Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Top TV Writers Talk How to Work on Successful TV Shows

Went to a panel sponsored by The Scriptwriters’ Network on Saturday. Call that my force social interaction for the week. The speakers were Glen Mazzara of The Walking Dead, Dan O’Shannon of Modern Family, Alex Cary of Homeland, Janet Tamaro of Rizzoli & Isles, Vanessa Taylor of Game of Thrones & Matt Nix of Burn Notice. As you can tell, some hefty names in there.

They started with the usual grab bag of “How I Broke in Stories.” I appreciate these to a certain extent, but the thing that nearly all of the stories boil down to is: Know Someone.

They knew someone, They met someone at a party, such and so introduced them to their agent. It’s not easy. You have to network. So, circle this, star it, bookmark it, whatever. If you want to write for television, somewhere, somehow, you’re going to have to know someone in or around the industry. What this translates to is: get to Los Angeles. I’m not poo-pooing your dreams and maybe there are exceptions, but look deep inside yourself and decide whether or not you’re Katniss Everdeen and even she had sponsors. Peeta had to know someone to get a leg up (oh! A leg up! Snap!)

Enough with the Hunger Games references. What other wisdom did I take away from the experience?

You have to write. A lot.

You have to get used to rejection. Janet Tamaro, as a female showrunner, asked the men on the panel what the male equivalent to “bitch” was. Interestingly, the joking answer was “success.” And all the panelists were kinda like, “well…yeah.”

But let’s be honest:

bitches get stuff done

Perhaps the biggest thing they hit on was Voice. (Yes, so big I capitalized it)

It’s weird, Voice. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have a Voice. No, not sometimes. All the time. What is my Voice? How am I different? How can I be different while proving that I can also be the same?

This comes on the tail end of me pitching something in class that I probably shouldn’t have. I started the pilot writing class on Tuesday, a class that will end with a group of actors reading my pilot on stage. This is an awesome opportunity, to see what someone will do with my work. And, I pitched my half-baked idea. I had my ready to go idea. And I pitched my half-baked idea.

My heart’s in it. I love my half-baked idea. But my brain started berating me. I’m not ready to write this. Which makes it, perhaps, the perfect time to start writing it. It’s like I snuck up on this idea in the jungle and surprised it into submission. Hopefully, I can wrestle it to the ground before it gets its legs underneath it.

Well, once again, I’ve turned this blog around and made it all about me.

I guess what you really need to know is that nobody knows what they’re doing. And also no one can really tell you what to do. We’re all firing in the dark. Some people have flashlights, but when they hand them over, they don’t always work correctly.

Last note: Dan O’Shannon wrote a book about some of his comedy experiences called What Are You Laughing At? If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought. I will probably take a look at it and throw a review up here. I suppose I should get back to being “smartly droll*” about books.

* A friend of mine said I was smart droll so I’m stealing it. Welcome to the world of writing.

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