WGF: Writers On Writing with Steven Knight ?>

WGF: Writers On Writing with Steven Knight

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!

“Locke” screenplay“Peaky Blinders” Pilot Script

Phil Pallen Returns on Wednesday, August 3rd @ 7:30 p.m. ?>

Phil Pallen Returns on Wednesday, August 3rd @ 7:30 p.m.

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 admin@tvwriters.org if you did not receive the invite.

** TVWFFF events are open to beneficiaries ONLY.  No guests or outside attendees will be admitted. **

“Reverse Engineering Success” Notes ?>

“Reverse Engineering Success” Notes

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.
July Events Highlights ?>

July Events Highlights

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.


Searching For a Place to Write? ?>

Searching For a Place to Write?

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 admin@tvwriters.org.

We look forward to seeing you!

Seasoned Readings at the WGA ?>

Seasoned Readings at the WGA

The mission of the WGA’s Career Longevity Committee is to assist writers of all ages in planning for long and successful careers by giving them the tools and knowledge to adapt to changes in the marketplace.  One of their most exciting programs, “Seasoned Readings,” provides older writers with an opportunity to produce their own work and reach an audience for it, often receiving useful feedback in the process.  Each Guild member doing a staged reading in the series is encouraged to put together a targeted invite list of personal and professional contacts.

If you’re a member of the WGA and you are interested in arranging a Seasoned Reading, reach out to the Career Longevity Committee here.

Recent Programs: Loglines and Representation ?>

Recent Programs: Loglines and Representation

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.

Scriptwriters Network Television Outreach Program – 2016 Submissions! ?>

Scriptwriters Network Television Outreach Program – 2016 Submissions!

The Scriptwriters Network has opened submissions for their 2016 Television Outreach Program (TOP.) The program’s objective is to help writers improve their craft so that they may achieve their goals of obtaining representation, script development, mentoring and career counseling services, landing writing assignments, and/or selling their work.

The deadline to apply is July 31st.

For more information about prizes, eligibility, and regulations, please click here.


“Inside the Writers Room with OUTLANDER” ?>

“Inside the Writers Room with OUTLANDER”

This week we attended the “Inside the Writers Room with OUTLANDER” event at the Writers Guild Foundation.  The hit STARZ series was adapted from the novels by Diana Gabaldon by Ronald D. Moore, who was joined by the show’s writer-producers Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney, and Matthew B. Roberts.  They chatted with moderator Kate Hahn about the benefits and challenges of adapting from existing material, the processes of their writers’ room and much more.

On adapting from existing material: To balance the room, Ronald D. Moore found it advantageous to bring on a combination of writers who were both fans and non-fans of the books.  He found that this approach helped to calibrate meaningful discussions about what the writers would keep and what they would change from the original IP.  The group noted the benefits and challenges in the writing process of an adaption.  Even when the team would prefer to throw out a character, storyline or move in a different direction, the parameters of the books dictated that they stay on course.  Some of the writers, however, enjoy working within those restraints, as it creates more of a road map for them to follow.

On straying from the existing material: Though the writers’ room collectively aims to honor the source material, their approach is to deliver the familiar characters and events in new and surprising ways.  Moore summarized this notion perfectly: “No one says, well that show sucks, but at least they stayed faithful to the books!”  He always wants to be surprised by the show, so the writers aim to carve out spaces for spontaneity and originality within the well-established “Outlander” world.

On collaborating with the author:  Author Diana Gabaldon has been fully supportive of Moore and his team of writers.  She recognizes that changes to her work are inevitable.  Moore reports that Gabaldon is not shy about voicing her concerns as they arise, but is incredibly respectful and always (eventually) defers to their creative licenses.

On writing a good sex scene:  This wouldn’t be an Outlander writers’ panel without an in-depth discussion on the topic of sex!  Anne Kenney, who wrote the steamy episode “The Wedding,” noted that sex means something more than just sex for the characters in this world.  It is not to be gratuitous or lewd.  Kenney’s advice for writing a successful sex scene is to identify the emotional intent and purpose of the scene, just go for it and do not let insecurities hold you back.

On the writers’ room:  As we’ve heard time and time again at these events, the key to ensuring a productive and respectful writing environment is that showrunners hire kind and truly considerate people.  The “Outlander” writers admit that their room isn’t always free of debates or disagreements, but these discussions are built on a foundation of respect for one another.  It’s so important to recognize that a showrunner is looking to hire a writer who will make their life easier, who they enjoy being around, and who can get along with others.

“Outlander” is currently in its second season and has recently been renewed for a third and fourth season.  New episodes air on Saturdays at 9 p.m. PST on STARZ.

Apply to Become a Member of Our Board of Directors ?>

Apply to Become a Member of Our Board of Directors

TV Writers settlement class members may only nominate a class member (including oneself) to the Board of Directors of The TV Writers Fund for the Future Inc. (“FFF”). Members of the Board, all of whom are unpaid, are responsible for developing the rules that govern the Fund’s activities and to carry out the Fund’s mission in accordance with the TV Writers’ Settlement Agreement.

A description of the Board, its activities and programs, as empowered and limited by the Settlement Agreement, can be found at the Section VIII “Future Activities” of the agreement, which is set out HERE.

You can download the nomination/application form HERE.

Skip to toolbar