Distinguish Between Goals and Fantasies When Planning Your Future

For all of TVWriter™’s ambitious dreamers (and isn’t that the very definition of TV writer?)

by Eric Ravenscraft

Everyone has something they want to do with their life in the future. Not everyone has specific, practical goals to get there. When you’re planning out your future, ask yourself if these are really goals, or just fantasies.

As business blog Entrepreneur points out, focusing too much on lofty dreams without a practical plan more often leads to disappointment than success. While we’re constantly bombarded with messages to reach for the stars, the fact is that unless you have a plan to get a job with SpaceX, the stars are just a fantasy:

Read it all at Lifehacker

Creating your own comedy competition

Cold Cut Logo - NUEA flag 2Cuz why not?

A little “cold marketing” never hurt anybody, right? Just ask TVWriter™ bud Jeff Burdick, an aspiring TV comedy writer who puts as much thought into  marketing himself as he does into his scripts. With his wife and adopted son, he moved last year from Chicago to Los Angeles. He soon landed a literary agent after renting theater space and staging a showcase of three of his original sitcom pilot scripts.

As he works to land his first staff gig, Burdick continues to write and raise his industry profile. This includes creating a unique new live comedy competition for original TV pilot scripts. Called “The Cold Cut,” the June 3rd event will stage the Cold Opens from nine original comedy pilots. Battle of the Bands-style, the audience will vote for their favorite. After intermission, the one that makes the “cut” wins an immediate staged reading of its full script and other prizes.

But enough from us. Let’s hear from Jeff:

How did you conceive The Cold Cut?

I’m fortunate my alma mater has a very active alumni base in LA. This includes an entertainment-focused alumni club, the Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance (NUEA), which comprises hundreds of actors, writers, directors and producers. They regularly mount talent showcases, but had never geared one toward TV comedy writing. 

But where did the idea for a live pilot script competition come from?

All good TV scripts must grab a reader in the first few pages, so why not a rapid-fire staging of just the Cold Opening scenes from multiple comedy scripts, with all scripts available online afterward. For a more interactive live experience, I also opted for a Battle of the Bands-style audience vote over the standard judging panel.

What has been the response?

Pretty stunning. To our Reading Committee’s surprise, we received more than 40 scripts, from which we selected nine finalists. More than 40 alumni actors submitted for casting. The Black List came on as an event sponsor, and we were able to recruit a pretty impressive group of recent showrunners, staff writers, and active producers to provide expert script feedback to our writers.

How did you get The Black List and your industry readers?

It’s as simple as having a solid professional pitch, reaching out, and then finding some people interested in both your project and hutzpah. I have a journalism background so I’m used to reaching out to people not expecting my call. I know some say “cold-calling” doesn’t work in this town, but I’ve cold-called my way into a general at WME and a pitch meeting on the Fox lot Also my relationship with my current agent also began with a cold call. So in general, if you have a smart and unique angle, you can usually find some people willing to hear you out.

Have you received any industry feedback yet?

Yes, very positive feedback. Early on, I and my two co-producers – Liz Kenny and Michael Yawanis – solicited feedback on our concept from different industry pros. Some were alums; some not. These ranged from Key & Peele Executive Producer Ian Roberts to staff writers and studio executives to agents and managers. Everyone was terribly generous with their time and tips. Plus their uniform enthusiasm confirmed we had a winning format.

Yours is an alumni competition, but do you expect wider interest?

We hope so. Through our partnership with The Black List, the finalist scripts will be posted for review after the live June 3rd competition. We will be reaching out throughout the industry to publicize the event, the script loglines, and Black List links. We’ve also created a general interest Facebook “Cold Cut” page at which we post weekly links to great Cold Opens a week from classic and current TV shows. We hope this appeals to other writers.

I see your own script is a finalist. Since you created the competition, isn’t this a bit like a movie producer giving his girlfriend a plum role in his film?

Ha! Not in my case. All script judging was blind, and no judge could read a script with which they were already familiar. So I had no guarantee my script would make the cut. A couple of our judges also submitted scripts blind, but they did not make the cut.

What are your tips for other writers looking to uniquely market themselves?

I first recommend doing a self-audit of what makes you unique, what tools and resources are at your fingertips, and then how to leverage these to crack open more doors. I’m a big fan of re-using existing quality content in creative new ways, such as creating your own sizzle real or staging your own multi-work showcase. Also consider how to partner with others to create win-win opportunities and expose your talents to new networks.

For instance, I have friend who recently created a funny Web series about magicians. My suggestion for him was to approach some Hollywood magic shops to see if any would like to host a screening in their shop. The writer invites his circle and the magic shop promotes to its customer base. Then you also have a unique “happening” to reach out an invite potential agents, managers and producers.

What’s next for your own self-marketing?

Back to basics. Never forget the best marketing tool is always your next quality script. So I’m polishing my half-hour comedy pilot script that got me my agent and is in The Cold Cut competition. I am also doing final revisions to a new first hour-long dramedy pilot called “Assistants.” (Yes, it is about a group of 20-something college friends who are all different kinds of assistants trying to climb the Hollywood ladder.)

Contact Jeff Burdick through his writer’s Web site BurdickComm.com.

Why We Need to Get Out of Our Comfort Zones

…Especially if we are, or want to be, writing TV:

hwoodcomfortby Leslie Schapira

Growing up, I was a “winner.” Not that I was particularly special or talented; I just happened to be part of a generation that, as the stereotype had it, received trophies for everything from tying our shoes to brushing our teeth. In school, we were promised that as long as we tried, we would succeed. But now that I’ve entered adulthood, the rules have changed. Job competition and fewer opportunities have made those instantaneous wins hard to come by. And for the first time, I’ve had to come face-to-face with a word that was rarely spoken when I was a kid: failure.

If I had known the obstacles that awaited me in the real world, I wouldn’t have been so quick to race through college. But I did, believing that if I took the right classes, made the right grades and got a head start on a writing portfolio, my dreams of becoming a TV writer would turn into reality. I graduated early, networked like crazy, wrote every night and day, took random freelance gigs and waited for any window of opportunity to crack open. Then, four years later, through the grace of a godlike mentor, I was invited to join the writers’ room of a network TV show in L.A. It was the chance of a lifetime.

Every day at work, I obsessed over my performance, always sure that I could do better and avoid even the slightest mishaps. At night, I would go home, replay the day in my head and think of all the ways I could improve. Even if I had a good day, it never felt good enough.

Despite my insecurities, colleagues reassured me that I was doing well for a beginner. I was able to contribute a couple of story ideas, jokes, a decent casting suggestion. Executives were starting to learn my name; agents were suddenly interested. My future was beginning to look promising. As long as I kept my head down and tried my best, everything would continue to move in the right direction. At least, that’s what I thought.

Read it all at Yahoo

Ready to Work on Your Passion Product? No? Uh-Oh….

Way too many of us are all, “Ooh, I love this, gotta go, go, go, do, do, do–uh oh, did I say ‘do?’ As in for real? Crap.”

Yeah, motivation can be a bummer. Here are some ways to get yourself started:

mrwginbazikb7dnbsgieby Kristin Wong

You have a brilliant idea for a project. You’ve talked about it, planned it to death, analyzed your options—yet nothing has come of it. It’s time to stop talking about that project and actually do it. Here’s how.

We’re assuming you know how to find time in your schedule, but you’re still stuck. Maybe you’ve got analysis paralysis. Maybe you’re great at doing stuff for other people, but terrible about starting your own projects. It could be a book you want to write, a web site you want to launch, or a side business you’d like to get off the ground. Here are some steps you can take to stop planning that project and finally get it going.

Find out what motivates you

Before anything, it helps to understand what motivates you, and what doesn’t. We’ve talked about the four types of motivation personalities. To recap:

  • Questioners: They must completely understand expectations to follow them.
  • Obligers: They’re great at meeting other people’s expectations, but bad at meeting their own.
  • Rebels: They resist all expectations.
  • Upholders: They’re great at keeping any and all expectations.

When you understand how you’re motivated, you can better manage your project because you know what to focus on. For example, if you’re a questioner, then maybe analysis
is very important to you. In that case, rather than analyze your project as a whole, break it up into smaller chunks, analyze one chunk at a time, and get started on it. This way, you’re still analyzing your expectation enough to follow it, but you’re not paralyzed by too much information.

If you’re an obliger, you might need to involve other people with your project. This way, you have an external expectation you feel obligated to meet, even if it’s just friends keeping you accountable.

Knowing your motivation type gives you an idea of which of these methods will work best.

Read it all


Q-q-quit our day job? Yikes, what a terrifying thought. And yet there comes a time when a person’s gotta do what a person’s gotta do. This particular TVWriter™ minion has been teetering on the edge of making that decision for awhile now. Thanks to the following article, I’m much better equipped to go for it now:


First Steps to Becoming a Full-Time Screenwriter
by Cary Tusan

I quit my day job – not because I’m leaving to go to another company, or because there’s a job offer. No siree Bob. To write. That’s right, to spend my days writing and being creative.

There comes a time, a crossroads, in every writer’s life to “take the blue pill… or take the red pill.” One thing is for certain, it’s not an easy choice. Neither is deciding if yesterday’s t-shirt passes today’s sniff test. I took the red pill, but luckily I didn’t wake up naked in a tub of goo with a giant tube shoved down my throat. Instead, I woke up in bed after my last day on the job and thought “So, now what?”

Here’s what I learned in my first couple weeks of writing.

1) Give yourself time to decompress. Don’t put in your head that you have X number of days, months or years to “make it happen.” You are already making it happen by focusing on the writing. The decompression is all about adjusting, and despite what others might say or think, it’s not being lazy. I’m a TV writer, so what I did was spend time to catch up on TV. Not Mob Wives, Real Housewives of Whatever, or any other Wives. I’m talking about scripted shows that are in the same genres that I’m writing, such as  Episodes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Black-ish. It’s relaxing and research, really.

Hike or go out of town, even for a day. There’s a whole world out there to experience. A world filled with strange, interesting people to write about: a writer’s goldmine.

2) Stay busy. Don’t do busywork, but go out and meet people. Once everyone knew that I was leaving to go write, I scheduled coffee, lunch, or drinks. Whether it was business or personal, it was all positive. There’s something freeing about meeting someone you know in the middle of the day during the week. I was lucky to arrive early for coffee, as everyone in Hollywood also has the same idea, so seating is at a premium.

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LB: The April TVWriter™ Advanced Workshop has One Opening

lbwriterbiggerTonight is the last meeting of the 148th session of TVWriter™’s Advanced TV & Film Online Workshop. (At least, I think that’s the official name. Official names have, I admit, never meant very much to me.)

148 sessions? Over a dozen years? I’d better try not to think about that because if I start seeing what I’ve been doing as any kind of rut my Normal Life Avoidance System might kick in and…well, then there’d never be a 149th session.

Right now, though, there is. And the 149th Advanced Workshop AKA the April Edition will start two weeks from tonight, on the last day of April, so maybe we should call it the May Workshop? But then people will start writing in demanding to know “What happened to the April Workshop?” so….

But I digress. The bottom line here is that there’s room for 1 more student in the class, so if you’ve been thinking about joining us, or were in the Workshop but left and now want to come back, hey, now’s a good time.

The Advanced Workshop costs $140 and meets every Thursday night for 4 weeks starting April 30th. There’s probably a whole bunch more that you want to know, though, so email me or head on over to the Advanced Online Workshop Page ASAP so we can properly anoint a new writing messiah.