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 3:30 p.m. at the TV Writers Fund offices, 11340 W. Olympic Boulevard, Suite 242, Los Angeles, CA 90064. There will be a Holiday Pot Luck following the meeting, so plan on staying afterwards to raise a glass with your Board members and fellow beneficiaries. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.!
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.
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.
“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.
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. **
Our latest “Reverse Engineering” workshop with Paul Foley provided important insight into today’s market. Paul covered these three main themes.
Nothing Starts Until You Write It
- New material will set you free. The more you write, the better and easier things will get. There’s a reason pioneers had 19 children. You won’t feel so precious about every project if you have a plethora of them.
- Write the same way if you are making a lot of money or if you are writing for free. Just write. And never stop. You have to become a well-oiled machine.
- Write something great. And then reach out to your network to read. People are always looking for great material. They’ll champion your script if they like it. In fact, you’re doing them a favor by introducing them to something great.
- Representation is not magic. They can only present the magic that YOU create.
- Whatever form your piece is in (novel, pilot, feature, etc.) it can do you no good unless you finish it.
- People want to buy passion. If you write with passion, they can tell.
The Industry Has Shifted
- Original material is better than a spec. Focus on that.
- Networks are looking for WORLDS – think cops, westerns, rap music, zombies, small town football, think about unexploited/untapped worlds that you know. What were the things you wanted to write years ago but couldn’t because advertisers would be scared? Drugs, homosexuality, religious cults — it’s all fair game now.
- There were over 400 scripted shows on air last year. Look at all of the networks around — there are so many more than just the big four. Think about all of the smaller networks you can sell to.
- Watch and read as much as you can. The market is constantly changing so it’s best to focus on trends of shows. What shows are on their 6th season and why? What shows got canceled only a few episodes into their first season run? Research, study, and then write strategically.
- Binge Watching is not going away. Think about how you can make your show binge-watchable. (Usually the last ten minutes of an episode is setting up for the following ep.) And even if the show lands on a network that debuts one episode a week, after the season run, it will be available for the audience to binge later…that can build your fan base between seasons 1 and 2, and can even help get you renewed.
- Not all networks break for commercial. Think about the potential networks your show could be on. NBC will have commercial breaks, but Netflix doesn’t. Consider writing two versions to diversify where you can sell to.
Pitching Your Series
- You have to write your script. There is no conversation without a pilot.
- Buyers need the series to be as fully-realized as possible. They don’t have time to develop the series with you. You have to do the work on your own.
- If you can’t fit your show idea on to a flash card, don’t pitch it.
- If you can’t explain your show in one word, don’t pitch it.
- Show Bibles are good to have. And they’re a good exercise for you. The process of coming up with 13 loglines for a season will help you visualize your series arc. So even if you don’t share the bible in your pitch, you know exactly where the story goes and that you can sustain it for a series arc.
- Sizzle reels are another tool to illustrate your world and tone. It’s something that lets them not read.
It’s already been a busy month of interesting events and workshops. In case you weren’t able to attend, here are highlights from just a few of them:
Virtual Pitch Fest – A Conversation with David Kohner Zuckerman
Virtual Pitch Fest is a service for writers to pitch their projects to producers, networks, managers, and agents. Through VPF, you can submit your query letter and you are guaranteed a response and comments back within 5 days of your submission. Writers who are members of the WGA can also get special perks through this service.
Here’s what David Kohner Zuckerman recommends:
- Don’t submit something you haven’t already written.
- Make sure your script has been registered with the WGA and copyrighted.
- Get feedback from friends and colleagues and don’t submit your pitch to the site until 7 out of 10 of those people are liking your script.
- First, test the waters with companies you like, but aren’t necessarily your first choice. If you get all no’s, there’s something wrong with your query. Adjust your marketing. Go out to a few more companies. Once you start getting yes’s, send it out to your dream companies.
Visit the website for more details: www.virtualpitchfest.com
Creating Unique and Compelling Characters with Marilyn Atlas and Elizabeth Lopez
In this full day workshop, Marilyn Atlas and Elizabeth Lopez helped attendees unearth authenticity in character motivations and illuminated the importance of creating complex, flawed, and contradictory characters.
Here are just a few of their excellent tips:
- Get to the deeper character motivation, which speaks to the depth of the character.
- Asking a boring or simple question of your characters begs a boring or simple answer. Don’t choose boring or simple!
- Want is something the character is conscious of, need is unconscious.
- You must be conscious of past trauma or wounds in your characters.
- Just as you should feel uncomfortable when you write, you should make your characters feel uncomfortable. When you do that, you’ll get more evocative responses.
- Characters with duality are always the most interesting.
- Lollygag with your characters. Get to know them. Try writing scenes for them you know you aren’t going to use just to see how they’ll respond.
Look no further than our writers room!
Beat the heat this summer and write those pages at our office. Our writers room is a bright, quiet, and air-conditioned space dedicated solely to you and your work. The room features 3 computers, a white board, individual desk spaces, and a large conference table — suitable for any writer’s needs.
Typical hours are 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Hours will sometimes vary due to programs and events, so please confirm availability in advance by calling (323) 825-5556 or by emailing email@example.com.
We look forward to seeing you!
We had a busy time last week. Paul Foley kicked off our “Reverse Engineering Success” series of one-off events; this time focusing on the function and importance of loglines. Veteran agent Marc Pariser stopped by for an open forum succinctly titled “How to Get Representation When You Haven’t Had a Credit in Ten Years.” Though each event touched on different facets of the business of screenwriting, each provided helpful insights into effectively navigating and engaging with today’s market.
Here are some of the main takeaways for those of you who were not able to attend.
“Reverse Engineering Success: Loglines”
Just as in all aspects of writing, writing loglines is a muscle you must develop and workout constantly. Loglines are the calling card for the industry today. Agents and reps have a limited amount of time, so you need to be able to communicate your idea in the, usually, very small amount of time you’re allotted. Loglines must be simple and concise.
A good logline functions as the calling card for your story. . Writing a good one is all about rewriting and refining and it’s the place to work out the issues and stumbling blocks with your idea. Just as your script won’t be perfect on the first try, neither will your logline. Strip away anything unnecessary to get to the heart and truth of your story.
In addition, to be competitive in today’s market, you need an arsenal of loglines and ideas. Get in the habit of generating 1 to 3 loglines per day. You need to constantly generate ideas. Try writing a logline for movies and TV shows that you love. Try summarizing them in one word, then three, then 10 and so on. In order to maximum the chances of success, do your research, study what others have done, and practice, practice, practice.
“How to Get Representation When You Haven’t Had a Credit in Ten Years”
Establishing and fostering relationships is the most important step you can take in this business, so it’s important to realize that people need to like you. Resentment will get you nowhere. Respect and courtesy go a long way. Engage those you admire by engaging their egos. If you are obvious about trying to sell them something, it’s obvious you are trying to use them. Instead, ask them questions, learn about them, and participate in a conversation. The relationship will lead to the sale, so don’t skip the “dating” process.
When engaging with the industry today, you must do what the agents are doing. Stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like an entrepreneur. Look at yourself like a product. Getting a chair when the music stops is all about being nimble and creative. It’s your job to understand where the opportunities are and are not. Learn to put yourself out there.
Check out our upcoming events under the drop down menu “Programs & Events.”
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