Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Los Angeles
Re: Shadowing a Writers Room
Thanks to everybody who offered advice. I figured I'd follow up about how this played out.
I spent last week in the writers room for the show I mentioned, and it was definitely an amazing experience. From the writers' assistants to the showrunner, everybody treated me really well. It was a great opportunity to watch them pitch ideas, break stories, and generally just go through their process. I've always been the crazy, creative misfit in corporate offices where I've worked, so it was probably the first time I've ever felt comfortable in a professional setting. haha
So, on my last day there, I asked several people in the room if I could get two minutes of their time before they left. Everybody was happy to accommodate, even the showrunner. I ended up getting a lot of great advice about how to navigate the TV world in an attempt to break in at some point.
Of course, the creator who invited me was at the top of the list, so I sent him a text to ask for a couple minutes of his time as well. He said yes, but something ended up keeping him away from the office for the rest of the day. Not a big deal. I was just really grateful for the opportunity.
So, I'm about to leave, and he responds to my text again asking if I want to meet for a drink later that night. Long story short, I show up, we make conversation, and he finally says, "So, you're looking for advice?"
I respond, "Yeah, what do you think I should do moving forward to give myself the best chance of writing for TV?"
And he says...
So, I'm just sitting there with this really stupid look on my face. And he's legendary for being really funny, so I'm thinking this might be a joke, but he's not laughing. I open my mouth to try to clarify, and he says...
"I'm going to bring you on next season."
And I'm speechless, but I have to say something:
"Wow. So, like ... a PA or a writer's assistant?"
But he's looking at me like I should understand what he's saying. He continues:
"No. As a writer."
Of course, I'm waiting for the punchline. But it doesn't come. This is real. And it's one of those rare shows that will definitely have that next season.
"Really? Do you want me to write a spec?"
"No." And then he gets this look like he's about to break my heart. There's some kind of a catch. "But I'm paying you the minimum."
I could only laugh.
And I think back to one of his interviews I listened to a while ago, even before I knew him. In relation to breaking in, he suggested that ideally "...you want them to come to you."
So, that's what I did. I had written several pilots in the past, two of which were promoted by the Black List for high scores, but I could never get more than a couple of people to read them. So, I quit screenwriting because I knew it was my only chance to break in. Sounds crazy, but I believed it.
It was basically a poor man's Diablo Cody sort of thing. I made a crazy podcast unlike anything anybody else in the genre was doing. He recognized my unique voice, became a big fan, and was compelled to help me.
Last year, a legit film exec contacted me to say she and her producing partner, who worked in reality TV and had sold a show recently, were interested in pitching me to a network that was buying a lot of shows in the same genre as my podcast. She came to me. But when I asked about the possibility of writing for TV, she said due to my age, race, and heritage, I had absolutely no chance of ever breaking in at the entry level.
I never believed her. Not for one second. If she was interested in my unique voice, then it stands to reason someone else might be too. That happened.
When I was writing features and pilots, all I did was desperately think about what others could do for me. Once I let go of that disposition, and adopted a policy of giving as much as I could through my podcast, without the promise of anything in return, people started to notice. And I became a better person.
So, if I ask myself how I got that one miraculous "yes" after years of failure, it was by working on my own character arc, no matter how painful the process became. I'm not comfortable speaking into a mic. And I don't like my voice being broadcast to thousands of people. It's terrifying, and the criticism is brutal. But if I never recognized the need to change as protagonist of my own story, why the hell would anybody want to hire me as a writer who replicates that process?