Any Specific Advice?Complications Ensue
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

I understand your time is valuable so I will try to keep this short. My name is [name that starts with N], and I am a sophomore at [university you've heard of]. I have a rough TV script for a sit-com that I've worked on, about [snip]. I have read most of your website and I fully intend on buying your books, but I am writing to you to see if you could offer any additional advice that is specific to my situation. I've read online that the chances of a production company even acknowledging an unestablished writer are nonexistent, but I refuse to give up. I am confident that my concept has commercial potential, and I intend to see it through.

I don't have the money to pay you to read my script, and I don't have the money to find an agent. I truly value your feedback if you should find the time to respond.
Dear Name That Starts With N:

Here's one bit of specific advice: do your homework before you bug professionals for advice. Many people will give you one free conversation with them, but very few will give you two. You have just wasted your free conversation with me.

How have you wasted it? Well, you haven't bothered to get my books. What are the odds that my book CRAFTY TV WRITING: THINKING INSIDE THE BOX might contain some information about your spec pilot and your chances of getting it read? I'm pretty sure it's in the library at [university you've heard of].

Or how about my blog? In my six years of blog entries, there are quite a few tagged "spec pilot" and "breaking in." You obviously haven't read through my blog posts. Instead you just figured you'd dash off an email.

Your request comes off as lazy and over-entitled. You haven't even rewritten your script and you already want me to reassure you that you might be able to sell it. You haven't even cracked my books, and you want to assure me that you "refuse to give up." It's like you're yelling "I have not yet begun to fight!" after an evening at a bar talking about joining the Navy.

(You "don't have money to find an agent"? What does that even mean?)

When you contact people in the business, do your homework. Read their books or articles or blog posts if they have them. See their movies and TV shows if they've written or created them. People like answering educated questions. ("When you were developing THE OUTER LIMITS, how did you try to distinguish it from THE TWILIGHT ZONE?") They want a sense that you treasure their input, and you've put in at least as much effort into the question as they will have to put into the answer.

That way, you earn the right to a second conversation.

I apologize if I insulted you or wasted your time, this was my first stab at this. While the truth stings a bit, I believe this is what I needed.
A willingness to embrace criticism is an extremely important virtue in any biz, but particularly this one. Bravo.



Um. So does this mean you won't read my fucking script?

By Blogger DMc, at 4:05 PM  


My response would be -- Don't ask writers how they can help you. They can't.

Producers, directors, agents, managers are all ahead of writers in terms of help.

Other writers are your DIRECT competition.

It took me a couple times talking to David Ward to get this through my skull. And it wasn't what he told me -- rather it was his inability to do so.

There are people out there that can help your craftsmanship -- and books (I'd read Alex's -- both of them. They are my personal favs) -- but there's no one out there that can give you the tools to come up with a great idea.

That's all on you.

What you are really asking for (and Alex saw through this immediately) is for someone to hold your hand and make you successful. That takes a ton of hard work and determination -- and there is zero guarantee.

By Blogger James, at 3:50 AM  

Name That Starts With N -

Look at this another way. Even if you found a writer with the time, energy and inclination to foster your career - at best, all they'd actually be able to do for you is to turn you into a carbon copy of them.

It's all the things you do fighting your way to success - the failed projects, the direct-to-DVD movies, the embarrassing moments *and* the big successes - that are going to going to shape you as a unique talent.

At least, that's what I tell myself...

By Blogger debbiemoon, at 2:49 PM  

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