Austin film festival announces new writing competition!

13 01 2015

According to deadline.com, “the Austin Film Festival is looking for writers with strong voices who have the potential to establish a digital series. For its 22nd anniversary, the Austin fest is launching the Scripted Digital Series Competition. Both filmed and written submissions will be accepted with the goal of finding talented voices who can adapt their vision to emerging digital platforms. The 2015 fest will run from October 29-November 5.”

This is HUGE!  i love when aspiring writers get doors opened for them.  Who is going for it?

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How to write for late night TV shows

8 10 2014

now-hiring

So since I was putting together my Jimmy Kimmel writer packet submission last week, I got a lot of questions from people asking me how to get a job on one of the late night talk shows or a show like SNL.  So I figured I’d blog about how different genres evaluate writers.

Writing on a scripted TV show (ie sitcom or drama)

In order to get hired for a scripted TV show you need to have a number of sample scripts for that genre. So if you’re trying to get a job writing on Modern Family, you should have at least one spec script of an existing single camera half hour TV show and at least two original scripts – also single camera.  Those 3 scripts would really cover all your bases. Now most showrunners will likely read one script, but in case they want to read another you need a back up.  Also most agents won’t sign you unless you have a fully built out portfolio.

Another piece of writing material you would benefit from having (but should not be a priority) could be a short story.  Myself and a number of my friends have gotten show meetings on our short stories that are usually edgy, unexpected and really funny.

It doesn’t matter what spec script you write but you just want it to be a really strong sample.  People always say “well I love Modern Family and have a great story to write for it, but everyone is writing a Modern Family.”  But when I investigate even more, they say that Modern Family is the show they know best and know all the character voices and can write the best. So my theory is, write it. If that’s going to be your best food forward, than you should absolutely have it in your portfolio where it can wow tons of people.

Writing for a late night TV talk show / Saturday Night Live

Getting a job writing on a late night talk show (like Kimmel, Fallon, The Daily Show etc) or a show like SNL works very differently.  When the show wants to hire a new writer, they send out writer packet guidelines to agents and managers to then pass along to their writers.  I’ve written a number of these packets over the years and they’re all pretty much similar.

  • A few pages of monologue jokes (this is more applicable for Fallon or Kimmel etc)
  • 2-8 sketches (4-8 pages long) depending on the show.  The sketches should be very show specific, so for SNL you would probably do a political one, a commercial parody, but for Kimmel you would do one that is on brand for Kimmel meaning sending Guillermo out to do something ridiculous or have man on the street interviews showing how dumb the average american is.
  • Most shows ask you to just pitch 5 or so sketch ideas, not written out in their entirety but just to give them a general idea about what you think is funny and then if you truly get the types of sketches the show typically does.

Packet Tips

The packets are a lot of work, but also a ton of fun.

  • Don’t write something you want to write but isn’t right for the show you’re writing for: Before you start writing the packet make sure you watch the show to see what type of jokes they usually write.  For example, Fallon is very family friendly, so edgy jokes woudln’t be apropriate. So no matter how much you love your edgy joke and are dying to show someone how funny you can be about an inapropriate topic, Fallon isn’t the venue to showcae it.  In fact you will just be demonstrating you don’t know the voice of the show and will immediately get dinged.
  • They give you a very limited time frame to write them, usually only a few days. Which is longer than what you would have timewise to come up with timely monologue jokes if you were writing on the actual show, so don’t get too precious about your writing because you don’t have time to.
  • Know the characters on the show you will need to write for. Know that Kimmel always talks to Guillermo or on Weekend Update they often have the character Drunk Uncle.  The show will want to see you know that it’s not just the host that can be involved in sketches.
  • Make sure you are writing really timely material.  Don’t recycle a joke you wrote for a spec about SARS 7 years ago  because you thought the joke was so funny and the people reading your packet would be really impressed. Do the work, scour the internet for interesting news stories and come up with a unique take on it.

So now you know what it takes to get a job writing for a TV show, so get out there and start writing.





Calling all scene writers

1 04 2014

Hey guys, just got this email from the WGA.  Sounds like an interesting opportunity to flex your skills.  I had to screen shot it, but you never know who will be in the room or what talent your scene will be matched with.  

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ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship

29 03 2014

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Breaking news from the ABC Disney writing fellowship! The rules have changed! I can’t believe they’re just dropping this bombshell as it’s really late to pull a stunt like this. they want 2 samples of your writing. 1) An original pilot script that captures your unique tone, style and point of view, and 2) A spec script for a cable or broadcast series airing during the 2013-14 television season.

this is actually quite ridiculous. They should’ve told writers this months ago. That gives you maybe 6 weeks to write and perfect a pilot. A PILOT SCRIPT? those are freaking hard! So many moving pieces: you need to create the world of the show, get the back ground of all the characters AND tell a story for that episode.

Read all about it here





Get cracking on those spec scripts

29 03 2014

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hey followers… it’s that time of year! we are heading into fellowship and writing workshop script deadline season. As an alumnus of the Warner brothers workshop and a reader for the ABC/Disney fellowship, i can tell you, the competition is fierce out there.

Warner Bros. Workshop accepts submissions from may 1 – june 1. And that is coming up fast!

ABC/Disney fellowship application period is May to the middle of june! Get cracking!





Nickelodeon writing program

27 01 2014

Hey writers looking for your break! Its now or never for applying to the Nicklodeon writing program. Find out all the details and the important dates if you’re going to apply. If so and you want me to read your scripts to get them into the best shape possible, check out my contact me page. I’m a tough audience which is exactly what you need if you’re working on your scripts that the world will see.

And when you get in, get me a spongebob key chain!





Screenwriting competition staring Uma Thurman

23 12 2013

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While you’re running around looking for last minute gifts or stocking stuffers (Barnes and Noble has Menopause Magazine if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for an older gal TRUE STORY saw it today)  I want you to also be thinking about 2014.  If you’re loved one wants to use my services, I do have gift cards!  

BUT I DIGRESS.

Getting your scripts or shorts in shape for the new fellowship, contest season is vital!  Here’s a great short competition only for those newbies who need an extra hand in breaking into the business.  So check out this AMAZING opportunity to write and direct a short film starring Uma Thurman.

No one in the WGA or DGA is allowed — which gives opportunities to those of you amazingly talented writers who haven’t yet gotten in the guild. SUBMIT!!

http://www.jamesonfirstshot.com/