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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Guest Blog: The Independent Pilot

You meet a lot of pretty cool people on the picket line. And one of those people I met was Shawn Thomas, the friendly, gifted and enthusiastic creator of Trailer Trash, a spec television pilot. Think that you have to play the pilot season rat race game to have even a shot at a pilot? Think again. Shawn was kind enough to take a little time out to share some of his experiences with Rouge Wavers vis a vis an interview he did recently. Read on, Wavers, and get inspired.

The following is an excerpt from an interview featured in the book
Gardner's Guide to Writing and Producing for Television
. This is a wonderful book for those trying to break into the TV writing business. The authors Dee LaDuke and Mark Alton Brown have written and produced great shows like Designing Women and Girlfriends. While Shawn doesn't necessarily recommend shooting an independent pilot as he did, he does think shooting shorts, even with no budget, is a good way to always stay creative.

Interview with Shawn Thomas

Shawn Thomas has been a writers' assistant and script coordinator for seven years on such series as Titus, In-Laws, Wanda at Large, and Girlfriends. He is one of the many talented young professionals working hard to establish themselves in the television and film industry. He went to film school at the College of Santa Fe and moved to Los Angeles permanently in 1997 with the goals of writing and directing.

Having worked with Shawn for the past three years, we have been impressed with his can-do attitude, his creative energy, and his willingness to seize the initiative and think outside the box to carve out his niche in the industry. He has, at his own expense, made several short films and written and produced a spec series pilot titled Trailer Trash.

Have the years you put in as a writers' assistant helped boost your career?

Being a writers' assistant afforded me the opportunity to be in the room with talented writers and learn the craft firsthand. I was fortunate to start off working as a writers' assistant on the FOX dark comedy, Titus. Showrunners Jack Kenny, Brian Hargrove, and Christopher Titus encouraged me, from the start, to pitch in the room. Pitching boosted my confidence and ultimately led to the opportunity to pitch and write two episodes for the series. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled before I was promoted to staff writer. I've been lucky to have the same inclusive experience on Girlfriends where I have now written a produced episode with another writers' assistant. I've been lucky to land on series where I was heard, because I have been in writers' room situations where showrunners didn't even like to hear me type, let alone breathe.

As I work towards being staffed as a writer on a show, I am also pursuing other interests I have in the business without sacrificing all the work I've put in so far.

Tell me about Trailer Trash.

Trailer Trash is an independent spec pilot aimed at cable networks and video podcasts. It is an irreverent movie trailer review show; think The Daily Show meets Ebert & Roeper. I came up with the idea with Jeff Hodsden, a production assistant at the time, while we were working on Titus. After it sat on the shelf for a few years, I took the lead in developing and producing it.

What did that involve?

In producing it, I had to surround myself with people who were willing to work for free, or nearly free, but were committed to developing a successful product that everyone believed in. It began with landing a very talented director and editor, Ric Serena. From there, we looked for a cast and crew who wanted to bolster their audition reels and resumes. Once we surrounded ourselves with all these driven, likeminded people, many began volunteering a lot of time and equipment to the production. We ended up shooting two twenty-two minute episodes.

For more of the interview, pick up Gardner's Guide to Writing and Producing for Television on or at your local Barnes & Noble.

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