All opinions expressed are solely my own.
Hey Fabulous People,
How’s your fierce living going?
I just completed my first week in the NHMC TV Writers Program, and I’m pumped!
The first day, we did a series of exercises that led up to us learning how to brand ourselves as TV writers. We meet at former NBC exec Geoff Harris’ house, which my mom still can’t get over and has on high alert. Yes, Mom, this is legit. No, Mom, I’m not getting kidnapped. Anyway, we sit around folding tables like a real writers room might (I can only speculate–I’ve never been inside one), and we went around the room and introduced ourselves. Then we went around the room and told embarrassing stories about ourselves. Then we went around the room and told a story about a defining moment in our lives. Keeping in mind the stories we just shared, we followed that by pairing up with another writer to write a short bio about ourselves that brands us as not just great writers but compelling, funny people. We then went back to our Writers Room and shared our product.
Afterward, we made our way to the NHMC HQ in Pasadena for lunch with the NHMC staff led by CEO Alex Nogales (group photo below). We were all bummed that we weren’t going to be taking our headshots that day because we all had our best dressed faces and outfits ready for the photo. It turns out, however, that fellow NMHC TV Writer Edward Excaliber also does professional photography, so joke was on us. The next morning he made us look like superstars, and now we all have new headshots!
In between taking new headshots, we were visited by a guest speaker and NHMC TV Writers Program Alum Robert Diaz Leroy. He had a spooky ability to capture the entire room and make us ridiculously emotional. I cried. It was a whole thing. He even cried. Glad I got the tears out before the actual writing!
That afternoon, we each pitched three ideas for the pilot we’ll write during the program. After pitching the three, everyone talks about it by providing notes, additional pitches, or even just talking about personal experiences that it reminded us of. We only got through half, which was lucky for me since I was out for the count after having cried all morning, and my pitches would take place the next morning with the second half of the group.
After pitching my three ideas on Day 3, the group voted, and I now had “The Winning Pitch” that I would develop into a pilot. We were then tasked with writing a one page treatment/concept sheet of our individual pilot. Day 4 was spent going through everyone’s one pager and providing notes, similar to the process for the pitches. We practiced our self-branding from Day 1 and prepared for our big day: Day 5 would start with a breakfast at NBC with ABC and NBC Execs.
We all met in front of the NBC commissary and went up to the ominous conference room in the foreboding building across the way. Lucky for us, we were in the wrong place and crammed ourselves back into the elevator where there’s great lighting, perfect for a group selfie (pic below by fellow NHMC TV Writer Jimmy Mosqueda!).
We were then led to a closed off section of the commissary where we were welcomed by a catered breakfast (they even had Tajín for the fruit!!) and some really cool NBC swag. Once everyone was settled in, we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the execs and ask questions. Some questions and answers below:
- Is it a deal breaker for NBC Writers on the Verge applicants and Disney/ABC TV Writing Program applicants if they do not have entertainment industry experience? Nope. But they take note of how many times you’ve applied. If you applied once and didn’t get in, try, try again. The biggest deal breaker, as in any job, is if you submit a cover letter with the wrong name (saying NBC instead of ABC, etc.).
- What about staffing consideration? Do you need entertainment industry experience? Nope. Your writing will speak for itself. That said, showrunners are most interested in life experiences. If there’s a character they’re writing that you embody in some capacity, they’ll want to hire you.
- What’s the staff writer’s job? To shut up. Staff writers aren’t paid to talk. In the same way actors who get the most lines get paid the most, the writers who get paid the most are the ones who talk the most. The show belongs to the Showrunner, so they’ll be doing most of the talking. The staff writer is expected to volunteer to do all the things like the extensive research required for a specific storyline. That said, the staff writer needs to find a balance–if they don’t talk enough, they won’t be asked to return, and if they talk too much, they won’t be asked to return. It’s essential for the staff writer to read the room before making any moves, including where to sit and what water bottle to grab.
We concluded with a group photo (thanks to Jennifer for helping me find a power outfit!) and made our way back to Geoff’s house for more writing. Next step: Beat sheets and Outlines.