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Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer

04-21-2011 , 06:23 AM
Cool thread, I'm also trying to break into the biz (through the internets!) so, uh, we'll see how that goes.

You mentioned that you were half-Asian, do you think this helped in the whole "diversity hire" thing you talked about? (I only ask because I am full Asian and would like for once for my skin to benefit me)

Also any opinions on the lack of / poor portrayls of Asians in television (or do you, like, only half care? )
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04-21-2011 , 09:31 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
Kate Hudson
Jaden Smith and Willow Smith
Rumer Willis
Sophia Copolla
Roman Copolla
Emma Roberts
Miley Cyrus
Brice Howard
Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon's daughter)
Tori Spelling
Spencer Grammer
Scott Caan
Abbey Elliot
There are both good and bad examples here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
well, "getting in the room" is probably a helluva lot further than most people get.
THIS is true. I guess I'm arguing semantics, but I think of nepotism as getting jobs because of your familial relationships. Children of important people in the entertainment business have a ton of advantages other people don't have: money, support, growing up in LA and all the relationships that come with that, AND doors opening because of their names. Wth some notable exceptions, actually getting the job and having a career are then left to talent. Looking at fsoyars list above, I think arguing that Kate Hudson's success is due to nepotism is silly. Tori Spelling, however is hard as he'll to argue against.

Part of the reason I think I feel this way is the number of children of big Hollywood names that have tried and failed to follow in their parent's footsteps. There are a lot of them, that you've obviously never heard of.
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04-21-2011 , 09:35 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
Yeah like I said above, just pm me your email and I'll send you the spec we wrote that got us our agent.
Can you send it to me also?
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04-21-2011 , 09:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Li Dong
Cool thread, I'm also trying to break into the biz (through the internets!) so, uh, we'll see how that goes.

You mentioned that you were half-Asian, do you think this helped in the whole "diversity hire" thing you talked about? (I only ask because I am full Asian and would like for once for my skin to benefit me)

Also any opinions on the lack of / poor portrayls of Asians in television (or do you, like, only half care? )
I could write a book about Asian performers. As will probably not surprise anybody, no group is more constantly interested in the effect of their race on their careers than Asians. Most ethnic groups are mostly over it. That said, Asians have to deal with crap other people don't. For instance, I have had many clients over the years get offended when asked what "kind" of Asian they are. Their very reasonable point is that they're standing right there, if the person asking can't tell, then why should it matter? I have people who use multiple last names to keep from being excluded from a role because of their ethnic heritage.

White guy/Asian woman is by far the "safest" bi-racial coupling onscreen AINEC.

Final answer: for performers, not being just like everybody else is helpful in getting started. However, the sky isn't as high than if you look like Chris Pine.
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04-21-2011 , 10:48 AM
I will not stand for any negativity towards Scott Caan whatsoever. The man is a national treasure.
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04-21-2011 , 10:57 AM
Montana Fishburne?
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04-21-2011 , 11:54 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFS
There are both good and bad examples here.



THIS is true. I guess I'm arguing semantics, but I think of nepotism as getting jobs because of your familial relationships. Children of important people in the entertainment business have a ton of advantages other people don't have: money, support, growing up in LA and all the relationships that come with that, AND doors opening because of their names. Wth some notable exceptions, actually getting the job and having a career are then left to talent. Looking at fsoyars list above, I think arguing that Kate Hudson's success is due to nepotism is silly. Tori Spelling, however is hard as he'll to argue against.

Part of the reason I think I feel this way is the number of children of big Hollywood names that have tried and failed to follow in their parent's footsteps. There are a lot of them, that you've obviously never heard of.
Ha, I can't stand Kate Hudson. I guess people find her hot or something though. She annoys the hell out of me. Imo she's a horrible actress with average looks.
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04-21-2011 , 12:02 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
Ha, I can't stand Kate Hudson. I guess people find her hot or something though. She annoys the hell out of me. Imo she's a horrible actress with average looks.
I don't particularly like her, either, but a lot of people obviously do. She's achieved a pretty rare level of success for actresses. Honestly I really don't like Sofia Coppola's films, but clearly a lot of people do. Those are people that I thought were bad examples. Spelling and Willis stand out as very difficult to explain without the family connections. It's too early to tell about the Smith kids, I think. I don't care who Eva Amurri's parents are, I would wear her out with gusto.
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04-21-2011 , 12:08 PM
Gary Busey's kid
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04-21-2011 , 12:12 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Li Dong
Cool thread, I'm also trying to break into the biz (through the internets!) so, uh, we'll see how that goes.

You mentioned that you were half-Asian, do you think this helped in the whole "diversity hire" thing you talked about? (I only ask because I am full Asian and would like for once for my skin to benefit me)

Also any opinions on the lack of / poor portrayls of Asians in television (or do you, like, only half care? )
As a team, my partner and I are 1/4 Asian which qualifies us as a diversity hire, which I always find funny. We have yet to be the "diversity hire" so far on a show. I don't know why that is. Diversity hires are paid for by the studio producing the show, meaning the paycheck for that writer(s) doesn't come out of the show's budget. We are a sick value in that case bc we're 2 for 1 and we're actually talented. In any case, I guess we've been lucky to be employed thus far without having to use that card but maybe one day we will.

But in general, yes, it can only help you. I think the Asian comedy writer is a trend that's just starting. I say this because I know a handful of Asian comedy writers around my age and at my level but I've never met one over 35 or at the showrunner level. Not that they don't exist, but it seems like there are a lot more young ones than old ones.

I'm slightly embarrassed to say I haven't ever thought much about your second question. I haven't felt that Asians were negatively represented in the shows I've been on but I've also never been one to shy away from racial comedy. On the larger scale, are they underrepresented or portrayed negatively? Maybe. Maybe the influx of young Asian writers will change that. You'll be happy to know that in the pilot my partner and I are currently writing one of the four main characters is Asian.
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04-21-2011 , 12:13 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
Ha, I can't stand Kate Hudson. I guess people find her hot or something though. She annoys the hell out of me. Imo she's a horrible actress with average looks.
+1. forreals what has that broad done other than Almost Famous?
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04-21-2011 , 12:17 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFS
I have people who use multiple last names to keep from being excluded from a role because of their ethnic heritage.
I think he'll do just fine with Li Dong.
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04-21-2011 , 12:35 PM
Shorten it to L. Dong and perk the interest of the ladies.
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04-21-2011 , 01:43 PM
The Smith kids doesn't really seem like it's classical nepotism, are they getting roles that would even exist if their parents weren't using their leverage to create them? Probably more appalling in the sense that these two idiots are trying to manufacture careers for their offspring- but it's not like it's really at the expense of anything other than a normal childhood and any sense of self respect.
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04-21-2011 , 01:54 PM
I know a lot of kids of insiders ( Both of which you've never heard of) who got breaks, in often totally unrelated jobs in entertainment.

But I think a major point is that growing up in the industry provides a mindset and experience on how to go about things. They don't have to deal with the "you wanna go to Hollywood and do what!?!?!" from their parents.

Then again, some go crazy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isla_Vista_massacre by the son of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Attias
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04-22-2011 , 12:30 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dids
The Smith kids doesn't really seem like it's classical nepotism, are they getting roles that would even exist if their parents weren't using their leverage to create them? Probably more appalling in the sense that these two idiots are trying to manufacture careers for their offspring- but it's not like it's really at the expense of anything other than a normal childhood and any sense of self respect.
You don't think another Karate Kid sequel would exist other than as a vehicle for Jaden created by his parents? Not that it was created by his parents.
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04-22-2011 , 09:06 AM
If I was Will Smith I'd probably create all of the same opportunities for my kids. I don't find it very appalling. Self-respect? Do you think Jaden Smith is going to wake up in his 20's and cut himself because he was in a blockbuster movie with Jackie Chan?
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04-22-2011 , 05:23 PM
Conz sent me this in re: to my spec pilot "Sweatshop."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conz
sorry to bother you again, but how long did it take you guys to write this? Was it an idea you had for a while? how many drafts before you felt it was ready to register/shop? Also, when you pitched it, did you also have a season layout to present with it?
It probably took longer than it should have - a few months I think. But we weren't under any pressure to get it done by a certain time so we took our time with it and were careful to make sure it all made sense and was as good as possible. We came up with the idea bc we wanted to write something that was funny, out of the box and attention-getting. Even if it wasn't necessarily something that was likely to sell. The goal was to get people to read it and hopefully get an agent, as opposed to writing something marketable that would feasibly be on TV. I recommend this approach in writing a pilot on spec if you are trying to break in. Much better to push the envelope and stand apart from the pile of scripts, than write something that resembles something currently on TV. So, basically we were just throwing ideas around and one of us said "What about a workplace comedy set in a sweatshop?" We both laughed and that was it.

We wrote many drafts I forget how many exactly. We outlined an entirely different sweatshop story, started to write it, realized it wasn't working, scrapped it and rebroke a whole new story. I'd guess we wrote 4 or 5 drafts.

We never pitched it until recently. People always told us "this is a great spec, one of the best we've read, but it's not marketable." The content was just too borderline inappropriate for TV. I don't feel that way of course, this is just what we were told. So, for three years it was just a very good writing sample that did it's job and got us an agent and pretty much single-handedly got us our jobs on The Goode Family and on Running Wilde. A few months ago Comedy Central read it and brought us in to talk about possibly developing it for them. They were still unsure but wanted to hear a pitch. We put together a doc of a bunch of possible episodes and sent it to them. They passed .

In general though, when writing an original spec, you don't need to plan out a season beyond the pilot. Don't worry about that. It doesn't hurt to have maybe three, very general ideas of what future episodes might be, but mostly likely you won't need those until you are actually pitching it.
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04-22-2011 , 05:28 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFS
Having a good last name definitely helps you get in the room, but ultimately I think the cream rises to the top. There are probably a lot of reasons the progeny of famous actors are more likely to be successful, but it's not exactly nepotism. The best example Aloysius could come up with as someone who has had some success they wouldn't have otherwise had was Colin Hanks, but I don't think you can argue that he's untalented.
Kids of actors tend to have more resources available, so they can "struggle" under the radar without having to work 2 jobs to make ends meet. They have connections to the top people, can get training, etc... I'm not sure if you'd consider connections to be nepotism, but it's a lot easier to get them when you grow up and live in LA among the rich and famous than when you are in East Butt****, Iowa.
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04-22-2011 , 05:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
In general though, when writing an original spec, you don't need to plan out a season beyond the pilot. Don't worry about that. It doesn't hurt to have maybe three, very general ideas of what future episodes might be, but mostly likely you won't need those until you are actually pitching it.
That's a discussion that we're having with our show right now. The pilot is done, just doing some polishing, and I'm about 15 pages into the 2nd episode. I've got the entire season sketched out, but it's a cross between an episode synopsis and a full on treatment. I know what I'm going to do with the ep's, but I don't want to get married to an idea that I'm not able to use.

I was hoping we'd have pitched by now, but we decided that based on who is involved and the people we have access too, we want to be able to say "You like the pilot, well here's the 2nd episode. Oh, you like that too? Well, BAMMMM!! Here's the entire season." We have the option to just show the pilot, and based on the meeting with the network, we have more to give in case it's needed. "It's better to have a gun and not need it then to need a gun and not have it." I don't mind putting the work in on these at all though.
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04-22-2011 , 05:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dids
The Smith kids doesn't really seem like it's classical nepotism, are they getting roles that would even exist if their parents weren't using their leverage to create them? Probably more appalling in the sense that these two idiots are trying to manufacture careers for their offspring- but it's not like it's really at the expense of anything other than a normal childhood and any sense of self respect.
What fsoyars said

+

If there wouldn't be a new Karate Kid but for the Smith family making it happen, that's actually nepotism that is much more detrimental than simply getting a role that would exist regardless.

Put another way: There are only so many weekends in a year, studios only make X number of movies and spend Y dollars making movies. If nepotism is then taking one of those slots and millions of those dollars it's not an instance of nepotism having less of an adverse effect on movies, it's actually a case where the detriment is much worse. Not only are these Hollywood kids taking an acting role they may not merit, they are also taking resources away for writers/directors/... who would get them to make a movie if the release date and studio resources weren't being used up by some kid cause of who his parents are.
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04-22-2011 , 06:56 PM
how scripted are shows like leno/letterman/fallon/ferguson? those would be pretty awesome to write for, I'm guessing.
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04-22-2011 , 07:13 PM
I had the (apparently mistaken) impression that the Smith's were behind that movie's existence. Either way they're ****ing creepy scientologists and I hope their wiener kids end up with drug problems.
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04-23-2011 , 09:26 AM
fsoyars,
Great thread, thanks for sharing everything. I'm pretty sure I've made it through everything, so I don't think this has been asked, but sorry if it has: How do recurring gags and real long-build-up references usually work?
I realize you didn't work on it, but I'm thinking particularly the kind of thing that AD did so well (I admit I haven't seen enough of RW yet to see if it does it to the same extent) - jokes that only work because of some throwaway comment or event from a previous episode (or even season) that in hindsight seems like it could've only being there to set up the later joke. It felt in AD like almost everything tied in to something else, and joke after joke after joke tied together across episodes and seasons.

How often are jokes written with a view to setting up a particular joke at some uncertain point in the future? These gags have to be planned with a multiple-episode (or multiple-season) horizon, right? How much precision goes into it - is it always clear what the later joke will be, or do you just throw things in knowing you'll get something out of it later? How much emphasis has been put on those sorts of jokes in shows you've worked on, and how does the process differ from writing jokes that are self-contained?
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04-23-2011 , 05:06 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dids
I had the (apparently mistaken) impression that the Smith's were behind that movie's existence. Either way they're ****ing creepy scientologists and I hope their wiener kids end up with drug problems.
I don't think you know what you're talking about.
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