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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TV Staffing Season

By Margaux Froley

You might think that TV staffing season is more of a spring event. Yes, generally new and returning shows do the majority of their hiring, or as we call it, staffing, around May. However, January is here and the prepared writer should be acting like May is tomorrow.

If this is your first staffing season and you are still trying to get that first elusive staff writer job, you should be getting your material ready to shop to agents and possible representatives. Giving an agent as much time as possible to get to know your work and your own personality only helps them pitch you to shows that might be hiring. Now is the time to solidify any representation relationships. With this jump on the season, an agent can do his/her work getting you general meetings with the networks and studios that will be doing the hiring in months to come. Again, this all allows you to build stronger relationships with people who will be in the position to hire you or to pass your work onto showrunners looking for new writers. Creating fans of your writing early on only helps the staffing process for when you need agents and executives in your corner come April. And, don’t forget, because of cable programming staffing is more of a year round job than ever before. Sure, the majority of jobs come up in the spring, but being ready to go when that hot new HBO show comes looking in February is always a smart move.

Now, the bigger concern many of you might have: What about my material? Is my DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES spec going to work for me this year? Do I need to write another spec? What if I only have a pilot? I would say that having a current spec is first and foremost. If you don’t have a functioning spec, get writing! The market is seeing a lot of specs of DEXTER, HOUSE, and THE OFFICE. New shows that are relevant to spec might be THE MENTALIST, MAD MEN or even DAMAGES, and comedies 30 ROCK, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, and maybe for the kookier writers, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. You should be spec-ing a show that is in the genre you want to get hired in. Don’t write a HOUSE and wonder why THE BIG BANG THEORY didn’t call you. A spec should be of a show that is critically acclaimed and has some commercial viability too. You won’t get a lot of fans of your work if no one has seen the show you are mimicing. And watch out for those stunt specs. Writing the DEXTER spec where his sister dies might be a great sample, but that doesn’t show off your skills to work with the given components of a show. The people hiring you want to know you can work with their cast of characters week after week; you can’t kill a series regular every week.

Having original material, preferably a pilot or a play, has become more and more in demand. Specs are a necessary evil to show people you can mimic someone else’s voice, but with so many people trying to break into TV, you also need material to show that you have a voice. If you are aiming to get staffed, your pilot is being read as a sample. Feel free to make it memorable. You don’t have to worry about production limitations yet; this pilot is purely an example of you showing off your voice. Maybe in a few years someone might want to make it, once you get more experience under your belt, but for now, your original work should be just that, original.

Breaking into TV has become more and more difficult. I highly recommend taking advantage of the many fellowship opportunities around town. Even being a finalist in the ABC or the Warner Brothers Fellowships might get that agent who was hip pocketing you to want to push harder for you this staffing season. These fellowships are a great way to stand out from the pack of writers trying to break in. Even then there are no guarantees.

Good luck getting your scripts in order. Happy Staffing!

Margaux Froley is a staff writer on the CW's Privileged. A long time member of The Script Department, Margaux is available on a limited basis to read and review your television scripts. Rouge Wavers receive a 15% discount on all television services.

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1 comment:

Seth Fortin said...

Cool! I love it when the RW has stuff about breaking into TV. Thanks, Margaux!