I’ve been really eager to write a post about fellowship season. It’s the time of year when the best TV fellowships (think ABC/Disney, Warner Bros, etc) open up for applications. Now how do I qualify them as the best? Well for the Disney fellowship, they actually hire you and place you on one of their shows where you get incredible experience and access and while you might not make as much as the regular writers on the staff, you still are afforded an incredible opportunity, one that will lead to those great paying jobs on a TV show. I have a number of friends who went through the program and have since gone on to continue to write for the show they were placed on or gotten agents and moved onto other shows. So the Disney fellowship opens a lot of doors and open doors is what you need when you’re starting out this is one of the top tier fellowships. I read for this fellowship a few years ago… I was really fascinated about what people submitted, suffice it to say, the cream rose to the top fairly quickly.
The most important part of the application process is the script. I read a ton of scripts during fellowship season. And I turn them around really quickly because the writers are up against a deadline. I always recommend that people start sending me scripts in February in case there’s a lot of work to be done and they want plenty of time to address those notes! But now it’s may and it’s too late for that! Also in February, no one is thinking about their applications, they’re thinking about how much they will drink during spring break! But the script is your meal ticket, it has to be strong and have a clear point of view and it has to stand out.
Another component of the application process is getting a personal recommendation from a TV or film writer. This is usually a major hurdle to overcome if people don’t know of any. I’ve written those letter for my clients since I have a really good insight into how they write, rewrite and how they address notes and their willingness to listen and learn. Trust me, I’ve worked with writers on shows who completely lose their mind if you want to change “happy birthday,” to “happy bday” in their script during a rewrite. #TrueStory. I’m able to offer these fellowships insight that no one else can. It should be mentioned that I only write a recommendation if I have worked with the client on 3 or more scripts. I wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise. But again this process needs to start early because you have to figure out someone who is willing to do this for you and track them down.
Another thing that may take some time is the application itself. This year Disney wanted an essay!? Really? Am i applying to college? Regardless, if they want it they get it. My advice: write the answer you want to write, not the one you think they want to hear. It will be more authentic and that will really resonate with them. In the early 2000s when I was a writers assistant and was on hiatus, I would coach rich kids from top LA high schools on how to write their college application essays, so for this year, I’m happy to announce a new package that would include notes on your essay. Please reach out!
Finally, I go on writer boards and read a ton of “don’t write this, never do this etc” with regards to writing a spec for these programs, and they almost always advice from people who have never written for TV professionally and their advice is almost always wrong. Don’t listen to any of it! Write specs you are passionate about. Don’t write one that you think will just give you a competitive advantage, none of that helps if you don’t love the show you’re speccing and know the show inside and out. You need to know the show, the voices of each character and be really passionate about the story you want to tell that those characters can bring to life!
Good luck! I’ve been reading a ton of really fantastic scripts this year! Really proud of my clients! There’s still time for my help if you want it!