Sunday, January 21, 2007

Interning for Television

So I got a gig as a writer's intern for a television show. It's a show that's been picked up for 12 episodes, but aren't airing yet, so I can't really talk about it.

Just to fill in some backstory. I am a wannabe writer/director. Like 90% of the people I have met in the past week. I have been turned on to the film industry by movies. Television really never had any draw for me.

Until now...

I always thought that if I wanted to be a writer (a screenwriter), I'd have to endure the dreary solitary life of being permanently attached to the computer until I wrote something that someone, somewhere actually wanted and didn't mind taking a chance on a newbie writer. Until that time I would have to suppress the near suicidal thoughts and crushing criticism and muscle through, practice, and hope I was getting better in my isolated void, losing all objectivity on my writing and soul.

Television is a collaboration. I'm sure a lot of you know that. I did. But I didn't really understand what that meant. I am very overprotective of my ideas. I don't want anyone to steal them. Yeah, who would steal them. I've had scripts that I have kept completely to myself that have been "stolen." There's some strange collective consciousness that taps into the nether void and pulls out strikingly similar ideas. 2006 saw a ton of vampire stories. Don't worry, you'll be seeing a handful of them hitting the big and small screens shortly.

The problem was that keeping my stories to myself meant I never developed them. They never got to see the light of day. They never became anything more than ideas in my head. They never evolved.

I'm a smart guy. I come up with some pretty good ideas. My screenwriting skills are decent. The problem is nailing that idea... no... exploiting an idea to its fullest possibility. Cashing in on the premise to the fullest extent. Having a group of people toss around ideas on how to make your idea better is amazing. Seeing and hearing how a show is developed from idea to words on a page to revision after colorful revision has helped my screenwriting more than I could ever verbalize.

The scary thing is that most of the writers are also Executive or Co-executive Producers. You know, the people who are ultimately in charge. So if you mess up or piss them off, you can pretty much kiss your butt goodbye. This is their show. Their baby. Usually one person cme up with the idea / pilot and a couple showrunners become attached to develop the pilot into a series. They write a new episode, roughly every week. This also includes revisions of previous episodes. And here I am... helping?

More like, feeling like I am in the way. Who am I to even be in their presence? OMG. They're talking to me. What should I say? Should I act normal? Wait a minute... what the hell is normal?

In all honesty, I don't know how to answer any of these questions. I think it boils down to using common sense. It appears I have really lucked out. These people are very nice. They let me read all the scripts and answer some of my more benign questions about the series and television writing in gerenal. I am treating this purely as a learning experience...

...and am finding out that I am enjoying the process of television writing. There is a wamr family feel, that makes it feel like everyone in the team is appreciated.

I am the new guy... so what do I know? Nothing, really. But for now, I am watching with eager eyes.


Snuley said...

Interesting. Never met a screenwriter.

Shelley said...

That is awesome, and I hope you can make the most of this!

Someone I know was staffed on a show but got let go at the end of the season. The reason was she didn't speak up enough. There's a balance, obviously, but don't be afraid to hold back when the time is right. Showrunners need people who aren't afraid to throw out their $0.02 in the room, but not care if they throw those ideas into the scrap heap as well.