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Home » Archives » July 2006 » Shedding your Flippers
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07/05/2006: Shedding your Flippers

Know what I get to do tomorrow morning? I get to go speak to the current crop of ABC Writing Fellows. This is the program that I trumpet constantly, the one that gave me my start (as the Disney Fellowship), and that pays its participants to learn to write for television. Such a good deal.

I won't have a ton of time to speak to them, and I'm going to have to figure out how to convey the most important advice quickly. It's an interesting group to tailor advice to; they've got their foot in the door, but it's a very heavy door. A foot-crushingly heavy door. The advice that I give them has to help them not give up any advantage they have gained. It would be a shame to complete the program without having gathered any momentum. It would be like an evolutionary false start -- starting to turn your flippers into feet and then sliding back into the ocean.

Well, one thing I know I will tell the fellows is "play nice." The friends I made in the program are still my best friends. And the very young executives who patted our heads in the Disney hallways included David Kissinger and Jordan Levin, both of whom went on to be powerful forces in the television business. And I've already told you about the importance of being nice to assistants. The wheels that roll under Entertainment are made of assistants.

If you, like the fellows, ever find yourself in a position to talk to people who are already doing what you want to do, or who know those people, or who hire those people, or who provide water for those people – go beyond being professional with them. Be genuinely friendly. Ask questions. Make a friend. Don't hand them a spec, don't offer to send it to them, but tell them you're writing one and ask some lovely general questions about what shows they think make a good spec, whether or not they think writing a spec pilot is a good idea. And ask what they like about their jobs... stuff like that.

Maybe this idea -- make friends to get ahead -- seems completely obvious. Not to everyone. Not to the guy in the airport yesterday whom I heard yelling at the gate agent. "I'm in entertainment!" He declared. "I know you're holding back some seats!" What a charmer.

So play nice. And remember that having a connection only accomplishes something if you've got the scripts to back it up.

Lunch: Thai spicy eggplant


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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