The steps that I’ve gone through to get to a first draft, then revise, polish, and final draft have been culled from books and script consultants. That’s right: I shelled out money to hire people, one of whom has become more like a mentor. Why? First, friends are not trustworthy. If they are not writers, the most they can do is whether they “like” something or not which is…what it is. There’s hardly any constructive criticism that can come from it. Second, if they are writers, having a writing partner or reviewer is different from what makes a good friend or boyfriend or partner or whatever. The key here is constructive criticism from someone who knows about writing and pitching for television.
My first consultant was Amanda the TV Writer. I love her blog and as a former assistant who had to give lots of script feedback on TV scripts, I trusted her opinion. Plus, based on her blogs, she and I were on the same page about TV, writing, and other things. She had good feedback. My first draft was improved vastly because of it.
Then, while researching Nickelodeon writing fellows when I was applying for the fellowship I got in touch with one of the fellows, Kiyong, and his blog which I also loved and began to follow. He has a fantastic, upbeat can-do attitude. Though possibly “in,” I am not into snarky or cynical; the business is too tough. It was through a post of his that I first came across Ellen Sandler’s “TV Workshop” book. Another one of his posts led me to Tawnya Bhattacharya. She’s given immeasurable support with more than just my scripts. Can’t recommend her enough. She was a fellow for NBC WOV and also was a writer for “Fairly Legal,” and I believe just got a staffing offer for another show.
So through my own work plus the revisions based on the feedback of the above got my script to a level where I won the Nickelodeon script review award. To win a fellowship however needed the incomparable feedback from Karen Kirkland at Nickelodeon, director of the Nick Writing Program. Although I had heard the mantra of scriptwriting of “Show, Don’t Tell,” her step-by-step walkthrough made me really understand what that means. It drove home what I can’t assume or presume. It drove home the power of reading a script aloud because there was a line that hadn’t been caught in any of the previous lines that made no sense when you thought about it. When people read, they actually skim, esp in film and TV where that is a habit since you have dozens and hundreds of scripts to get through. It is the only explanation of how that line made it this far. And finally, as I mentioned, through the index card method that Karen believes in, she made me a believer also because the story “broke” as the saying goes, for me.
This combined feedback led to the sobering realization that now that I know where the script needed to be, I wonder if the other fellowships where I had made submissions of earlier drafts will hold. But at the end of the day, there are other roads to TV writing aside from the fellowships and the goal is to be a great writer by the time you get an opportunity, from wherever it comes. You never know so always be prepared.
Now, guess what boys and girls: I have to do the whole schpeel again for my second spec. That’s right. If you’re serious, you have to have 2 specs and an original. I have them but each one has to be at the level and go through the wringer I just put my first spec through. I know. Damn quality. How did half of what gets on TV get made? (that isn’t our problem because we aren’t on TV yet to have our stuff deemed shitty or otherwise). But damn! If only my mind dazzling, eye blinding talent was enough!