receive payment for it, even though the scenes weren't used? What about if those scenes are included on the DVD? Thanks!

SkippyMom said...

Happy Birthday to your Dad! It is my birthday too!

I have one hint if you are going to write a spec for Disney. Having had pre teens, tweeners and now college student children [thank GOD] I no longer watch the shows, but the most important word you have to sprinkle throughout the script is:

"OVERACT" [i.e. the upcoming line and or scene]

I can appreciate why it would be beneficial to write for Disney, but watching those shows, with the kids, for the past decade has given me a twitch. It is as tho' the audience is so dense that the show has to shoot over the top to keep their attention.

Good luck to everyone.

Phillip B said...

Thank you for your comments regarding an outline BEFORE you start to write. I'd suggest it is valuable in almost all forms of writing and very often ignored.

Some have come to believe that being creative requires them to be undisciplined.

And yes, I occasionally prepare an outline for an important e-mail before I start....

jbryant said...

The Disney Channel has also been a place where, paradoxically, more seasoned (read: older) writer/producers can get a fresh start. I don't know about the newer shows, but HANNAH MONTANA was created by Richard Correll (who played Richard on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and directed a ton of series over the years), Barry O'Brien (a producer of PERFECT STRANGERS with writing credits reaching back to HAPPY DAYS) and Michael Poryes (whose first credit was a story for LOVE, SIDNEY). Among the writer/producers: Jeffrey Peterman (SUDDENLY SUSAN, MURPHY BROWN) and Sally Lapiduss (FAMILY MATTERS, MAD ABOUT YOU, THE NANNY, ELLEN, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I saw a funny skit this past year about the rules for doing a teen sitcom on Disney or Nick. It was dead-on, covering the broad performances, overly colorful clothes and sets, etc. I think it was on SNL -- does anyone have a link?

LAprGuy said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/06/snl-miley-cyrus-disney-acting_n_831998.html

Klee said...

I'm watching "Cheers" post-Diane days. I loved Kirstie's character Rebecca, but I stopped watching it during Rebecca and Sam were trying to get a baby together...I only watched the finale, of course, because Shelley was back. That airplane scene still haunts me...any way, do you feel the show "jumped the shark" during the "get a baby together" phase? And how did that season make you feel? Do you have a favorite season of Cheers? If you answered that before, sorry, I must've missed it. If the answer is YES, then which season and why.

benson said...

I am not a paid shill, just an amateur one. I see where Beaver Cleaver is on Great Big Radio tonight along with others from 10-Q Radio.

And Happy Birthday to Mr. Levine, too.

Breadbaker said...

I wonder if part of the reasoning behind the gestalt of the Disney comedies is that the viewers are assumed to be multitasking at the same time. If you really don't have to concentrate, you can look up at any point and know what was going on.

Cap'n Bob said...

Do you think wearing a see-through blouse won that woman the job, or you and your partner wearing see-through pants lost it for you?

Powerhouse Salter said...

How come the broadcast networks turn to holiday reruns and specials during most of every December? Wouldn't it make more sense to attract viewership by airing new episodes of regular series while the other network presents its 50th annual repeat of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks for the teleseminar, Ken! I got a chance to dial in and listen the other day. Plenty of great knowledge was shared. It's much appreciated.

Would you ever consider releasing an MP3 of the seminar for others to listen to?

Donald said...

Speaking of the Rebecca/Sam baby making subplot, here is my Friday question: How long does it take for the writers to steer a course correction if a plot line isn't working? Trying to make a thing out of Rachel and Joey on Friends also comes to mind.

Craig Pines said...

I have a question for next Friday. The day before your upcoming Sitcom Room (plug, plug), I have a meeting with the Head of Original Programing and Development at Nickelodeon. I sent him an original animation pilot that he likes but thinks is a bit too mature in its present form. He said that they want to pick my brain about a couple of things.
Not sure what to expect at the meeting, but years ago I saw 'The Big Picture' and that has me cringing. Have you ever come into a pitch meeting where they've tried to rework an idea. If so, what can I do to be best prepared for the meeting?