I be a good righter.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Knowledge is Power

I'm an idiot.

I finished my last script, it was hard, intense, and I'm glad to be done with it. I'm fairly pleased with the outcome, but it took a lot out of me. So, I decided I wanted to write something fun and quirky. I made a list of all the fun and quirky shows I could think of... it was a short list. I shortened it further and chose my next spec. I had no idea what I would do for that spec. So, I started brainstorming. I came up with a brilliant idea. It was AWESOME. So, I started a beat sheet, which morphed into an outline and by the end of that day, I had a really fucking strong outline. It, quite literally, wrote itself.

Thing is, I really just needed to get writing, so I skipped one of my steps: rewatching all the episodes of the show before commencing writing.

But, I was over the moon. I figured I'd have a draft of the script within a few days, as it was writing itself.

Later that night, I was watching TV, not fully able to get my mind off my outline. Mentally reworking some stuff and I realized it was missing a major component. So, I re-opened the document. Started implementing my changes. Seriously, guys, I was a fucking genius.

Then I had this weird niggling feeling. Like one of the new components felt kind of familiar. Like, really familiar. Too familiar to ignore. So, I thought hard. And, realized they'd had that component on that show. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn't just that component that was familiar.


And, I missed it because I didn't do that one crucial step: rewatching all the episodes.

I was really bummed out because, as stated, the episode wrote itself. I'm assuming it did so because it had already been written. So, now, I'm writing something else, a completely different show. All while pretending I'm not completely embarrassed about the above situation. Hey, at least I figured it out in outline and not in final draft...

What prompts this post, however, is I was having lunch with a fellow writer yesterday and as she told me about her spec, it sounded familiar. Granted, it was one small component of her spec (a C story), and she lamented that they did her idea a few weeks ago. Thing is, they didn't just do it a few weeks ago, they did it (also) in the first season. So, they're repeating themselves...

What I was shocked to learn, however, is that she hadn't seen the episode in the first season. In fact, she hadn't seen much of the first season. And, this is a show that's only about three seasons old.

Don't get me wrong, she's clearly a talented writer because she's gotten much acclaim from her spec. BUT, I cannot fathom not having seen all the episodes before writing. In fact, even when I do see them? I totally forget them and apparently steal ideas from them...

So, I guess I'm pretty amazed that anyone would write a spec without knowing the show backwards and forwards. But, for her, it worked. For me, not so much.

And, I'm curious... how do you guys approach it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Catch Twenty Fuck

You've got your trusty agent. You probably got them from a contest win or a stellar script with a high recommendation from one of your contacts. You're really hoping to get on staff. But, it doesn't happen. Because the established shows all promote from within and the pilots tend to hire higher-level writers (with some exceptions, of course).

Some people, like me, try to get a job as an assistant on one of the shows. So, you can get promoted within. Except, you've never been a script coordinator. Or, a researcher. And they only want people with experience (though, I came *thisclose* to getting a Script Coordinator position). So, you apply for writers' PA. A good solid entry-level position. A fucking monkey could do it. You interview for the position. They decide you're over-qualified for the job, because you are. They apologize, they loved you. They just don't think that you'd be happy cleaning up the metaphorical vomit. For very long, that is. At least, this is what one interviewer told me a long time ago.

So, tell me, if you can't get a baby writer job without being promoted within, and the pilots aren't really hiring them (unless you're in a diversity program and your salary's paid for), if you can't get a higher-level assistant job without experience or being promoted from writers' PA, and you can't get a writers' PA position because you're over-qualified, what the fuck are you supposed to do?

This post brought to you by the letters "F" and "U."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why I live in LA.

I'm at WB having lunch with my friend. I go, afterward, to coffee with another friend. Sort of killing two birds, type thing. My first friend, earlier, had pointed a Big-Time Writer. Like, HUGE. Ginormous. I was dying. Way better than our earlier actor sightings.

Which were:

Before lunch friend took me on tour of Studio 60. We got to see Matthew Perry and Tommy Schlamme. And, we got to meet Bradley Whitford (sigh...) and talk to him for a bit. Apparently, he was directing that episode. I told him that I'd be seeing him the following night. He looked alarmed. I reassured him that I was just going to the John Wells' event that he'd be moderating. He thought that was cool. Sort of.

Fast forward to the next night at the insanely awesome John Wells' event, where instead of a true Q&A thing, they did this awesome roast that was absolutely hysterical (Neal Baer advised people to grow up with people like John Wells, since that was the secret to Neal breaking in -- trust me it was funny. In retrospect, it's sad, because I did not grow up with anyone John Wellsian). I see Bradley Whitford standing nearby, clearly being assaulted by two fans. I wave to him. He gets a huge smile on his face, and races over. He envelops me in a huge bear hug. Tells me he's so glad I made it. I think he was just happy to get away from the fans. He asks how I liked the event (did he really need my feedback for its awesomeness? No. But lightheaded from champagne and bear hugs, I make myself believe that he does). This anecdote, btw, is apropos of nothing. It just happens to be a cool moment in my life.


Back at Warner Bros, the previous day, I go to coffee with another friend, all happy that I saw Big-Time Writer. As we're sitting there, a friend of my friend walks by, so they're talking. And, my friend introduces me to his friend. Then, Big-Time Writer comes up. Apparently, my friend knows him. And, his friend knows him, too. So, they're all talking, and my friend introduces me. I'm about to faint.

I'm all, "I'm a big fan." he says "thanks."

So, then I'm listening to my friend and his friend's convo. His friend's working on a pilot. Blah blah blah. And I'm wracking my brains. Who is this guy? He looks really familiar, but his name's not...

Then I realize, I misheard this guy's name.

It's not just a director. It's a BIG-TIME DIRECTOR. As in, my mom (who knows no one's name) has heard of him. He's already got a TV show on, as features people have infiltrated our world. I just happen to have a spec of the show he has on...

So, I'm like, Holy Shit.

And, BIG-TIME DIRECTOR was kind of weird when I told Big-Time Writer that I was a big fan, like, "why didn't she say anything to me?

So, I'm sitting there sweating it. "How do I work into conversation that I will hire prostitutes to give him blow jobs?"

Instead I say, "by the way, BIG-TIME DIRECTOR, I just wanted to let you know that I'm a huge fan of yours, too. In fact, I just specced your show, cuz I just love it."

BTD: Oh my god! Thank you! Wait, you wrote a spec of it? I'd love to read it!

ME: No.

MY FRIEND: You fucking idiot.

BTD: What?

BTD has to persuade me to send him the script. He gets his assistant over, makes me promise I'll call.


My agent sent the script over to their offices last week. I doubt anything will happen. If something does, it will be awesome. If not, I won't be disappointed. The point is, things like this don't happen in Dublin. Things like this happen in LA. So, if you're on the fence about moving out here: Do it. Because opportunities are literally on every corner!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Steal this blog.

You're sitting there. You've just typed, "END OF SHOW." You're stoked that you've got this amazingly incredible spec of an existing show. It's unique, it's in your voice. So, you've dotted the t's and crossed the i's. It's in a file marked "completed." What, you don't do that? Okay, well, whatever you do, you've finished the bugger. All those months (weeks? years?) of toil and trouble, done. Finito. Fin.


A friend reads a blurb in TV guide about next week's shows. She happens on a blurb about the show that you've specced. Or, maybe you forgot to blip through the commercials and you see an ad for next week's episode. The blurb, or the ad, or whatever you've seen/heard about an upcoming episode, sounds exactly like your fucking spec.

Fuckity fuck fuck.

How do we avoid this horrible occurence? Did they steal our brilliant ideas? They must have, because we're unique! We've got a different POV! Yet, it happens. And, it's not thievery. Unless you're like my mom, who thinks that once you've put your idea out into the ether, it's a free-for-all for all writers. Up there for anyone to grab... right? Uh, no. I believe it's one of three things:

A. Following the storylines too closely.
This happened with my Alias spec, which happened to be exactly the same as their Season 2 premiere -- they did it way better.

B. Coincidence.
You could make the argument that this isn't coincidence, that it's "C." This is what happened with my Angel spec -- I did a spec about vampires using drugs... they did an episode about vampires using drugs -- they did it way better.

C. A logical story to be told in this world.
With my Without A Trace spec I wondered, "Where's the hardest place where one could go missing?" My answer: "Prison." Q: "Who would be the scariest person to go missing from prison?" A: "A skinhead." -- apparently they asked the exact same questions when they did an ep about a skinhead going missing from prison...

When it happened to my Alias and Angel specs, I just put those scripts into a "defunct" folder, and started anew. Thing is, when it happened with my Without A Trace spec, that just happened to be the spec that got me into the Disney Fellowship, so I couldn't really put it in the "defunct" folder. But I couldn't, in good conscience send it out... or, could I? A year later, it would be a semi-finalist in the CBS program. So, it was definitely still a viable sample.

When I began the agent dance, I always told prospective agents that this was the script that got me into Disney. I told them that the idea'd been done. I ended up hip-pocketed by a great guy. Ultimately, I left him, because I hate the idea of "hip-pocket." But, that's another post. A year later, unstaffed, I started the agent search again. I told agents about the Without A Trace, as usual, but I also had some new stuff. Ultimately, it was the new stuff that landed me my current agent. But, that Without A Trace was fine for about a year.

A friend called me last week, she saw an episode of the show I specced that will be airing in a few weeks. Apparently, they'll be doing my idea. Sort of. It's similar, but not exact. I figure, depending on how close it truly is, I'll have about a year with this spec and then it'll end up in the "defunct" pile.

All I know is that when they do your idea, it's the suckiest and greatest feeling in the world. Sucky, because your script really has a limited shelf life now. Great, because you get to see what it would be like to have your ideas on screen...

And, if they do your idea, 9.99 times out of ten, they aren't stealing it. In fact, there's only been one time that I thought a show might have stolen an idea (not mine, a girl who was in a class with me) -- long story. But, due to circumstances and timing, and the teacher and his network of friends... well, I really thought she had a case...

In the end, none of this matters, because you have your portfolio, chock full of spec scripts and pilots and screenplays and tigers and bears oh my! And, if you don't, you need to get writing...