15.4.11 , Posted by Geoff Thorne at 19:57
Someone asked– elsewhere, not here– how you go about shopping a treatement for a television series idea if you don't know anyone and are fresh off the boat/out of college.
Well, obviously, the short answer is "You don't."
That's what you tell the noobs so the faint of heart will bail out before they get hurt. Everybody who stays after that gets the long answer.
I hadn't actually thought about that long answer in some time so, when I did, I came up with some stuff that might be useful to some of you.
As with any advice, it's worth what you pay for it.
Unless it's worth more.
Anyway; like to hear it? Here it go:
METHOD ONE: Agents/Management
You need an agent. Or a manager or, in some cases, a lawyer. There is almost no way to do this otherwise. The process of submitting work to an agent varies slightly by agency and, again, in general, the big guys do not much care about noobs because they already have their own pipelines in place for finding new material and clients.
METHOD TWO: THe Hollywood Creative Directory.
This is a massive catalogue of all the legit production companies in Los Angeles (and sometimes elsewhere) listing their main employees and what sort of material they do as well as their lists of credits. You can go through this book, company by company, and make phone or email contact with the ones you think will be open to the sort of work you do. As with Method 1, the vast majority (90+%) will not be interested. Do NOT pitch them over the phone.
METHOD THREE: Mailroom
This sucks. It's ABSOLUTELY no fun. I'm telling you this up front. You get paid crap, there is stiff competition not only from wannabe writers, actors, directors and agents but also from the children of the rich and famous who may have one or more top-level connections that put them in the front of every line and at the top of every pile. You fight for the right to work in the mailroom at some agency, do an excellent job, make friends with assistants and junior agents and, at some point, let them know you're a writer. It's not a sprint. It's not for the weak.
METHOD FOUR: Create a web presence discussing some hot topic that you can either blow up or make funny. Build a following, opine on blogs. You can become friendly enough with "big players" that one may be interested in taking a look at your stuff. That you actually wrote. Because nobody gives a damn about a great "idea."
METHOD FIVE: Nepotism
Be the child, friend, lover, husband, wife, brother, sister, father, mother, uncle, aunt or cousin of someone who can greenlight your project or get you to someone who can. Sadly, this one is mostly out of your hands and I would NEVER recommend finding someone to sleep with just to get ahead in "Hollywood." Although LOTS of people do just that. Don't.
Ugly. Pathetic. Don't.
Also, and this is very important, WRITE THE PILOT. Nearly nobody is interested in a series pitch from someone who can't actually write. You can't skate by on "ideas." Ideas are worthless in this business. Why? Because EVERYONE has them. Literally.
All anybody cares about is execution. If you can't write, as a noob, no one will care about your series. There's too much money at stake to waste on an unknown kid with a "good idea."
METHOD SIX: ASSISTANCE
Find a job as a producer's, writer's or director's assistant. This is a pivotal job on any TV series and, for your purposes, gets you right in the thick of the action as it really happens.
You call up the company in question (or series production office if they are local to you) and ask if they have an HR department or if they are looking for the sort of assistant I've described here. If you get an interview, you get one shot. Competition for these jobs is INSANELY stiff.
The writer's assistant has to be EXCEPTIONALLY organized, a very, very, very quick typist and able to "read" the mood of the writer's staff so they know when to speak up and when not.
Most TV productions get freelance scripts, first, from Writer's Assistants and THEN from normal freelancers. Most series try to promote from the inside for obvious reasons. This is a VERY legit way for a young person to get noticed and even employed as a writer but it's not a quicker way to get your pilot seen.
Also, when you try this method, 97 times out of 100, you will not get the job. See Method Five for reasons why.
METHOD EIGHT: SIZZLE REEL/ WEB SERIES
If you have the right friends, time and skillset (and maybe a little money, depending on needs) you can make a micro version of your Genius Idea as a web series.
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA began on the web. Adam Sandberg was/is a member of THE LONELY ISLAND where he and his friends made comedy shorts of the same kind they now do for SNL.
The Lonely Island - comedy web series
CENTRAL DIVISION - dramatic web series
Trenches - scifi web series
A sizzle reel is like an extended trailer for your series or film, showing all the elements, and shopping you as a producer (or director, writer or actor as well, depending on how deep your participation will go). Here's an example of a very expensive sizzle reel shot over a weekend by "Hollywood Pros."
I'm sure you can find your own versions. As with anything Hollywood-related, competition is stiff. But, as with anything web-related, ANYONE can jump in any time they want and take a shot which is something I recommend. "No risk, no reward," I always say. Really. Always. I'm saying it right now.
But, again, no one cares about the "idea;" ideas are just speculation. What "Hollywood" cares about is execution.
Bottom line, there are no shortcuts. ZERO.
No tricks. No secret handshake. No hookup. Stop thinking about them. If your last name isn't Paltrow or Hanks or even Whedon, forget about all that crap. It ain't happening for you that way.
Here are your options. Be super lucky. Be super hot. Be super talented. Be some combo. Any two of these three is a lock. Sometimes only one.
TALENTED AND LUCKY
HOT & LUCKY. MOSTLY LUCKY.
SMALL PRINT: And, if you can manage it, if you can get your mind to bend this way, forget about the making of TV series altogether. It's a rough business and is made mostly of tears and disappointment for most who dive in. If you have ANYTHING else that you feel passionate about, pursue that. I promise.