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    July 2nd, 2010Jane EspensonGetting the Job, Pilots

    Let’s imagine that you’ve landed a job interview for a writing position on a new show. You’ve just been shown the pilot and you need to react in the moment. What should you say? What I’m going to say here may seem self-evident, but it’s amazing what you’ll hear yourself saying when you’re nervous, so it’s best to have thought about it.

    First tip: concentrate on the positive. They may ask you what didn’t work for you, but wait until they bring it up first. And then pick the flaw wisely. If you criticize the basic premise of the show, for example, you’re not likely to come across as someone who will have loads of ideas in the room.

    You’re there because you want to work as a writer, so figure out what you liked about the writing. All the other aspects — acting, prognosis for success, production values — that’s all secondary to the writing for the purposes of this meeting. So when they ask what you thought of the pilot, talk about the best parts of the writing.

    For example: I really liked how the humor was really subtle and grounded. Like in the moment when [blah blah]. It makes the show feel very real.

    Or:

    I loved the way the characters liked and supported each other. It gives the show a positive feeling. Like in the moment when [blah supported blah].

    Or:

    I loved the way the show brings in a horror element. Like that bit where [blah]. It’s so effective when genres are mixed like that, because I think [blah].

    I’m not putting “blah” in there because the content doesn’t matter, or because I think you’ll be less than sincere, but just because the exact examples depend on the show.

    The more specific the better. Don’t just say the show was “good” or “funny”. Use this as a springboard to talk about specific aspects of writing. You may want to mention other widely-admired pieces of writing that use similar techniques. And then, if I may suggest, you might want to say that this particular quality is one that you strive to achieve in your own writing.

    You don’t need to pitch story ideas (unless you’ve been told to), but it’s perfectly acceptable to say that watching the pilot filled your head with thoughts about stories and about the characters. The idea is to make it clear that you’re eager and able to contribute to the process of writing the series.

    This is the time of year when many shows are interviewing new writers. I hope some of you will have meetings like this. And I hope you get the job!

    Lunch: Mango and papaya salad and a tuna-avocado thing at Rock Sugar. Nice.

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