But always worth answering again (especially on a holiday weekend when I'm in rehearsal for my new play).
kermit is the latest to ask this one:
If I'm a writer who's written for broadcast and print but has no background in show business, and I've written an original script(not a spec)that I think is pretty good...where do I go from here? Is there someone who can look it over and tell me if it's good, or not, or where it might need a nip and tuck? Would an agent ever read anything cold-mailed to him/her, or would the agent send it back unopened?
I would enroll in a writing class at a local university. Most have nighttime extension programs. Between the instructor and your classmates, you will get feedback. Here’s what I wouldn’t do: There are “writers” out there who advertise their consulting services. You pay them a thousand dollars; they read and critique your script. There may be exceptions, but those are a rip-off. You’re paying big money with no idea if the reader is any good. At least a college course is reasonable, the instructor is somewhat credible, and you’ll be introduced to other hopefuls like yourself and can create a network and support system.
You can enter your script in screenplay contests. If well-received, that will give a leg up when trying to land representation.
Never send an agent anything that isn’t your very best work. You get one shot at making an impression. You’re not looking at an agent to critique your script; you’re looking at him to represent you. You need to impress him. Best of luck.
When there is a spin-off of a continuing series, is the spin-off cast contractually obligated to do it? I read somewhere that Norman Fell and Audra Lindley were very upset when "The Ropers" was quickly cancelled and they couldn't go back to "Three's Company". Same with Polly Holliday ("Flo"). What if they refuse to do it?
When characters are spun-off into their own series they strike new deals, usually for a lot more money. Sometimes there might be a clause allowing them to either guest on their original series or return to it if the spin-off tanks.
But often times once you leave the nest you’re out. The original series moves on and your character might no longer fit in. That’s the risk you take.
My favorite spin-off story is from SANFORD & SON. It became THE SANFORD ARMS. Neither Redd Fox or Demond Wilson were in it. As someone said, “NBC just renewed the set.”
Brian has a MASH question:
Ken- The show jumps around in time quite a bit. There were episodes where Eisenhower was president and then a few years later Truman is president. There are other examples too. When you and David were working on the show, was there any direction as far as a timeline?
The big cheat on that show was that it lasted 3 1/2 times longer the Korean War. During our years we tread that lightly. After we had left they did an episode that took place over an entire year. It was a clever idea and good episode, but to me it just pointed out the enormous conceit we were asking the public to buy. Not to mention how it screwed with the show’s timeline. Since the episode focused on 1951 that meant that the whole Trapper, Henry Blake, Radar, Frank Burns era (8 or 9 seasons of the show) all took place during a roughly one year period.
But let's face it, by that point in the series run MASH was bulletproof. They could have done a show where the Starship Enterprise landed on the chopper pad and they’d get away with it. And if the show had gone another two years I bet that idea might have started looking pretty good.
And finally, from Mike:
I just saw a commercial for a film that gave away one of the funnier bits in the film. Did you ever have a promo for one of your shows that gave away too much and ruined the joke or the show for the viewer?
That was a constant battle with network promo people. My big concern wasn’t spoiling jokes. It was giving away key plot twists.
Now then, movie trailers. I never care if they use the best jokes. For whatever reason, when audiences eventually watch the movie and those jokes arrive they still laugh, sometimes harder. I don’t really know why. I guess that’s my Friday Question.
You can leave your Friday Questions in the comments sections. Muchas thanks, and enjoy the last official weekend of summer. Christmas ads begin Tuesday.