Breaking in to TV and
Yeah, right. After years of
learning the business of submitting short fiction, and becoming
successful enough to rack up lots of
published credits in print magazines and anthologies, not
to mention teaching students how to do
that, I'm trying to get into teleplays and screenplays.
It's like being sent back to kindergarten! The biggest challenge:
getting an agent--any agent, any agent at all--to even respond to a
I've toyed with screenwriting since
2005, when I first got the software Final Draft, which is designed just
for writing scripts (and it's fantastic at it). In fact, the book I'm
currently shopping, Lost Souls, began as a screenplay. I toyed
with a Law & Order script as well, and then moved on to sitcom
scripts. I've gone back to it on and off over the years, and about a
year ago revisited it.
According to sitcom writing legend Ken
Levine, when you try to break into writing sitcoms, you should have two
things ready to go. The first is a spec script--a teleplay based on an
existing sitcom, to show you can write within an existing framework. The
second is a pilot of your own for a sitcom you create--to show that you
can create from the ground up. The spec script I wrote is for The Big
Bang Theory, and while I don't have any ideas that I'm The Next Big
BBT Writer, it has been a blast writing it--and I hope it will serve as
a good showpiece to an agent. But first, I need an agent to actually
respond to me.
Now, with short fiction, the process is
fairly typical. You send along a story, unsolicited, often with a brief
cover letter, and wait for acceptance or rejection. But writing for TV
and film is more like writing novels; you never submit
anything unsolicited, and you start with an agent. Agents are the
gatekeepers; you don't get anywhere unless you go through them. But try
to get any of them to respond! Even with book agents and editors, I've
gotten reasonably timely declinations, but after contacting dozens and
dozens of agents who handle sitcom writers, I haven't gotten a single
return phone call or email.
This is going to be a learning
experience. And I'm not getting any younger! I'll update this as I learn
more and move further along.