And I was doing SO well. But I missed Tuesday’s post, which was supposed to be a Writing post. So, I’m doing it today. Sorry about that.
On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with a writer on one of my favorite TV shows, NBC’s Grimm. I reached out to her via Twitter and asked if she’d be amenable to sitting down with me over coffee so that I could pick her brain about writing – totally not expecting an answer at all. She surprised me by saying yes! I wanted to speak with her specifically, because 1) she’s a writer on a show of the type that I would like to write one day, and 2) she’s a newer writer who also happens to be a woman of color, and I wanted to get that perspective. She confirmed some stuff I already knew, but she also taught me a lot that I didn’t know. Here are some kernels of wisdom I gathered:
- Of the list of shows that I want to spec, she said Castle is my strongest choice, because it’s a popular, long-running procedural. My choice of Fringe is less strong, because it’s not clear that Fringe is gonna get another season. (Sad, but true! Please, FOX. Season 5?) She didn’t say anything about my desire to do a Doctor Who episode, but she did say that my wanting to spec Grimm was a good choice now that they have a second season, since they are also a procedural, but it’ll also allow me to get my genre-show groove on. Ultimately, since the specs are mostly for submission to writing fellowships and not necessarily to get me jobs on their own, I should choose shows that I’m passionate about, or at least choose shows in the genre I’m passionate about. Because it’s easy to tell if one is writing something he/she isn’t really into.
- I should just have lots of stuff. Specs, original pilots, even short fiction or plays, etc. She got her job on Grimm off of a short story she wrote that her agent submitted for her. It was a modern re-telling of a fairy tale, so it was more perfect than any of the scripts she had at the ready. The point is to keep producing stories you love and always have a ready stable of current writing samples, because specs and even original pilots can become irrelevant really quickly, depending on what showrunners and producers are looking to read. Also, the short stories are helpful, because sometimes folks just don’t wanna read anything as long as 50 pages, since they get so many submissions.
- She reminded me that there are network writing fellowships other than the Disney/ABC Writing Program and the NHMC Writing Program, both of which I’ve applied to before, and NBC Writers on the Verge, which I was already planning on applying to this year. She received the first CBS Writing Fellowship through the USC Screenwriting program, and reminded me that CBS also has a Writing Mentorship Program through their Diversity Institute to which I can apply. Warner Bros. also has a Writer’s Workshop, as does FOX (FOX Writer’s Residency) and Nickelodeon (Nickelodeon Writing Program). So, you know, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Most of them have upcoming deadlines.
- She recommended that, in addition to the ever-elusive writing assistant job (getting hired as the writing room assistant on the show, which means that you take notes as the writing team throws ideas around, sometimes getting to contribute, sometimes not), I should work on getting hired as a PA on stuff. Basically, any job that would allow me to be on-set is an advantage. Now, I’ve already been doing volunteer PA-ing on stuff, because I just wanted to learn how a set works and build contacts, but I didn’t really think about it in terms of it eventually getting me into a writing room. Huh. Anyway, she suggested just looking up PA jobs online – that that stuff is always posted. Usually around now. Um, OK!
- She also did warn me that, while networks are definitely making an effort to be more diverse, 1) obviously that’s not enough. You have to be good. (Duh) and 2) that the “Diversity hire” can face hostility, depending on the show/showrunner/other writers/writing room environment. Not that it’s all horrible, but if you come up through a diversity initiative, you might be a little suspect. Meh. I can deal with it. Once I have the job, it doesn’t really matter to me what people think of my having that job. I’ll work my ass off and prove how much I deserve to be there. Which I will, of course.
There was some other chatter, but that was pretty much it. It was a really great conversation, and it basically gave me a lot of homework! I’m hoping to enter most of the fellowships this year, and in order to do that, I have to finish this Castle spec and work on a new one, which will likely be Grimm. Apparently, I’m working toward being an expert in nerdy procedurals. My first priority is to finish my Castle in time for the CBS deadline, then start my Grimm and finish it by June in time for ABC (I already entered the crappy version of my Castle script to ABC last year). Depending on which script has turned out best, I’ll send either one to the rest of them. So, my timeline looks like this:
- Finish Castle script and submit to peeps for notes by – April 26th
- Get and incorporate notes, get other CBS application materials together by – April 30th
- Mail full application packet to CBS – May 1st (must be postmarked by this date!)
- Finish 1st draft of Grimm script by – May 17th
- Get and incorporate notes, get other ABC and WB application materials together by – May 30th
- Send complete application packets to ABC and WB – May 31st (needs to be postmarked on or before June 1st!)
- Send complete application packet to NBC by June 29th (postmark date)
- Send complete application packet to NHMC Writing Program by Aug 13th
- *bite nails as I wait to hear whether or not I’ve been accepted to any programs until Fall*
This is gonna be an interesting and busy couple of months, huh?