Hey, Pamie: “Someone Told Me My Idea Isn’t Good. Should I Listen?”

This has been sitting in the inbox for a while. My apologies.

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Hi Pam,

I attended your Chicks with Bics panel and we met briefly during the BBQ at the Austin Film Festival. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak on the panels and share your experiences, and also for taking the time to talk with me personally. I am a novelist and an aspiring TV comedy writer so everything you spoke about has direct relevance to what I’m trying to do/achieve/be. Therefore, I am writing to express my thanks.

Your advice solidified my plans to start a blog and take an improv class, the latter of which frightens me to my very core (it was the only time I purchased something where I hoped my credit card would be declined).

With the hope that I’m not overstaying my email welcome, I do have a question for you – if you have the time. I wrote a half-hour comedy with the following logline: An orthodox Jewish family, desperate to have a child, tries to adopt a little Jewish girl but through a mixup at the agency, ends up with an African American one. (it’s sort of a Modern Family meets Different Strokes) I know it’s not necessarily a marketable idea but I hope it’s unique enough to get read and, in an ideal world, help me get staffed.

I received notes from a (film) producer friend who said it was basically too Jewish to sell and has too narrow of an appeal to use as a writing sample. So, my question: Is he right in that IF it doesn’t have broad appeal, could that be a problem? Should I be writing something that’s safe and appeals to the broadest audience possible so that agents, producers etc. know that I can, or is it ok to have an idea that may be a bit niche without them thinking I can only write to that niche?

Thank you again so very much for your time and assistance. It really is invaluable to receive advice from someone with your accomplishments.

Best regards,
Megan
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Hi, Megan! It’s good to hear from you, and YAY on the improv class! I know it’s scary, but that’s the point. You’ll have more sympathy for the actors in the roles you create, and all actors want is love, attention, sympathy and everything else you have and then more than that and actors can be needy, is what I’m saying.

So, someone told you that your idea wasn’t that great. The next question to ask yourself is, “Do I want that person to be right?” Because if this is the story that showcases your voice, your point of view, your unique place in this huge world of writers and storytellers, then you have to stick with it. If you’re looking to get staffed, showrunners aren’t looking for writers with “broad appeal.” They’re looking for something new, something different, something funny with heart and talent. Did this story happen to you or someone you know? Even better. And even more reason to tell the haters to suck it. Continue reading

Hey, Pamie: “How do I best jump-start my stalled novel and then what do I do with it?”

Today’s weekly procrastination is making me have to use the tl;dr shorthand, which I only recently looked up as I’d never had to learn it before, because I don’t believe in its philosophy. (What if it was good, and you would’ve been so happy to have read all those words? Why so much judging on length alone? If you’re so busy, what are you doing screwing around on the Internet, anyway?)

The tl;dr answer is in this entry’s title, but here’s the letter in full (I’ll bold the parts where she’s asking her questions): Continue reading

“Super cute script, girl.”

I was driving home from a features meeting yesterday listening to Scriptnotes, a podcast by Craig Mazin and John August. If you are an aspiring screenwriter and you haven’t found Scriptnotes yet, I highly encourage it. Craig plays the cranky rich guy who grumbles when a screenwriter finds this job hard while John soothes with his kind voice and gentle encouragement. I think it’s the kind of balance you need inside your brain if screenwriting is the kind of thing you want to do to your life. (“Oh, just shut up and write, you whiny baby! …and good luck, you can do it!”)

Lately Craig and John have been taking a few minutes out of their podcast to ponder why there are so few women in this industry. As a woman who had just taken two general meetings that day in features, slammed in the middle a week of no less than five TV sitcom pitches, I wanted to shout back, “I’M TRYING, GUYS.” Craig and John gave some stats based off their own recent inquiry for submissions — only 12% of the writers who sent them pages were female — and with less than a third of Nicholl submissions coming from women and only around a quarter of working screenwriters with the Guild being female, they eventually somewhat concluded: “I guess they just aren’t as interested.” And then I got really bummed out. Continue reading

Hey, Pamie: “How do I get an agent if I’m a writer/director/filmmaker?”

Today’s Weekly Procrastination came from an email out of last week’s comments section, and is a little out of my wheelhouse. So I enlisted the help of my longtime friend Kat Candler. Kat and I met at the Kansas City Film Festival what feels like six million years ago, and I’ve watched her grow into a breathtaking badass.

It also speaks to the caliber of person she is that when I asked if she would help me answer this week’s question, she took time out of her hectic schedule not to just jot off a quick line or two, but go the extra mile like the teacher she is. She’s amazing like that.

First, our question: Continue reading