This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 143: Screenwriter Corey Mandell Talks About Spec Scripts Writers Need To Break Into Television.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #141 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Corey Mandell, who’s been on the Podcast just a couple of times before. I’m going to link to those episodes in the show notes. We dig in today to television writing. And Corey tells us what he thinks you should be writing, if you are looking to break in as a television writer. So, stay tuned for that.
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Any websites or links I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with each episode. In case you would rather read the show or look something else up later on. You’ll find all the Podcast episodes by going to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast. And then just look for episode #143.
I just want to mention a free webinar that I am doing, on Wednesday – September 28th 2016, at 10:00a.m. pst. It’s called, “How to Effectively Market Your Screenplay at Sell it?” I’m going to go through all of the various online channels that are available to screenwriters. And give you my unfiltered opinion of them. I get questions all the time. Like, “Does the Black List really work?” Or, “Should I use Ink Tip?” Or “Which contest should I enter?” I’ve tried pretty much every marketing channel available to screenwriters. And I’m going to share my experiences with them. And again, this webinar is completely free. Don’t worry if you can’t make the live event. I’ll be recording the live event. So if you sign-up, you will receive a link to the recorded event even after it happens. And I will keep this going pretty much forever. So, if you are listening to this Podcast well after the webinar date. No worries, you can still get the recorded event Emailed to you for signing up. To sign-up, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. And “Free webinar.” Is all one word, and all lowercase letters. So it’s – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/freewebinar. Of course I will link to that in the show notes as well. Also, if you are already on my Email list. If you already get Email from me. You don’t need to re-register for this. I’m going to Email it to everybody on my list. I am going to Email them the information, so they can attend the webinar as well.
So, a quick few words about what I am working on? Once again, the main thing I am trying to push through is? the post-production on my crime, action, thriller, “The Pinch.” I did get a peak at the first 33 minutes of the film. So, you know, a little bit more than the third, it’s just a rough cut. But it’s definitely coming together nicely. I’ve mentioned this a number of times. I’m really trying to stay focused on quality over getting it done quickly. It’s taking my editor a bit longer than we expected. But he is doing a great job. So, I’m just trying to give him the time and the space to get the absolute best rough cut possible. Right now, I’m thinking, the film probably won’t be done till early next year.
You know, conservatively, March seems like a realistic date. But again, I’m not too worried about it if it takes a little longer. Hopefully, it’ll be less than that, more of the January, February timeline. But, if it takes me till March longer. I’m just not going to worry about it. As I said, I just want to give the different people working on different aspects of the film. I just want to give them the time and the freedom to just really do the best job they can possibly do.
I’m working on the website for the film. So, hopefully I will have that up in the next week or so. I think for the time being I think I’m just going to use my current SYS Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts. Since I already use them regularly. And have built an audience. For something like, “The Pinch.” I feel like I’m creating a whole other set of accounts to manage would be too much. And so, I’m just going to use the ones I have. And people can follow along in that way. A lot of the updates I will start making. It will be about, “The Pinch” once we start promoting the film, getting it to film festivals, and all that kind of stuff. As I release in the next week or two, to release the website. I’ll just be pushing that stuff out to my SYS Twitter. Facebook and YouTube channels. So, if you use Facebook and or YouTube, or Twitter. Please do like those accounts. Or in the case of YouTube, subscribe to our channel. And you’ll be able to get regular updates, and all the links and stuff, as it comes through, you know, pictures. Any of the stuff that I have related to “The Pinch.” Which I will be releasing to them, these various channels.
So, in terms of screenwriting, I am still outlining the re-write. I mentioned this last week. I’m going back and I’m rewriting an older script, that is probably 15 years old. And I kinda went back and read through it, and it had some stuff that I like. It just feels very dated now, after 15 years, going back I’m going to try giving it a today fresh update. I’m putting up some of my pages in my writers group next week. So, that’s kinda my deadline. I want to get the first 25 pages in order this week, so I am ready to present them next week. So, I’ve really got to start digging in and get those written up and into shape. But I’ve got the script basically stripped down. I went back and created an outline of the entire script. And started to move things around, cross things out, add in new science. Just in the outline form, and I’ve kinda got that ready to go. So, now I’ve got to go into the actual script, and re-arrange and write a couple of new scenes and tweak some of the scenes, that kinda stuff. Anyway, that’s what I am working on.
So, now, let’s get to the main segment. Today I’m interviewing writer, Corey Mandell. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome back Corey, to the, “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Corey: Thanks for having me, I’m excited.
Ashley: So, I think you’re the first person to be on the Podcast 3 times. So, congratulations on that honor.
Corey: Do I get a prize?
Ashley: Yeah, do you get a prize? You get another interview.
Ashley: So, we’ve had two lengthy discussions before. So, mostly about feature film writing. So, I’m going to refer people to those episodes, as episode #49, and #78. So, today I think we’re going to dig into TV writing. You made a comment to me, on one of the prior episodes. That you would definitely see a trend where more and more writers were bringing TV scripts into your workshops. And you just made a comment before we started that you thought maybe 80% of the working writers who attend your workshops are working in television. So, I think it’s definitely something that people should, if they are writing features. That maybe they should consider getting into TV as well. But maybe we could talk through some, sort of the steps that someone would take to writing and breaking into TV script writing. So, maybe the first thing you can talk about is? What are people writing mostly? Are they writing pilot spec. scripts for original series? Are they writing specs. based on already existing shows?
Corey: Great question, and before I answer it. Just back track something which you said is? I have a lot of students and clients who love features. And that is where the heart is. And that’s where they want to be working. But they are working TV as their day job. So, they are working TV writers, making good money. And then at night and on weekends. They’re indulging in their feature set. So, I see a lot of that. Where feature writers are supporting themselves in TV.
To, go to your question? What they are writing? So, one of the things, and I actual find a role heartbreaking is? How much misinformation is out there? The TV industry is a fast moving industry. And there’s, and we can get into it. But, there’s a lot of force of reshaping what they are doing in Hollywood. Mean it, but a lot of the classes and books were written for reality, you know, is 3,5, 7, more years or older? So, to specifically answer your question? That nobody is reading specs. of existing shows anymore. And I see writers spending lots of time and energy, pouring heart and soul into writing specs. of existing TV shows. No one reads those. It’s just, nobody cares about them anymore.
Corey: It’s everything in TV is original. So, I recently did a show. And you know, what he said is? So, when you get hired. And so, maybe to back-up, since I know, a lot of association is feature savvy than TV savvy. Just so everyone’s up to speed and all on the same page. There’s two principle ways to make your money as a TV writer. One, is to work on an existing show. So, you’ll probably start on that as a staff writer. And then you can work your way up to
Supervisor, Executive Producer, and such. And ultimately that highest place is, the show writers of course. That’s the one who creates the show, and runs the show. So, you are staffed and working on an existing TV show. They other way to make your living is to sell all original materials to spec. and or pitch those. Lately we see a large movement towards specs. over pitching. But, you create a pilot, and an idea, and an end for a TV show, and then you sell that. And obviously, what you hope most. Is that ultimately it goes to series, and becomes an actual TV show. But, even if it doesn’t. You know, you’re going to be paid good money. You sell that show, and probably get notes and have to do re-writes. So, there’s two main ways you make it in Hollywood, work on an existing show. And or you create something original. Show runners, people who run shows. They’re the ones, principally in charge of hiring staff writers. So, if you want to go that route, that first route?
You know, the show runner, who basically are producing the show. They are the ones primarily who will be giving you that opportunity that are hiring you. What I am hearing more and more from show runners is? If you can write a pitch perfect out there, that’s a pilot. You can write something never seen before, with amazing characters, and an amazing story, than you’re a great writer. And if you’re a great writer? Then you can absolutely write in someone else’s voice. Because obviously, staff on a TV show, so a student of mine, just got staffed on “Jane the Virgin.” So, obviously she’s going to be writing in the voice of that show. And then in the voice of those characters. And writing the way that show does their stories, the rhythm the pacing, and just the way they construct their stories. So, obviously, back to what she maybe doing? So, what show runners will say is? If you’re a great writer? You can obviously write on anyone’s show to anyone’s voice. But, if you can ape, or mimic someone’s voice? It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great writer. And at the end of the day, they want great writers. At the end of the day, their writing staff is the most valuable resource they have. And their writing staff is responsible for making the show runner look brilliant. So, if you were a show runner. If I was the show runner? We would obviously want to hire the best writers we could. Because they are the ones who are the ones who are on our show. And by extension, ourselves, you know, look brilliant. And in many ways, our success or lack of success. Is very much wrapped up in our writing staff. If you think about it from a feature film director’s perspective. Obviously the team is one of the most important decisions you make. If you have brilliant casting. You know, making a brilliant movie becomes feasible. But, if you have bad casting, it’s basically impossible to totally over come that. You know, that’s the way show runners think about hiring staff writers.
Ashley: A-huh, a-huh. So, you know, the next sort of option, the next obvious question is? You know, if you are trying to get on? And maybe we could use this, “Jane the Virgin” as a specific example. If you are trying to get on that show? Obviously you would probably write something that at least somewhat similar. It’s not just writing something that’s completely original. And then they see it? Then they’re going to want something. I’ve never seen, “Jane the Virgin?” But I assume it is a comedy, and there’s certain things that it is. And correct me if I am wrong but? A spec. script would probably need to hit those buttons.
Corey: I don’t think as much as you would think. I would say, they maybe are looking for some kind of you know, broad honed target. Even there, at the end of the day, they’re looking for a script. So, the way a lot of show runners will talk about it is? Think about your script at an interview. Which is just say, if I’m a show runner? And I read your script, I should get to know you, your voice, your sensibility, and sort of your special thought as a writer, whatever that is? Now, yes, if my voice and my special secrets, thoughts. And who I am as a person, is very comedic. A yeah, probably the show runner for you know, “The Duffy Brothers.” For stranger things, sometimes are probably not going to be interested in me. But, I don’t think it’s a good idea that, and I hear managers say this all the time. I don’t think it’s a good idea to work, outside, in. I think it’s better to work inside, out. Just to say, I don’t think it’s a good idea to say. oh, I’m a big fan of “Jane the Virgin” or I’m a big fan of “Stranger Things” or I’m a big fan of the film, “The Blame.” What kind of spec. script should I write, that they’ll be interested in? You can tell the writers that, and they’re basically being ignored. So, as opposed to, forget the marketplace. If someone just gave you a blank check? And said, “We’re going to give you whatever TV show you want to do. Whatever that is? The one TV show you’re the most passionately excited about, go write that.
Because that trip is going to be the script that is the show case for who you are as a writer, and what you bring to the table. So, you know, here’s the, and I can give you a million examples from my students who are getting staffed and launching careers. But, here’s a famous example with references as this world gets. Which is, you know, Matthew Weiner, or Whiner? I never quite sure how you pronounce it? He wrote a spec. script for “Madmen.” He had very personal reasons to do it. And it was very close to his heart. And it was very much, the one TV show he could, the one and only TV show he wanted to do. And, no one bought it. It was too dark, it was too New York, it was too iconic classic, it was too whatever? It just wasn’t connected into the marketplace at that time. And so, nobody bought it. But, it was such a brilliant and authentic enough original script, we knew we’d read that script. You don’t say, “Oh, this is like, “Jane the Virgin.” Or this is, it’s not like anything, it’s like “Madmen.” That is the authentic type, that fits perfect authentic. And so, people wanted to meet this guy. People wanted to work with this guy. And David Chase, who’s running the “Sopranos.” Which is the center of the creative universe. Definitely the center of the TV universe. He has one spot left for a staff writer. He could literally hire anyone he wants. But, there probably aren’t very many writers back then. Who didn’t want to work on “Sopranos” if he was on TV. And he hired the staff of writers off of the script. And he didn’t, like Chase said, “I just never read a script like this? I never read those characters. I never read that voice, that world. And I wanted this guy’s romance working for me. Because once you get hired on the “Sopranos” you’re now going to write for “Sopranos” characters. So, you’re going to write in David Chase is telling them. And that’s your job. Before David Chase and the show. So, he doesn’t, he didn’t need to see someone write mafia characters. He didn’t need to see someone writing New Jersey fair characters. He just needed a script that blew him away, that stood out from all of the white lines of everyone else writing scripts. And when you read it? You really get a sense of this writer. And it’s characters, and what he’s capable of doing. So, you know, what I am confidently advising my clients and students is? When you’re writing spec. TV scripts, don’t think about the marketplace. Don’t be thinking about a TV show. Don’t be thinking about FX, or NetFlix, or ABC. Literally, if you can write every TV show you ever wanted? That the world wanted one script your’ dying to write? That you can knock out of park, when it comes to these characters and tone, and story construction, and it’s your passion, write that script. And, will it sell? Maybe, probably not. You know, it’s always about being at the right place at the right time. But, don’t listen to anyone’s giving you advice on what’s selling and what the marketplace is? Because I guarantee you, what they’re telling you, is what the marketplace looks like 3 months ago? Probably not where it is today. And even if you do have access to someone, who can tell you what’s going on today? They can’t tell you what’s going on 2 or 3 months from now? Nobody has a crystal ball. And you can only tell the writer, who’s writing to the marketplace. And here’s the other thing. After “Breaking Bad
comes out and becomes. Or “Game of Thrones” or whatever phenomenal hit. “Stranger Things” I guarantee you, in the next six months to a year. There’s going to be so many “Stranger Things” types of scripts being written. That’s like the last thing you want to be doing. Because that’s what everybody’s doing that day. But, if you just follow your heart, and write the one script you most want to write. Then it’s always going to be unique. Because nobody else can do that. But, that’s what show runners are looking for. That’s specifically what they are looking for. And of course, it’s not just the one script that you can write, that you want to write. You’re going to have to knock it out of the park. And that’s a whole different conversation.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, do you remember just? Specifically, that’s a great example of the guy getting hired on the “Sopranos.” Do you remember what sort of script this student wrote that got staffed on “Jane the Virgin?”
Corey: Eh, you know this is. I don’t. It’s a good point to have, in so much as. I started my writing program, building workshops about 3 or 4 years ago. And you know, it was pretty much a one-person show. About having teachers working with me and under me. But, also about a year ago actually. I think I knew every time when someone in the program, from the program sold something or got staffed. It literally in the last year, I honestly can’t. I don’t even know the total number, I’ve lost track. It is, there is so many, just in the last week. And we’re in August, and this is the dead time for the industry. Just in the last week, I’ve gotten three Emails from students or former students. Who, have sold new material. I have gotten at least 3, if not more, Emails from former who have hired to do assignments. Some have been staffed, and that’s just been in one week, and a dead time. So, and I don’t have the greatest memory. So, I can’t even keep, I can’t even no longer keep up with all the students that are selling stuff or getting staffed. Which is awesome.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. You know you basically said, you agree when someone is getting into TV doing one of two things. Getting staffed, or potentially selling it, a spec. pilot and having it get made. Are there any examples that you can think of? A new writer actually selling a pilot. Having it get made, and having it turn into an established TV show? Or are the TV shows typically, when it’s a new show, it’s from a show with experience? Because I get a lot of people coming and asking that question? And I’m always like, listen it’s more about getting in as a staff writer and building a career out that way. And eventually you’ll get your shot at getting one of your pilots made. But it’s very unlikely. I can never think of any examples. So, maybe there are some examples or maybe you could just talk about that for a minute.
Corey: Yeah. But I would say, also I think you can do one of two things. Which is, they are selling all original material. And then there is, getting it made. So, let’s back-up for a second. There, if we go back to the first golden age of television. And you have an original, like as a picture a spec. and you wanted to go sell it? You had three options, ABC, CBS, NBC, you had three buyers. And they all said, actually I love you, I love the project, but it’s just not for us right now? That’s it, it’s done. Today is, you go, you have a great idea that you spec. and or pitch. Out of respect and you take it out to three buyers. All will say, I love you, I love your project, it’s just not for us. You still have at least 71 more places to go. There’s 74 active buyers of original programming. And further, I’d like to start out, for your listeners. The major complaint, that you hear from the buyers. Is there’s not enough freedom of original materials. When it is, humorous or tragic, you know how ever you want to look at it? When you, like when you listen to like there’s like internet forums, like yours. They, the big complaint you hear, is it’s so hard to get my stuff read, it’s so hard to get an agent, it’s so hard to sell something. Here’s the reality. Almost every single good writer, is working. There’s more TV shows being made right now. Then ever in the history of the world. And, if you are a good writer, or a great writer, you’re working on a show. And if you’re working on a show? You may not be accepting ever so much more. The really great writers, and established writers, for the most part. You know, since you’re working, you not out selling a new show. Because you’re working on “Better Call South.”
You know, if you’re not setting up new stuff because you’re, you are knee deep focused in Oranges And “Black” and it’s season and so on and so fourth. And so, “Island Innocently”, spoke at a conference. And they had the President of FX. And she said something that I recently heard the President of HBO say. Is that they’re trying to get ahead of the game. And they’re trying to find TV writers before they even know they are TV writers. So, they are looking at long logs. They’re looking at manuscripts for novelist that haven’t even been published yet. They are looking at playwrights. They are finding writers who they think really are amazing writers. Because they are bringing them in to meeting these writers. These writers might say, “Geez, I don’t only have an idea for a TV show. I don’t want to waste your time.” And they’re like, “That’s okay.” Let’s just have some conversations. And let’s just see if we can’t help you figure out what would be a great TV show for you to be, you know, for you to create? So, the buyers are literally meeting with prospective writers. And helping the writers come up with something they can sell to the buyers. They got “X” that’s crazy, that’s unprecedented. And we’re not going to see that, you forever. But my point being, you have all these writers complaining how hard it is to get something read, how hard it is to launch a career. But, and then you have the buyers complaining, that they can’t get enough great new material. The problem is, most of these writers can’t write to the level of what the buyers require. But they’re, I have many students and friends. Who every year, so, 1, 2, or 3 original ideas, either in spec. form, or pitch form. And none of them get made. And then the next year they sell 1, 2, or 3 ideas, nothing gets made. And they’ve been doing this for ten, twelve years. And so, each year they might make you know, between $75, and $400,000 depending? On what the buying price is and if they owned 1, 2, or 3. But here’s the thing? You know, they’re out selling in the summer. And then they’ll do a rewrite, you know, in September or October. And then by early November, they’ll know if it’s going to be made as a pilot. And potentially be picked up as a TV show. Or we’re just not moving forward with it. Which is often the case. So, they’re just not going to move forward with it. So, now were talking about, you know, 1, 2, 3, $400,000.00 or 5-6 months-worth of work. And then, the rest of the time, they are working on their feature film. And getting ready for the next TV season. So, there are plenty of writers who make a good living selling original old stuff, that never actually get made. Now, of course, you want it to get made, creatively and financially. But, so, the plight being, in order to make a living. You don’t need to be selling TV stuff, ideas and projects that get made. That’s awesome. But you can make a living just selling TV. You will develop lots of ideas and projects for everyone, you know what they make.
Ashley: But using those examples you just mentioned. This guy who is selling a few of these every year. Correct me if I am wrong, but he probably has a strong background in TV writing. He’s probably worked on a staff of every show or two.
Corey: Some yes, some no. Again remember, these buyers are aggressively complaining they can’t find enough great new material. Because the writers you’re sitting here talking about? The writers, with that already established background. They are probably, you know, an ET or above on a show, if not, second in command, if not, running their own shows. I mean, here’s the other side of it. I know show runners, that have a budget, let’s say, staff writers and they’ve only hired six. Because they can’t find seven writers that are at the level they need. Because everybody’s working on shows. The crazy thing is, there’s never been a better or easier time to break into TV. So, if someone is complaining about how hard it is to break into TV? Chances are, they are just not yet writing to a level they need to be writing to.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about something, some sort of actual nuts and bolts of TV writing? What are some of the common mistakes that you see people make with writing their TV scripts?
Corey: (Deep sigh) So, there’s a lot of them. So, let’s go through some of them. So, one of them is? You know, in TV, you have to be absolutely amazing at both characters and stories. Actually for an original show. Now I know there’s TV shows on that have great characters on them, tells the greatest stories. There are great stories that are not always the greatest characters. But, that’s not the bar you need to be shooting at. You are going, your original material, it’s like your resume. It demonstrates what you’re capable of. And if it’s not at a certain level. Nobody’s going to care. And just got to get the higher level. So, what I see is, you know, writers are really great with characters. But, their story structure isn’t where it needs to be. Or their story structure is amazing. But their character’s aren’t where they need to be. You know, for those of you, listening, if you’re interested in that? I would go to my website – www.coreymandell.net, and my blogs there’s a whole thing on creative character creation. Which is really the process and training that writers can go through to have their best possible characters and best possible story. So it’s at – www.coreymandell.net. So, I think being able to write amazing characters and amazing stories is absolutely essential.
I also think a really big mistake writers will make? Is they don’t understand story and entrance. So, when you sell something, you know, to a buyer, network, or cable, or extremely like, that puts strains on whomever? Yes, you’re going to have to have amazing characters that people are going to want to stay and spend week in and week out with. Yes you’re going to have a really great powerful pilot concept execution. Alright, yes, you’re selling probably an unoriginal world that people want to spend time in. But, none of that to TV show. What makes all of it, the TV show, it’s what makes the show have legs. It’s what allows you to get 30, 40, 50, 100, 100’s of episodes. And one of the things you see, especially with feature writers. Who are trying to make any kinds of transitions to TV? Is, they are so hyper-focused on the pilot. They don’t understand what an engine is? They don’t understand that ultimately people aren’t buying pilots, they’re buying TV shows. So, understanding story engine is something that’s really, really, really, absolutely, important for people that are working in TV.
And then the third thing, that I would say is? And it kinda goes back to where we started our conversation is? We can divide this whole thing into three broad categories. A paradigm journey. Or another words for that could be formula journey. So, someone who writes a TV show a pilot script, you know. If you are following any kind of template that’s, that says, you know, first commercial break here, second commercial break here. But this is what happened during the commercial breaks. Or “A- story” or “B-story.” And it gives you any kind of paradigm all of. That will put it into one category, we’ll call that, “Paradigm driven.
The second category is, imitator. So, you know, you love a particular show, “Stranger Things” “Game of Thrones.” “The Deep” “Jane the Virgin” whatever? There’s a way they tell those stories. And so you can imitate the way you could do your version of “Stranger Things.” So, your version of “Jane the Virgin.” We saw a lot of people do their version of “Game of Thrones.” It’s like you know, you read it. I don’t like “Game of Thrones.” But it’s different. So, that would be imitative, where you’re not necessarily following a paint-by-number paradigm. But you are imitating the way a really successful show clips their stories together. That would be the second category.
The third category, would be pitch perfect authentic. And now we’re talking about a script that is completely not paradigm formula, a template for them. And doesn’t imitate them. So, you know, if you look at “Oranges on the Block.” Or even “Stranger Things” Or “Madmen” or we could go on, and on, and on. “Game of Thrones” You look at those pilot scripts. It’s a unique world, it has unique characters never seen before. But it’s also unique stories. The stories are clipped together differently. When you read those, scripts. You don’t say, “Oh, yeah, this reminds me of this.” You read only “Oranges in Black.” You don’t go, oh yeah, it’s kinda like this, or this needs this. Or, it’s kind of the show. Or transparent, no when you read the script of a transparent pilot, right, this is like transparent. You know, “Madman” pilot. You would like “Madmen” or “Oranges in Black.” Is like “Orange in Black” for better or for worse. They seem to merge unique experience when you read that pilot.
So, we have three categories, paradigms, formula driven, imitative, and then the third category, would be pitch perfect authentic. The biggest mistake writers make, and this is coming from me. This is coming from managers and agents that I talk to on a regular basis. And or I bring into my classes. And the biggest mistake that people are making is? They are writing in paradigm driven scripts and or they are writing imitative scripts, as opposed to pitch perfect, perfect authentic. If we go back 5 years, 7 years, 10 years, 12 years. You see the marketplace buying a lot of paradigm scripts. You see the marketplace buying a lot of imitative scripts. You don’t see the marketplace buying a lot of original pitch perfect authentic scripts. HBO is doing it, Showtime was doing it. That was pretty much it, you know, about 12 years ago. A you know, 7, 6, years ago. Scene and effects and other buyers. But now, today. The good majority of scripts that are being bought, are pitch perfect authentic. Everyone’s chased that 18 to 48, 18 to 49, demographic. They’re not watching. They all have access to ON DEMAND and like Amazon, and NetFlix and stuff. They know what’s original, verses what’s a re-heat, you know, re-do, they know. And they want stuff that’s original. The audience will sense the formula driven stuff, is people who well past their keep earning years. And they’re starting to die off. So, there’s a growing demand per for these shows, for pilots, and TV shows where. They’re like, okay, that’s not an original world. That isn’t an original characters, and the stories that are told in an original way. And the other thing that I would point out to your listeners, is that when you look at. Because we do see paradigm driven shows, bought and made. And we do see imitative shows bought and made. It’s not like they’re completely non-existent. But this is the key, a lot of people don’t understand is. Look at who sells those scripts? It’ll always be someone with a established track record, at EP or above, in that genre. So, for instance, just for an example. I’ve had plenty managers and agents in the past year, come into my classes and say, “If you’re writing a three camera comedy? In your sort of basic cold open, joke, joke, joke, commercial. No you know, that sort of, if you look at three-camera comedies? It’s the same structure, it’s just different jokes, different characters. But, it could be the same structure, as family dramas, or criminal procedural. If you look at the new. If you look at scripts that are being sold. You’ll always see someone using ET or bust. So, if you don’t have that street credit. Your project is DOA. I mean, no one’s ever going to get it. I don’t care how great it is? No one’s going to read it. So, unless you have major street credibility in a certain genre. Which is EP or above on a recent hit show. You need to be writing something that is brand new and original. And not following the formula, not imitating them, an existing show. And unfortunately, a lot of them, writers are making up that mistake because they were educated three years ago, five, years ago. And it was a different reality, than it is now.
So, that’s really important. And the last point I want to make. I’m sorry for talking so much. But I think it will be exciting to your listeners. You’re the other reason why that’s so important is? The reason why agents and managers swoon and want to represent when they do it. Is, if you write a script like that? You can change your life. Because a big thing that’s going on now, is packaging. So, if you look at a show? Like, for instance, “The Net.” As an example, or “True Detective” there’s plenty more examples than the pipeline. What will happen is? If you can write script like that, your management company or agency can package it with actors, a director. Now, they can go out to the marketplace with a package. It’s not spec. script, that you can buy, develop and give us notes. And then decide if you want to make it or not? No, no, no, this is a TV show. You commit to making the show, or not making the show. And the reason why that is so important is? If you’re buying, let’s say, “The Net” and you don’t, for some reason? Want Keith Sonthamberg attached to the director? Or Clive Owen as the seller, than don’t buy it, because these are non-negotiable. Anything with the writer, so, you had two writers who I believe have never run a show before, and now they’re show runners. And, if you don’t want that? Than don’t buy the package, because that’s not part of the package. And that is a life changing event for the writer. Not just from a monetary point of view. But, you can literally become a show runner in very short order, and that’s really exciting.
Ashley: A, yeah. Now, can you, would you advice change, even slightly. If someone’s goal is to get a job as a staff writer? Would you say, maybe better off getting a script as paradigm driven, as opposed to your.
Corey: Absolutely not. Because again, Show Runners are looking for the best writers as possible. And it’s not that impressive to follow a paradigm. And what I’ve heard repeatedly from management companies, and from Show Runners is? We won’t even look at those scripts. So, that’s why I started, I think? It’s heart breaking because they’re, there’s really smart passionate writers out there, who are pouring heart and soul into writing scripts that no matter how good, they are? How outstanding they are? They just get ignored, because they, the information for what they think they’re supposed to be doing is 3 to 5 years old? It’s just not what’s going on out there right now. So, I would say this, I have seen, in the last year. Or I have seen, two of my students, well, one student, one client sell new material. I’m sorry, get staffed on something that was paradigm driven. And, you know, a hundred who didn’t. So, is it impossible? No, but you are really shooting it, yourself in the foot. And the thing is, it’s a lot easier to write a paradigm driven script, or an imitating script. Than it is to write something pitch perfect authentic. That’s why I believe, you see somebody buying and complaining they can’t get enough material. Because the kinds of material that they need, and are looking for. It’s the hardest to write and it takes the most training. Because obviously, it’s easier to structure a script by following a
paint-by-number, paradigm. Than to say, so, I heard Mike Lombardo, the way he described it? He runs HBO. Is, we’re looking for elevated material. Which is just to say, what is the best way to structure your story? To tell what you’re trying to tell? That’s what we’re looking for. So, when you read these scripts, it’s so organic from moment to moment. It’s just structured in a way that is unique to telling that story. So, if you really break down and study, “Breaking Bad” or “Orange in Black” or “Transparent.” Or a whole host of product. But they’re all done differently. They all have their own unique way of telling their stories. Based on what experience they want from the viewer. But none of them are following, you know.
I had a writer basically looked at me, at a consultation, and she can’t get anything, she’s an amazing writer, she can’t get any traction. And you read her script and you just feels like a funny farm. And you literally, there’s a crisis point, that like happens for the first commercial line. Then there’s a complication at this commercial lag. Like I know exactly everything that’s going to happen in this script. I know what’s going to happen at the mid-point. And I know what’s going to happen at the end. Because she worked with us, popular teacher, and that’s what that teacher taught. So, then I just gave her, 40 scripts that have recently sold that are in that genre. And I told her to go look at those 40 scripts. And tell me, how many of them follow the paradigm. You are forcing your script to follow. And she’s like, none of them. So, why the heck am I, please excuse her language, I’m not the language is appropriate? Especially said, you know, well, what the heck, am I forcing my script to follow that paradigm? And that’s a really good question, why are you doing that? And you know, answered, and she stopped doing it. So, it’s just not where the marketplace is, it’s where it was 5 years ago, not where it is today. And it’s not where it’s moving towards. Everyone’s trying to build whole libraries of original programming, and they want brand names. So, you know, “Girls” is a polarizing show that people that love it, people that hate it. And it’s not going to be the most popular show. It’s not, people are not interested in the largest demographics. They’re looking for passionate brand names, and “Girls” is a passionate brand name. If you are a fan of, “Girls?” You’re going to fall and watch it, and it means something to you. It has unique, it’s not just generic TV, it’s not just another show that you’re passing time on. It’s a show now that appeals to you. That’s the type of show they’re looking for. And if you can have a live version of that. It’s going to be imperative, because you know, TV, internet. All those is a conversion, no one exactly knows? For the new world order’s going to look like? But the really smart people have been saying for years now. If you’re going to be a world player? You’re going to have to own a library of original content. So, we’re seeing a lot of mergers, we’re seeing a lot of people buying players that have contents of they can own it. And we see people, I mean, there’s not a lot of it. It’s not an accident that Netflix, and Amazon own, respectively, they are doubling production budgets from a way astronomical number. And HBO and FX and others are complaining they can’t get enough original programming. And it’s not an accident we see the networks aggressively moving into the stage. So, if you look at a show like, “Last Men on Earth.” Seven years go, probably 5 years ago, that’s not a network show. That’s a HBO show, TIME, FX, anything. This is not a network show. And we’re seeing networks aggressively getting into space. Like I heard Executive, said, HBO, FX, and TV complain. Because now, they are not just competing with themselves, and that marketplace. And so now, they are competing with the networks. So sorry to sound like a broken record. But, all those roads lead back to learning how to write pitch perfect authentic scripts. And then It’s the hardest thing to do, it takes the most training. And that is why we see this weirded imbalance. Where we have all of these writers saying, I so much desperately want to be a part of working in TV. Found original material, in stock, there’s just some impossible, no one will pay attention to me. Or no one is buying my script, it is so hard to break in. And on the other side of the isle, we see show runners saying, I have a budget for seven writers, but I can only hire six. I can’t find a seventh writer. And we see, the buyers saying, we’re in trouble because we can’t buy enough great material because everyone capable of writing that material, they are all working shows. Because there’s just so much TV being made. So, you have this weird disconnect at. Because most writers are, just can’t write the kinds of scripts that the marketplace needs right now. It would be almost like, you know, suddenly there was a new computer computing language for virtual reality or something, I don’t know?
Google and everyone, Apple, like we need engineers who can program in this new language. And you have all these engineers out there with all this great experience. But they can’t program in that language. And they keep going in job interviews. It’s possible to get a job when no one is hiring. And Google and Apple is saying, we can’t find enough qualified engineers. That’s what’s going on right now. It’s just what needs to qualified. It’s simple, but it’s not easy to do. A role we’ve never seen before, characters who never seen before. A story that’s bold, in a way. That’s unique and devised for your show and experience you’re trying to create with a story, and attention. And the thing is, you got to do all of it. If you can do some of it, but are weak in other areas? You just not of interest to these people. Because, you know, the show runners and the buyers, they want someone who can do all of it. And that’s really difficult. And there aren’t that many people who can do it. The good news is, for the people that train themselves to be able to do it? They’re going to have a career, they’re going to be in demand. I have students, who nobody heard of, who have no track record. And a year later, they have multiple suiters. They, people are fighting over them. Because, they are able to lay at a level that TV requires. They, I have two students, who over all deals. And for those of your listeners who aren’t sure if they’re feature writers? Or like, what is that? And an overall deal that is a sweet gig. It’s you know, ABC comes to you and say, “We’ll give you an office, we’ll give you an assistant, we’ll give you a parking space. And we’ll give you, I don’t know? $400,000.00, excuse me, $200,000.00 a year, over the next year.” So we’ll guarantee $400,000.00 for the next two years. And you have an office, and it’s just. And you’re going to come up with ideas first for a TV show. Just like you would be doing on your own. The only difference is? You have to, those ideas have to see, come to us first. Which is personally the deal. Or exclusive, or it’s just a us. And if we, if you, a show gets made, you’ll get all that extra money. And if at the end of two years you don’t come up with a single thing we like? And we don’t buy a single idea you came up with? You still got the $400,000.00. So, we’re basically going to give you $200,000.00 a year, or whatever the number is, to come up with ideas for TV shows. And if you go back 5 years, or 7 years? The only people who were getting those deals? Are people who set up hit shows. And they would be getting a lot more money than that, ya know, millions. But generally they don’t like giving up an idea, unless you have a proven track record. I see people, I in fact, for your listeners, I have a friend. Who was is a student, and a teacher now. And he’s been an overall dealer, with very good money. And to know, write. And he would be writing, and directing the pilots. So, they really, really like his directing side. And he’s a teacher guy. Who had no background around TV. He did a short film, and then combine that with a series of amazing pilots. And when they saw that film? They were like, wow, you can do really interesting visual work for not a lot of money. Just always had a platform on TV, and you do a pilot, you know, to help this guy develop. They were like, that is the kind of writing that we are looking for. Put the two together we’d have an overall deal. Which is awesome.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, that’s classic. Let’s talk about “Script to Career” for a little bit. That’s a, it’s a two day seminar here in Los Angeles, with Tom Nunan. It’s going to be Co-Guest Speaker on that. Maybe you can just talk with us for a sec. October 8th & 9th 2016. And it’s at Haynes Hall in the UCLA Campus in Westwood, West Los Angeles California. Maybe you could just tell us a little bit about that? And what you’re going to be talking on?
Corey: Yeah. So, Paul and I are going to Co-Teach, this weekend. So, to the best of our knowledge? No one’s ever done anything like this before? We’re excited to do it. It’s going to be, we’re going to be working a lot. And talking on helping people really understand friends and storyline engines. That’s such a critical part of TV, if you are going to sell pilots. So, what exactly is a story engine? And how do you go about constructing it. What questions you can use. And we’ll give plenty of examples. So, we’ll do a whole module on story engines. We’ll do a whole module called creative integration. Which is, you know, how you can have your best characters and your best module. And a whole module on pitch perfect authentic, really breaking it down. Really taking the time to get people to understand what’s required and how to get there. So, I’ll be responsible for really, empowering people with the information on where the kinds of scripts, both in TV and teachers. That are required to really stand out and launch a career. And breaking down the tools and skills that are required. And how you can training yourself to get there. And on Tom is going to talk about the weekend and help people, on how to get a career. Because the big mistakes people make is, they think okay, I write. And then I get an agent, the agent helps me get a career. And the reality is, most people, they get their first job. Which they then gets them their agent.
So, the game isn’t to get an agent. The game is to have proof of concept. Now, there’s two ways of having proof of concept. One, is in your writing, and the other is that the marketplace. Because of your writing, you know, you get a staff writing job. Where you set something up, or you sell something. And a lot of people are like, Well, that’s impossible, I don’t have an agent. And that just not true. So, Tom’s going to be talking a lot about. Well, first of all, starting with, helping people figure out what kind of career they want? And that is so important. We could do a whole Podcast on that. I wish I had, had someone come into my life, back when I started out. Because honestly I was just focused on selling something, and proving I could do this. I never stopped to really put the work in, to figure out what kind of career I wanted? What kind of a life I wanted as a writer? And then backtracking, to what I should be doing. To line myself up with that kind of career. So, I have a career, and I have made a lot of money. But, it wasn’t the career I wanted. And it’s a lot harder to turn that thing around when once you get going then before you get going. So, Tom will talk to people and help give them the tools. And the questions they need to be asking to really figure out, what kind of career they want. And then, how to back track. And have a strategic plan to get there. And then, you know, focus in on how you get your first job? So, in a sense, my responsibility in the weekend, will be to help people understand what is required in writing front. And what’s required to get your writing to the level necessary to have a career in the current marketplace. And then Tom will be working with, okay, once you have it at that level as a writer. How do you go get that career? How do you go get that first job? And it won’t be just be me talking in a, we’ll be inter-mixing the modules. And we’ll do a lot of
joint Q & A. And we’ll work with people. You know, on specific script issues, or specific career issues. And you know, someone who is just not able to get the traction and what you can do about it? So, and both of these, our philosophy is, both of these parts, the career, and the creative. Should be integrated. So, the more you understand the marketplace? The more you understand how you go about getting a job, or have an agent? And career building, I think. The more you understand that, the more empowered you’re going to know what scripts writing, what kinds of creative training you need to be doing. And visa-versa. Of course the more you understand the training, and the kinds of scripts you need to be writing. I think that help you to understand the marketplace, and how to navigate it. It’s like paint, getting this all integrated in a weekend? I think it’s going to be really cool.
Then again, people are, I’ve been teaching for well over a decades. Paul’s been teaching for what, over a decade at UCLA. And produced a program, and I know you’re going to have him as a guest. And the track player, track record of success from his students is, really inspiring. So, we’ll be joining forces in October. And I think you just gave the date?
Ashley: Yep, yep.
Corey: And we haven’t really, have a $100.00 off discount offer, for your listeners. Since we love your listeners. And it’s SYS 16. So, SYS, Sell Your [email protected]. And if you use that, your discount code, you’ll get $100.00 off. And I believe that it expires the end of September. Or actually I think? October 1st. So, I think as long as you do it before October 1st. That coupon doesn’t count, won’t work. And you can go.
Corey: I’m sorry?
Ashley: I’ll put that in the show notes too, so people have it. And I will round up the links as well so people can get the actual link to purchase the class.
Corey: Yeah, and just in case. For those that are listening in? It’s www.scripttocareer.net.And the “to” is spelled out. So – www.scripttocareer.net. All one word, dot ne.
Ashley: Script to career dot com, got it. I’ll put that in the show notes. So, I always just like to finish these interviews up, by asking the guest how people can follow allow with what you are doing. You know, if you have a blog, a Facebook page, Twitter handle. Anything you feel comfortable sharing? Just so people can keep up with what you’re doing?
Corey: Yeah so, www.coreymandell.net – c-o-r-e-y m-a-n-d-e-l-l dot net. I do work some often. People, story engines, story backing and execution on their pilots, features. Really I’m, it’s just often to see success that we are not seeing from students. So, you can go to www.scripttocareer.com and you can see the workshops, you can see all the online success. And then go to my blog, there’s a lot of free you know, information. Like creative innovation story engine and such. And so, you can check all that out, at www.coreymandell.net.
Ashley: Perfect, sounds good Corey. Well, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. I wish you luck with this seminar. And I’m sure I’ll have you on again in the future.
Corey: Thank you, I very much look forward to it. Thanks for having me on.
Ashley: Thanks, talk to ya later. Bye.
Ashley: A quick word about the SYS Screenwriters Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get high quality professional notes on your screenplay. When you buy a 3-pack. You get an evaluations at just $67.00 per script for full length feature films. And just $55.00 for
tele-plays. All the readers have professional experience reading for: Studios, production companies, producers, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website. And you can pick the one that you think is the best fit for your script.
Turn-around-time is usually just a few days, but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors.
- And overall craft – Which includes: Formatting, spelling and grammar.
Every script will get a grade of – Pass, Consider, or Recommend. Which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency.
We can provide an analysis on features and television scripts. We can also do proof reading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline. And give you the same analysis on it. So, if you are looking to vet some of your project ideas? This is a good way to do it.
We will also write your log-line and synapsis for you. You can add this service to an analysis. Or you can simply purchase it as a stand-alone product.
As a bonus, if your script receives a grade of “Recommend” from one of our readers. You get a free Email and Fax Blast to my list of industry contacts. This is the exact same Email and Fax Blast I use myself to promote my own screenplays. And it’s the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for new material.
So, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay for a very reasonable price? Check out – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing Ben Christman. He’s a director and screenwriter, who recently shot his second feature film. A mystery, thriller, called,
“Sun Choke.” Ben started out, as many of my guests have. By just going out and shooting his own micro-budget feature film. And then things slowly evolved from there. He describes the whole process, and how he got to the point of now he’s directing second feature films. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up, I just want to talk about and touch on a few things from today, this interview with Corey. There’s a lot of great stuff in the interview today. If you are looking to break into television writing? I think this is a great episode to listen to. As I mention, Corey has been on the show two previous times. I highly recommend those episodes as well. I think they will add quite a bit of context to the discussion we had today. So, I will link to those in the show notes if you want to check those out? Also, if you want to attend the “Script to Career” event? You can go to the Script to Career website. And I will link to that in the show notes. And you can use the coupon code – “SYS16” for a $100.00 discount.
Again that’s “SYS16” for a $100.00 discount for the Script to Career event is Saturday and Sunday – October 8th & 9th 2016. It’s located on the UCLA Campus. Again, all that stuff I will link to in the show notes. And the coupon code as well. So, you don’t have to like, scribble it down real quick. But, it is – SYS16, and it will give you a $100.00 discount. Again, just check out the show notes and you can find all that information.
Anyway, that is the show, thank you for listening.