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

10-24-2010 , 06:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuluck
why is cable so much more awesome than network tv?
People are stupid. Networks need better numbers and have higher budgets. Cable shows can get away with having 1-2 million viewers, when that would get you insta-cancelled on network TV. They have to appeal to too many people.
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10-24-2010 , 11:01 PM
What show do you write for tomcollins?
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10-25-2010 , 10:59 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
What show do you write for tomcollins?
None yet. Just an obvious question doesn't need an expert. Network shows that get much more viewers than most cable shows get cancelled all the time. It's all about lowered expectations and money.

There are other minor factors like network shows not really being able to be as edgy, although that depends a lot on the timeslot. Obviously HBO and Showtime will make far edgier shows than NBC ever will at any time slot.

Last edited by TomCollins; 10-25-2010 at 11:07 AM.
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10-25-2010 , 01:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC11GTR
Sorry. I meant the approach as far as dialogue between the 2. Long speeches and/or detailed conversations (ala Sorkin) don't seem to work as well in multi-camera. If you were to write an episode with same story and the same characters in both styles, how much would it differ?

I wasn't sure how much "hold-for-laughs" and the like is taken into consideration. Or is that the editors problem in post?
Well regarding long speeches, I don't think multicam writers intentionally try to avoid them in general. I guess they can be harder to pull of bc you don't have the benefit of being able to break it up visually as easily as you can on single. But I've seen plenty of long speeches on multicam and thinking back to Seinfeld, they would have characters tell long stories a lot and it was still very funny.

"Hold for laughs" isn't the writes problem or the editor's problem, it's the actor's problem. It's something that multicam actors have to learn to do and you will see actors who've only done singlecam struggle with it at first if they're doing multi for the first time.

One sort of stylistic approach is that multicam is much more oriented toward hard jokes. Every scene will end with a "blow," meaning a hard joke to go out of the scene on. Of course, I'm generalizing and it's not true for every singlecam or every multicam but I think there is something to relying on audience laughter for multi. Yes, the laughs are sweetened in post-production but you definitely want the people laughing when you're taping the show.
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10-25-2010 , 01:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuluck
why is cable so much more awesome than network tv?
I'm guessing your tastes skew more toward things that are less mainstream and edgier and you will find that on cable because they don't have the same need to appeal to a mass audience like networks do. Cable can target niche markets whereas networks need their shows to be successful with a much broader demographic.
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10-27-2010 , 01:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
I'm guessing your tastes skew more toward things that are less mainstream and edgier and you will find that on cable because they don't have the same need to appeal to a mass audience like networks do. Cable can target niche markets whereas networks need their shows to be successful with a much broader demographic.
I think what's interesting about the above is that the definition of a "mainstream/broad" hit is changing pretty quickly. Let's take Glee, for example - it's the highest rated show on television right now in the A18-49 demo. But its ratings success is not driven by broad appeal, but a big enough and very loyal niche audience.

The "Big 4" broadcast networks will be challenged by the idea (what is broad enough?) in development, and it will be interesting to see what comes out in 2011/12 (considering the abysmal failure of this fall launch for all the Big 4).

(This is of course driven by the fact that Broadcast Network ratings have eroded year-over-year for the past 20 years due to increased cable competition. Obviously a "big enough niche" show like Glee could not take the ratings crown in say the 1980s.)

To the poster who asked if studios/networks look at off-Network viewership - of course the studios/networks look at all viewing on any platform of the series they own and distribute. The problem is the economics of viewing on Netflix/Hulu etc. are not robust enough to offset horrible live/linear ratings for the broadcast networks.

The cable networks are a different story and don't rely as much on advertising dollars, hence could support series and keep them on the air even with crappy ratings e.g. MadMen - AMC, which airs Mad Men, makes more than half their money on subscription fees from cable/satellite/telco - so even if Mad Men gets relatively low ad dollars, Mad Men becomes an important asset in negotiations for these sub dollars with say Comcast - basically AMC says "hey Comcast, without us you don't have Mad Men, sure, it doesn't get great ratings compared to Grey's Anatomy, but 3 million of your subs still watch it all the time, and who knows, without Mad Men, maybe they switch to DirecTV".

-Al
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10-27-2010 , 02:02 PM
I dont have any questions but this is a good thread and congrats on your kick ass job.
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10-27-2010 , 06:25 PM
really enjoying reading the thread and i hope RW can find a way to stick around, gl with that and future shows
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04-01-2011 , 03:49 PM
So I asked fsoyars this question:

Quote:
Thanks for taking the time to read this.

This question could've been posted in the thread you started, but I don't know if you'd ever see it. At least this way, I know you'd get it.

Here's the situation: I was hired to write a pilot, which I finished (but have not sent over, though they know I finished it), and the writers agreement is getting put together right now. I've also written the following 2 episodes since I was on a roll and didn't want to stop.

I'll most likely be the head writer, or a higher level staff writer if the network wants someone with a name as the head.

What I'm wondering is how the copyrighting works in this situation. Should I copyright the pilot and the other 2 episodes? I know that the contract will be taken into consideration for that, but if you were in my position, would you copyright all of it?

Or is the copyrighting something that the network (or an agent) takes care of and not something that I need to be concerned with?

I'm not really sure how this all works at this level. I've written stuff for other people before, but this is the first time I've been contracted by people who are legit players in Hollywood. There's some really good names attached, so I don't want to offend anyone if I were to copyright it when I shouldn't have. I also want to make sure I'm protected since I'll be working with people who really know the game. I trust the people who hired me, but when it comes to the higher-ups at the network, you never know.

Much appreciation in advanced.
And got this answer:

Quote:
This is actually something you might want to post in the thread bc I will tell Alyosius (who works at ABC corporate) and LFS (an agent) to look at your post bc they probably know more than me. Typically this is the sort of thing an agent or manager handles. If you don't have anyone representing you, I would definitely register the scripts with the WGA (you don't have to be a member to do that) and then not worry about it too much. Like I said in the thread, when you are starting out as a writer and don't have representation, you have to take some risks. Yeah, you might get screwed over - you probably won't - but really what do you have to lose? I would trust the people who hired you. They obviously believe you have talent. They probably won't want to screw you.

Btw - feel free to bump the thread with this question or any others. I will definitely see it. But also I like answering these kinds of questions and am also a shameless attention whore . Good luck.
And as per fsoyars's's's suggestion, I'm bumping this thread.

Things are moving along fast so I'll probably end up posting more and more in this thread. I might even get the chance to share some info of my own as the show I'm involved in progresses. Especially since I'm a part of it from the beginning. Until then, I'm sure I'll be posting question upon question until I'm asked to shut the f*ck up.
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04-01-2011 , 03:53 PM
comedy? drama? showtime show?
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04-01-2011 , 03:56 PM
It's a drama, but I'm going to try and shove as much funny in it as it can handle.

I can't say the name of the network yet, but it's a pay channel. So, that narrows it down to what... 4 channels?
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04-01-2011 , 04:01 PM
Would you have any recommendations for, say a high school kid charting out his college choice and life, on how to get into the business?

A particular school, major? Internship or job/activity?


And congrats on the job!

Last edited by SnotBoogy; 04-01-2011 at 04:13 PM.
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04-01-2011 , 04:13 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC11GTR
It's a drama, but I'm going to try and shove as much funny in it as it can handle.

I can't say the name of the network yet, but it's a pay channel. So, that narrows it down to what... 4 channels?
congrats!
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04-01-2011 , 05:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
Would you have any recommendations for, say a high school kid charting out his college choice and life, on how to get into the business?

A particular school, major? Internship or job/activity?


And congrats on the job!
Thanks for the congrats. It's not a show yet, but it's looking more and more like it will be based on who we've got attached to it. As for the question this one is all Fsoyars.

I'll go ahead and give a vague description of how all of this came to life.

3 weeks ago, a friend (producer/actor) of a friend (script doctor/screenwriter) asked if he knew anyone who would be interested in coming up with a premise for a show based on 3 basic ideas which combined into something interesting. He had 2 fairly well known actors (series regulars), 2 very well known actors (unfortunately are only doing a cameo), 2 producers and a network interested.

I came up with a short outline which was maybe 10-15 minutes of screen time to see if they liked my ideas. Everyone did. 2 days later, I laid down to take a nap, which turned into a much needed 12 hours of sleep. I woke up at 4:30AM. Nothing was open, no one was awake, so I started writing. At noon, I had a 37 pilot draft finished. I sent it over. Everyone read it. They loved the writing, loved the dialogue and the flow, but didn't think that some of the scenes worked with the style of show they were wanting.

No problem, considering they gave me nothing to go on. 2 days later, I got an email with a detailed treatment of what they wanted. I realized how off my 37 pages were, but now I had something to go with. That day, I wrote a 7 page intro scene, and sent that over. It got everyone really excited. It also made me nervous because I was having trouble coming up with the rest of the pilot. I dwelled on it for 2 days and still didn't have enough to fill an hour episode. Knowing I was going to be writing for 2 huge names (even though it was only 1 episode) made me freeze up. Anytime that's happened, I always unthaw and knock it out of the park. I was shooting for that outcome here.

This past Sunday, I sat down at the computer at 10am and by 4am, I had 51 pages written for the pilot, an intro scene for the 2nd episode, and an outline for the rest of ep 2 and the 3rd (as well as thoughts for the entire 1st season). I told everyone that the 1st draft of the pilot was finished, and would be sending it over soon. My script doctor friend (listed above) told me that I should wait to send it over until the contract is finished being put together. He wanted me to have more leverage in case I wanted to change anything before I signed it.

CUT TO: yesterday, roughly 20 minutes after I PM'd Fsoyars: I get an email with notes that everyone put together. They were almost exactly what I had written on Sunday, and they haven't read that yet. I got an email today saying that we're hoping to be pitching the network next week. I'll be touching up the pilot until then, and continuing on with the episodes that follow. I'm on a roll and have already "seen" the entire season in my head and am starting to put it on the page.

It's been moving fast. I know that in this industry, nothing is guaranteed until it is, but I think this one is about as close as it can be.
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04-01-2011 , 05:41 PM
congrats DC! good luck
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04-01-2011 , 09:18 PM
What do you do when a random 2+2er sends you a PM, begging for you to read his spec?
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04-02-2011 , 01:59 AM
I'd like to see Fsoyars answer on this one too.

I'd read it. Why not? If it sucks, I'll know in a few pages, if not, then awesome. But I'm only semi-pro till the contracts are signed
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04-02-2011 , 04:50 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
Would you have any recommendations for, say a high school kid charting out his college choice and life, on how to get into the business?

A particular school, major? Internship or job/activity?
Hard to say bc I didn't consider getting into this business until after I graduated from college and moved to LA. I was an English major at a small New England liberal arts school. It certainly wont hurt going to film school or studying screen writing but it's by no means necessary. Of all the writers I know very few of them studied film or screenwriting during undergrad.

My suggestion would be to watch a lot of movies and quality TV. And unless you want to be a director, don't worry so much about film school. Just go where you want, study what you want and ingest lots of movies.
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04-02-2011 , 04:55 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by CliffKirby
What do you do when a random 2+2er sends you a PM, begging for you to read his spec?
Unfortunately I cant really do that. I am already constantly reading scripts for people I know irl. I currently am back logged a couple scripts that I need to read of some of my best friends. I barely have time to do that (what with my own work and the constant posting in OOT of course). Among friends it's a standard favor to do, but I can't really start taking on 2p2ers as well. Wish I could.
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04-02-2011 , 04:59 AM
DC - like I said in the PM don't worry so much about the contracts and what not right now. If you had agents they could handle it but since you don't, just try to keep this thing moving fwd and maintain a good relationship with these producers. That's important bc even though it may seem all good right now, these things are almost always a long shot to get done right up until the moment they actually get done. So you want to make sure that even if it falls through, you come away with good connections so that they may call you up again in the future for their next project.
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04-02-2011 , 11:05 AM
how come you're not funny on the forums? is it a "never give anything away for free" thing?
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04-02-2011 , 01:33 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
That's important bc even though it may seem all good right now, these things are almost always a long shot to get done right up until the moment they actually get done. So you want to make sure that even if it falls through, you come away with good connections so that they may call you up again in the future for their next project.
That is one of the key things I'm wanting to make sure I do. Since I wrote a lot of what they were wanting before I knew they wanted it, we're off to a great start in that area.

I've been in the game on the music side for awhile, and there are so many more horror stories in the music industry. I'm trying not to let that overprotectiveness creep into this. I don't think it's nearly as bad in the TV/Movie side, but that might be because it's not as widely reported.

This brings me to another question I have:

If you write a great pilot, have a great team behind it, and you pitch that, you've got "X" chance of getting it made. If you were to write 4-7 episodes, maybe even the entire first season, and pitch that, would the value of "X" change? Would that even be taken into consideration by a network?
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04-02-2011 , 01:39 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phildo
how come you're not funny on the forums? is it a "never give anything away for free" thing?
Come on, man, that's not cool. If you started an "Ask me anything about sucking dick thread," I wouldn't go in there and comment on the quality of your blowjobs.
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04-02-2011 , 01:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC11GTR
If you write a great pilot, have a great team behind it, and you pitch that, you've got "X" chance of getting it made. If you were to write 4-7 episodes, maybe even the entire first season, and pitch that, would the value of "X" change? Would that even be taken into consideration by a network?
I can only speak to comedy which is different bc typically it's not serialized, where drama is. But usually you should be able to pitch what a handful of episodes might be. And probably have a doc that describes them briefly, a paragraph per episode. Writing them fully is overkill and probably not appropriate as it may demonstrate a lack of awareness as to future notes and a lack of flexibility if they want to change certain elements of the show. For drama, I'm guessing, but I'd imagine having something written down to describe the potential arc of the first season would be appropriate. No more than a page or two I'd think. You should really try to ask a drama writer though.
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04-02-2011 , 04:11 PM
Okay, follow up question:

Say you read one of these scripts from your friends and it turns out to be stone-cold genius. You laugh your ass off, it's got rounded characters, a coherent plot, etc. What would you do? Like, how would you go about exerting the influence that your hopeful writer friends are implicitly assuming you have?
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