This has been sitting in the inbox for a while. My apologies.
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.
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.
A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with the smart and funny Linda Holmes. Linda was in town to cover the TCA’s, an annual two-week tv critic lock-in that sounds like the television equivalent of your dad forcing you to smoke a carton of cigarettes in a closet. It was her last night, and we got together to talk all things.
About twenty minutes into our conversation, I looked up to catch a glimpse of Famous Hair. It was hair so famous I knew without even seeing the face attached to it, who was standing in front of me.
I’ve been around enough famous people now to confidently tell you that the hair of the famous is just different. It’s better. It’s amazing. Even when it’s supposed to be doing nothing, it’s doing something. It’s sitting on a recognizable head being even better than regular ‘ol boring strands of keratin.
[AUDIO NOTE: I performed this piece this past weekend at Anna David's True Tales of Lust and Love (also starring Melissa Villasenor, Morgan Walsh, and Claire Titelman.) I highly recommend listening to this tale in all its mortifying glory -- it's better with the sound of an audience screech-laughing in horror. Here's the link to the recording of the show. (On iTunes here in the 11/12 show.) I'm the third story.]
[WARNING: This story is not for the squeamish.]
So I’m super pregnant. And with that comes all these horrible things. Like, I can’t feel my fingertips – haven’t been able to in weeks. It’s carpal tunnel, it apparently happens to pregnant women, and it’s shitty. My gums bleed when I brush my teeth, I’ve lost all the hair on my arms, I am down to one position in bed where I can sleep without my legs going numb, I’ve got this cold I’m not allowed to take anything for other than hot baths and pity parties, and there’s a parasite that lives inside of me that absorbs all of my nutrients. Or as my El Salvadorian housekeeper likes to say: “Your baby is stealing your beauty.”
I am not the best when it comes to names and faces. I will remember one or the other, but I cannot seem to put them together. And I’ve even tried the thing where you hear someone’s name and then you imagine them wrapped up in their name, like “Monica Berg” becomes a cheeseburger moaning in ecstasy or whatever, but the next time I see that lady, you can bet I’ll somehow end up calling her “Patty Cheesescream,” right to her face.
I’m not sure how Jason got it into his head that I needed to shoot a gun. I know that he’s not the only person in my life who assumed I would enjoy such a thing. Chris Huff, a weapons expert, has wanted to take me to a shooting range for years. It’s only his wise wife, Allison, who has insisted that would be a bad idea. “First of all, she’ll be holding that gun sideways in five minutes, acting like she’s tearing up the joint.”
It’s still tonight, so technically I’m still doing my update for today.
And I will start it with the tail end of another fantastic email, one that might make you jealous with it’s geniusness. (At least it did for me.) Behold, Brett N’s contribution:
The book signing went well! By the end of the hour it looked like a Derby Gang had shown up to be my bodyguards, and perhaps their intimidating size could be the reason the place sold out my books before everybody got a chance to get a copy. Note to writers: get a gang. When the pretty pants-less lady stares down your audience in a bookstore, it turns out they’ll pretty much do anything for her.
In all honesty, as much as the pants-less lady did her job, I’m really grateful for all my friends and fans who braved misery (aka: The Grove on a weekend) to come out and hear me read a couple of things. They also got a very special letter from Little Pam before a few gifts were exchanged. The derby girls met writer girls, and the few boys in attendance couldn’t possibly have minded… well, mostly because of the pants-less lady. And in all honesty, this book reading really made me miss performing.