DO YOU LIKE MONEY?

By Jim Cirile,

CEO/Founder of Coverage Ink.

Every year I moderate the Agents/Managers Hot Sheet panel at Scriptfest (aka Pitchfest), which is always a ton of fun and super informative -- hearing how it really is from the tops reps in the biz, that’s pure freaking gold. Two years ago I asked the panel, what do you say to your feature clients who may be considering writing for TV? Magnet Management’s Mitch Solomon’s response: “I say, ‘Do you like money?’”

What a great answer, and it’s stuck with me for a couple reasons. When I came up in the ‘90s, there was a clear division between TV and features. Feature writers looked on writing TV as slumming, while TV writer/producers were fiercely protective of their space -- good luck getting anywhere with your spec pilot unless you’ve paid your dues by clawing your way up in TV production. But like the Berlin Wall, the battlements separating TV and features have toppled, and now we seldom define writers as TV or feature-specific -- we’re just writers, full stop. Feature writers write pilots; TV writers write features.

 

GRN banner ad 10-16

 

And so much the better, because as you likely know, we are in a new golden age of television.  The bread and butter of most working writers used to be feature assignments and rewrites, and the writers with the mid-level quotes made a good living doing a couple of those per year. But as the studios consolidated and made less movies and put less and less material into development, they also started further screwing us by paying less. Writers whose quote was $250K were now forced to take WGA minimum plus 10%, in a one-step deal instead of two or three. Poof -- a heap-ton of writer income evaporated faster than a puddle of spittle in the Gobi.

Fortunately, TV rode to the rescue. Great new shows -- Dexter, The Sopranos, and their ilk -- redefined what TV could do, and made writing for TV cool again, and the arrival of new outlets hungry for content like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, created a perfect storm. The paydays may not be as big as on the features side, but they are abundant. And so when Mitch says, “Do you like money?,” what he means is: there’s opportunity out there -- but not so much in features. Oh, sure, you can still sell a feature spec -- provided it’s brilliant, makes the Black List, and has a producer with a studio deal and hopefully some A-list names attached. And that director who blew everyone away with his Sundance movie. Oh yeah, and if it’s based on really well-known public domain IP or successful source material.

Or you can write a pilot.

So how do you get your piece? You need these three things:

1)      Craft. As with every other business, jobs are awarded to the people who know their stuff. Take classes. Read books. Get your hands on some TV scripts. Understand how they’re structured. Master the art of snappy and concise storytelling (yes, that single sentence may well take years. Remember, you want to get paid for your work. That means you have to be throwing serious heat.) Get professional feedback on your material from people who know what they’re doing. Work with a coach. Watch “Breaking Bad,” perhaps the greatest TV series of all time, over and over and over again. Learn subtext. Develop your material with a writers group or partner. Don’t expect miracles overnight. Your podiatrist went to school for a long time before she was able to hang up a shingle. Why should being a writer -- a similarly highly paid, professional job -- be any less rigorous?

2)      Material. As with features, there are certain types of material that are easier to interest folks in than others. Sitcoms and period dramas are tough sells. Why? Because most sitcoms come from known quantities with a proven track record. Period = expensive, and while there are plenty of these shows out there, they’re viewed as more difficult to mount. What’s in demand? 1-hour dramas, procedurals with an unusual slant, sci-fi, action, thrillers, anything with a truly oddball or quirky main character, crime, and genre mash-ups. No superheroes. No serial killers. Doctors, lawyers and cops? Well, they’re always in demand by network, but you have to find a fresh, exciting way in.

3)      Access. Once your chops are where they need to be, and you’ve got the killer pilot script, how do you get noticed? This is actually the easiest part. The mistake most people make is skipping right to #3 without nailing #1 and #2. The truth is, once you have the goods, people will champion you. There are so many ways to get read nowadays -- contests like Tracking B, Scriptapalooza, Launch Pad, and our own Get Repped Now promotion, break people all the time. There’s the Black List and numerous TV fellowship programs, all searching for the best and brightest. And there are Pitchfests and Virtual Pitchfests, all of which give you instant, one-on-one access. If you are ready, and your material is shiny, tight and awesome, you WILL break in. It’s that simple. People are desperate to find great new talent.

Do you like money? Then you need to master #1 and #2. Those are the tricky bits. Go get ‘em.

ASA Screenwriters contributor Jim Cirile, CEO Coverage Ink

Jim Cirile is a writer/producer and the owner of www.coverageink.com, the oldest screenplay analysis, development, and editing company in Los Angeles. For a decade he wrote the “Agents Hot Sheet” column for “Create Screenwriting” magazine.

 

 

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.

WELCOME TO ASA (AMERICAN SCREENWRITERS ASSOCIATION)

The core mission of American Screenwriters Association (ASA) is to support, promote, and assist
emerging screenwriters to ensure that they have all the tools needed to hone
their skills and sell their screenplays. We are dedicated to creating a dialog between
screenwriters, producers, filmmakers, actors, and industry to ensure mutual success. © 2017 S.Kirwan


ASA on Wikipedia
Steven Kirwan's Profile
Steven Kirwan's Facebook
Steven Kirwan's Twitter
Steven Kirwan's LinkedIn
Steven Kirwan's Klout
Steven Kirwan'sQuora
Steven Kirwan's StumbleUpon
Steven Kirwan's about.me
Steven Kirwan's Youtube
Steven Kirwan's Pinterest
ASA on Gideons Way Blog
ASA on Stage 32
ASA on Script Advice









The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by American Screenwriters Association and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. Any views or opinions expressed in or on this website are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website or the information appearing on or contained within this website. Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them. Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan takes no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control. This Website may contain links to other sites. American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan nor the website owner assumes responsibility for the accuracy or appropriateness of the information, data, opinions, advice, or statements contained at such sites, and when You access such sites, You are doing so at your own risk. In providing links to the other sites, American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan or the owner of this website is in no way acting as a publisher or disseminator of the material contained on those other sites and does not seek to monitor or control such sites. A link to another site should not be construed to mean that American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan or this website is affiliated or associated with same. THE CONTENT ON THIS WEBSITE OR ON ANY WEBSITE TO WHICH THIS WEBSITE MAY LINK MAY NOT BE ACCURATE, UP TO DATE, COMPLETE OR UN-TAMPERED WITH, AND IS NOT TO BE RELIED UPON. SUCH CONTENT SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED AS A RECOMMENDATION FOR ANY SPECIFIC PRODUCT OR SERVICE, USE OR COURSE OF ACTION. YOU SHOULD NOT ACT OR RELY ON ANY OF SUCH CONTENT WITHOUT SEEKING ADVICE OF A QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL. IN NO EVENT WILL American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan, ITS AFFILIATES, AGENTS, LICENSORS, SUPPLIERS, OR THEIR RESPECTIVE DIRECTORS, OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES BE LIABLE FOR ANY SPECIAL, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, EXEMPLARY, AGGRAVATED, ECONOMIC OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, HOWSOEVER CAUSED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO: DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF USE, LOST PROFITS OR LOST SAVINGS, EVEN IF AMERICAN SCREENWRITERS ASSOCIATION OR ANY OF ITS LAWFUL AGENTS OR EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES OR CLAIM. American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan ASSUMES NO OBLIGATION TO UPDATE THE CONTENT ON THIS SITE. THE CONTENT ON THIS SITE MAY BE CHANGED WITHOUT NOTICE TO YOU. American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CONTENT OR INFORMATION THAT YOU MAY FIND UNDESIRABLE OR OBJECTIONABLE. American Screenwriters Association or Steven Kirwan DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY FOR UNAUTHORIZED USE OR REPRODUCTION OF ANY PORTION OF THE WEB SITE. ACCESSING THE CONTENT FROM TERRITORIES WHERE IT MAY BE ILLEGAL IS PROHIBITED.