How To Get Your Own TV Series

Ahhhhhh, wouldn’t you like to know (insert evil laugh here) With the proliferation of TV shows out there-propelled no doubt by the presence and growth of different streaming networks-and the need for content that is quickly consumed, it should be easy to land a TV series in this day and age.

So I will give you the answer on how to land your own TV series deal. As you may or may not know, Chasing The George is about the journey I’m on to create and carve out the career that I see and want for myself. And along the way, I share my advice, my wins, my losses which become lessons, etc…so that you can be inspired in the pursuit of your own dreams. It’s important to share my journey so that people can see that there is no such thing as an overnight success. That it takes a sustained effort.

So the answer to landing a TV series deal with Netflix or HBO or Showtime is……..I don’t know! NOW HERE’S WHERE YOU WILL PROBABLY STOP READING. Please don’t. This is a process. This is a journey. If you decide to keep reading, you will see what I’ve been doing to get my newest series picked up.

I’ve been down this road before with another TV series I created a few years ago. With that series, I had a literary agent. I had producers attached. I pitched my series to CBS, Showtime, Youtube, Logo and HERE! My series was pitched and submitted to different production companies. I independently shot the pilot episode and submitted to film festivals.

With my new TV series, this is what I’ve done so far. Hopefully this helps or inspires you. The idea first came to me in 2015 and I wrote a rough pilot for it. It wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that I decided to pick it up again and devote my energy to it. And since then, this is what I have done to arm myself with tools and resources.

**I studied many half-hour shows on Netflix (the pilot episodes only) to get a sense of the style and tone of each show to see what resonated with the style and tone of my new series. Also, I studied when the main character was introduced, when the other characters were introduced and how quickly the problem for the main character was introduced.

**I rewrote the pilot episode of my series based upon the information I received above.

**I created a spreadsheet that lays out the first eight episodes of season one (I decided that 8 would be my magic number for season one) The spreadsheet lays out important information from the characters to episode titles, etc. In this way, the buyer can get a clear map and picture about the possibilities of season one.

**I wrote the second and third episodes of my series. Again, in this way, the buyer can get a sense of my writing style and also see where the series is going.

**I’ve brought in scenes from all the episodes to read out loud in class to see what works, what flows, what doesn’t make sense, etc. Then, I applied the notes I received and brought the scenes back to class.

**I wrote the TV bible for my series.

**I wrote my pitch. And the biggest part of my pitch was articulating WHY I am telling this story and WHY I’m the only person who can tell this story. The next step is for me to start practicing it out loud to see how it flows, to see if I’m engaged and interested, to see if people get the story, etc. And how I came about writing my pitch was through doing research. There are many different ways to pitch and I made my life sane by choosing one approach that I really liked and sticking with it. If I went down the rabbit hole of looking at the many ways to pitch, I would have driven myself insane. I decided to model my pitch after the way Gloria Calderón Kellett does it (she has a video on Youtube where she breaks down how she likes to pitch her TV shows)

**I’ve met with one my mentors-who is in the industry-for advice and homework. And boy, did he give me a lot of exciting homework each time we met. The homework was designed to not only help me hone in on my voice as a writer, but to hone in on literary managers who will most likely be more receptive to repping me as a writer. Also, he guided me to utilize my relationship map for connections and possibilities. And no, I will not tell you who my mentor is LOL.

**I’ve recently met with a big TV producer (thanks to someone on my relationship map creating an intro for us) to ask questions about their professional journey and to start building a relationship with them. My mentor above encouraged me to ask the producer if I can do “takes”. I asked the producer and they were open to it! And no, I will not tell you who this producer is LOL.

**I’ve recently connected with a TV writer (thanks to someone on my relationship map creating an intro for us) so that I can ask them questions about their professional journey and to start building a relationship with them. And no, I will not tell you who this writer is LOL.

**I need to start reaching out to literary managers from the homework I did. Relationship map? Query letters?

**I will keep listening to the people I admire and respect on social media. Engage in genuine ways. Ask questions. Let them see that I am about it. One of the things on my to do list is to read this thread that a working writer posted where they honestly answered questions they received about submitting scripts to selling them to attaching directors and producers to a project, etc. In this way, I can see a different point of view.

Okay, I’m going to stop here. There are other things I have done this year and there are many other things I still have to do. Thinking inside the box and outside of the box. Tackling from all angles because there is no one way or answer. I think you get the point though.

Maybe this helps you. Maybe it doesn’t. If you have other ideas, please let me know in the comments below. What good moves have been effective for you in getting your series out there? Do I need to rent a plane and spell out a message over Hollywood?

Have a good week!

Advertisements

Spending My Summer With Ryan Murphy et al

Hello gang! I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

On June 15th, I met with a mentor of mine for coffee in the Hollywood Hills. As countless luxury cars pulled in and out of the parking lot, I told him that I needed some help and direction in the TV literary world. He’s a literary manager and also a fellow Vassar graduate. I’ve known him (and his wife) for several years now. I’ve been to a few events they’ve hosted from Christmas gift-wrapping parties for needy families to casserole parties to a writers retreat at the Sturtevant Camp in Sierra Madre, CA.

I told him that I needed to navigate the TV literary world with more focus and clarity because I was a little bit all over the place. I also asked him about how to obtain a literary manager. We spoke for a while and he gave me a lot of homework to execute that would help me get more focused in this area, more focused on which literary managers would be best for my writing voice and to discover opportunities for minority writers such as myself.

After taking pages of notes, I was excited to tackle the homework he gave me. One of the homework assignments was to identify 25 TV shows/movies that I would have killed to work on as a writer. He told me to create a spreadsheet and to include different columns of information for this homework assignment.

Side note: At the time of our meeting, I could only identify two TV shows that I would have killed to work on as a writer LOL.

After our meeting, I immediately got to work. I started watching lots of TV shows and movies to find my voice in them. Does this TV show or movie sound like my voice? Does this TV show or movie sound like what I’m interested in writing? I would watch at least two episodes of each TV show to see if I would add it to the list or not. I typed in specific genres that I was interested in. I looked at recommendations from Netflix, Hulu and IMDB (i.e. if you liked “Black Mirror”, then check out….) Next thing I knew, my list of shows started to grow.

When my list grew to 15 shows, I hit a wall. I was like, “There is no way I’m going to find 25 TV shows/movies.” I emailed my mentor and asked, “Is 25 a hard number? Or can I have less than that?” I asked him this question knowing fully well what his answer would be. I knew that 25 was a hard number. And that he gave me 25 TV shows/movies to push myself, to explore and to think outside of the box. He emailed me back and he confirmed everything I already knew. So, I recommitted to hitting the magic number of 25. And I’m glad I did because I didn’t want to take any shortcuts. I wanted to fully comply.

On July 27th, I hit the magic number! When I found my 25th show, I cheered! I was so happy and ecstatic. It took me almost a month and a half, but I got to spend my summer with Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Steven Canals, Tanya Saracho, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ryan O’Connell and so many other amazing creators!

I discovered/reconfirmed a few things in this assignment:

*I am interested in the following areas for TV: urban dramedies; stand alone sci-fi episodes; comedies where the lead character is truly an outcast.

*My writing heart resonates with half hour TV shows.

*When it came to identifying movies, urban dramas made the list. Although, I also love comedic apocalyptic films like Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End (both written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg)

*ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! When I saw the amount of creativity in each show, the storylines, the kind of different/dynamic leading characters, etc., I realized that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! There is an audience out there for any show and storyline. There is no way that my own TV series can’t be picked up. All of the shows I watched (whether they made the list or not) reconfirmed that my series has a place on TV. No one can ever tell me that there isn’t an audience for my work after seeing all of the TV shows and movies I’ve seen.

So, ladies and gentleman, here are the 25 TV shows and movies that I would have killed to work on as a writer because they resonate with my writing voice. In no particular order:

  1. Pose
  2. Black Mirror
  3. Pen15
  4. Room 104
  5. Electric Dreams
  6. Weird City
  7. The Twilight Zone (the reboot)
  8. Special
  9. Bonding
  10. Shrill
  11. Difficult People
  12. Schitt’s Creek
  13. Ramy
  14. Barry
  15. Atlanta
  16. Fleabag
  17. Vida
  18. When They See Us
  19. Tales of the City (the reboot)
  20. Looking
  21. Moonlight
  22. Gun Hill Road
  23. Quinceanera
  24. Roxanne, Roxanne
  25. Culture Shock (part of the Into The Dark series on Hulu)

Another Day, Another Pilot Written

Hello Artists!

I just finished writing a new half hour pilot! I shared it in my Professional Development Program 3.0 class at the Richard Lawson Studios to hear it out loud and get feedback on the characters and the storyline. I’m excited for this new series!

And to reiterate the point of my blog, Chasing The George, it’s to include people on the journey I’m on to carve out the career that I want (and to provide industry advice along the way)

So here’s a few of the things I have planned to Chase The Ambulance, to Chase The George, with urgency and intention:

**Write the second episode (Which I started doing on March 2nd!)

**Write the third episode

**Carve out an 8-episode bible for season one

**Submit the pilot episode to writing competitions to use as leverage and attention

**Secure a new literary agent

And there’s more administration planned around my new series. And remember that all of my career administration is directly pulled from my Declaration of Independence (aka business plan)

With all of the streaming platforms that are currently out there and that are coming out in the near future, I will get a development deal.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, HBO, etc…………………

Why Jorge Teaches: Twinkie Byrd Edition

Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd is the famed and well-respected casting director behind such Hollywood projects such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Being Mary Jane”. Her complete work can be found at: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1359173

I first met Twinkie a few years ago when she came to speak to students at the Richard Lawson Studios. Since she was the guest speaker, we wanted to screen a reel of her casting work before she spoke to the students. Richard put me in charge of finding examples of her casting work and cutting it together to form the reel.

When we played the reel, Twinkie was thrilled and overjoyed. I even remember her turning to me at one point and saying, “Oh my God, where did you find that? I’ve been trying to find that movie!” My detective work, and the fact that we were both from Brooklyn, began a journey of mutual admiration and respect for one another. I’ve also had the honor of auditioning a couple of times for Twinkie and she has praised my acting abilities.

So when I discovered that Twinkie wanted to take the Professional Development Program 1.0 class at the Richard Lawson Studios, I was thrilled! I interviewed her and I asked her why she wanted to take the course. She told me that she wanted to take her career to the next level by incorporating directing and producing into the mix. I knew that PDP 1.0 would be perfect for her because she would have to write, film and edit 10 short films over the course of 16 weeks.

It was also great to see Twinkie, a casting director, have to do auditions in the PDP 1.0 class. She got to be an actor and audition in front of the camera. And because she had been casting for years, she instinctively understood acting. She made wonderful choices as an actress and knew how to work in front of a camera.

Richard and I both taught this class and it was great to see her growth and wins, as well as the growth and wins of other students. For the Final Film project, Twinkie and fellow classmate, Ashley Jackson, collaborated to create a project called “The Counter: 1960”. Their short film looked at the segregation that existed in America during that time. It was a powerful film that utilized a number of Richard Lawson Studios students in front of the camera and behind the camera. It was cast well (of course, Twinkie’s a casting director!) And Twinkie directed it.

The first cut of “The Counter: 1960” was really well done. The story was incredibly impinging. It was ambitious in concept. Richard gave his notes in terms of how they could elevate their film to the next level. They took their notes like pros and their excitement grew.

Twinkie and Ashley decided to reshoot the film from scratch and gave themselves more time to carve out the film (In PDP 1.0, you only have one week to conceive, shoot and edit these 10 short films)

They reshot the film, with Twinkie staying on as director, and ever since they released it to the world, it has been killing the film festival circuit! “The Counter: 1960” has won awards in Cannes and Hollywood and has also screened in Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, Atlanta, India etc.

Twinkie recently posted a message on Instagram that thanked and acknowledged her PDP 1.0 teachers. I was moved because it’s these moments that remind me why I love teaching. As a teacher, I love seeing the numerous and diverse wins that my students have. Whether it’s a student booking a job or finishing a passion project or having a positive shift in their personal lives, it brings me immense joy.

As much as I love acting and writing, I also love giving back as a teacher and knowing that I had a meaningful impact and contribution on my students’ lives. That I had a hand in bringing out their full potential and talents.

And I love that Twinkie acknowledged the people who played a part in her current success! It’s so important to acknowledge the people who contributed to your journey and success. Your acknowledgement will come back to you a hundredfold. I taught the Audition Bootcamp class this past Friday and I said that more often than not, people only acknowledge the new friends who conveniently show up at their new level of success. I told my class to acknowledge the people who were there from the start. The people who were there when you weren’t a household name. The people who were there when you didn’t have money. Or when you didn’t have a meal to eat. Or when you didn’t have a place to live in. Or when you wanted to quit and they convinced you not to. The list goes on and on.

So thank you Twinkie for your acknowledgement. I am so proud of your success. You postulated at your interview that you wanted to be a director and now you are experiencing déjà vu! You saw it in your mind as a foregone conclusion and now you are experiencing it again in a realized, tangible way. You are such an example of what we teach at the Richard Lawson Studios!

Below is Twinkie’s Instagram post:

Twinkie Byrd

Homeward LA (Art Making a Difference)

Art is powerful. Art creates change. Whether it’s a movie, a song, a painting, a book, etc. Art has the ability to make us move towards change. And as an artist, I love using my art to create and inspire change. That’s why I am honored to be a part of Homeward LA.

Homeward LA is a 10-day citywide event from April 13 to April 22, where over 20 productions of monologues based on stories from people who have experienced homelessness will be performed by actors all around the Los Angeles area. I will be acting in the April 22nd production at the Richard Lawson Studios at the WACO Theater Center!

Together we will experience stories from the lives of those who strive to find their way home, increase awareness around the homeless crisis facing Los Angeles, and raise funds for The Midnight Mission, an amazing nonprofit organization on Skid Row.

If you are interested in attending, please click on this link:

http://bit.ly/homewardla

Homeward LA

James Franco Said No To Me

James Franco said no to me. Okay, okay, insert endless jokes here:

e.g. He said no to me because I’m not a woman. He said no to me because I’m not an underage girl.

I started developing and writing a feature film back in November 2014 and I knew I wanted James Franco to play the antagonist. I tailored this part for him. I was so excited about my feature film script and had a blast writing it. I held a successful table read in August 2016 with working actors and created a clever social media campaign in the summer of 2017 that involved celebrities endorsing my script to James Franco.

In July 2017, my friend and I dropped off a hard copy of my script to his production company, and that same day, we emailed a PDF version of my script to his production company as well.

In November 2017, a fierce and courageous friend and colleague of mine asked me what was the latest news with my script. I told her what was going on and she offered to help me connect the dots and take it to the next level. After Thanksgiving break, I went to her house and we spent three hours connecting the dots. The meeting culminated with her calling James Franco’s manager and emailing my script to them.

I had an audition for a feature film in mid-December that Noah Baumbach was directing and when I got back from my audition, my friend’s assistant told me that James Franco passed on my film. Well actually, his first line of defense at his production company passed on my film. So James never received my script. I just like to say James Franco passed on my film because it will bring in more viewers to my blog 🙂

And I have to say that when I received the news, I felt great! I didn’t take a loss on it. I wasn’t upset or angry. I had nothing on it because I received an answer. I received an answer for this journey I had been on since November 2014. There is no loss. I still have a fun and great script on my hands.

Besides, there’s Dave Franco who could step in and play the antagonist. Or Samuel L. Jackson. Or Finn Wittrock. There are possibilities!

So, this chapter closes on James Franco (for now!)

Table Read Fun!

Hey artistic warriors! Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

I had an opportunity to act in a table read for an exciting and powerful feature film. I was asked to be in it by the writer of the film. He and I met at the Richard Lawson Studios two years ago and we kept in touch by sharing our artistic endeavors with each other. Plus, he had seen my work as an actor and liked it. He mentioned at the table read that he hand-selected each of us because he knew what we would bring to the characters.

And although I can’t talk about the storyline of the feature film, what I will talk about is the process I employed for the table read. First of all, the scripts would only be available at the table read, so none of us had the opportunity to read it and work on our characters beforehand. We were only emailed our character names and their breakdowns. So essentially, this was a cold reading! Which I thrive on!

Based on my character’s breakdown, I came dressed as the character. I decided to wear something “hip nerdy” and I wore non-prescription glasses. When I took my assigned seat at the table, I literally had five minutes to find my scenes and read through them. On the first read through of my scenes, I just read them in order to gather the facts that the writer was giving to me. What’s going on? What’s happening?

When I finished the first read through, I went back and created a quick history for my character. Then, I created a moment before and then I began reading through my scenes again. I allowed myself to be open and present so that my instincts and impulses could come through. As subtext and thoughts popped into my head, I wrote them down on the margins of the pages. I didn’t question myself, I didn’t flinch, I didn’t critique. I honored my impulses. When I finished the second read through of my scenes, I closed the script and let it go. I didn’t do any more read throughs.

A minute later, the table read began. I connected with my other scene partner and found moments where I was impinged by him and where I impinged him. I allowed myself to have a moment of real reflective delay when he delivered some bad news to me and I allowed myself to have an experience.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and the writer loved and appreciated what we all brought to the table read. We had a quick Q&A afterwards and he shared with us his upcoming plans for the film.

Until next time! Have a great artistic week!