In case you missed it, our President of the Board of Governors, Ron Friedman, had two features in The Hollywood Reporter this month. Each takes a look back at Ron’s illustrious career, his passion for comic books, and how he got his start. Follow the links below to read the articles.
The City of Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division is seeking proposals from writers living in Los Angeles County for their Writer Residency Program at the Annenberg Community Beach House. The program offers writers a private, beachfront office for nine weeks to complete a work-in-progress and the opportunity to engage the public in aspects of their work through readings, events, and the Residency blog.
Eligibility: The residency is open to all writers of fiction, poetry, plays, and screenplays. Projects in biography/memoir, essay and nonfiction are not eligible. Also not eligible: artists who have received a Beach House Residency in the past two years, or are currently arts grantees or resident artists through another City of Santa Monica program, or are currently employed by the City of Santa Monica. The residency will be awarded to one writer. Writing teams will not be considered.
Don’t delay to apply, as the September 15th deadline is fast approaching. Please click here for further details about this exciting opportunity. Good luck!
The 2016 Annual Public Meeting of the Board of Governors of the TV Writers Fund for the Future will take place on Saturday, December 17th, at 2:00 p.m. at the TV Writers FFF offices, 11340 W. Olympic Boulevard, Suite 242, Los Angeles, CA 90064.
There will be a reception following the meeting, so plan on staying afterwards to talk with your Board members and fellow beneficiaries.
Keep a look out for notices with instructions on how to register to attend and other updates as we get closer to the event.
We look forward to seeing you then.
The bottom line about meetings — they’re networking opportunities that could lead to work. When it comes to networking and job opportunities, the person on the other side of the table needs to like you. You want them to be on your side. No one will side with someone full of resentment, anger, egotism, or judgement. While you may have experienced past injustices or frustrations in your career, it’s critical that you don’t take it out on the person in front of you.
In the latest installment of our “Reverse Engineering Success” series, Paul Foley explored how writers can mentally prepare, manage expectations, and keep their perspective heading into a meeting. Here are some of our favorites from this illuminating event:
Understand your place. Ego and insecurity are the two main things that will get you in trouble. Too much ego is a big deterrent in a room. You can come off as though you believe you’re better than the people in the meeting. And on the other hand, too much insecurity won’t allow them to put their trust in you. Be aware of the dynamics of the meeting and find a happy medium.
If someone asks you a question, they are genuinely interested! Don’t challenge the other person or get annoyed if they ask for clarification. View questions or confusion as an opportunity to hook them even further.
Be aware of your emotional triggers. Identify and acknowledge the things that set you off before you act on them. Maybe you don’t respond well to egotistical people or to people who seemingly aren’t listening to you. There’s so much that’s out of your hands in a meeting, you must learn to regain control of the things that make you lose your emotional footing.
Never negate. This applies in many situations. For example, when an exec or producer gives you a note, you should not become defensive or tell them what they’re getting wrong. Use the improv rule of “yes and!” Build on their ideas in the meeting. Establish a relationship built on collaboration and respect.
Be professional. Always. Perhaps you’re meeting with someone you met 20 years ago. You never want to have to ask yourself, “Was I good to this person or was I bad to this person?” If you’ve been professional, amenable, and an all-around decent person, you’re going to be much better off and can trust that you’ll be able to pick up in a good place with them 20 years later.
ScriptChat was created for the purpose of bringing new and seasoned screenwriters together to network, improve their writing, learn about the industry, and support one another both during and after a one-hour Twitter chat. Every week there’s a new topic, often with an honored guest from the screenwriting/filmmaking world.
This week, the special guest is Kam Miller (@kammotion). Miller is a writer/producer who has created pilots for Fox, CBS, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Television, and Universal Cable Productions. She wrote for Fox’s Killer Instinct as well as the long-running NBC show Law & Order: SVU. In The Hero Succeeds: The Character-Driven Guide to Writing Your TV Pilot, Kam shares her hard-earned knowledge about creating TV series that sell to Hollywood.
Kam Miller will be giving away a copy of her book during this Sunday’s ScriptChat, so don’t miss out!
For more information about how to participate in the conversation, please click here.
As we age, major life events and mounting priorities seem to impede on our time, ability, and motivation to write. For some, it becomes increasingly difficult to combat the self-doubt and self-criticism and to handle outside rejection. David Silverman, LMFT began to unpack these challenges when he met our writers this weekend. David is a decorated writer in his own right, having written for over thirty shows and created over five of his own. Today, in his work as a licensed therapist, David is dedicated to helping other creatives overcome writer’s block, handle career burnout, and finding a path to reinvention.
Here are some of the key strategies and techniques that were discussed during this workshop:
Overcoming Critical Self-Talk
Train yourself to “catch” those self-critical thoughts. Write them down. Identifying, monitoring, and challenging these thoughts will help combat them.
Ask yourself, “is this rational?” So many self-critical thoughts are irrational and can be tossed aside.
Try affirmations. Some people find it helpful to use a mantra. For example, “I am fine just as I am,” “I can handle this,” or “one day at a time.”
Have an accountability friend. Stay in touch after work and share with each other what you’ve accomplished and what more you need to do. Be honest.
Every night, write out a list of the three most important things you need to accomplish the next day. Don’t do anything else until you’ve finished those tasks.
If you get into a flow, don’t stop. That’s when you’ll be the most productive.
Realize that procrastination is ultimately about a fear of being judged. Instead of obsessing about the act of writing, try to write about the process of obsessing over it. Getting in the habit of writing despite your fears is key.
Complete unpleasant tasks first, and break up complex tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Try the pomodoro technique.
In this special Writers Guild Foundation event, a panel of female showrunners discussed their experiences running a room and the impact of increasing female voices in television. Here are some of our main takeaways and pieces of advice from each fascinating panelist:
SJ Hodges — “Guidance”
- For her current show with AwesomenessTV, Hodges demanded fifty percent of the staff be women. It’s important to remember that, right now, decision-makers won’t take these steps without a push.
- Don’t be conflict-avoidant in the writers room. Try to find a solution to the problem at hand, even if it’s uncomfortable.
- Content creation is moving at lightning speed. Out of necessity and ease, studios and networks are working from lists. It’s important to push for women and people of color to be added to these lists.
Alexa Junge — “Grace and Frankie,” “United States of Tara,” “Friends”
- Junge wholly avoids running the room like a “mommy.” She avoids emotional projection by treating everyone respectfully. She stays aware of the writers feelings and needs without pandering to them.
- Junge is somewhat distressed by how far behind the entertainment industry is in representation of diversity, television in particular. She feels there are still too many people who are too comfortable with the status quo.
- Transparency is the key to a successful writers room. Junge is able to more effectively address issues or problems in the writers room when everyone is open and honest. This approach also establishes an egalitarian tone to the room.
- Actually take notes from executives! This shows the execs that you respects their opinions and it helps establish a trusting relationship. Then, when you decline to take a note and can explain why, they’ll take you seriously.
Dee Johnson — “ER,” “Melrose Place,” “Nashville”
- One of the hardest aspects of showrunning for Johnson finding time to write for herself. Time can be taken up by so much besides writing — it’s important to make the time to write the project that will feed your soul.
- You absolutely want to avoid shutting people down in the writers room. You don’t want your writers to be afraid to spitball. Even a horrendously bad idea can foster an amazing one.
- Find ways for your writers to see and participate in production. Understanding production is a crucial part of developing a writer’s talent.
Laurie McCarthy — “Reign,” “Ghost Whisperer”
- Someone once told McCarthy that he got up everyday at 6:00 a.m. to write. She felt belittled by this comment, as though she wasn’t actually a writer because she had other priorities that prevented her from working along the same schedule. She realized that alone doesn’t make a writer. Putting in the work when you can makes you a writer.
- Make a decision. Even if it’s the wrong one, embrace your ability to be the decision-maker.
- One of the most important roles to fill as show runner is your Co-Executive Producer. Find someone you get along with, but at the same time, someone who is honest and can challenge you.
- With so many shows and opportunities in the industry today, you can’t afford to lose talented staff. Acknowledge their importance to your project.
- Showrunning, at its core, is a job designed for a single 30-year-old, which is why men tend to get these positions. As much as women need to fight for these positions, men need to start advocating for women to do these jobs.
Lizzy Weiss — “Switch at Birth,” “Undressed”
- Weiss is dedicated to creating an open, “chill” vibe in her writers room. She wants her writers to call each other out for subconsciously sexist comments. She wants to address these things in a lighthearted, approachable way.
- Weiss joked that “no man has ever said, ‘this is probably a stupid idea…’” Don’t apologize and speak with confidence.
- Weiss takes management advice from wherever best it comes, and recently, it has been from Starbucks, in which they say, “the employee comes first.” Once the employee is happy, the customer is happy. Weiss applies this to her writers room. They do things and even make creative choices for the writers and crew first, the audience will eventually follow.
- During an interview, be a wholly active participant. You are interviewing to be a part of the showrunner’s passion, so share their passion for it. Be present. Be the way you would be in the writers room.
- Be aware of what’s happening in the world and in the industry! You don’t always get the nudge that you need, so you must keep yourself inform. Research #OscarsSoWhite. Participate in discussions of under-representation in the industry.
“Branding” and “audience engagement” can seem daunting and unfamiliar, but our resident social media guru, Phil Pallen, makes the learning curve fun and engaging. Phil returned last week to continue to help our writers formulate their social media strategies. Phil explained that in order to better engage in today’s marketplace, you must start looking at your website or social media platforms as an exercise in communicating who you are. The more you can close the gap between your in-person persona and your online persona, the more effective you will be.
The theme Phil utilized for this event was “What is it that you do really well?” This helped our attendees hone in on what they ultimately are trying to communicate through their website. Phil suggests focusing on your main priority. Trying to appeal to everyone, effectively, means you appeal to no one. You will appear unfocused and voiceless without a clear purpose or mission. Don’t be afraid of excluding anyone — a stronger voice is more likely to find an audience than a weak or unfocused one.
Phil also stressed the importance of keeping your website up-to-date. If it’s been the same for four years, your audience is probably going to get bored. Your website and web presence should be a living, breathing, and evolving presence — just like you!
A surefire way to keep things current and moving is to consider a blog. A blog is a content-driven way to keep people engaged. Content has become an unlimited resource, what we are all competing for is people’s time. You must be willing to compete.
Phil also recommends updating your photos. There’s no quicker way to date yourself and your website than outdated photos. And don’t just do the typical headshot — consider hiring a professional lifestyle photographer to liven things up. For a great example of what we’re talking about, check out www.mellylee.com.
In order to engage in today’s market, it’s crucial to stay current and be willing to compete in today’s parameters. Though it may seem like a lot of work, it’s important to realize that everyone else who is succeeding has also had to adapt to this new and unfamiliar terrain of the web. Don’t let it paralyze you — let it motivate you.
And if you need any help along the way, please reach out to us! TVWFFF is looking to organize a social media help group. If you are interested, please email Libbie at email@example.com.
Earlier this week we were lucky enough to attend another great “Writers On Writing” event at the Writers Guild Foundation, this time in conversation with Steven Knight. Steven Knight’s credits are as diverse as his career has been long – he has written “Eastern Promises,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Pawn Sacrifice,” and “Locke,” (which he also directed.) Knight created the eminent “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and, most recently, Netflix’s “Peaky Blinders.”
Here are a few of our notes from this fascinating discussion:
Always, always, always keep working through the writer’s block. Knight sticks to a consistent writing schedule. Even if he feels a creative block creeping up, he finds a way to loosen up, tries something new, and shakes it off. He also recommends writing early or first thing in the morning. To help himself stay organized, Knight goes so far as to have separate computers – one for writing and one for everything else.
Start far away and work your way home. When approaching new material, Knight employs the philosophy that you can pick any subject, setting, or character imaginable – something that is completely foreign to you. From there, you can work your way back to something that rings true for you or is in line with your experiences. Where ever you begin, you can eventually find the emotional truths in the unfamiliar.
Small screen vs. big screen. In Knight’s experience, networks are prepared (and often prefer) to create something unconventional. They’re willing to take greater risks as long as the characters are complex and interesting. There’s also more time to explore and develop those characters and relationships. He has started to prefer the world of television because the audiences are incredibly loyal and invested. Lately, for his film projects, he tries to construct creative challenges for himself, which is how the highly unique “Locke” came to pass.
Lessons learned on “Peaky Blinders.” Execs at Netflix are almost competing with each other to give the fewest notes possible! Spinning many plates is good fun. Be careful about killing characters – you might regret it. Anti-heroes do bad things for good reasons, which is one of the most compelling character traits to explore. Fiction obeys the rules, reality does not – this is a line that Knight has been trying to blur with “Peaky.”
Knight was incredibly insightful and clearly has a hugely imaginative mind. There’s so much to learn from his talent. We encourage you to check out his work– we’ve started you off with a few links below!
In anticipation of our forthcoming event with brand strategist and social media guru, Phil Pallen, we’re sharing a few helpful tips we gathered from his last visit. Phil explained how the right personal branding and social media strategy can help you book more meetings, expand your network, and improve the chances of selling your script. On Wednesday, he’ll continue the conversation and analyze the progress our case study participants have had refocusing their websites and online presence.
Where to Start
- If you’re just starting out, focus on 2 to 3 platforms and make those great!
- Show people who you are, and why they should care.
- You’re always evolving. That evolution also needs to be reflected online.
- Ensure a positive and memorable first impression.
- What’s your goal? Everything you do depends on what you want to accomplish and the message you are trying to get across to your audience.
- Visuals are an opportunity to reinforce your ability to tell a story. Consider adding high-quality photos to your website.
- Do NOT think of your website or social media as a place to promote, think of it as a way to build your audience.
Why You Cannot Neglect Your Web Presence
- If you take a house to market without a roof, you’re only going to get a fraction of the income you would otherwise.
- People will remember the experience of the website, not necessarily the content as much. It must be user-friendly and streamline.
- Your website is an exercise in showing who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
- Audiences love routine.
This Wednesday, Phil will continue to answer questions and unlock the secrets to an effective web presence. You can register only via an email invitation. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you did not receive the invite.
** TVWFFF events are open to beneficiaries ONLY. No guests or outside attendees will be admitted. **