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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The TV sample script

A crucial tool. If you want the tv gig, you've got to show you can write for the tv world your gig lives in. This question about a sample script already written is an important one:

Phil: My favorite (sample script) so far is DRAGNET. It's very visual. You can really SEE everything in the story as if it's happening right in front of you. It's quick-paced with lots of excitement. Everyone who's read it has loved it. The problem I'm hearing is that it's not on the air anymore -- does this really matter? Darren
Yes, I think it does matter. I think a good tv sample is both excellently written and relevant - and you stay relevant by being a sample of a current tv show. Show runners/producers are very aware of what's on the air RIGHT NOW, as they may be battling it in the ratings, or being compared to it in a different time slot, etc.

The terrible adage that yesterday is old news, is most true in television. It is the definition of the incredibly fast changing world of what's hot and what's not. A series that was cancelled last year is ancient history because it isn't up against the six new shows that may have the one breakout huge hit of
this year.

Think of ABC before Lost and Desperate Housewives. Their success changed the landscape of TV, as now everyone wants a show like that, but wouldn't have gone near either one the year before! Etc. etc.

Doesn't that suck? Welcome to the world of tv, and the requisite tv sample.


Blogger Spammy the Pig said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, June 16, 2005  
Blogger Spammy the Pig said...

It's true that TV is a rapidly changing biz and "hot" writers can become cold in a matter of a weeks. But there are always exceptions to this rule. A few years ago my UTA agents were furiously pushing to get me staffed on a primetime drama. I had three good produced networks credits and three excellent specs - the most recent, for "Six Feet Under", is still maybe the best and most complete thing I've ever written. Competition came mostly from writers with a solid spec and some kind of relevant proceedural experience. Say, a writer with a good "Practice" spec who had a law degree and had worked 2 years in a DA's office - or a writer with a "Third Watch" who had worked previously as a paramedic. These writers have a distinct edge. But then that same staffing season (from late April until about now - mid-June) there was a widely reported story that a writing team, two guys, had suddenly written a "Star Trek" spec --- an original "Star Trek" with Kirk and Spock and Bones --- and everyone loved it so much, it was so clever and so *different* (as almost everyone was writing "Sopranos" specs that year) that they got staffed on a show.

So bottom line, expect criticism when you fail to follow conventional wisdom and the safe, smart path. But if the work is truly exceptional, you can get away with just about anything in TV and in Hollywood in general.

Thursday, June 16, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Great point, Spammy. Thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2005  

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