Well, TeeVee won't have us to kick around this season!
The term "staffing season" needs to be retired. We need to think of a new phrase that will accurately depict what happens each spring when shows are renewed or cancelled and new shows are picked up for fall and midseason. Because calling it "staffing" or a "season" isn't working anymore. We had a few meetings but the season is pretty uninspiring, and the level of crazy is already through the roof. What we learned this staffing period -- minute? -- is that resumes carry more weight than anything else. If I was hiring based on resume, I wouldn't hire us, either. What's interesting is, we are apparently being blamed for the suckage of the shows on our resume, yet the creators of those shows keep getting more shows on the air. Obviously, that's massively stupid. But it's also impossible to overcome by just getting on one more crappy show that nobody's ever heard of.
We've sold five pilots and but for a miscalculation last year, we would've had one shot. That's where the love is, people -- original material. It's too easy to fall into the staffing whirlpool and just try and get on shows year after year. Yeah, you wind up with a big house (so I've heard) and financial security, but do you really think ANYBODY on those NBC shows is gonna be happy? There are extremely successful showrunners who are miserable because they haven't created a show yet, but they keep taking jobs running other peoples' shows. So this year, we're focusing on original material -- pilots, features, comics... you name it. Because being on shows hasn't made US financially secure, nor has it helped our reputation, even though these asshats are always happy with our work.
To show you the level of desperation that can happen during this time of the year, there's this guy.
Ouch, right? I think he left out something monumentally important -- although he proclaims himself to be a "passionate storyteller," he doesn't actually say he's a good writer. And judging by his list... well, I wouldn't necessarily think so. And I'll tell him why I wouldn't hire him -- the Yale thing. He just HAD to sneak that in there! I don't think there's anything special about people who go to Ivy League schools, aside from their parents' ginormous bank accounts. Many of the smartest and best writers I know didn't even finish college. It's all about the writing, not about how elitist you are because you went to Yale. I don't care where you went to school, or what degrees you have. I don't care if you went to film school or have an MFA in screenwriting. All that matters is the writing. And if you're going out for a show, not being crazy. This dude's got a touch of annoying. He should work on that.
That's the easy answer, and it's the one that all new writers need to know -- WRITE, people. At least know you can do THAT. Then you can deal with the political bullshit that is TeeVee and the film business. I wish it was all about the writing. Life would be a lot easier. But unfortunately, if you're already in the TeeVee whirlwind, it isn't. There are still executives and producers that like and can identify good writing, but when it comes to hiring writers for their shows, it's all about relationships and the resume. If you're just breaking in at the lower levels, it's going to be about how talented you are (I think that still holds true). But if you are at midlevel, shoot yourself if you have a crappy resume. Go ahead. Pick up the gun, aim it right at that smart, passionate storytelling head of yours. Pull the trigger.
It's difficult to blame showrunners for wanting to hire people they've worked with before. It's what I would do. And I hope it's what my friends will do when they get their own shows! That said, I feel completely let down by a few people I never thought would let me down. I'm sure those of you who know me can guess who one of those people is. But it just requires a mental adjustment -- you can only truly count on yourself in this business. No matter how pleased they are with your work or how perfect you are for their show, it's never a sure thing. It's still a bitter disappointment to learn that somebody you thought was a stand-up person -- different from all the assholes -- is just one of them.
When talking about TeeVee staffing, the work doesn't always speak for itself. Showrunners have become somewhat incapable of recognizing good writing unless the sample is almost exactly like their show. Why don't people know how to read scripts anymore? Have they become that conditioned to mediocre writing because of the crap shows they've been on? They'll say that they didn't love your material. When you hear that, don't take it to heart because what that really means is, "My show is a sci-fi kick-ass meditation on the nature of human existence, but you made me read a family drama. I have no idea if you can write for my show." The thing is, good writers can just fucking WRITE. Genre doesn't matter. Obviously writers are drawn to different genres, but that doesn't mean someone with a family drama sample can't write a ghost show. But these execs and showrunners have tried to boil this down to a formula, which is why procedural writers always get the procedural jobs, and writers from "Battlestar Galactica" will always get the genre jobs.
There's really only one way to deal with all of this -- fucking SHOW these people. Make them want you, then be unavailable.
We're gonna be eating a lot of Ramen this year until we sell something, but then it'll be OURS. We won't be dependent on a showrunner who's freaked out, angry and depressed. Life's too goddam short.