Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Kaia Alexander - empowering writers

As a champion of diverse voices and own voices, Kaia Alexander knows representation matters. She is bi and queer writer and would love to see more LGBTQ stories told and made. She's on a mission to help more writers who have been kept out of the industry get their stories out there. 

When did you first start writing? 

Kaia explains, she was always writing. As a child, she took comfort and solace in it. She started writing books at 7-years-old. She was the first writer in the family at that time, but then everyone in her family followed her lead. Her Mom and Step-Dad started writing when she was in her 20's. A cousin is now a children's book author and an Aunt is writing essays about southern living. She found out a Great Grandmother was an editor for a newspaper she owned and ran, at the turn of the century. That side of the family were alcoholics, so Great Grandma did what she had to and took over the paper to keep things running. After that, her Grandmother studied journalism and writing was passed down through generations. 

When did you start writing screenplays? 

Apparently screenplays came before she wrote novels. When she started writing them, there wasn't even software for writing screenplays. Because it was such an early part of her writing career, an early reader didn't give her the best praise and it scared her off writing completely. She even says, this reader should have been more kind and given her guidance and at least seen her talent in her writing. Something like, "yes you're green, but keep going". Luckily, she kept going even without that. At the time when she started writing, she only saw men writing TV, so she felt she didn't belong in that medium. Growing up in LA, if she would tell someone she was a writer, people would say, "Oh you mean an actor". So that made it hard for her to take her writing seriously. 

Writing her first novel 

As luck would have it, she met author Tom Robbins, author of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, which was later turned into a movie with Uma Thurman. After meeting in Hawaii, he started mentoring her. When she told him she wanted to write a novel when she was in her early 20's, he told her to write it long-hand in pen, said it would actually force her to finish it. He told her, "start with a title and write yourself into corners and it will force you to write yourself out of the corners". So with that advice, she starting writing what would become her novels in journals. Sadly, one was stolen from a coffee shop. Luckily, her mom Xeroxed it. Yay mom! But then it was time to transcribe the whole thing into her computer. At this point, she didn't even know how to type. So she had to teach herself how to type while she was transcribing. It wasn't pretty! In fact, she still has a weird typing style that she admits is very wrong. She says people who see her type are very confused. 

Is it up to the writer to make things happen? 

Kaia tells me that her first novel was published by Harper Collins. She did that deal herself, without a rep. She brought a rep into that deal because she networked and met the Senior VP of Harper Collins, and read her novel and she said, we want your book. There's nothing more powerful than the subject line of your email you're sending to say, "deal in hand" as you go to get a rep. There's a lot you can do if you have an Entertainment Attorney who is willing to help you, because they can go through unsolicited. They can help you if you don't have a rep. 

Do managers work for you or themselves? 

Most managers will have possibly hundreds of clients because they're making a percentage off of each client. They need a lot of sales to keep their lights on. They're constantly like, "squirrel" by each project. They have to be opportunistic by what the buyers want. They have to look at what the buyer's want in their network and think what do they want? 

Went she back to writing screenplays

She found herself back in Los Angeles and astrologers kept telling her she had a destiny in film and TV. But she had no interest. She was interested in yoga and writing books! That was the life she planned for herself. But then in one of her yoga classes, she became friends with the owner of a production company. When he found out she was a committed novelist, he told her, "I need a Development Executive, come work for me". He explained her job would be to read scripts and help find stories. So apparently the astrologists were right! 

Being a Development Exec 

The first script she read and gave notes on was Just Friends which was cast with Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris and Amy Smart. This was when Anna Faris' career was launched, so she really enjoyed seeing this film put to life, and she got to see Anna's career born. Then after this film, she worked on The Good Night with Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Devito, Simon Pegg, Penelope Cruz and Martin Freeman. Kaia calls it the greatest movie you never heard of. Her boss even put $1 million of his own money into this movie, he believed in it so much. After this, she worked on Peaceful Warrior. She had read the book in high school, so when her boss asked what should we do, she told him, "we should do Peaceful Warrior". So he told her to find out who had the rights to the book, which turned out was Nick Nolte. Her boss said, "I want to work with Nick Nolte"! That's why this movie got made. 

What's the difference between a Development Exec and Producer 

For those of you wondering, a Development Exec is in-house in a studio, a Network, or a Production Company. They get paid a salary. Kaia did this job for a production company. The Development Exec is the buyer. They're looking at the attachments, saying, oh this script has Ryan Reynolds, we read it, it's high concept, we love it, New Line has put in X amount of money, and we'll bring in finishing funds. They bring in the financing, the attachments, like actor or director, and then they decide with their slate, does this align with our brand? Does it fill a slot on our slate that we want to do? And will it ultimately grow our brand? Will this movie be a hit and make us more successful? Kaia said she probably read 1000 to 2000 scripts. When you read this many scripts, even with big movie stars attached, you read stuff where you say, this is terrible. She would read scripts and her creative mind would come alive, thinking, you could do this or that to this script. So her job was to give notes as Development Exec to help the project succeed. 

That's when she had ideas for scripts

The first script she wrote got lost with a computer crash. The next movie she wrote was called Small Talk. She got a producer attached to that one. Now has three scripts written. But then as projects happen, Small Talk lost its producer, because he quit the industry. But she kept going, kept having ideas. Now she has what she calls a boneyard. That's because every time she writes ideas, she keeps them in the boneyard. It's a keeper of awesome things that she can always go back to. She may use parts of them in other projects. If she overhears dialogue she likes, she puts them in her boneyard; she will write it down and have it as a resource for later. 

Current scripts 

She has a pilot out now with an A-list actress. She has an adaptation of her favorite memoir and is buttoning up the option now. She's also written a couple features she needs to get into the right hands. The Enchantment of Cary Grant she feels is the closest. She writes mostly comedy, or dramedy. 

How Garry Shandling came into her life 

Her friend Frank owned a shop called, Natural High, all bamboo and hemp clothing, on Main Street in Santa Monica and he needed someone to help. She loved retail, loved getting an eye on the world, she figured why not! So she worked a few Sundays. One day, she was folding shirts and sees a guy trying on a shirt and she can see him from behind and she sees an Enso tattoo. She blurts out, "you have an Enso tattoo on your neck"! So Garry whips around and looks at her, and says, "I've had this tattoo for years and no one knows what this is". He asks, "Who are you? Do you work here? What are you doing?" Her first thoughts are, did I do something wrong? Because he was intense. 

How their friendship grew 

Garry ends up hanging around the store and buying a few things. Then he invites her out to dinner with a friend, and gives her his number. But she feels a real connection to him. Even watching him on TV she felt he was talking to her. So seeing him in real life it felt like he was already her friend, and now here he is in person, and it still feels that way. It just really flowed for her. He tells her, "call me, come up to the house and teach me yoga". But she didn't think he really meant it. She put his card on her desk, and her roommate at the time was a bit crazy and coked out and the roommate throws the card away. So she figured, oh well, guess she won't call him. A week or so later, Garry calls her and he's like, "Kaia why haven't you called me? I need yoga! Can you come today?" That's how the friendship formed. She was so enthralled by everything between them that she kept notes while she was hanging out with him,hanging out all the time. Even Kevin Nealon said about Garry Shandling in the documentary, "He really changed my fabric" and Kaia couldn't agree more. She was seeing the world differently with him. She starts understanding the entertainment industry in a different way because he was really opening up to her about his experiences and letting himself be vulnerable. 

Garry on manifestation 

At the time they became friends, the book, The Secret was very big. So she asked him his thoughts on the book. If any of you know anything about Garry, you know he was a Buddhist and very zen, and big on manifestation. Kaia reads me an email from Garry, about that very thing. "Keep the mind empty, know your intention. Integrate it into every cell of your body and commit. And you can do anything. Remain unresult oriented but live moment by moment in process and what you are in this goalless unspeakable focused path will result in what you want. Thinking about what you want, and then acting like you're committed to getting it, to the degree of already getting it, is just a confusing way of twisting people around. Quantum mechanics and the field of energy that exists transmits on a frequency far deeper than thought. Sure thoughts will create reactions. Empty mind, pure heart, will result in being right where you're supposed to be. The Secret will get people to think about consciousness on a simple slightly distorted way but at least thinking about it. It's not a secret you can be whatever you want and make your life what you want. But it comes from a still place. Not the mind, thought, acting out place. Clear the mind and get out of your own way and be. You will automatically find natural action and discipline in which to find peace. Create the life and people you want around "forcing" is not the secret. One must be quiet and grateful for where they are before forward movement happens and then it will happen organically." Wow, some very wise words from a deeply spiritual man. Make of it what you want, but we all know Garry was a very successful man, so if you don't believe in manifestation, explain why he did and was so successful. 

Living in LA

Kaia believes all these experiences happened for her because she lived in LA. She believes if you want to be in the industry and you live in the area where the industry happens, it helps to live and sleep in that area. Because you run into it everywhere in an area that you won't. 

Does she believe you need to move to LA? 

She knows writers who have gotten reps and don't live in Los Angeles. Yes you can write features and other things and not live in LA. Things have changed and people can succeed outside of LA. But once you get in, the industry stays hard. Your competition is the people you see on TV. So to stay top of mind, get those meetings because the hustle never stops. You also have to love the hustle. Kaia loves to make things happen. She is only an hour away from LA. She can get to LA quickly. She does have one TV sample so if it gets made she'd have to move to LA. And she would. But she's also not relying on the entertainment business to pay for all her bills. She also has her own business, to pay for the bills. But if she was relying on the entertainment business to pay her bills as a writer, she wouldn't take that risk by not living in LA. If you look at the stats of the Writers Guild she says a third of the writers are unemployed at a given time. So whatever you can do to improve your odds, do it. A writer friend of hers who is a showrunner with four shows, met her manager at the WGA office. She would go there to work in their space and met him there. Just being in the world of LA, being out, going to Margaret Herrick Library or the DGA, and being able to be immersed in it if you're committing to making this your career. 

How Garry got his rep

He wrote a spec script for a show called Sampson and Son. He writes it and has a friend whose uncle is running the show, so he asks his friend if he can give it to him. The guy liked it, says this is pretty funny, and gave him notes. Garry integrates the notes, turns it back in on time, and he says we're going to use it, and buys it from Garry. So Garry is now in the writer's room, which is across the hallway from Welcome Back Kotter. So the lead of Welcome Back Kotter sees him and goes, who are you? Garry says, I'm writing for this show. They say, we need another writer. You write comedy? Suddenly, he's writing for two of the biggest comedy shows on TV at this time. His friend tells him, you should probably get an agent. He tells Garry, I'll introduce you to one and tell him what you're working on. Garry calls the agent and says where he's working. But the agent misunderstands him and thinks he says, he wants to write on those shows. Garry says, no I'm already writing on these shows. So the agent hangs up on him because he thinks he's lying. So the agent does some research and finds out he is working on those shows. The agent calls back 15 minutes later, and has 30 meetings set up for Garry all over town. He tells Garry, you're my next client, you're the next big thing, and he helps his career take off. That's what Kaia calls possibility thinking. Somebody needs you. You just have to figure out who that is. 

Find your wolfpack 

This is something Kaia talk about often in her Entertainment Business School. You have to find your Wolfpack. You have to link elbows. When she does her podcast, Entertainment Business Wisdom, she asks guests like, Mike Medavoy, Scott Gardenhour, and Debbie Liebling, "who's your Wolfpack?" they instantly say, "It's my wife" "it's my agent" "It's my manager". They know who is in their wolfpack. Who circles them and helps them and who they lean on. If you loan wolf, you will starve in this industry. You won't make it. 

What is the Entertainment Business School? 

Kaia realized she was meeting so many talented and amazing creatives. But they were having trouble with their deals, they didn't know if they needed to start their own company, and what to do with to do with their taxes. These are all things that make up the business of entertainment. But writers and creatives don't know the business side, or negotiating, so then they find they were trusting blindly people on their team, hoping their team was doing things right. That's a very unempowered place to be stuck and Kaia wanted to do something about it. She even saw it happen to Garry Shandling, who got screwed horribly by his manager Brad Gray. Even Garry said, he didn't know what Brad was doing because he was his manager, and trusted him, and it hurt him. That blind trust became a massive lawsuit. These are things that inspired Kaia to form the Entertainment Business School. 

Things you'll learn in Entertainment Business School

Kaia even teaches if your manager or rep is good for you, or if they're a sociopath or narcissist. Are you dealing with someone who has a personality disorder and can hide it? Kaia explains, there are plenty of sharks in the industry and you have to double-check everything. You have to read a contract and also understand it. It's the biggest mistake creatives make. They lose money because they walk away from deals or won't negotiate deals or they won't encourage reps to negotiate deals. In her first cohort of students she taught them how to negotiate. They ended up with so much more money. They realized there was more money than they thought. This is something every creative should know how to do. 

How long is the Entertainment Business School 

There's the main flagship school which is 12 weeks that has live coaching with Kaia. It's 4 hours a week. Monday night mixer. Tuesday night teaching with slides. Wednesday sometimes guest speakers. Thursday is group coaching, hotseats to work on your career, your bio, emails you need to compose. This for all creatives, women and men, all stages of their career. Some students may have just graduated with MFAs and others will have had 5 movies produced. But all got something out of it. There will also be an evergreen course for a mastery that is a paired down version of the business. Whatever works for your lifestyle and budget, it's there. To find out more and sign up, visit She also has scholarship spots in each cohort. 

Does your yoga help your writing? 

She's been practicing yoga for 25 years but 5 years ago she traded her yoga mat for her surfboard. So that's where she gets her mental health. That's her new church and religion. She still meditates and stretches but no longer does her daily yoga like she used to. She teaches inner guide meditation and uses it, and feels meditation is very meaningful. But she feels like our western culture that's always on the go, is hard for people to all of a sudden sit still. But she's a big proponent on spending time in nature. Whether it's a park, or morning walk, or a beach, it heals the soul and she recommends time in nature even over meditation. 

What's one thing you would tell new writers interested in writing screenplays? 

Pick subjects and genres to write about that you're madly in love with. Because to get a great script done, we're all in love with a first draft. But we have to marry that script and be in multiple drafts and notes. Will you love this five years from now? Your love and passion is where to put your attention. If you love horror, or romcoms, then throw yourself into what you love the most. Don't write a genre you don't love. Also work backwards. Ask yourself what kind of stories you want to tell, and that's your brand. When you focus on what you love it becomes organic. Look at Shonda Rhimes, of someone who focused on what she loves, and does it so well. We all identify her and know who she is. It helps your career if you focus on what you love. 

So that's Kaia Alexander. Be sure to look up her business school if you're ready to move forward in your career 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Noah Evslin - TV writer and Producer, and his journey there

Noah Evslin has a resume that would impress just about anyone. Someone I've been following on Twitter for quite some time, and now a huge fan of his screenwriting podcast he does with his friend Dan Rutstein, Screaming Into The Hollywood Abyss; I knew I had to reach out and see if Noah could take some time to chat with me about his career and how he started. Luckily, for me and for you, he actually said yes! 

Currently writing on NCIS: Hawai'i, Noah's also worked on shows such as Hawaii Five-O, Colony, The Catch, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal: The Secret is Out, and Private Practice. Impressed? I thought so. So keep reading on to hear how he got into writing and tips for writers looking to follow in his footsteps. 

How did he start writing?

He comes from a family of writers. His grandfather was a mythologist who wrote 70 books of Greek mythology, some Broadway plays, he was also a TV and film writer in Hollywood in the 1950's and 60's. His wife, Noah's grandmother, was also a writer. His great uncle was a U.S. Poet Laureate. Writing was extremely important on that side of the family. So he also wrote his entire life. Growing up, in Hawai'i, he'd visit his grandparents in New York every year and hear them typing or hear his grandfather talking into his audio cassette to dictate to himself. His study impressed him too and he thought, that's a great life, not realizing how financially risky being a writer is. He saw that there was sometimes lots of wealth in his grandfather's life and then sometimes nothing, but he didn't put the two together that writing and instability go hand-in-hand. 

The writing torch was passed onto him

Noah's grandparents flew to Hawai'i for his High School graduation. Then one day, his grandfather dove into a pool and passed away. It became Noah's job to tell his grandma what happened to his grandfather. So he went with his grandma to visit the morgue, as one does in this situation. And his grandmother said, "It's your turn now to be the writer in the family." And so he did. 

What type of writing did he start with 

He started writing a lot of poetry, even though he doesn't write a lot now. But from 18-25 years old he wrote hundreds of poems. He loved he was able to create snapshots of life in a clear and clean way. Then after that, he wrote three novels (that he says are bad, but do we really know?), during college and right after, plus one book of non-fiction. But that kind of prose didn't feel right to him. He started to publish some poems, but he knew there wasn't a career in that. 

When did he write his first screenplay?

He was 27-year-old when he started screenwriting. It felt like the perfect pairing of poetry and prose for him. He could create the types of scenes he wanted to. So he got a hold of every screenplay book he could find. And he wrote ten screenplays before he even moved to Hollywood. 

He really began earlier than that 

At 22, his brother-in-law at the time who loved movies, and was a writer, asked him one day, "Do you want to try writing a screenplay together?" He and his brother-in-law loved Brother's McMullen, which are the types of movies they liked back then, family stories, that were popular at the time. But they didn't even know how to start, they didn't even know there was a screenplay format. So they wrote part of a screenplay, but never even finished. 5 years later, that's when he tried again. Around the time of the TV show Lost, is when he realized people were writing TV shows and movies, and that it was a thing you could. 

What did he write first, TV scripts or movies? 

He started writing movies, because he wanted to write things about Hawai'i and where he was from. He also did admit, (embarrassingly) that he wrote a spec Entourage script, that placed in some contests. (I will admit that I did like watching it, even if he's embarrassed by it!) Then he also did an adaption of one of his grandfather's books. The combination of both of these scripts got him an agent. Hurrah! 

What made him make the move to LA? 

His wife was very instrumental in helping him make that decision. She felt after he had written a few screenplays, he had to see if he could give Hollywood a chance. And turns out his older sister had a close friend that was a staff writer on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip for Aaron Sorkin, and his aunt's best friend's daughter was a mid-level writer on Gilmore Girls. His aunt said, reach out to Jennie and send a screenplay and she gave him her email. When he emailed Jennie he asked, what are my odds of making it as a writer? And he did the same with the writer on Studio 60. Both said after reading his scripts, they felt he should come to Hollywood. That Jennie turned out to be Jennie Snyder Urman, who is the writer and creator of Jane The Virgin and went onto be very successful. They're still in touch. His sister's friend ended up giving his two scripts to her manager who signed him and a week later had all his stuff sent out to agents and he was signed. Just as he was moving to Hollywood he thought, this isn't very difficult. But then cut to two years later and he still hadn't booked a job and left his agent. It was eye-opening. 

What did it take to make it? 

At the same time he was getting agents and managers, he had friends who were just as talented and didn't have the same momentum as he did. He attributes it to that same old adage we hear about time and time again: luck. He felt it was good fortune that these two people were able to help him and were willing to help him in a way, that he later learned was unusual. 

How do you know when you're ready?

Many newbie writers compare their writing to the worst writing they see out there. But Noah's advice is to compare your writing to the top in the industry. The Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkins of the world. LIke it or not, you're in competition with the best. He knew early on that was the line he had to cross. Even if now he doesn't think he's as good as an Aaron Sorkin, he says you still have to be in a sphere where it makes people lean in, and it makes them love your work. 

How did he know he was ready for the industry?

He has really mixed feelings about contests. They can be helpful as a gauge. But they're really expensive. And so many contests don't really help someone with their career. Even early in Noah's career once he had become a professional writer, and he would put those contests on his resume, people in the industry would say, you can take those off. He said once you've sold something, it won't matter once you've moved forward. What it did for him, when he was a finalist, top 3, it showed enough people liked his script. 

How long did it take to get into the WGA? 

It took him from 32-36 years of age to get into the WGA. Even though his Greek mythology project was very commercial and got him 80 meetings around town. Yes, 80! Two of his projects that he thought would make his career take off, they eventually fell through. (Oh, I know that feeling!) He can either say it took him 4 years from when he got to Hollywood to get a sale. Or he can say it took him 9 years from when he wrote his first screenplay. 

How soon after was the next sale? 

It was still a couple more years till the next sale. He tells me, you realize there is no roller coaster you get on, and that moment you make that first sale, and it takes you up and that's your career. It doesn't happen like that. You're only on your own clock and you have to break in all over again, and again, and again. 

How did you land your first industry job? 

His writer friend was friends with a high-level writer, who worked with Shonda Rhimes, and he told Noah he could bring him in as a Writer's Assistant (WA). This friend a year later became the Showrunner on Private Practice and asked Noah if he wanted to be the WA. It was a Writer's PA, there were three of them doing this job because there were multiple rooms at a time. He was 35 years old at the time, he had been a lecturer at University at Hawai'i for 7 years, he had a production/promotion company, they DJd and did live concerts, he had 130 employees, and 7 fullt-ime employees, they had a record company where they put out Hawai'i records. So he and his wife had to leave ALL of that and go to LA and try the writing thing. Wow! 

Saying good-bye to your roots

They owned a house on Kuaui and they felt they could go to LA and could always go back if they needed to. He felt all of that was still there waiting for him. Even 15 years later, he could always go back and continue on with that career if he needed. He was giving up a lot but it was always still there. Knowing he left that all behind, as a Writers Assistant, he's left being a boss and being in charge to get coffee for people. 

What would he tell other people wanting to be a Writers Assistant

Every Writer's Assistant that's been on a Shondaland project have all gone on to do well. Most of them were about his age, they weren't in their 20's, which is something we hear. They were all a little bit older and everyone who worked with them liked that that they were actually a bit older. Someone told him, "Take joy in serving coffee and just do a good job. Everyone knows you're a writer, they know you can write well, that's why you're here, just do a good job as an assistant." Within three months the Medical Researcher left the show and they gave the job to Noah. As a Medical Researcher on a medical show, he was in the room all the time, doing research, giving writers stories. 

What did he do well to get noticed for that promotion

He thinks because his father was a doctor, and his sister was a Phd Therapist, he understood the language of medicine. They wanted to promote internally and knew he could handle the job. 

The next job was a staff job 

From there his got his first staff writing job which was a freelance script. Then the show was ending and his mentor left the show. He thought that was it. So he went back to Hawai'i for vacation. And he got a call and the person said, "Please hold for Shonda Rhimes". (OMG that's the call we all want right?) She offered him a job to be one of her producers. He still doesn't know why out of 900 people, 3 shows, why would he fit that role out of everyone else. He said there were times before that they did work closely together, so whatever he did to impress her, it worked. 

His role as a Creative Producer 

He handled all the things Shonda didn't want to handle on the day-to-day stuff on her shows. He directed shorts, interstitial stuff, a lot of producing, some writing. They needed someone to handle all the rest; product integration, marketing, promo shoots. Then he also was in charge of their social media. And at the time, that's right when social media was starting. Kerry Washington mixed with Shonda Rhimes on Scandal, decided to live-tweet a show with actors. It ended up being the biggest social media in the industry. He came in at the right time. But it just wasn't where he wanted to be. He loved it but it wasn't what he really wanted to do. He wanted to be a writer on a show. 

How he turned that into being a staff writer 

Everyone on his shows knew he was a writer and knew he wanted to write. So when there was down time he kept working on his own scripts. But it taught him he could write anywhere, any time. He feels many assistants have this skill. He sold three pilots before he left Shonda Rhimes. His agent and manager told him stay as long as you can till you're staffed. (Good point, right writers?) He waited till he had so much work till it wasn't fair to his producing job. Then when that moment came, he went on staff. That was when he started as a writer on Colony. His job got much more fulfilling because it's what he wanted to do. But also was scarier cause there was no longer a steady paycheck. Once you're a staff writer, shows come and go and you have to keep finding work. 

Are there opportunities there for emerging/newbie writers? 

He does think there are. There's at least 500 scripted TV shows. (Maybe even 700). So if there are anywhere from 4 or 5 writers to 10-15 writers per show, that's upwards of 5000 jobs in play every year. That's all TV. Features, maybe a 300-1000 feature writers a year, not as many. There's still cache in TV about being a feature writer. If you're a good one, you can get on a TV show. But in the last five years good dramatic writing is in TV. There just aren't as many indie movies. The industry is looking more towards TV writers, they work fast, they have a style that can work for film as well, they're used to taking notes. His advice, come in on the TV side and you can always branch off into the movie side. Learn to write on a deadline, how to write to various bosses, learn how to work fast and get things to screen, and getting to production. 

What's the advice you'd give to writers entering this field 

"Make sure you love what you do because it's a hard journey. You don't get fired in Hollywood in a traditional sense. You might lose a job. There might be years in between jobs. But the only person that makes you stop this journey is you. The only way you lose is if metaphorically you take off those boxing gloves, or take off those skates. If you love it and you're determined, whether you're an aspiring writer or have one foot in the game, or are completely in. The length of your career depends on your ability to stay motivated, stay excited and stay in the game. There are very few short term wins. There are very few people that sell a big project. It takes a long time. If you can't wait it out, this might not be the right field for you. This is a 5, 10, 15, 20 year journey. If you have another job to sustain yourself as a writer, you're better suited to success in this business. Assuming everyone has the same amount of talent, luck. One thing that separates those from success is perseverance. You have to keep moving forward. There's also nothing wrong with stopping. Some people decide this isn't for me. I was surrounded by talented people that gave up. They had the talent. They gave it 2 or 3 years and realized it wasn't easy. But if you love it and stay in it, and have the right amount of talent. Which a lot of people have. Then it's just a matter of time. Wait it out. Put yourself in a position financially with another job, or living simply that allows you to wait it out or stay in the game." 

So much amazing advice from Noah Evslin. I could have kept talking to him forever. If you want to listen to his podcast, please check it out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Everything you've ever wanted to know about Development

For newbie and emerging writers, there are words and phrases you may hear but don't know exactly what they mean.  "Development" is one of those words. Maybe you've heard of "development hell" or heard a writer saying, they're "in development". But it's one of those words you've heard about and maybe always wondered what it really means. 

So I sat down with one of my really good friends who not only worked in development at one of Hollywood's biggest studios but now is a TV producer/development person for one of Hollywood's biggest TV writers. The writers she works with are A-list writers. They're Academy Award-winning and Emmy-winning writers. So these are goals for all of us writers to aspire to but definitely heads and shoulders above us preWGA writers. So I knew she would be the perfect person to explain exactly what you as a writer, need to know about development and how to do well when you get to work with your first development person. 

How she got into development: 

She worked for many years for FOX in the research department. Through that job she had access to the creative side and organically started going to table reads and giving feedback on scripts and meeting creators and because she was kind of doing a small portion of development through that she got moved into development. This is not the typical path to development. Usually, they start as an assistant at a talent agency and move up the ranks to get a job at a studio or network or platform. 

What her job does in development: 

Her job is to put together packages and work with writers and take it out and sell it. Putting together the package, when working at a studio, you have overall deals with writers or pods. As a studio executive, you cover those pods. Part of the job is to help those writers or pods, take their own ideas and execute them or help those writers find ideas. There are also independent writers or pitches that come your way. You could find writers you like that you want to take out. You could also find IPs; you see a book you really love or an article and you option that and then find a writer after. Basically, you're part of the process and put all the moving pieces together. Sometimes that means finding attachments, whether it be a director, or a talent attachment and you work on a pitch with the parties involved. Then you take it out to the marketplace, which could be cable, broadcast, streaming, and you try and sell it.

Once it's sold, then what? 

Once a project is sold, you work on the development process through all the materials, from story doc, to outline, to draft, and if successful, it gets picked up to series and then you stay on the project and help produce it. Some departments are different though and handle that differently. When she was at 20th, they had a current department. So once you did a few episodes, you hand it off to the current department. So she handled new projects only. 

What does it mean to have an overall deal? 

That means the company has paid for exclusive services. It's usually a TV deal. It can be a first look versus an exclusive deal. If you're a writer, and you have a deal with a company, it means you can only produce shows for that company. The deal is usually for a couple years. There is the expectation you will deliver and make numerous shows. It's usually people that have a certain level of success. And they want that exclusive right to their work. 

What's expected from these big writers? 

Depending on the level of success and how big their pods, if it's a prolific writer, if it's a Shonda Rhimes or Ryan Murphy, or someone that has a large deal, the expectation is bigger. If you're doing a writer-only deal, if they have a show on the air, their bandwidth might not be that great. Maybe they are concentrating on the show that they have. It can vary. People would like to do as many projects as they can handle. There's always the urge to hustle. But you do want quality over quantity if you want to go the distance. 

What it's like being a pod executive? 

She works for one writer now who has a deal with one studio. She's a producer now and works with the development person over at the studio. That means she's on the creative side whereas before she wasn't. She now works closely with the studio executives. So she's finding IP, finding writers, finding ideas; and sometimes writers will come to her with pitches. 

How do ideas get to her in development?

Sometimes someone will bring a spec script someone is taking out and she can say yes we love it, we want to develop it. If that's the case, then she's giving notes on it and developing it to the level she wants to see this project. Or maybe the writer thinks her team will be additive to the project., maybe an area of expertise. Sometimes IP will come without the writer. Maybe they found the book on their own, or agents are taking it around town, or other producers are taking it around, or the studio has found it or the networks have. It could be a podcast, a book, an article, those are all IPs. So someone would then bring it to her or anyone in development and ask, is this something you like? If they like it, then they option it, then they look for a writer after. This is what is called the Open Writing Assignments you've probably heard of, or also known as OWAs. 

What are OWAs?

An OWA is a piece of IP that they've optioned through the studio. Or it could be a self-generated idea that they're trying to find a writer for. Then the producers take meetings with writers they want to be in business with. Then as a producer/development person, they can say to that writer, "these are the OWA we have, and are any of them appealing to you?" Many times they work with a writer they already have worked with or know their material. The initial conversation with the writer about an OWA is, "are you interested in this project, let's talk about it," and then eventually the writers come up with ideas. As a producer they work on it together with the writer, and help craft the pitch. Eventually they take the pitch to the studio, where they're based, and they decide if they want to continue with it. The writer does NOT write the script until the idea is sold to a buyer. Once it sells, then it goes into the writing stage. 

If the studio likes the pitch

The studio will decide, do we like this idea and do we want to proceed? If they do like it and want to proceed, then they give additional notes on the idea. They will help craft the pitch the way they like it. Then the producers take the idea/pitch to a bunch of buyers, and of course hopefully sell it. Once it gets sold, then they go through the traditional writing steps. 

How is a TV producer different from being in development?

It's almost the same. The difference is as a producer she's more in the trenches with the writer, than she was as a studio executive. As the producer, she's with the writer, every step of the way. She's seen every draft numerous times, maybe 30 drafts, but at the network maybe she saw 1 draft. Also in production, she will be more involved on set, more involved with those decisions. In development it would be to a lesser extent. 

What is her goal as a producer when she gives notes? 

Just to be additive. To be an extra set of eyes. An extra opinion, to help guide it through the process, especially to be a mediator between the writer and the studio partners, the network partners, to help cut through it if there's a debate about what needs to be done, or how it needs to be done. To try and be as helpful as possible, to be the advocate for the writer, to try to fight the fight when there needs to be one, to also help massage things when it's the right note that needs to happen to help it go the distance. She believes for notes, it's really subjective, that it's just an opinion. Even when she worked in research and did focus groups, she never felt feedback had to happen, like it was a mandate, like this was the right way. She doesn't feel that way as a producer still. When she reads a script, she looks to see if something is confusing for her, or is there a part that will make it land in a more emotional way, or they keep hearing what's important to the buyer, then maybe that's where they should lean in, because that might be the deciding factor on it getting picked up. She just wants to be part of the team. 

Has she seen a writer not take her note and it still work? 

She has and she encourages it. She thinks if someone feels really strongly about something and are passionate, she likes having a conversation about why do you feel that way, what is the meaning for it? A lot of times when you hear that, it helps her as a producer, it helps her understand why. She believes no one is right necessarily, and if the writer feels strongly about it, they should keep it. She feels as a producer the worst thing you can ever do is to have a writer turn in something they don't feel good about, that they don't love. Because everyone wants to feel they delivered something that is representative of the story they wanted to tell. She believes part of her job is to protect the writer so that what they ultimately they see on air is something they feel good about. She hopes that going through the process, even with changes, will make the final script stronger. 

What mistakes in writers do you see? 

Sometimes taking every note and being too much of a people pleaser isn't necessarily the right way to go, because you have to feel you're writing your vision. But on the flip side you don't want to be so rigid you're not taking any notes, because the buyer knows what they're looking for, what their needs are, what gaps are in their schedule. She's seen both of these. But it could be a writer's style and maybe the next thing this writer does, will hit the mark. Does she believe it's good to be somewhere in the middle of these? Yes. She does believe a compromise of some sorts is always the best way. A little bit of flexibility never hurts. When it comes to making TV, there are lots of cooks in the kitchen and lots of people to please. So being able to roll with the punches is an important skill set, but also it's a balance to sticking to your guns. 

What is something writers do well?

She believes it's just being really passionate about what you want to write, about having a strong point of view. (How many times have we heard this, writers?) It's important to have strong relationships with the teams surrounding you. When your team loves your project and they want it to go all the way, that's the best possible situation to get in. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

David Wappel - the talented writer with many stories to tell

Back when people went to bars, I first "met" David Wappel on Twitter. Then he and his co-partner-in-crime, Sam Thompson, hosted a writer's gathering at a bar in North Hollywood and I thought, get your butt off that couch, put that script away, and go meet these people you've only seen on Twitter. And luckily, I listened to myself. I finally met Sam and David, in person! After following David's career and his tweets since, you can tell he's a nice guy with a lot of talent. So recently, I finally got the chance to zoom with him and see what makes David tick and hear more about his writing career. Before we did, I was sure to watch his movie Long Gone By on HBO Max. Something you should do too. It's a gorgeous movie with such airy storytelling and while powerful at the same time, I know David has a long career ahead of him. 

How he got into screenwriting

David went to film school at the University of Carolina in Wilmington, where he studied film and philosophy. There was a big film industry in Carolina at the time, because in the 90's Screen Gems studios were built up, plus Dawson Creek and One Tree Hill filmed there. At first thinking he wanted to be in production, his plans were to be a cinematographer. He moved to Atlanta after he graduated to get into production, commercials, music videos, short films, etc. While working in commercials, he kept getting more assignments in development with their clients, where he was getting asked to write more things, along with helping to conceptualize music videos. He continued to get more and more narrative and emotional-driven assignments. That's when he realized he was feeling most fulfilled with writing projects. 

He was always driven to authorship  

In college, as a senior film major, he had to do his senior thesis and had to write something he could direct. He co-wrote it with someone else, but even once it was done, he continued to rewrite it on his own. That's when he realized he was always gravitating towards authorship. He just didn't realize writing would be where he would have the most ability to do that. Once he realized he was most fulfilled as a writer, that's when it clicked that was the path for him. So, in 2015 he started writing screenplays and two years later he moved to Los Angeles to pursue writing. 

His writing career journey 

After college, in 2013, was when the writing really started. But it wasn't until a year later, in 2014, when he got Final Draft and started writing the way he thought true screenwriters wrote. It wasn't for five more years, when he got his first writing assignment, through connections he had met in production in Atlanta. This is why it's important to realize, networking is so important. Because you never know when those connections will turn into paid assignments. What happened for David, was he had given his Atlanta production friends notes on a doc they were working on, and they were really impressed with how he knew story. So they asked for feedback on another project. When he moved to LA a couple years later, they told him to meet up with their friend in LA, just to chat. Little did David know, this would turn into something more special.

His first big break 

David met their friend, director and writer, Andrew Morgan, for coffee. They hit it off right away, chatting about movies. Andrew was telling him about his movie in pre-production. But he was having issues with the opening. David gave him his ideas on what Andrew was talking about, not thinking anything about it more than just two film guys chatting. A couple days later, Andrew called him and said, "I really liked what you were thinking about for my movie, would you be interested in rewriting it?" Which David said, yes, of course. David ended up rewriting the screenplay, which was Long Gone By, currently playing on HBO Max. He wrote it in the late spring of 2018, at a point he felt nothing was happening with his writing, well before he realized it would go onto being on HBO. 

Don't give up hope 

Just remember that things can look like nothing is happening. Even if you aren't seeing things work out for you writing-wise, just know you may be planting seeds that may sprout when you least expect it. That's what happened to David. He wrote the script for Andrew in late spring of 2018, but nothing happened for him writing-wise that year and even into 2019. So he felt like nothing was happening for him and he was getting down about his writing. 

When things happened 

In 2019, Long Gone By did well in the Latino Film Festival in New York. Then he found out it got featured in HBO's festival. On top of that, a spec he wrote advanced in Austin and he won a partial scholarship in Stowe Story labs. Talk about success! The year or two before, it seemed like nothing was happening for him. It just took time. All that work was done in 2018, but didn't hit till late in 2019. 

Have your successes resulted in other successes?

Doors that he was knocking on before seem to be opening up easier now. But he can't trace a domino effect just yet. He thinks it will pay off eventually though, but similarly to the way, past production friends helped pay off successes later. And it has opened up other introductions. Being able to say, "Watch my movie on HBO Max" is surely an impressive thing to say. 

Script services 

David isn't just a writer, he also has script services to help writers tell the story they are trying to tell. He obsesses over critical thinking, and the way stories are constructed, so when it comes to stories it's very helpful. It's a lens through which he sees the world. The more he writes, the more he's about to deconstruct why something isn't working on the page. And that's what he brings to the writers that he works with. When he reads something he can analyze why he's not feeling a certain way, or why he isn't feeling the way the writer wants him to feel. 

What his services are like 

His sessions are video calls so he can work with the writer in real-time, and that way he can ask, what do you want at this moment? This way they can address it together. It's less prescriptive and he can get in and under and all through the story. Then he becomes a resource to go in whatever direction they want, helping the writer tell the story that's their vision. Being a writer affords him the benefit of the dead-ends he's familiar with and actively encountering himself every day. Maybe some services come from the development standpoint or reader standpoint, which are valuable, but what he brings uniquely is you get him as a reader and a writer. 

What mistake do you see new writers do often? 

The biggest thing he thinks writers don't do enough of is self-reflection on why they're writing what they're writing. As a writer, he thinks they need to know, what are they interested in exploring? What do they want to say about this character? What is their artistic intention? Once they have self-reflection, they can leverage the tools and crafts to realize what they're actually trying to say in the piece they're writing. If they're not clear about that artistic intent, they can feel rudderless. Writers need to know what story they are really trying to write. 

What's your advice to writers who have written one and only one screenplay?

Immediately move onto another. A writer gets perspective by moving onto another script. They may see a problem in a first script that doesn't come up in the second script at all. Now they have two scripts to judge as a writer and not just one. You don't see yourself as an artist yet with one script, because you'll see what world you're interested in, what you're good at, what you're bad at, what problems you had in the first script, then maybe in your next script. Sometimes if you keep rewriting the same script, maybe it's not connecting with the people who are reading it yet. Or artistically it's not resonating. Maybe the script doesn't need rewrites. Some people keep rewriting a script to find a home, but sometimes rewriting won't solve that. Think of how many movies if they didn't find the right home, rewriting wasn't going to fix that, it just had to find the right home. 

Writers without a rep 

David is without a rep at the moment but has friends that open doors for him. So for those who don't have reps and are looking, he'd suggest for writers to look to connect with other people that you artistically and professionally gel with. Even if their taste is different than yours if you like their attitude, their work ethic, people you want to be friends with, and people you want to hang out with, look for those people. Not to pursue people or avenues you're not genuinely thinking about. Continue to pursue the things you want to pursue and connect with the people you like. Long Gone By came from people he enjoyed working with and they got him in touch with people they enjoyed working with. That movie came about and it was the least calculated thing he's done in his life. 

If you'd like to find out more about David's writing or his writing services, here's his website and you can find him on Twitter at @davidwappel

Saturday, January 23, 2021

A screenwriter's secret weapon

I haven't been writing my blogs lately. Twitter seems to be taking over the need to do a lot of blog posts for me. But recently Suzanne Gundersen, an inner story coach and founder of, interviewed me for her youtube posts on screenwriting. I was so impressed with how she helped writers, I knew I had to do a blog post on her. So here's who she is and how she may be just what you need to become a better writer.

How she helps writers

Suzanne helps writers destress and naturally get focused, build confidence, and deepen their world view into wisdom and truth. That way they can be in alignment with who they are to hook their audience. The three areas she helps: 

1. Helps them to get focused, to get into alignment with inspiration, so they can access creativity. She helps them clear distractions so they can get into their own natural rhythm and flow. 

2. Helps them to build their own worthiness. For a lot of writers they are actually writing themselves through their own stories. So she helps them build confidence so they can share their writing with other people, be true to themselves, and know their value so they can express it out into the world. 

3. Helps writers deepen their emotional goal post. A lot of writers submit a script to many contests and can't understand why it's not advancing. Or they can't narrow down how many characters they have in a script. She helps writers go through life experiences in their past, or the symptom of their limitations in their writing, and clear unresolved memories, to connect with their own vulnerabilities. Once they do that and process them using her techniques, the emotional traumas are dealt with much more peacefully. This helps their writing deepen because they've done the emotional work, so they can really grab their audience. 

What kind of distractions are there that she works through with writers? 

  • Personal 
  • Professional 
  • Creative 
Symptoms of distactions can turn into feeling like: 
  • You can't write 
  • The writing is flat 
  • You have many projects and don't know which one is most important 
  • And many others! 
Sloppy thinking and how that affects writers 

We sometimes allow the world to influence us and that puts us in reactive mode instead of getting ahead of that so that we can respond with the choice to say on a busy day, today isn't the day I'm going to write, but tomorrow I will. Maybe today is a chore day and by doing that, we don't feel guilty when we have a non-writing day on purpose. That gives us peace of mind so we're not distracted by the pressure we put on ourselves. Then when we sit down to write, we're more present in our body then we can push noise out that would keep us from not being our most focused selves to get the best pages out. 

What is the disciplined writer? 
It's a writer who knows how to get focused, clear out the distractions, so even if there are any, they don't stop your writing. This writer is connected with their creativity. But without the right tools, most writers sit down and then can't focus and don't know why they can't write. Many writers sit down to write, but the writing doesn't flow and that causes more panic, which keeps the writing from flowing even more. It can be a vicious cycle. 

Being an in alignment writer
What does it mean to be in alignment? Being able to clear out distractions and be focused with creativity. These writers are able to connect with inspiration on command and the voice with which they want to write in. 

A sloppy thinker writer 
This writer can maybe write one sentence at a time, or one scene, then stops after that because they don't have the discipline of being able to keep in alignment with themselves. They allow external forces to break their focus. So if you are this kind of writer, what are you to do to become a writer in alignment? 

Energy tapping technique 
This is a self-used acupressure technique that shifts your experience of stress in your body, your emotions and your thoughts. When you tap on certain points it sends a calming message to your brain, that it's okay to calm down, and relaxes the body. It harmonizes the brain and body so they are more integrated. Because when we're stressed, our mind is not focused. Tapping allows whatever you are stressed about, maybe blank screen syndrome, or "I don't believe in my work", "I can't write", whatever it is, then you can take that information and tap on those exact words you're thinking, (using your fingertips to tap on specific energy points of the body) and the tapping releases that fear. It sends a message to the brain that you're really safe, conscious or unconscious. In those calm moments, we can connect with the higher levels of the brain which stores the creative, imaginative thinking. 

How our energy affects writing 
Think of our energy flowing in a figure eight. If we as writers have any stress, anything that feels stuck, it's like a clog in the pipe that won't let our creativity flow. When you're tapping, you're opening that clog. It calms the mind and the body, and you can get out of the tornado of your own stress, so you can get to the peace and connect with your creativity. 

How Suzanne began helping writers 
Suzanne worked in NY in a corporate job during 9/11 and because of the stress, she needed to get out of the city and moved to Florida to emotionally heal. She found hypnotherapy, neurolinguistic programming, energy methods, neuroscience, and spiritual practices, which helped her get back to herself, and actually even stronger. Because she was able to enjoy a slower paced life in Florida, she was able to emobdy the tools she now had. She began all of this over 15 years ago, she didn't know anyone else using these tools, so she created a website to let people know about them, starting meetup groups, then eventually through word of mouth she started to help people. It began with women transforming themselves, helping them through mid-life crises, divorce, etc., anything that was self-empowerment. Then about 5 years ago, a published author approached Suzanne because she was under contract to write her second book. Her daughter had died, and she came to her saying she had writer's block. Working with Suzanne worked out so well not only did the author finish one book, but finished a second book right after. So then that writer referred her to another writer. And that writer introduced her to an executive in a writer's room. They brought Suzanne into help a writer's room that was having too much conflict. It worked so well that she kept being referred to writers. That's when she quit her full-time corporate job and helping writers became a full-time job. The rest is history. 

If you are interested in finding out more about Suzanne here is her website again and you can follow her on twitter @screenwritenow1

Thursday, September 10, 2020

WeScreenplay zoom: Embracing the Nuanced Latinx Experience

So I have not been publishing my blog at all lately. There has seemed to be a more toxic writer's universe on Twitter. I know you've seen it. It kind of scared me off I guess. But I created this blog for newer writers and I have to remember that I have things to help them grow as writers. If you're an Academy Award writer, this blog may not be for you. Everyone else, see if you get something out of it. 

So recently WeScreenplay hosted a zoom on Latinx showrunners and I was so inspired I had to post. First off, if you haven't been attending their zooms, they've been great. So keep your eye out for more. I've attended a couple so far and have loved them all. 

So this one was hosted by Joshua Noble and had showrunners Jenny Lorenzo, Latinx actress and writer, from things like Victor & Valentino and Gentefied, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, producer, director, writer of shows like Lost and The Dark Crystal, and Evangeline Ordaz, producer, actress and writer of things like Queen Sugar, Vida and 13 Reasons Why. 

They were all so passionate about what's going on with Latinx in TV and movies and had so many great things to say. So in no special order, here are some of the key things I took away from it. Mind you, I'm paraphrasing: 

Jenny Lorenzo (JL) grew up Cuban in Miami and said she didn't fit in growing up there. Even when she'd go to casting, they didn't know what to do with her. So when she'd write about her Cuban Abuela (Grandma) then those details are what formed a unique character. Tip: Use those unique characteristics to create unique and diverse characters in your pieces. 

Javier Grillo-Marxuach (JGM), from Puerto Rico, talked about when he wrote The Middle Man in 1998 he had to fight not to make a character more Latinx in a role. He didn't want a character to break out in Spanish or have Salsa music when his character walked. Because he himself is Latinx but doesn't like Salsa music. Every Latinx is different and has different experiences. They're all coming from different backgrounds and traditions. Tip: When writing a diverse character, make them complex then give them a Latinx name. Make them competent at their job and that's enough. That stays away from stereotypes. 

They all spoke about how inclusivity is important so when other people see people like them on TV or in movies, then they stop feeling like the "other". 

Plus, how it's their job to educate the execs. That they need to advocate for more people of color in those positions. Once we get to those positions, we do too! 

JGM mentioned he was a product of a diversity program. And how execs have biases for diverse people. And in the past 10 years, there have been more execs of color. It's slow, but it's happening. 

They all mentioned how networks want inclusivity but then they pitch to them and they all say, tone it down, it's too Latino. So it's mixed messages. But let's hope as more Latinx get in the exec roles, the less we will hear this. 

JGM brought up how in TV, mentorships are missing. How important it is that when you sell a show, to find a Showrunner who will help your vision end up as the final product. Tip: Find a Showrunner who doesn't want to take over your show, but teach you how to run it. That way the Showruner can get it up and running, teach you everything, and then they can go off and run other shows and your show succeeds. 

Evangeline Ordaz (EO) talked about how refreshing it is when she's in a room of all Latinx. She called it putting her "white brain on". When you're in an all Latinx room, you don't have to speak in different words or jargon because people all come from similar backgrounds. 

JL moved from Miami 5 years ago and talked about how there were so many Latinx out there. But when she came to LA it wasn't like that. So she decided to create the content she wanted to see and wasn't seeing. Tip: Create what you want to see. There are obviously other diverse people who want to see that too! If it's a universal theme, a larger audience will too. 

JGM mentions he writes any character as you normally would, and then suggests, making them Latinx. He tries to make at least one lead Latinx. Why not all of us? 

EO says we're not just one thing, all Latinx people. We're many things! Basically, you can't lump Latinx into one category. When you do, again, you end up with stereotypes. 

Even recently in my own writing group, I shared my Latinx sitcom. I have an amazing writing group of talented female writers. I based all my Latinx characters after my real relatives. But one non-Latinx writer gave me a note and said, 'Oh such and such would never happen so don't do this." Uh, what? I literally based this off my cousin! So, tip: If you are not a diverse writer, be careful when you tell a diverse writer, "such and such can never happen." Yes, it can! That's what makes diverse characters real! And not stereotypes! If you're not a diverse writer, tread lightly on "can never happen" notes. 

So that's basically the Latinx zoom. I hope you found it as interesting as I did. And hope it helps you write better diverse characters. I look forward to seeing them on the screen someday! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Your own progress is what matters

I always do a year-end review just to check in with myself, keep myself writing, and inspire myself to keep going. We writers all need that from time-to-time, don't we?

Well, this year has been my most successful year thus far. But it doesn't mean I'm supporting myself with my screenwriting career just yet. I have a new writing partner and together we got a huge production company interested in our comedy that they've attached themselves to. They've sent it to a big director and we're waiting to hear if he's attaching himself. We also finished a WW2 drama that I'm co-producing with two really big producers. And I finished a third comedy feature that when it's ready, I'm getting to a really huge producer. Plus, I gained a manager for the first time because of my comedy that has interest.

But even though I have a lot to be thankful for, I'm still not where I want to be with my career. But I'm definitely on my way. And like I've done in previous year-end reviews, it's important for us writers to relish the positive. We writers tend to compare ourselves to others that are reaching more success, whether financially, screen credits, meetings, the list is endless! But we have to remember that every writer has their own path. What might be a success for one writer one year, could be the success another writer sees the next year. When one writer wins in a contest one year, another screenwriter can see success a couple years later in a different contest. So what I'm saying, is do not compare yourself to anyone but yourself!

Did you do better in a contest this year than last?

Did you write more scripts this year than last?

Did you have more meetings this year than last?

Or even did you just get your butt in front of the computer more this year than last?

Whatever looks like success for you, is what matters! Sometimes our success can look small when we compare ourselves to other writers. But if we compare each writing year from one to the next we can see how far we've come. And that's all that really matters.

So what did your success look like this year? Whatever it was,  use it to have a successful 2020! You got this!