Thursday, October 04, 2007

Questions I didn't get to...

I wasn’t able to get to all the questions that were submitted to my Teleseminar last Tuesday. So I thought I’d cover some more of them now.

Q: If you have two polished feature spec scripts, is it wise to query an agent on both at the same time?

Me: Absolutely. The more you have to show that you’re really proud of, the better. Agents will always want more than one writing sample. They need to be confident that you’re prolific. When we were starting out I read a spec MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW that was dynamite. I asked the writer how long it took her to write it. She said five years. She’s never been heard from again.

Q: Do you need to move to LA to make it?

Me: It’s not impossible to make it from afar but it’s much harder. I’m sure Larry Gelbart could have sold a script from Sihanoukville. And if you want to write features it’s easier because you go off for a few months to write an assignment anyway. But if TV is your dish it’s very helpful to be in Los Angeles. This is where the shows, agents, contacts, and industry softball leagues are.

Q: How would a newbie sell a spec script?

Me: Try to get an agent of course. The WGA has a list of all agencies. Some will accept new submissions. Submit your script to all of them. If you have any contacts, use them. Let’s say your brother is in jail for robbing a producer at gunpoint. That producer is a contact. Also now, do some videos on Youtube. Anything to get noticed.

Q: Is it okay to have one of your writing samples be something you’ve co-written, if you’re trying to get hired as an individual?

Me: No. Sorry. Whatever is good in your script the reader will assume is the other guy’s.

Q: What are the three biggest mistakes people make when writing spec scripts?

Me: They attempt to get noticed by writing groundbreaking episodes that break the show’s format. Dream sequences, breaking the fourth wall, etc. I recall a WINGS spec I once read that was written from the point of view of a fly that buzzed around the airport. We did not give that person an assignment. We notified the authorities.

They don’t follow the show’s style sheet and there are spelling and grammatical errors.

They haven’t done their homework. They don’t know the show or the characters. I read a spec FRIENDS where Ross slept with Monica. I’m guessing, or at least hoping, that the writer didn’t realize they were brother and sister.


RAC said...

Ah, but first Ross and Monica find out they were both adopted from different parents... hmmm, still creepy in a Woody Allan -- Soon-Yi Previn kinda way.

l.a. guy said...

In my former life I toiled at a literary agency as an assistant by day and script reader at night.

The agency was listed with the WGA as accepting scripts. Whenever anyone would call to submit a script they were told "We're not accepting any unsolicited submissions at this time." And by "this time" they meant "ever".

And yet... I was constantly reading submissions from people seeking representation. The moral of the story is the best way to get a script read by an agency is to have an 'in'. A lot of those scripts were from friends of existing clients who wanted their agent to consider representing their friend. If the agent values the client they're generally going to take a look at the script so as not to offend them.

Incidentally, depending on your stage of life and situation, working at an agency is not such a bad place to learn the business and make contacts. I knew a couple of people who sold screenplays while working at an agency. Just my 2 cents...

The Crutnacker said...

In the spirit of the call, I believe that you should have listed the questions this way:

DOD: Rob from Louisville asks, "How annoying are my comments, truly?"

KL: If I could figure out how to use Blogspot to have you banned, I would.

Brian Scully said...

One other tip... keep your spec scripts UNDER 49 pages. If someone picks it up and it feels like a phone book, the odds are it's going to get put right back down again.

BigTed said...

Of course, there was an episode of "Friends" in which Ross came on to his cousin. They made it almost believable by casting Denise Richards in the part.

Little Miss Nomad said...

Hey, Ken, can you comment on this story on The Huffington Post that the WB's president of production, Robinov, will no longer make movies with female leads? I know you're a TV guy, but it would make me feel better to hear a rant from someone other than myself.

urbanguy said...

A bit late but I thank you for the teleseminar....very insightful!