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05/09/2007: Zach's Aspirations
Well, as long as I've got my snout in the mailbag, let's root around and see what else is in there, shall we, gentle readers? Ah... a very good letter from Zach in L.A. who is finding himself frustrated with looking for comedy writing work.
The interesting thing here is that Zach has done everything right -- he's moved to L.A., worked as a gofer in writing rooms; he has several polished specs and other material, has met and impressed established comedy writers... those are all great ingredients. But, as most established comedy writers are themselves out of work right now, he's finding it hard to get a foothold.
He asks, Should I take four months to write a feature-length? Should I do more "alternative media" stuff? [...] Do I bite my cheek and do stand-up?
Well, Zach in L.A., those are all good things to do -- the feature in particular would be good to have anyway -- but I also have another idea. You mention in your letter that your two specs for existing shows are "The Office" and "American Dad." Why not supplement those with a "Desperate Housewives," or, even better, an "Ugly Betty"?
Half-hour comedy is a bit of a hiring wasteland right now. There simply aren't enough shows to support all the experienced writers, so it's very difficult for new writers to get in. And while television drama writing isn't an easy gig to get, it's substantially easier than comedy. And, in writing a spec for a show like "Betty," you still get to use your comedy skills. In fact, you get to use them every bit as much. A comically-inclined hour-long spec pilot is also something you could try.
Hang in there, Zach. Luck is opportunity plus preparation plus luck. (I made that up and I think it's fantastic. Feel free to borrow it.) Keep writing, keep polishing the specs you already have, keep adding new ones, keep making those connections... just keep on doing more of what you've been doing. I can't guarantee that you will get hired, but you've got a better shot than all the people who haven't done what you've done.
Lunch: My favorite "Johnny Rockets" burger place is now called "Beverly Hills Diner." Quite a shock. But they served me a fine Jalapeno Burger and a chocolate coke, so it's all good.