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Home » Archives » December 2006 » I've Said it Before, I'll Say it Again: Pants.
[Previous entry: "A Reason Never to Attempt Dignity"] [Next entry: "A Little Bit More About the Great Divide"]

12/31/2006: I've Said it Before, I'll Say it Again: Pants.

First off, I am told that some of you out there are finding yourself in the gratifying but agonizing position of being finalists in the ABC Writing Fellowships, and being forced to wait over the holiday to find out if you've actually made it in or not. Well, congratulations-slash-courage! I'm rooting for all of you! You're one step closer to making it in!

Which -- sort of -- leads us to a question from Reader Kris, who asks about something I rarely talk about, which is the Next Step. Kris asks, "Say you've got the perfect spec, you've got a great agent/manager, now comes the interview with the show runner/EP...what do you say or do to get the writing gig on their staff?"

This hypothetical young writer has got a great agent/manager?! Wow. That's actually the much harder step right now. But let's go with it.

The first thing is not to overstress. If your material made the show runner want to bring you in, then he or she is already impressed. Often these meetings are simply to make sure you show up wearing pants. A show runner doesn't want a disruptive personality in the room, a person with a crazy vibe or a non-stop talker, someone with a confrontational attitude -- that kind of stuff. So just show up on time and be sane. That's most of it.

You'll also be asked how you got into TV writing, so you might want to practice your story. You'll have to tell it your whole career, so it pays to have it nice and shiny anyway. If you have an interesting background, this could be your chance to bring it up.

You can also help by knowing the show and knowing the show runner's work history. Mention what you like about the show. Don't mention what you don't like. If it's a terrible show and you're asked what you like about it, it's not a trick question. Find something to like. Something about the writing, not the acting, casting or costume design. (By the way, only ONCE in my career at one of these meetings, have I been asked to name something I *didn't* like about a pilot. It was this last season, and my mind went totally blank.)

Reread your own spec before you go into the meeting, too, because it'll probably be discussed, and you might be asked about choices you made. If you're given advice about changes to make to it, thank them and say you'll change it, even if you disagree and aren't going to do any such thing.

If it's a comedy meeting, it can help to be funny but it isn't necessary. It's better to be not funny while NOT attempting a joke than to be not funny while attempting one. They've seen your joke-writing in your spec, so it's not like you're coming in cold.

Don't sell yourself too hard. The job you're going for is "staff writer," so the show runner doesn't need to hear about what your vision for his show is, although you can certainly weigh in with opinions *if asked*. But in general, just be alert, friendly, and, remember, pants-wearing.

And if you don't get the job? That's often a matter of budget-failure, not you-failure. Shows staff from the top down -- hiring the top-level producers, then lower and lower... it's very common these days for a show simply not to staff at the lowest levels because they've spent all their money. So don't assume you did anything wrong. In fact, you probably just impressed someone who will remember you next time 'round.

Also, THANK YOU, gentle readers, for your holiday greetings! Thanks to Claire for the hieroglyph card, which I'm still translating, to Lilia for the book, to Ingrid for the candy... to everyone for your cards! Gosh, guys, you're the best!!

Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve!

Lunch: Very bad fried chicken strips at DuPars (a genuinely retro, not self-consciously retro, diner). They were followed by gooseberry pie, so all was well.


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