Because Grant Snider of Incidental Comics is absolutely the finest visual philosopher…ever!
Because Grant Snider of Incidental Comics is absolutely the finest visual philosopher…ever!
Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence, hard work and not giving up.
An alum of NBC’s Writers on the Verge, Rashad Raisani originally moved to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a feature writer, but found television to be a much better fit. He got his first writing job on the USA Network show BURN NOTICE where he rose from staff writer to co-executive producer. He also wrote for WHITE COLLAR and was executive producer on the NBC drama ALLEGIANCE. Currently he is developing projects as part of an overall deal with Universal Television.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
I think I have always known I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. We moved around a lot because my dad was in the military. Between the ages of 3 and 10 we were living abroad, so the only connection I had to America, a place where I really didn’t have any memories of actually being, were the TV shows that were the same no matter which base we were living on.
When I’d move to a new place and feel really lonely or displaced because all my friends had changed over, I’d go back to movies and TV shows because they were the one source of comfort that stayed the same no matter where we lived.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY?
The first thing I did, because I had no other resources, was become an assistant to a literary manager. This guy had exceptional taste and had all these great writers. The first thing he said when I started working for him was, “I want you to read everything that all of my writers have written.”
He had this whole bookshelf full of scripts, so I just read all of them. I saved all the TV people for last because I had no interest in them or television, but the very last script in the entire bunch completely blew my mind and I can even remember where I was when I read it and screaming, “Holy shit,” on a plane when I read this moment. It was by this young story editor on a show called THE SHIELD and the guy’s name was Kurt Sutter. That’s when I started to say, “Wow, I’ve really been sucking it up in movies.” At that time I’d been out here for a about year and not only had I not gotten traction professionally, but artistically and creatively I was struggling with the form of features, specifically the second act of a movie. It was just eternally vexing to me.
When I read that SHIELD script, there was just something so intuitive about how they had broken the story. They had like four or five plots. When one of them started to peter out a little bit, they’d cut to another exciting one. I just thought this is a great way to tell stories. From that moment on I decided okay, I’m going to try TV.
WHERE DID THAT FIRST ASSISTANT JOB LEAD TO?
I kind of fell for all the trappings of the wrong things, meaning an expense account, an office and an assistant of my own. I started working as a literary manager/development executive for two years. On the positive side, I was working in television actively. We were trying to set up projects. We represented some real talent, but on the negative side for my own artistic development, I wasn’t writing. I didn’t write a word for about two years.
WHAT WAS A BIG TURNING POINT IN YOUR WRITING CAREER?
It was a confluence of a few things and kismet played a strange role. For example, when I was temping and unemployed, but was sending scripts out everywhere, I talked to my wife and I said, “Listen, I really think it would be worthwhile for me to be an assistant on a television show.” And she said, “Well, I get it, but you really need to now think about writing. You’ve done the assistant thing for years. It’s been four years and really I want you to rise on your own merits at this point with your own writing.”
We made a deal that there was one script I had read by a guy named Rand Ravich on a show called LIFE. I said if anything opens up, I don’t care if it’s sweeping the floors, I want to work on that show. I think the world of Rand Ravich’s writing and also that script. Wouldn’t you know it that completely out of the blue I get a phone call from Glen Mazzara, who was in THE SHIELD DVD that we watched. He had gotten my resume through a friend of a friend and said he needed an assistant. So I started working for Glen.
That was a big break, just to be working for a bunch of incredible writers. I ended up working for 3 co-executive producers, there was Glen Mazzara, Jonathan Shapiro and Marjorie David, all of whom were exceptional talents and had very different approaches to writing, so I was able to not only make relationships with those incredibly talented and generous people, but also sponge up all their different approaches to the craft.
Within two months of that, I got my first agent. That was another big break. That was because I had sent scripts out, even some of them nine months before, and they just sort of worked their way up at agencies. Within just a few weeks of starting to work on LIFE, I started to meet agencies. Then within a week of that, I got my first showrunner meetings.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST WRITING JOB?
BURN NOTICE was my first staff job. I got the job 3 weeks before the writers’ strike. My first Writers Guild meeting was the president of the Guild announcing that we have decided to strike. It was a big bummer, but at the same time at least I felt like being on a young show that had some real promise and I was also a diversity hire to the show so I was free, so I felt like at some point entertainment would have to resume. The strike would have to end and I would have a job waiting for me.
I used the strike to read as many books about spy games and stuff like that that BURN NOTICE was about so that when the writers’ room resumed, I could hopefully have some things to contribute.
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE BREAKING IN?
One of the greatest pieces of advice was by Glen Mazzara after I came in from my first agency meeting. He said that every meeting you’ll step into, chances are they’ll ask you some version of tell me about yourself, but Glen said nobody wants the facts. They don’t want to know what year you graduated from college, what you majored in.
They want your story and they want to know that you’re the underdog in your own story and your story ideally answers all the factual questions that they need to know and it has some deep crisis/soul kind of moment to it and then it culminates with a triumph and ends up with you on their couch. You give somebody a story like that and you entertain them, you make them like you. They’re going to remember you, which will set you apart from the thousands of meetings they have that month to staff that show.
Coming soon – more from Rashad including what he looks for when hiring writers, advice on getting representation and tips on taking meetings.
Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.
I was shocked – shocked, I say! – to look over TVWriter™’s Google Analytics this past weekend and discover that munchman’s TV Musings is far and away the least popular of all regular features on this site. Not just for this new year, oh no, but for all time. Even if you include my old Love & Money column, which held the title up till now.
So thank you, friends and neighbors, mates and exes, for you continued lack of support. I promise to continue bugging the shit out of you for many days, weeks, months, possibly even years to come!
Which brings us to:
Oops, I’m outta time and space for this week. (My ex sez I’m always outta time and space, but what the hell, I kinda like the dimension I’m in. Tune in next time to hear me quietly rage about Love, Money & The Industry…and the goddamn Philip K. Dick multiverse we’re fucking stuck in!
Yer Friendly Neighborhood munchman is the official TVWriter™ scapegoat and has been getting kicked around here since the very beginning of this site. He wants us all to know that he’s cooler than we are. And we think you’ll agree when we say to him, “Dood, we don’t effing care!” You can learn more about muncher (but not all that much, really) HERE
We got some good news last week and would like to pass it on. Dawn McElligott, an occasional contributor to TVWriter™ and frequent TVWriter™ Online Workshopper, has placed 2nd in the Feature Length Screenplay category in the 2016 Terror Film Festival.
Here’s what Dawn had to say about it:
“Movin’ On Up” Again!
I started with “Honorable Mention” at the 2010 Terror Film Festival for “The Fool of Muncaster”, then went up to 3rd Place for “Lady of the Lake” in 2014.
Now a revision of said screenplay has earned me 2nd Place in the Craft of Screenwriting for the 2016 running of the Terror Film Festival!
Both screenplays and revisions were workshopped in your class! Thank you so much!
The Terror Film Festival is, in its own words, “a blood-chilling, alien-probing, online international film festival designed for filmmakers and screenwriters, that runs every October on the worldwide web.
According to the organizers, the fact that the Festival is online “removes the shackles of venue limitations …and increasing the potential for you to gain more fans.” Its Claw Awards screenwriting competition “is a great feather in the cap for any screenwriter.”
Congratulations, Dawn. And we thank you too, for keeping us in the loop! (Which reminds us – when are you going to write us another fine article?)
1/2 HOUR (or Less) SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
ANTONIA ALLWAYS: Antonia Joins the Union by Gordon Charles Phipps
ANTONIA ALLWAYS: Who is Merlin by Gordon Charles Phipps
BAD PRESS by Adam Santa Maria
FERAL: by Bryan Kett
iNEFFABLE by Laura Richardson Reilly
KICKING & SCREAMING by David Young
OPEN by Erica Lies
QUEENS by Raul Martin Romero
TONY ST. SQUATCH, PRIVATE EYE by Andres Jose Smith
STAR ACADEMY 3013: CROTCH BUSTERS by Eugene Ramos
STAR ACADEMY 3013: WHAT ARE SEX ROBOTS MADE OF? by Christopher Valin
1 HOUR SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
CRUISE by Wayne Johnson
DARK FOREST by Kenyon Geiger
DARKWICK DOWN by James Hancock
DREAMS OF HAVANA by Jorge c Perez & William Garcia
HOMEFRONT by Alexander John Stathis
INCOMPATIBLE by J. Faye Yuan & Robert Raffety
MATRYOSHKA by Angela Berliner
MEPHISTO’S PROTEGE by Diana Black
NEVADA BLUE by Vin Morreale, Jr.
NIGHTMARE by Lance Wayne
OUT OF BODY by Gabriel Meyer
KYLA’S WAR by Hank Isaac
SERPENT’S ROW by Chance Muehleck
SNAPBACK by Ned Vankevich
SOUTHERN GOTHIC by Jared Ronin
SUGAR LAND by R. B. Ripley
SWING, YOU SINNERS by Caroline Klimczuk
THE RECOVERY by Angela Berliner.pdf
TONGS OF CHINATOWN by Nadia Madden
OVER 1 HOUR SERIES SEMI-FINALISTS
DREAMERS by Allie Theiss
EMILIA by Marlena Brown
HOSTAGES byJohn Gorski
KODAK MOMENT by John Alarid
OF KINGS AND KINSMEN by Mark William Meredith
VENOM by Ned Vankevich
TVWriter™ congratulates all the Semi-Finalists. Your work is awesome.
As in years past, the overall quality of the entries was superb. Once again, the judges had some very difficult choices to make. Literally every Semi-Finalist this time around could have been a Top 5 placer in previous runnings of the PEOPLE’S PILOT.
The competition was closest in the One Hour Series Pilot category where 5 different scripts scored 9.00 points or more out of a possible 10.00 and the cut-off point for Semi-Finalists was an incredibly high 8.55. Very Professional Indeed.
In fact, the professionalism in all the categories amazed everyone who read the submissions. The judges had an even finer time than usual reading them. And, of course, the judges’ work still isn’t done as they fight tooth and nail regarding Finalist and Winner placings. We wouldn’t be surprised if you could hear the arguing from the relative safety of your own home or office.
Be joyful, Semi-Finalists. You have done yourselves proud!
NEXT WEEK: The 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Finalists
NOTE FROM LB:
Looking through The Return of the Navajo Dog, I saw this poem about the death of a cat I had sometime in the mid-1980s. I’m confused and a little embarrassed because although I remember the cat very well and loved her because she was so gentle with me and considerate of my cat allergies, I can’t for the life – or death – of me recall the dog I speak of – oh, crap, I just did. He was a wonderful dog, allowing for his need to hump everything in his path. And his path, like all of ours, was filled with twists and turns.
I had a cat that died suddenly one day.
She seemed to be fighting a great
Battle with spirits only her cat-eyes
The battle exhausted the cat. She hid
Under a loveseat, and shuddered, and groaned.
I felt close to the cat as she went. There was a
Bond that hadn’t been between us before.
I was not what you’d call a good guy (at the
Time, the worst human being I’d ever met
Had just told me to, “Be a better person),
But it seemed as though the cat was doing
All this for me.
This morning, my dog woke me with his barking,
And when I went outside to yell I saw his eyes
Fixed on a nothingness in the middle of the yard.
The dog growled, and feinted, and attacked his
Invisible foe. He shook the air triumphantly,
Then grinned at me and circled back to sleep.
I don’t know if I’m a better person, but I suspect
The dog is nowhere near as good as the cat.
She died for my lack of virtue,
While he has killed for my sins.
Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. Although the book whose cover you see above is for sale on Kindle, he is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.
Here we go, TVWriter™’s latest look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:
And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages were, also in order:
Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!