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

04-15-2011 , 03:23 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
does it help in hollywood to be of a particular religion/ethnicity
If you're a gay Jew from Harvard you're set.

Kidding of course, I honestly don't think anything really matters as much as talent and/or savvy depending on your field.

In TV writing specifically, some cynics might say there is a Harvard and maybe also Jewish bias. But I don't really think there is. Ten or twenty years ago there was probably much more of a Harvard thing but I don't think so much these days. I'm referring to Harvard alums, and especially those who wrote for the Harvard Lampoon, ushering other Harvard alums into the business over other, perhaps equally qualified applicants. But of the writers I know who are my age, it seems they are much more diverse than the older writers.

Neither me nor my writing partner fit that bill. I'm half-Asian, half-white, from VA and went to Trinity College in CT. My writing partner is a Polish/Italian/Irish dude who went to Ithaca College. We've never felt like we've had either an advantage or disadvantage either way bc of our demographic. We're both tall though so maybe that helps.
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-15-2011 , 03:28 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominic
when writing a spec of an established show these days, what shows are the ones producers want to see, and what ones should you avoid?
I haven't written one in a few years so I'm not totally up to date on what the "hot" ones are. I'd guess that Modern Family, Community, Parks and Rec and Always Sunny are all good ones to do. For multicam probably Big Bang or HIMYM.

I'd avoid The Office, Curb and really any show that's been on for more than 2 or 3 years.

Modern Fam might be borderline played out at this point as I'm sure there are TONS of them out there and 30 Rock is also probably borderline.

Ideally you want to do a show that is popular enough that most people who read it will be familiar enough with it to get your spec. But also not something that they've already read a million specs of. Of all the ones I've listed here I'd say Community fits that bill the best. I'm probably forgetting some shows though.

edit: I take back Big Bang and HIMYM. They've both probably been on way too long. If I were writing my first spec I'd probably just avoid multicam unless I needed a multicam spec for a specific reason.

A lot of agents and producers are saying these days though that they prefer to read original pilots as samples anyway. I'd say write an original first, then worry about a spec.
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04-15-2011 , 03:36 AM
To those who are writing specs/pilots: I mentioned itt that I don't have time to read scripts so please don't PM about that. Sorry . But I am happy to offer any general story-breaking advice if you need it. Feel free to post here any questions you have about creating a sound story for your TV script and I'll do my best to answer them. Formatting, where to put your act breaks, how many stories to use, how to write cold opens, how to start and finish acts, anything like that. Just knowing a lot of simple rules and guidelines will go a long way in making your script feel professional and just good in general.
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04-15-2011 , 05:26 AM
I'll get around to posting my nepotism hate stories in a few days. I'll give you guys 2 at least, one involving a 2nd Unit 1st AD on a major studio feature and one involving an EP on a made for TV movie. I hate both of these people soooooooooooo much.
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-15-2011 , 04:00 PM
How do you write jokes? Do they just sort of flow naturally from the plot and the characters as you follow the outline while writing your first draft, or do you have a separate stash of gags and punchlines that you cram into an episode wherever they'll fit?
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-16-2011 , 03:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by CliffKirby
How do you write jokes? Do they just sort of flow naturally from the plot and the characters as you follow the outline while writing your first draft, or do you have a separate stash of gags and punchlines that you cram into an episode wherever they'll fit?
Yes they (should) flow naturally and no to the separate stash. I do have a notes doc on my iphone where I write jokes as they occur to me, often even just phrases or a visual or anything remotely funny. Every once in a while I will find something in there and put it in a script, but rarely. It does serve as good inspiration sometimes when I'm stuck though.

Typically, the best jokes flow naturally from a character's attitude in a given moment. There's no real specific process to coming up with the joke, you're just taking a character's attitude and finding a comedic take on it. The better defined your characters are, and their attitudes in scenes, the easier it is to write jokes for them.
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04-16-2011 , 03:09 PM
After reading the New Yorker Scientology article it seems like a great way to make connections and get ahead in the industry.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...fa_fact_wright

Have you been exposed to the religion at all? Does it seem to you like something people get into to get ahead?
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04-16-2011 , 03:41 PM
is there a set time limit on the validity of a spec script? it seems like everyone says not to write a spec for a show that's been on the air forever, but also write one for a show that is currently on the air... doesn't that give your spec a shelf life of like ~2-3 years max? also, what are the logistics plot-wise of writing a spec for a serial show (e.g. 24)?

also, what's the nicest/least intrusive way of asking a connection to read a script you wrote (assuming you're not an established writer)?
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04-16-2011 , 03:44 PM
whos the biggest ******* you know in hollywood that you don't mind selling out on 2p2
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-18-2011 , 03:06 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by KneeCo
After reading the New Yorker Scientology article it seems like a great way to make connections and get ahead in the industry.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...fa_fact_wright

Have you been exposed to the religion at all? Does it seem to you like something people get into to get ahead?
Yeah I read that article. Pretty crazy stuff. Actually, I myself am a Scientologist so I can tell you plenty about it. Kidding!

I worked with Jenna Elfman on Accidentally On Purpose who is a Scientologist. She was incredibly nice and cool and easy to work with. The only time her "religion" came into play was that she did not want to say any jokes that had to do with drugs, especially prescription drugs. But really, drugs in general. Which was annoying. Otherwise, she was super cool.

One of the writers I worked on that show was a Scientologist. She was completely bad **** out of her mind crazy, so it was not really a surprise. She was this 50-something year old woman with a bunch of plastic surgery who would literally tell people within five minutes of meeting them about how her father raped her when she was a teenager. She would say it like it was a super dark, edgy joke. But it was real. And not funny. And she was bat ****. She would rub ice on her face at the writers table and when she thought something was funny she would say "Ha." flatly. Every day was like "wtf is she even doing here?"

As far as why people get into it, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe they do it to get ahead. But the large majority of successful hollywood people aren't Scientologists, despite what you might think from hearing about the small group of known Scientology A-list celebs. I'm an atheist, so religion itself is somewhat strange to me. But Scientology completely blows my mind. I think it's a pretty horrible organization and honestly, working on that show where the star was a member made me feel somewhat morally compromised.
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04-18-2011 , 03:16 AM
There could be a thread filled with various stories of us Hollywood residents and our dealings with Scientologists. I've got a ton of them myself.
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04-18-2011 , 03:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xkf
is there a set time limit on the validity of a spec script? it seems like everyone says not to write a spec for a show that's been on the air forever, but also write one for a show that is currently on the air... doesn't that give your spec a shelf life of like ~2-3 years max? also, what are the logistics plot-wise of writing a spec for a serial show (e.g. 24)?

also, what's the nicest/least intrusive way of asking a connection to read a script you wrote (assuming you're not an established writer)?
Yeah, in general, a spec will start to feel out of date after a few years. Hopefully by that time you have a resume that will replace the need for your spec. Otherwise, people tend to write a new one when their old one expires. This is another reason why it's good to have an original. They last longer.

I'm not sure how it works with serialized shows. I've never written one. I'd imagine you would want to write a spec that represents a stand alone episode. 24 seems near impossible. But other serialized shows sometimes have episodes that diverge from the story arc of the season just for one week. You definitely don't want to try to fit something into the story arc and then have it be invalidated by the real show.

The nicest way to ask someone to read your script is to just ask them to read it, when they have time, and let you know their thoughts on it. Don't ask them to give it to their agent. Don't ask them to give it to anyone. Just ask them for their feedback. If they think it's good they will pass it on without you having to ask them. When you directly ask someone to give it to their agent or whatever it puts them in an awkward position and will only cause you to lose favor with them. My partner and I got our agent by asking an established writer we knew to read our pilot and let us know his thoughts. He thought it was great and passed it on to an agent he knew and in the email to the agent told him that we did not ask him to pass it on, he was doing so bc he felt the agent needed to read it for his own good.
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04-18-2011 , 03:21 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC11GTR
There could be a thread filled with various stories of us Hollywood residents and our dealings with Scientologists. I've got a ton of them myself.
Feel free to share.
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04-18-2011 , 03:27 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnotBoogy
whos the biggest ******* you know in hollywood that you don't mind selling out on 2p2
I'm trying to think of some good **** to talk but honestly can't think of any. I've been pretty lucky in that so far I haven't had to work with any huge *******s. I've worked with some writers I don't like but mostly bc they were annoying/hacky/drama queens or all the above.

I've heard plenty of horror stories about stars of shows being horrible people but I haven't encountered that yet. Probably bc I haven't been on a show that went for multiple seasons. They tend to become more terrible as the shows become more popular/successful. Some writers I was working with the other day who were on Raymond and Till Death were talking about what a raging prick Brad Garrett was to them. If you remember the short-lived show Meth and Red starring Method Man and Red Man, they supposedly were pretty horrible. Method Man actually punched a writer at a table read bc the writer called him out on being an *******.
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04-18-2011 , 10:18 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by fsoyars
I'm trying to think of some good **** to talk but honestly can't think of any. I've been pretty lucky in that so far I haven't had to work with any huge *******s. I've worked with some writers I don't like but mostly bc they were annoying/hacky/drama queens or all the above.

I've heard plenty of horror stories about stars of shows being horrible people but I haven't encountered that yet. Probably bc I haven't been on a show that went for multiple seasons. They tend to become more terrible as the shows become more popular/successful. Some writers I was working with the other day who were on Raymond and Till Death were talking about what a raging prick Brad Garrett was to them. If you remember the short-lived show Meth and Red starring Method Man and Red Man, they supposedly were pretty horrible. Method Man actually punched a writer at a table read bc the writer called him out on being an *******.
the last part is a shame, b/c i love wu tang, and i love the movie how high.
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04-18-2011 , 11:08 AM
Weird- the thing David Simon said about Method is that they had a ****load of rappers who wanted to be on The Wire, but Method was the only one willing to go through an audition and put in the work and took things seriously.

Watching Brad Garrett on the WSOP coverage, he always seemed like a guy who loved attention a little too much.
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04-18-2011 , 09:00 PM
As someone who makes a living producing television shows, how do you feel about people (like me), who don't have any channels and illegally download everything we watch?
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-18-2011 , 10:40 PM
With spec scripts, is it better to follow how a show actually formats their scripts or to use a more generic formatting? For example, I just finished a Modern Family spec and I looked up a script from a real Modern Family and they do some things differently, like not using transitions.
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04-18-2011 , 10:50 PM
Do you mean transitions like "Fade out" and "Fade in"? Or more of the "Cut to" and "Dissolve to" types?
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04-19-2011 , 12:47 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC11GTR
Do you mean transitions like "Fade out" and "Fade in"? Or more of the "Cut to" and "Dissolve to" types?
"Cut to" type
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-19-2011 , 12:51 AM
if anyone has a spec script they don't mind me reading, i'd love to read it. i promise i wont distribute or anything, i have no friends in real life anyway. and I'll give feedback if wanted (from a layperson ldo). to be honest i just want to read somethign interesting/funny and get an insight into how it's done, and perhaps offering an ounce of help along the way. just shoot a pm
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04-19-2011 , 01:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Spaceman
"Cut to" type
"Cut to" isn't really needed. I used it a lot for awhile because I saw it in something I read and thought that it were supposed to be between each scene. It made since in the script I read, but not in the stuff I was writing. You only need them when there's not a logical progression from 1 scene to the next.

I've read so many formatting do's/don'ts from so many different websites, that the above might be freaking verbatim.
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04-19-2011 , 01:35 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dids
Weird- the thing David Simon said about Method is that they had a ****load of rappers who wanted to be on The Wire, but Method was the only one willing to go through an audition and put in the work and took things seriously.

Watching Brad Garrett on the WSOP coverage, he always seemed like a guy who loved attention a little too much.
Probably due to the fact that Method respected Simon and respected the show. Whereas on Meth and Red they felt like they were on a crap show and it pissed them off.
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04-19-2011 , 01:39 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by KneeCo
As someone who makes a living producing television shows, how do you feel about people (like me), who don't have any channels and illegally download everything we watch?
Don't care at all. I do it myself. Pretty much a losing battle to get bothered by people downloading content on the internet for free. Hard to predict what the longterm effects on my industry will be. Even if scheduled television eventually disappears, as long as networks still pay writers to produce scripted TV I'll be fine. There's certainly not as much in it as there used to be though.
Ask me anything about being a TV comedy writer Quote
04-19-2011 , 01:47 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Spaceman
With spec scripts, is it better to follow how a show actually formats their scripts or to use a more generic formatting? For example, I just finished a Modern Family spec and I looked up a script from a real Modern Family and they do some things differently, like not using transitions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Spaceman
"Cut to" type
It doesn't need to reflect any particular quirks of the actual show scripts. It just needs to reflect standard formatting. Don't use "cut to," no one uses it. When you end a scene, just start the new one with a new scene heading. Only transitions you need are Fade In, Fade Out and sometimes "Dissolve to" or "Smash cut to" if you really need it.
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