Spending My Summer With Ryan Murphy, et al!

Hello artists! As we quickly approach the beginning of summer, I decided to pull out an exciting blog entry from the vault and share it with all of you again. Below, I shared how I was preparing to spend my summer with the likes of Ryan Murphy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Steven Canals, Tanya Saracho, etc. to discover the shows and movies I would have killed to write on. And as I sit here today, I celebrate how far I’ve come since the original blog posting. It’s happening, folks, it’s happening! And I hope that my journey below helps you in formulating the kind of shows and movies you want to write, plus the literary reps and production companies to target.

Original post below:

On June 15th, 2019, I met with a mentor of mine for coffee in the Hollywood Hills. As countless luxury vehicles pulled in and out of the parking lot, I told him that I needed some help and direction in the TV literary world. A fellow Vassar graduate, I’ve known him for several years now. The writers retreat he hosted at the Sturtevant Camp in Sierra Madre, CA, is still one of my fondest memories.

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 how to obtain a literary manager. We spoke for a while and he gave me a lot of homework 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 myself as a minority writer.

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 particular homework assignment (e.g. the production company behind each show, the literary reps behind all the writers, etc.)

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 reaching 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 reached 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! And, I was also able to identify the literary reps behind them and behind all of their staff writers. These literary reps represented writers who represented my voice. Plus, I identified production companies that produce the kind of work I want to create as a writer.

I discovered/reconfirmed a few things with 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 and 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 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)

Header picture by Anete Lusina: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-person-standing-near-fence-and-old-tv-5721863/

Writing Competitions: Where To Start????

Hello my fellow artists! If you’re in the United States, I hope you are having a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend. For my fellow screenwriters and TV writers out there who are interested in submitting content to writing competitions, but don’t know where to start, I hope that my quick blog entry will help.

As with film festivals, there are a PLETHORA of writing competitions. It can seem and feel daunting when looking at the myriad of choices out there. For example, when I recently logged into my Coverfly account, the dashboard revealed 154 writing competitions available for submissions. 154?! What?!

And if you don’t know what Coverly is, here is some info about this platform: https://www.coverfly.com/brief-introduction-coverfly-writers/#:~:text=Coverfly%20is%20an%20opportunity%20for,your%20competition%20successes%20to%20work.

Submitting to writing competitions (and film festivals) as a way to get your work out there, to get noticed, to receive feedback or coverage, can become a very expensive endeavor. Don’t just submit blindly. The best advice I can give to you before you begin your journey is to do your homework. Research. When I started submitting my films to film festivals, yes, I submitted to some of the big ones (Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca, New York Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, etc.) cause why not? However, once I got the big festivals out of the way, I also did further research to find the festivals that would be tailor-made for my films. For example, if my film featured a Latinx cast and storyline, then I knew that I should find film festivals that were geared towards Latinx-based projects. If my film was directed by a woman, then I found film festivals that celebrated and encouraged films directed by women. If my film was sci-fi, then I found film festivals that focused on this particular genre.

As a result, my submissions became more targeted. More focused. My films fell within the zip code of those particular film festivals because I was speaking their language. Writing competitions are no different. Do the research. Aim for the big ones (cause why not?) and aim for the ones that are targeted to the type of script you have for a more specific, bullseye approach. Not all competitions are equal and built the same way. Some have been around for a while and are highly-regarded and respected. Others are brand new and have only been in the game for one year. Some competitions come and go.

Some factors to consider: how long the competition has been in existence for, its mission statement, its end goals for the writers who enter and win, the judges involved in the competition, the sponsors behind the competition, etc. By the way, I’m not here to say which ones to submit to and which ones to avoid. It’s up to you to do the research and decide for yourself. Listen to your instincts and use your common sense.

Below, I have listed a few established, industry-recognized writing competitions. I found these writing competitions based upon industry colleague recommendations and through my own research. There may be a lot more established, industry-recognized writing competitions, but at least this list will get your wheels going (If you know of other established writing competitions, please leave a comment below so I can add them to the list.) And with the exception of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships which only focuses on screenplays, the other competitions listed below accept both screenplays and TV scripts.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships: https://www.oscars.org/nicholl

Austin Film Festival: https://austinfilmfestival.com/submit/screenplay-and-teleplay-submissions-2/

Final Draft Big Break: https://www.finaldraft.com/big-break-screenwriting-contest/

Page Awards: https://pageawards.com/

ScreenCraft: https://screencraft.org/screenwriting-contests/

Scriptapalooza: https://scriptapalooza.com/

Script Pipeline: https://scriptpipeline.com

Shore Scripts: https://www.shorescripts.com

The Black List: https://blcklst.com/

Tracking Board Launch Pad: https://tblaunchpad.com/

Featured image courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-red-typewriter-1995842/