Kelly Jo Brick: Mastering the TV Writing Meeting

Photo Courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation

by Kelly Jo Brick

As a writer, meetings are a regular fact of life. Whether it’s sitting down with potential representation, pitching projects, taking generals or for staffing, each meeting comes with a different set of expectations and needs for preparation.

The Writers Guild Foundation brought in experts from across the industry including Jennifer Good, an agent in Paradigm’s Television Literary Department, writer and co-EP on THE HANDMAID’S TALE, Kira Snyder, Christopher Mack, Senior VP at Warner Bros. Television and the head of the WB Writers’ Workshop and acclaimed story/career consultant and former network executive, Jen Grisanti, to discuss what to do, what not to do, how to prep and how to follow up for the wide variety of entertainment meetings writers face in the pursuit of their careers.

Tips before your take your first meetings:

  • Don’t ramble. Be clear about what you want to express in regards to the outcome that you want.
  • You will be going to lots of meetings in your career. It’s important to keep records of who you meet with, because people often shift from place to place. Make a spreadsheet with details on the who/when/what of your meetings, it can help prevent you from embarrassing yourself along the way.
  • Don’t wear a suit and tie. It’s a casual business. Don’t look too professional, but don’t look like you’re coming in right off the street.
  • Be prepared and know who you’re meeting with and their background. It’s so much easier now that you can Google everybody.

Red Flags:

  • The biggest red flag is someone who can’t express emotion about any television show they’re watching or any film they loved. If you can’t express your passion for a story and you’re in a story meeting, that doesn’t work.
  • If you’re a filmmaker meeting on a TV show, don’t say that you only do TV to pay the bills.
  • Don’t be late. Be early. LA is a rough town for traffic. If you’re meeting on a studio lot, those are big. You might get lost, you might have to find the building. All the studio lots have cafes or bathrooms where you can kill time if you need to.

Building Your Connections – The Informational Meeting:

  • It always helps if you have a contact in the business and do an informational meeting with that person. Even meeting people who may not be able to help you in your journey of becoming a writer, but they’re tied to the business somehow, is good. For every person you know, they know at least three people who can help you get to your goal.

Finding Representation:

  • Meet with a number of managers and agents before you sign. Find out who you click with. The agency is important, but the person you click with is much more important. You definitely want to find the person who fits with you, gets you and your material and what your goals are, more so than any name above the door.
  • As a writer, remember you’re the one doing the interviewing. At the end of the day, the agent/manager works for you. They’re supposed to be there to help you. At the same time you’re supposed to help your rep with material so he/she can put you out there. Also remember that the agent is only responsible for 10 percent. You’re responsible for 90 percent, so it’s not on them to do all the work. You need to hustle yourself.

General Meetings:

  • It’s like a job interview, but there’s probably not an actual job on the line. You should go in more relaxed, because if you’re in a general meeting, it means an executive at a network or studio or production company has read your script and thought it was interesting and they like what your representation or other people had to say about you and they want to meet you.
  • You have to recognize there are no stakes in a general meeting. The goal of the general meeting is for you to make an authentic connection with the person you are meeting with.
  • They’ll ask you tell a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your story? Tell me about that script I read. Where did it come from? Try to approach it like an informal get to know you.
  • Know a little about the company you’re meeting with and the shows they produce.
  • Don’t make them do all the work. Don’t make them ask you all the questions. Ask questions, like this pilot you’re developing, it’s so interesting, how did it come to you guys.
  • Follow up with a thank you email the next day. These are busy people. Be polite. Thank them for their time. It helps to reference something that you talked about so it’s not just a generic thank you.

Staffing Meetings:

  • What you’re trying to get up to is the showrunner meeting, that is the one where you might get the job. There are meetings that lead up to that. If you’ve had generals, you’ll probably have follow ups, sometimes with the same executives for that particular show. You might then be handed off to the production company.
  • For the showrunner meeting you will have read the pilot and should be ready to talk about it in detail. Have questions about a choice they made in the pilot or if you’re really excited about a particular part, or like I really like this dynamic, are you planning to expand on that, those kind of things.
  • You and the showrunner are both writers and you’ll be getting in a discussion about story. They want to understand how you think about story, how you read a script, how you can talk about it in a way that shows how you would add to a room.
  • If you’re meeting on a comedy show, it’s important to be funny, to have a nice rapport, because you’re going to be in the room all day with people and go back and forth and be easy with jokes.

The Writers Guild Foundation regularly hosts events that celebrate the craft and voices of film and television writers. To find out more about upcoming events, go to wgfoundation.org.


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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Mark Goffman

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

by Kelly Jo Brick

Lindsay and Mark Goffman

Lindsay and Mark Goffman

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 and hard work.

Originally intending to be a speechwriter, Mark Goffman’s career led him to writing for a magazine in Brussels before he eventually got into the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop as a comedy writer. Since transitioning to drama, Mark has written for THE WEST WING, LAW & ORDER: SVU, WHITE COLLAR, ELEMENTARY, LIMITLESS and SLEEPY HOLLOW. In 2014, The Hollywood Reporter named Goffman as one of the 50 most influential showrunners.

WHEN AND HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

I’ve always written. I didn’t know I wanted to do it professionally for a long time. I wrote a book about a monkey that went into outer space when I was five. My step-grandmother used to tell me how wonderful that story was. She was a big fan. She really pushed me in the creative arts and encouraged it.

Three days after I graduated college I moved to Brussels and decided I was going to find a job there. Luckily I got this job working at the American Chamber of Commerce for their magazine. I really liked writing about international relations and politics and I was an Economics and Philosophy major, so I thought that you could make the world a better place by fostering greater relations and economies. From there I went to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I intended to do speechwriting and I consulted for a while.

I wrote some non-fiction and short stories on the side. One of them I gave to my brother, who was the only person at the time reading my fiction. He happened to be living in New York and dating a woman who was an assistant at an agency. I think the material was left on his kitchen table and she happened to pick it up and read it, really liked it, gave it to an agent, who then gave it to an agent in LA, who gave it to a producer. I was still at the Kennedy School studying for finals and I got a call that this producer wanted to meet with me about turning this short story into a movie.

I flew out to LA and it was zero degrees when I left Boston and it was 75 when I met with this producer in Pacific Palisades. I thought wow, I can do this and the weather’s nice and I can actually make up the facts. That sounds pretty cool. So after I graduated, I worked on that script for a while. It never got made, but it got me out there and got an agent and then I got into the Warner Bros. Workshop. I was accepted into the workshop for comedy writing. I had this reaction, oh, I just came from government, I need to show that I can write anything and not just about politics, so I wrote a SEINFELD episode.

WERE THERE ANY TV SHOWS THAT INFLUENCED YOU?

There were a few. FAMILY TIES was one of the first I remember that I just loved. It was a fantastic show. There were a lot of movies that really influenced me. INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS were like magic and really fostered and inspired me to have a sense of adventure and wonder about the world. I tried to bring that to my writing.

On the non-fiction side, I’ve always been interested in politics and public policy and history and so one of the really fun things about working on SLEEPY HOLLOW, was getting to combine all of those in one show. It’s a real blend and it’s fun to rewrite history from the point of view of the supernatural.

WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET ASKED BY ASPIRING WRITERS?

The most common question that I get is about how to get their material into the right hands and ironically I think that’s the last thing that you need to worry about, especially when you’re first writing.

Typically great material finds its way out there. All of us from executive producers and writers to producers and development executives are starving for great material, so to find those really special scripts that move you, make you think, laugh, look at a character differently, those are the ones you remember and stay with you. You gotta be one of those scripts. Those scripts will end up in the hands of the people who need to get them, eventually.

It might take a lot longer than you think, but don’t worry as much about the process of where to get them to, because as you start to give your script out to people you trust and like, then you’ll know when the script is ready, because those people will suddenly start to offer to send it to other people.

WHAT WAS SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE STARTING OUT YOUR CAREER?

Don’t get too precious about any one piece of material when you’re first starting out.   Write lots of things and as soon as you finish a script, start the next one.

I think it’s also important to try different genres. I made a point early on to do at least one project a year that is well outside of my comfort zone. That resulted in a documentary about ventriloquists, a play, a novel and a short film. Each of those really helped me grow as a writer and creator of entertainment.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AS A STAFF WRITER?

My first staff job was on a half-hour comedy called ODD MAN OUT. I got that job through the Warner Bros. Writing Program. It was fun because on the one hand I was terrified. It was my first real staff job and I’d been given every piece of advice from don’t say anything for the first two months, to jump in at any point and you’ve got to feel your way because every room is different.

The truth is there are rooms where they don’t want staff writers to speak until spoken to and others where they’re supposed to be story machines and others where they’re joke machines and you just have to feel it out.

The biggest surprise was, I’d prepared and had three really good stories I was really proud of on the first day that I was going to pitch because they said to come in with something you want to write about. I pitched all three on the first day and they’re like, “Great, we really like those.” Then day two they’re like, “Okay, what do you have?” I’m like, “Oh, I had ideas yesterday.” You realize you have to be very facile and you write every day.  Learning to hone that is part of the fun and collaboration of being on staff.

ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR WRITERS AT THE EARLY STAGES OF THEIR CAREERS?

I would say change your idea or adjust your idea of what success looks like, because it doesn’t have to be getting a script made or sold. Every script I’ve written has gotten me to where I am today because I used pieces of what I’ve learned from that experience, or met people along the way who became great friends or mentors and people who I would bounce ideas off of and that’s as important as anything else.

There were a lot of smaller steps to getting to that one big break where I finally got on THE WEST WING. Every one of those had to happen in order to get me to the next step and so a lot of the experience that I got in writing many scripts that no one should ever read, are still a part of that process.


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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Tracey Murray, Part 2

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

Tracey MurrayFinding the right representation can be a key component to growing and developing a writing career. TVWriter.com sat down with several managers to find out what they’re looking for in writers and what writers can be doing to help achieve success in the industry.

Manager Tracey Murray spent 11 years as an agent at CAA before stepping into the world of management and is now a Managing Partner at Industry Entertainment. Tracey shares advice from what she’s learned over the years working with writers as both an agent and a manger.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE WRITERS MAKE?

I don’t know if I’d even call this a mistake, because sometimes it works out to be a positive, but sometimes they won’t let go of a project. I think it’s great to be tenacious and I think it’s great to exhaust all options, but there does come a point where you have to say, okay, we exhausted all the options and now it’s time to put it to bed. And sometimes there are writers that keep recycling the same product and that doesn’t bode well for the client. They need to generate new material.

The beauty of being a writer is a project is never dead, because maybe in a couple of years, someone will be looking for X project and you can bring out the old script and update it. But I think being too married to a project sometimes can be not a good thing.

WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO A NEWER WRITER WHEN THEY GO INTO A MEETING?

Any time a client goes in for a meeting they need to be prepped. They need to be told what that executive covers, whether it’s a show for development, whether it’s a show for staffing. They need to know if it’s a network meeting. They should be familiar with the shows on that network.

If it’s a studio meeting you have to prep your client before they go in, give them a little bit about that executive, the background of the executive, just a little information so they go in armed and ready for that meeting.

WHEN A WRITER IS STARTING OUT, DO YOU WANT THEM TO WRITE A VARIETY OF MATERIAL OR STICK IN A CERTAIN AREA?

I think they stick to one area, at least in the beginning, because you have to brand yourself. If you want to work in comedy, you need at least two samples. If you want to branch out into drama, great, you need two samples in drama. But if you have one here and one there and the material doesn’t really go together, nobody knows where to put you. You need to pick a lane, focus on that and then you can move into other areas.

I remember when we were representing Jerry Bruckheimer and he was wanting to move into comedy and we were like, know your brand. And he stayed and became very successful with his brand and then he only recently moved into developing comedy. I don’t care if you’re in the beginning of your career or you’re in the middle of your career, you want to brand yourself.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH BREAKING A NEW WRITER IN?

I think in the beginning of your career it’s hard to get your first job, but it’s all about having that great piece of material and getting you out there and getting you as many general meetings for the executives at the studios and networks to meet you, like you, put you on their lists and also start pushing you.

Pushing you with the showrunners, saying this guy or woman has great material, you’ve got to read them. I think the first job is a hard job to get, it really is, but it’s the same. I mean getting a job is getting someone a job. At any level, you need to get them out there. You need them to be in front of the studio and the network. You need them to meet with the producers, then you need to get them in front of the showrunner. So it’s the same process, it’s just in the beginning you don’t know anyone. As you start working on shows then you have people that can recommend you, put in a good word to their pal who’s on another show.

That’s why a lot of those programs are great in the beginning when you’re a young writer. The Warner Bros. Program, every network has a program now and all that is very helpful because you meet executives and those executives push you and that again is about forming those relationships. It’s a relationship business. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t care if you’re a manager, agent, writer, executive, it’s all about relationships.

It’s also people trusting you, trusting your taste.  As a representative, these executives, if you send them writers that they don’t respond to, they’re not going to pick up your call. If you send them good material, they will always pick up your call.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE ABOUT SUSTAINING A LONG CAREER AS A WRITER?

I think it’s always about writing new material. The cool thing about being a writer is you can write a great project and you can go get a hit on the air. As an actor, you look a certain way and you get to a certain age; it’s very different with a writer. If you write a great piece of material, it can change the whole landscape. So I think that at any stage in your career it’s about writing good material.

It’s about being the best and knowing the most you can about your business. So whether it’s going to the movies, whether it’s watching television shows, whether it’s reading scripts, whether it’s reading articles and magazines to generate ideas. It’s understanding your business, knowing your business. There are a lot of writers that I know who have been in the business a really long time, but they don’t understand the television business. They should make it a point to understand the television business because if you’re working in it, you should understand how it works and if you don’t, get someone to educate you and teach you a little more about it.

I think that’s the biggest advice at any stage of your career. Also working on those relationships. Whether it’s someone at the beginning of your career, you’ll grow up with those peers.  We all have at the beginning of your career other assistants that you’re at the same level with and then they become an executive at a studio or a network. Stay in contact with those people and keep those relationships alive. I think those are the biggest things you need to do in order to flourish in this business, because there are a lot of people trying to do the same thing that you’re trying to do and it’s those things that set you apart from the others.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TRENDS IN TV GOING?

It has changed a lot with all the various channels. Right now drama is super hot and it’s going to switch back to comedy. It always does. At one time it was comedy, now it’s drama. It will switch back.

I think that the networks are struggling because there are so many outlets now. That’s going to change too. It’s not going to look the way it does now. You may not have the networks. You may be watching it on your computer. I think there are people who are going to be viewing television differently. But it’s all sort of in the works as we speak. We’re seeing it with Amazon and Netflix. People are binge watching. And there’s something to be said about that.

ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR WRITERS ABOUT GETTING STARTED AND DEVELOPING THEIR CAREERS?

Be tenacious. It’s a lot of hard work, but if you honestly work hard and put in the effort and the hours and you do a lot of the things I had mentioned, you’ll eventually find your way. It may not be immediately. But you will find your way. I think that it’s sometimes challenging to get rejection. You have to have thick skin and don’t take it personally and really persevere, truly because it’s such a fun business.

There are ups and downs and everyone has ups and downs in their careers. You can’t always be hot, hot, hot. At some point that is going to shift. But you just have to persevere. I think that’s the best advice.


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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Tracey Murray, Part 1

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

Tracey MurrayFinding the right representation can be a key component to growing and developing a writing career. TVWriter.com sat down with several managers to find out what they’re looking for in writers and what writers can be doing to help achieve success in the industry.

Manager Tracey Murray didn’t always know she wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. She started out working for a New York public relations company before moving to Los Angeles to explore a career in news broadcasting.   Realizing broadcasting wasn’t for her, she turned to the entertainment world, landing a job as an assistant to Lee Gabler who ran packaging at Creative Artists Agency. She spent 11 years as an agent at CAA before becoming a manager. Tracey now works with writers as a Managing Partner at Industry Entertainment.

YOU WERE AN AGENT BEFORE BECOMING A MANAGER. WHY THE CHANGE?

The industry was changing. William Morris was about to merge with Endeavor. And basically it was just going to be the two larger agencies so I thought now’s the time. There’s going to be a real need. I could always go back to the agency world if I was wrong, but I figured timing-wise, it was probably the best time to try it.

Actors have always had managers. Then it was the feature writers and directors and then only about 7-8 years ago did TV writers take on managers because there was a real need. The agencies were getting so large that they couldn’t manage all the clients, so that’s why they needed the extra help.

WHAT’S SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE BREAKING IN?

Work in television. It was funny because I was a French major and I thought that I was going to use my languages in international, in features. I started working for a feature agent for about a minute and didn’t like it. I then moved into television and my boss at the time, he said, “My wife works in features, the best advice I can give you is work in television.” And clearly I picked the right lane because right now television is the hottest and features are sort of non-existent, sadly.

WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET FROM WRITERS WHO ARE TRYING TO BREAK IN?

How do I get representation? There are many ways to get representation. I think lots of times it’s through relationships. People don’t accept unsolicited material, so it’s either through a lawyer or someone you know in the business. I think it’s also reaching out to your contacts. I know when I was starting out, I went to Penn and I tried to meet writers at Penn or younger writers that went to the Ivy League schools.

I think it depends on what level you are, so when you’re starting out and you’re trying to find representation, you should be reaching out to the newly promoted agents, the newly promoted managers who are trying to build their lists. I think that’s probably the best way to get representation.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER?

For me, it’s all on the page. You could be a superstar in the room, that’s added bonus, but for me it has to be on the page. You know it when you read it, but I can’t really say specifically. I feel like I have very good taste and I’ve always sort of picked well the people I thought were going to succeed.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WRITING CONTESTS?

I think it’s great. Put it this way, we read everyone from all those programs, whether it’s Warner Bros., the Disney program, awards, all that stuff. Yes, absolutely. I think that just adds to your resume.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN DOING YOUR JOB?

I think one thing is keeping up, now there are so many networks and you have to be familiar with all the shows. I mean, as I say to my clients, I expect them to work as hard as I do. I expect them to watch everything. I expect them to read everything. During development season, I expect them to read all the scripts and know what’s in development and then when the pilots are shot, I expect them to see all the pilots. It’s hard to keep up with series, but you really have to do it. I do it, so I expect my clients to do it. That’s one of the challenges.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

First of all, I love writers. I love representing writers. I love reading. I love giving notes. I love being hands on with my clients and getting to know my clients and as a manager, I didn’t think that my relationships could deepen with my clients because I’ve always had a close relationship with my clients, but now I have more time to spend with them. And you represent less writers as a manager. I have about 20 clients as a manager.

IN COMPARISON, HOW MANY CLIENTS DID YOU HAVE AS AN AGENT?

You’re on teams and then you’re servicing a bigger list. You’re pitching all the clients of an agency and that’s thousands of clients. As a manager, you’re representing the clients that you want to represent and you represent them in all areas. So I’m not just a TV manager, I’m managing my clients in all areas of the business. Whether it’s television, features, theater, I represent them. In an agency, you’re either a TV agent or motion picture agent and then you pass your client off to another department and person when they want to branch out into a different area.

WHAT CAN A WRITER DO TO HELP YOU DO YOUR JOB?

Write. I mean you’d be surprised that a lot of writers won’t give you a new script and I can’t do my job if I don’t have new material. In television every year it’s the same cycle, at least for the networks. So if for development season I’m getting out their script, I need a new script for the following development season. Same thing for staffing.

Writers need to write. They also need to generate ideas. They need to be pounding the pavement, looking. Whether it’s optioning books, optioning articles. Reading articles, just figuring out how to generate ideas.

HOW IS STAFFING CHANGING NOW WITH MORE OUTLETS?

There was a time when if you did not get a job in May or early June, you could be out for a year and that’s not the case anymore. Because there are so many networks, there are jobs all year long.

The same goes for you can pitch network season the same every year, but cablewise, you can pitch all year long. There’s just a lot more opportunity and it’s not as scary for the clients because they know that if they miss that window, there’s much more opportunity throughout the year.

Coming soon – more from Tracey including building a brand as a writer, common mistakes writers make and advice on sustaining a long career.


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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With LaToya Morgan, Part 2

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

LaToya-Turn-Director-Chair-300x273

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 and hard work.

A commitment to hard work combined with a desire to always become better at her craft, helped drive the success of television writer LaToya Morgan (TURN, SHAMELESS, COMPLICATIONS). She shares with TVWriter.com her advice about breaking in, taking meetings and always striving to learn and improve as a writer.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN BREAKING IN?

The biggest hurdle was getting that first shot, like getting someone to say yes. And so once that yes came from the Warner Bros. Workshop, I think that was what opened a lot of doors. So I’m always incredibly grateful to the Warner Bros. Workshop and Chris Mack especially, for seeing the potential I had as a writer and giving me the opportunity to show it.

WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE STARTING OUT?

When I was in film school at AFI, one of my teachers was a man named Leonard Schrader, he wrote Kiss of the Spider Woman. His brother Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver. A great writer. Hardcore, I loved him. He would always say to me, “Why are you making me read this shit?” Literally that is what he would say. I’d be like, oh my God. But what the note behind the note was, was to get into the story faster. Grab you reader immediately. And that’s what I took away from that.

And I think all the teachers I had at AFI were really great at getting you to get to what the core and the heart of the story is. That’s probably the thing that I hear most often in the back of my head when I’m writing. Yeah, like why are you making me read this shit so stop meandering and talking about the flowers and all this other stuff, get to the core of it. It goes to this old quote from Billy Wilder that I love, which is, “Grab the reader by the throat and never let them go.”

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE ABOUT GENERAL OR STAFFING MEETINGS?

As far as prep, I always try to know who I’m meeting with. Especially in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to Google someone before you meet with them. If you’re meeting with a network executive, try to find out what shows that person covers and then also what shows for that network that you would be good for. Know that ahead of time. Don’t wait for them to tell you, you tell them.

And my best piece of advice for interviewing is really simple, which is to be yourself. I know that sounds sort of cliché, but to me, the only time I’ve ever truly been nervous in a meeting is when I was trying to guess what I thought that person wanted me to say instead of me just saying what I think and who I am.

It’s so much easier and it just cuts down on the anxiety. You’re always going to have butterflies before you go in, but just know that the person sitting across the desk from you, they want to have a good meeting too, so engage with them, talk to them.

I just spoke to someone the other day who asked a similar question because they were going to be up for the Warner Bros. Fellowship and I think it sounds really simple or like you should know this, but don’t be afraid to go with the flow of the conversation. So if you’re talking and you find out they like a show you also like, don’t be afraid to go on that tangent for a little bit before getting back to the business of whatever you are there to talk about.

AS A WRITER, WHO INSPIRES YOU?

My favorite writer is John Steinbeck.   Grapes of Wrath is my favorite book, just because it’s a family story. It’s a journey. Tom Joad is one of my favorite characters. So I love that.

I am not a snob when it comes to storytelling, so whatever the genre or medium I love it. I love all kinds of sci-fi stuff like Battlestar, X-Files and then I love something gritty like Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, fantasy stuff. I’m a big comic book person so I read a lot of comics. Cross genres I have a lot of influences, so I would say drink it all in. All of it. Plays. All that good stuff.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS THAT YOU GET ASKED BY ASPIRING WRITERS?

The most common question I get is how do you break in. And I can say as a person who has thought that myself, like when I was at AFI, people would come in and talk on a panel and I would be like, just tell me the secret of how you broke in. Just tell it to me. I know you’re keeping it from me somehow. Just tell me where the secret door is so that I can get in.

My breaking in story is so much different from the other person’s breaking in story. It’s just right place, right time. Luck. All that. I never really truly understood that until I was sitting on the opposite side of the table. I think that the answer for that particular person’s story will be different from mine, but what you can do is always be prepared for the moment.

So before I broke in, I was always writing a lot of material. I wrote several TV specs, a couple of features, plays. I wrote short stories. I just loved telling stories so it didn’t feel like work to me. It was so much fun. So when the time came for me to have that meeting with my manager, he was like you have all this material you haven’t shown anyone and I was like, yeah. And he was like; I love you, because I just had this arsenal of stuff. So I would recommend that you just write whatever strikes you, whatever interests you, in whatever medium that is. So if it’s a short story do that, if it’s a play, do that. Just keep writing.

You have to be prepared and it also helps you become better as a writer, so that was my obsession. I always want to be better as a writer.  It’s like the 10,000 Hour Rule from Malcolm Gladwell. I felt like hopefully I’ve passed the 10,000 hours by now. Ever since I was a little kid, I was always writing. After AFI I continued to write more and more and more and just get better every time I wrote something.

ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR WRITERS TRYING TO BREAK IN?

Watch a lot of TV if you want to be in television. I’ve heard people say they want to write TV, but they don’t really watch it. It doesn’t make sense to me. So I think that immersing yourself in the shows that you love and then sometimes watching a show that you don’t love and trying figure out why you don’t like it is a good way just to prepare yourself.

Writers are always about output, output, output. You still also have to have some input. What books have you read? What movies have you seen? It’s important to write and continue to write. Always be writing, but you also have to be reading and you also have to be watching television and inputing as much as you output.


Kelly Jo Brick is a Contributing Editor at TVWriter™. 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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With LaToya Morgan, Part 1

LaToya-Turn-Director-Chair-300x273

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 and hard work.

Writer LaToya Morgan’s childhood love for reading, writing and old movies took her on a path that led from film school at AFI to participating in the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop and working on the writing staffs of TV shows including TURN, SHAMELESS and COMPLICATIONS.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

When I was a little kid I would read a lot and write a lot. So my biggest influence was probably Stephen King. I have fond memories of getting to the scary parts of his books and going into my brother’s room and making him sit with me while I read it. So I always loved books and I always wanted to be a writer.

The first story that I ever wrote was literally like it was a dark and stormy night. I love suspenseful stories. Still to this day, a lot of the things that I work on, they end up having some sort of suspense element or spy element, in addition to family. That’s the other thing that I write the most about.

I went to undergrad at UC Irvine. And then I went to film school at AFI. The Film Conservatory was amazing. It’s probably the most influential thing that happened to me in my writing career because I really got to dig in and hone my writing. There were wonderful professors there who were really influential in my growth as a writer.

DID YOU HAVE ANY INTERNSHIPS WHILE IN COLLEGE?

I interned at Paramount, which was great. As a kid I watched a lot of old movies. I was a huge black and white movie fan. So like SUNSET BOULEVARD, I would drive the little cart through that gate and I’d be like, oh my God, this is where Billy Wildler shot SUNSET BOULEVARD and so it was a lot of fun to do. The other internship I got was at an agency as a floater, which was my nightmare, because any time one of the assistants had to go to the bathroom or they were out for the day, I was on their desk and that’s where I learned that I’m not good at rolling calls.

The biggest thing I learned doing those internships was about how the business works, especially working at the agency. I got a chance to read all the scripts that were going out from their clients. I got to learn what writers were working, what stuff was selling. It was really great to just digest a bunch of writing and you could see how different people were working out their stories.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE INDUSTRY?

My first real job in the industry was working as an assistant in the development department of a very small production company. I got to read all the scripts and sometimes sit in when the producers would meet with different writers, but that company in particular was all about adapting books, so it was interesting to see the writers’ writing samples that would come in who were up for pitching for those projects.

My favorite job was when I worked for Disney. I worked in the archives where they had all the props from different movies like MARY POPPINS and the costume that Michael Jackson wore in CAPTAIN EO. All that stuff was in the archives and I worked specifically in the photo library where there were millions of pieces of photography from behind the scenes of all their movies and all their television shows, so it was really great for a film nerd like me to be in the vault.

WHAT IS YOUR FIRST WRITING OPPORTUNITY?

When I was working for Disney I would go home at night and be writing my scripts and falling asleep at my computer and then getting back up again and going to work and doing it all over again. I ended up applying for different fellowships and contests as they came up and one of those was the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop. I submitted a pilot script and a spec and I ended up getting into the Warner Bros. Workshop, so it was great.

I applied two times. The first time I applied to the workshop, I made it to the top 5%. And I was really mad. I was like, man, I wanted to get into the workshop and I’m this close. For that I wrote a DEXTER. The spec that ended up getting me in was a spec that I wrote for SONS OF ANARCHY.

The great thing about the workshop is that they run it sort of like a simulated writers room so you get to learn what it’s like to do a story area or write an outline and then write a script. You get feedback from the director of the program, Chris Mack, who is a mastermind and genius and he sort of acts as a showrunner and helps you with your ideas and to flesh out your script.

When you’re in the program you sort of get a taste of what it’s going to be like. We have all these great speakers come in, from network executives to other writers to people who have gone through the program and we talk about what it’s like to be in the room and what it is like to work with the network, all the stuff that you might need to know when you get out of the program. At the end of the program you go out on all these meetings. They send your material to different shows that are up for staffing and hopefully you get one of those jobs.

A script that I had written came to the attention of John Wells Productions.  I got a chance to have a meeting with their executives and it went really well. There was a job opening on SHAMELESS on Showtime and so I got a chance to interview for that with John and the entire writing staff of SHAMELESS, which was probably the most intimidating interview I’d ever been on. It was crazy and fun and I ended up getting the job, which was great. That was my first job, staff writer, SHAMELESS, John Wells. Crazy. Amazing.

HOW DID YOU GET REPRESENTATION?

I would write all the time, even while I had my job so one of the things I applied for was the Nicholl Fellowship. I made it to the top 5% and when you get to that level, they’ll send your stuff out to different agents and managers to see if anyone’s interested in your material. One of the managers read my stuff and we sat down and had a meeting. Matt Horwitz was the manager and Dave Brown, they worked at a small company at the time. They now work at Echo Lake Entertainment.

They read my material. They loved it. We hit it off and they really had a vision for where they thought they could take my career. I was all on board for that and I signed with them. So I had a manager before I did the Warner Bros. Workshop, but I ended up getting the agent after the Warner Bros. Workshop. They send your material to a bunch of agents once you’re almost done with the program.

I wasn’t even really thinking about an agent because I was so busy focusing on trying to get that first job. So once I got staffed on SHAMELESS, then all the agencies, they were reading my material at the time, but that sort elevated it.  I met with a bunch of different agencies. I ended up selecting CAA. Elizabeth Newman is my point person there. I was just so impressed by how smart she was and by how thoughtful she was. She is such a fighter and I love that about her, so I definitely was very excited to have her join the team.

Coming soon – more from LaToya including her advice about breaking in, taking meetings and fueling your creativity.


Kelly Jo Brick is a Contributing Editor at TVWriter™. 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.

Kate G: Television Writing Contests 2013

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by Kate G

Get some eyes on your spec, original pilot, or other original scripts by submitting to yearly television writing contests. Contests at least guarantee that someone will take the time to read through your script, and if you’re good (and lucky), they can offer cash, development deals, paid internships, high level workshops, and bragging rights. For the most part, television writing contests seem to be held in the first half of the year with the majority holding deadlines during or at the end of May. Once you hit June/July you’re pretty much going to be working for next year’s contests. In the spirit of helping every aspiring television writer out there, we’re listing a bunch of contests here in relative chronological order!

New York Television Festival
http://www.nytvf.com/index.html

This one’s going first because it has many different deadlines throughout the year depending on which initiatives it is currently sponsoring. Take a good look, East Coasters, because this is all you’re gonna get close to home. Most of these contests (or ‘initiatives’) are for independent producers creating original content, meaning you’re probably going to have to get out there and film something – even if it’s just a couple minutes to go with your treatment. They partner with companies like A&E, History, and Fox to provide chances for development deals. Festival is held every fall in Manhattan. Check back for new initiatives.

Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship
http://www.nickwriting.com/home/

Entry Period: January 2nd – February 28th

Comedy spec scripts only. Sorry drama writers. Ready for this? Because this prize is a knockout. Nick hires (that means pays) around four writers to learn from the best, participate in production and development, meet all of the important players at Nickelodeon, and groom to (hopefully) work there when they’re done. Prepare to move to Burbank, California if you win, but they’ll pay round trip airfare and a month’s accommodations. A veritable holy grail for comedy writers. Oh, and you missed it for 2013. But there’s always next year.

Scriptapalooza
http://www.scriptapaloozatv.com/

Entry Period: April 15th & October 15th

Enter with everything from pilots to comedy/drama specs to reality shows (and there are a lot of reality show producers associated with this one). Cash prizes for the winners and feedback if you want to pay an additional $75. But more importantly, if you win, they show your work off to all of their contacts, producers, managers, and agents. Exposure exposure exposure. Their network is available for a possible leg up into the industry.

CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program
http://diversity.cbscorporation.com/page.php?id=23

Entry Period: March 1 – May 1, 2013

Break out your spec scripts and some of your original work because you’ll need one of each. For original work they accept pilots, short fiction, screenplays, or short plays. However, for a funky twist to spice up your life, the rules state that your spec and your original work will need to ‘match in tone’. The workshop takes place in the Los Angeles area (noticing a trend, yet?) where you will be shaking hands with and learning from all kinds of television bigwigs. You win access to executives, support, and the chance to dive right in and observe your mentor’s writing room.

NBC – Writers on the Verge
http://www.nbcunicareers.com/earlycareerprograms/writersontheverge.shtml

Entry Period: May 1, 2013 – May 31, 2013

Comedy and Drama specs accepted. A 12 week intensive course held on Tuesday and Thursday nights designed to help you create an awesome spec and pilot to show to those who might hire you. This is described as a program for writers who just need a little spit shine to be ready for professional work. Once again, get ready to rush out to California as the workshop is held in Universal City. No one’s helping you get there either. But we all know if you win you’ll hitchhike your way out there and live under a bridge if you have to (remember to charge a hefty toll).

Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop
http://writersworkshop.warnerbros.com/

Entry Period: May 1 – June 1

Comedy and Drama specs accepted. A lot like the NBC Writers on the Verge but now with 100% more Warner Bros. A Tuesday nightly workshop in Los Angeles, California with the end goal of possibly being staffed on a television show. No help with housing or pay, but when your big break knocks, are you going to tell it you just can’t afford it right now? A great many working professional television writers have been through this workshop – and some have written books about it.

Disney/ABC Writing Fellowship
http://www.abctalentdevelopment.com/index.html

Entry period: Usually May – June 1st as well. (For some reason they don’t like to keep their deadlines posted until it begins.)

Comedy and Drama specs accepted. Make sure you have three solid specs, because if you become a finalist you may be asked for more work. If (or when) you win, you are offered the opportunity to become an employee of Disney with an annual salary of 50,000 USD. As with Nickelodeon, you will be exposed to and work with key personnel to advance your career. They will also have the option to buy the scripts you submitted at the price that would befit your experience level. Something to be aware of: this one is going to require recommendations from people who work in the industry so start sucking up to bothering asking your friends in the industry for glowing letters extolling the virtues of your writing prowess.

Spec Scriptacular & People’s Pilot
http://tvwriter.net/?page_id=450
http://tvwriter.net/?page_id=260

Entry period: January 1st – June 1st.

These are TVWriter’s own flagship contests, one for comedy or drama spec scripts and the other for original pilots (guess which is which). With thousands of dollars in winnings as well as the invaluable mentorship of Larry Brody, we happen to think the rewards are top notch. TVWriter is dedicated to helping you write your very best, so this year LB and company are offering free feedback for every entry! How’s that for a deal? On a personal note, this contest has some of the quickest and most personable responses from LB himself. Makes you feel like someone actually wants to read your script – not to find any reason to throw it in the circular filing cabinet.

Slamdance
http://showcase.slamdance.com/Writing-Competition

Entry Period: Feb 25th – July 2nd (tiers of submission deadlines)

Original Feature, Horror, and Teleplay/Webisode winners each win 3,000 bucks in addition to other prizes and the chance to have their script read by production companies, studios, and agents. Winner for original feature length screenplay this year receives $10,000 and $50,000 to produce the film. If you’ve got an idea for a movie while you’re perfecting your webseries and your specs, now’s the time to get cracking!

Fox Intensive Initiative
http://www.fox.com/audiencestrategy/foxwritersintensive/

So, Fox. I get that you only want professionals, people who’ve worked in your industry already. Not so great for the rest of us trying to catch a break, but I get that bit. But how about updating your website with the new deadlines? Or letting us know if there’s even going to be a new contest? Nothing up here except for last year’s info. If you see something pop up, feel free to let us know (or keep it to your greedy self). Go forth, write, edit, and buy those antiquated brads, champ. Because you can’t win if you don’t play.

EDITED by LB TO ADD: Here’s another contest, one we just thought of. First reader/commentor to tell us why the pic at the top of this article is relevant (and, yep, it is) gets a prize. (C’mon, you can do it. Writers are the Kings & Queens of General Knowledge. Or at least we’re supposed to be.)