Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With SCANDAL’s Raamla Mohamed – Part Two

A series of interviews with hard-working writers
– by another hard-working writer!

by Kelly Jo Brick

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.

Writer Raamla Mohamed’s career is a prime example of what can happen when a person puts in the hard work to make the most of every opportunity. After attending grad school at USC, Raamla landed a job as a writers’ PA on GREY’S ANATOMY. She went on to become a researcher on OFF THE MAP and SCANDAL. Selection to the Disney-ABC Writing Program got her a writing position on SCANDAL where she has risen from staff writer to producer. She was also a writer on the upcoming ShondaLand show STILL STAR-CROSSED.

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET REPRESENTATION?

I had written the SHAMELESS spec and I asked one of the writers on GREY’S ANATOMY to read it. I just wanted to get notes, because I knew I’d be submitting it to Disney as my second sample if they needed it. I had heard that if they asked you for it, they wanted it immediately. I learned from my mistake before of not being prepared, so I asked if he’d give me some notes. He did and he really liked the script. He started telling other writers that I wrote a good script, so Jenna wanted to read it. She read it and then she passed it on to her agent who then became my agent. I was already working in ShondaLand. I had good referrals. I had gotten into the Disney Program by the time all that happened, so I think I was in a better place to choose the agency I wanted to go with. I love UTA. I’ve been with them since the beginning.

I don’t have a manager. I don’t have anything against managers in general. I believe you connect with people and my agents are great. I think you should have representation who believes in your writing, whether it’s an agent or manager, someone who is really going to fight for you.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE STARTING OUT?

There’s always a writer on set and sometimes you have to cover for other writers. I had to cover and I was very nervous, because it was the director, and directors have different personalities. You have to stand up for yourself. You have to talk to the actors and explain stuff if they don’t understand it.

Someone said to me, “I promise you, you’ll know when it’s wrong.” Like you don’t have to worry about is this okay. You’ll see it. As a writer, as someone who’s been in the room, as someone who knows how it should go, you will know. Obviously you don’t always get it right. There have been times where I have been wrong and I thought something was going to be horrible and it turned out fine or the other way around, but 95% of the time you’re watching it and you’re like, something’s weird. Sometimes you don’t really know exactly how to fix it, sometimes it’s about talking to the director and they can figure out okay, yeah, I think I can see that and get you what you want. But that was very helpful because it kind of is an instinct thing.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR TAKING MEETINGS?

When I take any meeting, I watch the news that morning so that I know what’s happening that day. I watch MSNBC or GOOD MORNING AMERICA just to get highlights of what’s going on. A lot of times in the ten minutes or five minutes in the small talk portion of the meeting, it really helps out. It helps out either way. If they didn’t see something, and it’s not necessarily getting into politics or whatever, but it could be a YouTube or general thing. Either they don’t know about it or they didn’t see it and you’re informing them or they want your opinion on something. It eases the banter. Also it makes you seem like a well-informed human being.

The other thing is that when you have a meeting with anyone, being normal goes a long way. People like someone who feels comfortable. You can relax. It’s a long day to be in the same room with people. You want people who are fun and interesting. That’s kind of what they’re looking for. They’ve read your sample and you’re sitting down in a meeting, so obviously they like your writing enough to bring you in. So you’re good. You’re fine. They’re basically meeting to see if you are someone they want to be around for 8 hours.

AS A WRITER, WHO INSPIRES YOU?

People like Donald Glover, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham. People who have an idea, they act in it, they write, they have a vision. It’s not always perfect, but they go for it and they push the envelope. They have a clear point of view. I find that so cool.

I’m always impressed when I watch something and I’m like how did they come up with that. How did they think of that? There is a really cool new wave of people coming in who are in some ways like TV auteurs who are making such great TV. People are making these 8 to 10 episode stories about lives and characters that you love.

THE PATH TO BREAKING IN.

I would say there’s not one path, which can be comforting, but also scary. I wouldn’t be afraid to go to grad school, but I wouldn’t be afraid not to go to grad school. I was someone who needed the discipline of grad school to write, so I went to grad school. You should know yourself. What do you need? If you’re someone who can work at a coffee shop and write at night and submit to festivals or you want to do your own web series, that’s a path too.

Are you someone who’s good at desk work, then go work on a desk to prove yourself. Everyone should pick the path that they think is going to get them to where they need to be in the best way possible. I have no interest in acting, but if I did, then I’d write things to act in and put them up on something. There’s a lot of ways to do it, but you have to find your thing.


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.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 3/11/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Chrissy Pietrosh & Jessica Goldstein (COUGAR TOWN) have signed a 2 year deal to develop new projects for Universal TV. (So if you’re a big fan of COUGAR TOWN, MY NAME IS EARL, and something called BIG DAY, rejoice cuz with this kind of money changing hands something these two ladies write will definitely show up on your screen. OTOH, if you aren’t a fan….)
  • Lena Dunham (GIRLS) is writing a 4 part comic book series about everybody’s least hip, trendy, edgy, or even interesting teenager – Archie! Yep, she’s going to give the world her take on Archie and his gang. (And to make matters worse, Archie Comics is actually paying her to completely destroy their franchise. Oh, has the munchie one gone too far in showing his displeasure? Nah…I haven’t even come close to adequately expressing my disgust.)
  • Dylan Morgan & Josh Siegal (30 ROCK) have joined the uber talented Chrissy and Jessica with a 2 year deal of their own at Universal. (Except on this one el muncho is looking forward to the results of their labors.)
  • Leesa Dean (CHILLTOWN TV) has won the Focal Press “Bound to Create” contest, and TVWriter™ couldn’t be happier. (Cuz not only is she a genius animation writer-creator-producer, she just happens to be one of our featured columnists. Congrats, Leesa. Just one question…who’s Focal Press? Please spill cuz let’s be honest here, your friendly neighborhood munchman is way too lazy to google)

Bill Persky Sees GIRLS

What? You don’t know who Bill Persky is? How about this for starters?

@BillyPersky

Persky is a five-time Emmy Award-winning writer, director, and producer. He’s the author of My Life Is a Situation Comedy and performs in the one-man show Whisper Whoppie. The views expressed are solely his own.

And then there’s his IMDB listing.

Bottom line: When Bill Persky speaks about comedy, we all should listen. And he’s speaking now:

girls

The Problem with Lena Dunhams Girls

by Bill Persky

Lena Dunham is clearly a bright and talented young woman. At only 26, she is the creator, director and star of her own series, HBO’s Girls, about a quartet of twentysomething females of varying backgrounds, attributes and problems, sharing what is presented as a contemporary female experience. Just before she won two Golden Globes, Parade magazine put Ms. Dunham on the cover, referring to her as “That Girl.”

With all due respect, actress Marlo Thomas was, is and always will be the original — and only — “That Girl.”

If I seem defensive, it’s because I am: I was the co-creator of That Girl, a series that featured television’s first single, working woman — who did not need a husband to find happiness. I’d like to think that over the course of its five-year run, That Girl managed to lift the aspirations of an entire generation of young women in the late 1960s. While I applaud Miss Dunham’s accomplishments, I am saddened by the message of a show that lets its characters wallow in low self-esteem, high self-pity and perpetual victimhood.

When That Girl failed, she figured out why and started over — instead of diving into a quart of Haagen-Dazs.

When That Girl doubted herself, she got to the root of the problem with her smarts — not by sleeping with the pizza delivery guy.

I don’t question that Ms. Dunham is being honest and writing in a way that feels true to life, but it is an uninspiring experience to hold up as an example to young women who are trying to find their way in today’s complex and unsupportive world. Instead of wanting more, as did That Girl (in a time that was equally challenging) the Girls seem satisfied with accepting less — of themselves and others. In a recent episode,  Lena Dunham’s character Hannah is asked to write about going “outside her comfort zone” and proceeds to snort coke, expose herself publicly, and let down her friends. Where’s the human dignity?

Girls is not the only female situation comedy with a self-respect problem, although it’s probably the most intelligent. Two Broke GirlsThe New GirlThe Mindy ProjectDon’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 — all of these shows portray characters who, week after week, take the uninspiring path of casual, empty sex and small aspirations.

I am not just some old guy yearning for the good old days of television — which weren’t always that good, by the way. And I should add that the depiction of young men is equally uninspiring: I don’t think you will find a future president — let alone a potentially good husband — among the sex-crazed slackers, nerds and underachievers featured in Two and a Half MenHow I Met Your Mother and Happy Endings. (Then again, they are superior beings compared to the Neanderthals who populate beer and takeout pizza commercials.)

But I’m worried about how young women are being depicted on TV. As the father of three daughters, one stepdaughter, two granddaughters and five goddaughters, I know that, beyond the input of our family, they are the product of the environment around them. You would think that a young female talent like Lena Dunham would be showing her generation a way up, rather than reinforcing the idea that it’s cool to be down.

that_girl

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 2/13/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
  •  Roseanne Barr (don’t try to pretend you don’t know who she is) has signed a development deal with NBC, although we don’t know if she’ll put on her writing hat.  (Hey, don’t be sad. The network wanted her to play a part on THE OFFICE and this is just part of her payment. Oh, wait, maybe we should be very sad.)
  • Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner (both of ROBOTS GIRLS) are writing an HBO pilot based on Betty Halbreich’s upcoming memoir All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go,  about the trials and tribulations of a Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper. (Yeppers, it’s a fact of life that all HBO subscribers know all about that particular store and even what personal shoppers are. Maybe they even all have them. America, we love you.)
  • Speaking of books, Nathan Bransford’s new book, Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp is coming out this week, and we’re going way out on a limb to recommend that everybody read this latest installment in his Jacob Wonderbar series.  (Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a TV deal out of it, and we can move into the limelight and claim it’s all because of us. Yeah, we’re adorable that way, hmm?)
  • And, speaking of people who don’t write TV,  MTV has named Mina Lefevre, formerly of ABC Family, head of scripted  programming. If you know Mina, you should give her a call and start pitching. If you don’t know her, you should find a way to wangle a meeting and start pitching. (And if you’re Mina herself, you should start writing your own stuff cuz then you’ll get TVWriter™’s ultimate honor: We’ll put your name in bold the next time we mention it here.

Aha, we knew there was something else. In honor of the fact that we think Nathan Bransford and Jacob Wonderbar are both way cool, here’s the trailer for the new book:

Why We Totally Hate HBO’s GIRLS

RobotGirlsCapture

Click the pic & see what happens (it’s so incredible the way clicking just kinda takes you somewhere…)

Yes, it’s true, everybody here at TVWriter™ despises the series GIRLS. We think it’s puerile, stereotypical, and, as Gwen the Beautiful, totally sweet, calm, and secure wife of Our Feckless Leader, LB, puts it:

Nope, sorry, but I can’t watch another episode. The first two have already made me hate myself for being the parent of a 20-something daughter and at the same time totally mistrust her. Is that what television shows are supposed to do?

It’s with that mindset that we went crusing around FUNNY OR DIE.COM and found its GIRLS soulmate – ROBOTS. Many, many thanks, FODC, for making it possible for us to totally hate bots now too!

Today’s TV Writing Deals Dept: 10/7/12

Old TV writing joke: “Know why TV writers brag about their deals? Cuz that’s all they have.” Think about it:

  • Tyler Perry (TYLER PERRY’s HOUSE OF PAYNE, MEET THE BROWNS) is writing and producing 2 new shows for OWN, in return for which he now has a very large ownership stake in the net. (Jeeze, nobody ever told us we had to buy our way into TV…and yet it definitely makes sense. Depressing sense, but sense.)
  • Douglas Segal (THREE KINGS) is writing a supernatural drama about a devil trying to save “compromised souls” for the CW. (Let that be a lesson to us all: No compromise! No surrender! Oh, that isn’t what it means?)
  • M. Night Shyamalan (THE SIXTH SENSE) & John Glenn (EAGLE EYE) are writing the pilot for LOST HORIZON for NBC. (Strangely, LOST HORIZON isn’t based on the book of the same name but on MOBY DICK. We figure somebody misread their high school reading list and still hasn’t been corrected.)
  • Ryan Murphy (GLEE, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, THE NEW NORMAL) is writing the pilot for MONTAUK, a conspiracy thriller, for Fox and an unnamed sitcom for NBC. (Yes, it’s true. We don’t even know this guy and we hate him. We really do. And if that isn’t the essence of showbiz, what is?)
  • Charley and Vlas Parlapanides (IMMORTALS) are writing THE CENTURIAN, about a Marine working with the angel of his best friend for CBS. (The way we hear it, the original pitch was about a Marine working with “the agent” of his best friend, but something got lost in the translation and who’s going to argue with a “Yes?”)
  • GIRLS creator Lena Dunham will be getting over $3,500,000 for her book of essays, Not That Kind of Girl, (because she’s got herself a very hot, in, and trendy series and why should she settle for less?)