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01/22/2006: Quit your job and move to Hollywood!
Have you noticed that the days are getting longer? If not, you may be in the Southern Hemisphere, so you should check that. But for you northern types, Spring is approaching. Those of you who are hoping to apply to the ABC Writing Fellowship Program only have a few months left to get your writing samples into shape. This is the program that used to be called the “Disney Writers Fellowship,” and which gave me my start. I heartily recommend it. One of the things that makes it better than other programs is that it pays you, not the other way around. You can check out abctalentdevelopment.com if you want more information or an application form. The most important part of the application is the writing sample. It’s also the most fun. And the most perilous.
By the way, you may notice that they require that your writing sample be registered with the WGA. I bet a lot of people see that and decide not to apply – it sounds like a hassle. But don’t freak out. Registering a script with the WGA is as easy as your mama. I’m kidding you. But it’s still really easy.
There are actually sort of two fellowships. One for feature writers and one for TV writers. The world of features is mysterious foggy territory full of monsters that I don’t understand. You guys are on your own. But I can tell you that the TV writers are allowed to submit a script for either an hour or a half-hour series that is currently on the air. This thing about it having to be currently on the air must be new. I know for a fact that someone got into the fellowship years ago by submitting a spec episode of Rhoda, which I thought was genius. I don’t know if she’d modernized the show or simply written it as if it was a “lost episode,” but I think it was tremendous either way.
So let’s say you want to apply. How should you pick which show to write for? Aim high. A “spec script” (this kind of writing sample), is currency in this town. You’ll use it to apply to contests or programs like this one, to get an agent, and as your audition piece to get a job. Certain shows carry a bit of a cachet. A spec episode of“My Name is Earl” or “The Office” is more likely to get attention than the most authentically rendered spec episode of “Yes, Dear.” (Not a put-down of Yes, Dear... any show that gets and keeps viewers has something going for it.) And don’t forget cable shows; HBO shows tend to make good specs. And it’s usually best to avoid a show that’s been on the air forever, although this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. I just think an ER spec might not look as fresh now as, say, a House spec would.
And, as much as it pains me to say this, I’d avoid doing something too clever. A spec episode of The Bachelor would make me laugh and roll around and want to meet the person who wrote it, but I bet the Fellowship people would just look at it, kind of puzzled.
So think hard, pick a classy show, and we’ll talk more later about what to do next.
Today’s lunch: taco chips and salsa and guacamole!