So You Have an Idea…

Joe writes in:

I’m just a 32 year old boy. And like every 32 year old boy, I have an idea for a TV series. I don’t have any connections, but I do have a show bible and pilot script. Is there any way a regular old boy without any connections can get anyone to look at his work?

I’d really just love to sell the premise, and I’m willing to intimately jostle anyone or anything to make it happen, but heck, this country boy doesn’t even know what his lubed hands should be reaching for!

Yeah, no, that’s not a thing. Listen to every episode of Scriptnotes, and you’ll learn what to do. Reader’s Digest version– move to Los Angeles, get a job in the Industry, meet people, sell your script.

It’s great that you’ve written a script; not everyone can even accomplish that much. But if it’s your first script, it’s probably not very good.

But more importantly, no one will read it, anyway, because no one knows who you are. There are plenty of great writers right here in Hollywood, and reading a script takes time. Why would they read yours when they already have fifty scripts sitting on their desk from experienced writers with successful track records of writing and creating shows?

The only way to get someone to read your script is if they know you, either personally or by reputation. You have no reputation right now. The only other option is to get to know them personally. The only way to get to know them personally is by moving here and making friends.

As a side note: you can’t sell the premise, because there’s nothing there to sell. When you sell a script, you’re selling your copyright to a fixed work. You can’t sell an idea because you can’t own in the first place.

When you hear about a big time writer “selling a pitch,” what they’re actually doing is convincing the studio to pay them before they’ve even written the script. Yes, part of that sale is the quality of the idea, but a good portion of it is, again, knowing the writer and knowing that she’s capable of delivering a good script based on that idea.

Creating a TV series is even harder, because in television, the writer is expected to produce, as well. It’s a big job, and if you’ve never set foot on a set before, how are you going to know how to run an entire series?

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7 Comments on So You Have an Idea…

  1. I’m not sure where to ask this, so I’ll just ask it here. I’ve never worked in film production before and the area that I live in doesn’t have any actual production studios, but Medient Studios will be building one here in late August. The campus will be the largest one in the U.S., oddly enough. I’d like to apply for a position as a production assistant, once they start accepting applications, but I’m 47 years old and think that might be too old to start out in such a position. Also, I haven’t actually had much work experience and have been unemployed most of my life. Apparently, I just don’t do very well in interviews, in spite of trying.

    Anyway, I was just wondering if 47 is too old to be considered for a PA position and, if so, if there’s a more appropriate starting position for my age. I don’t have any formal training in any field relating to film production, but I’ve been making various videos and web shows in which I’ve been teaching myself how to act for over ten years, if that counts for anything.

    • I’m sorry, the time for entry-level jobs has passed you by. If you had other relevant experience, there might be a way for you to move into film, but without it, you chances are very, very slim.

  2. Like the top comment, I have been looking for months, how exactly doI get a PA job on a TV show? I also write and, of course, know that it is a tough field but I am passionate about the stories. I have one internship experience (this past summer at WB lot) as a PA for a late night show, as well as a few writing awards for short scripts and production class projects. I have tried calling in production offices for TV shows that film on WB lot but only two of them were the right numbers. Both of the receptionists for these two TV show production offices had told me that they would contact me. Just been feeling frustrated since I know I am meant to work in this industry; but nowadays who does not.

  3. “There are plenty of great writers right here in Hollywood”

    I beg to differ. There are writers in Hollywood, but not many of them are all that great. I’m sure that those in the Hollywood writing profession might argue this point, but it is sincerely true. In the last 10-15 years, most of what’s come out of Hollywood has been some of the absolute worst most contrived tripe I’ve ever seen on the small screen. Stories which borrow heavily on past ideas and rarely come up with anything original. Occasionally, there is a spotlight of good writing, but usually it is found to have originated from a novel and a NY Times Bestselling author. Meaning, it was written by an author who does nothing but creative writing for a living. Or, alternatively it derived from a true story so a creative thought process behind the story isn’t required.

    There’s a sincere difference in being a storyteller and being a writer. Being a storyteller requires creativity, thought, imagination and reaching for things that haven’t been done. Being a writer means putting words to a page using correct formatting. Hollywood seems to hires the latter, not the former. Note, I’m not faulting Hollywood alone for this creative drought. It seems that as the water dries up in California, so does the creative writing talent on TV and Film.

    What I would suggest to this would-be script writer is to take your script and publish your story as a written novel and plan for at least 3 installments in your series. Self-publish your first novel. Attempt to get your second novel picked up by a large publisher based on your first novel. Once you’re published, you’re in a much better position to option your novel for a film or TV deal… at which time you can offer up your already ready script. Note that start-to-finish, this make take several years.

    Trying to get a script sold in Hollywood without any connections is neigh impossible. On the other hand, you can try the move-to-hollywood-and-get-hired approach (which may also take several years), but your script may only land you a staff writer position on a TV series which doesn’t offer a lot of personal creative latitude. If you want your stories to be read and admired, then you should do it as a novel. If you just want to be part of building any TV series, then a move to Hollywood might do but may be unfulfilling as a writer. Note that Hollywood is a chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out kind of place and may never lead to your story seeing the light of day. Only you can decide what’s most important for your career aspirations in the writing profession.

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