Writing Samples and Self Promotion

writing samples

Today we have a reader question about writing samples and portfolios.

Melanie writes:

Hi! Thanks for your site, love the resource and your writing style! I am an aspiring television writer currently working as a PA. Just wanted to get your feedback on creating a portfolio of writing samples, and if this is something I should be putting together. I have a few scripts in the works, but I am intimidated with all of the options for self promotion, including all the social media outlets, blogs, etc… Should I be heavily marketing myself this way? I’ve looked at Portfolio Box to possibly present different aspects of my creativity (photography, writing, editing) and thought that may be a good option.

In your opinion, how can I put myself out there more? PAing is definitely giving me more experience on sets, but I still feel like I am on the “outside” of the creative side. I haven’t met many people that are interested in writing comedy but I am moving to Atlanta (where I am originally from) in a few months and I am planning to take some workshops/maybe try stand up to be around comedians…

Now I am on a tangent, but any thoughts on my scenario will at least make me feel a little bit more validated in my hurry up and wait lifestyle in this industry… it’s nice to hear from someone motivated to do the same thing! Thanks for listening!

Thanks for the kind words! Now down to business…

The answer to your first question is, yes, you should be creating a “portfolio” of writing samples.

You should always be writing and generating new material. With every script you write, you get a little better. And no one is ever going to contemplate hiring you if you don’t have a finished writing sample to show. Always consider your best and latest script as your “writing sample.” But keep your old scripts in your back pocket, because they may come in handy down the line…

It’s good to have different writing samples for different types of shows.

If and when you get representation, your agent or manager will send your samples out for staffing consideration. What sample they send out depends on what type of show you’re trying to staff on. For comedy, it may be good to have a “network” comedy sample and a “cable” comedy sample. Or a “single cam” comedy sample and a “multi-cam” comedy sample. Maybe have something that would air on HBO and another sample that would air on ABC.

For me, being an hour-long drama writer, I have a cop show set in present day. I have a paranormal sci-fi sample. I also have a couple of historical drama samples. Obviously, a rep wouldn’t send my historical drama sample to try and get me a job on a cop show, but for that, they can use my cop show sample. Etc…

On Self Promotion

I’m not familiar with Portfolio Box, so I can not speak to that service, but in general, I firmly believe the best self-promotion you can get is personal connections with people who work in the TV industry. Those are the contacts that are going to help you get the job. So when you DO have a strong writing sample, you have people you can email who will read it, and possibly help you get representation or a meeting with a showrunner about a staff job. Or they could help you get in touch with someone who may want to develop your pilot with you.

Keep in mind; it’s easy for a new writer to get too bogged down with “how to be a writer” or “how to self-promote” when all you should be doing is writing. You said you have a few ideas “in the works.” Write those scripts. Stop worrying about how to self-promote and finish those scripts. Everything else is procrastination. Write. Write. Write.  Then, when you’ve made the right industry connections, get that fantastic script into someone’s hands who can help you.

On Being a Production Assistant

I, like you, started off as a set production assistant. It’s an excellent place to start, but it’s not where you want to be if you desire to write for TV. That is unless you can somehow chat up the writers and producers on set without the AD breathing down your neck. (You can’t)

I would highly suggest trying to move your way into an office production assistant position, or even better, a writers’ assistant position (easier said than done.) That is what I did, and that is how I started to meet the writers and producers who eventually hired me on as their assistants. Which, in turn, gave me the contacts I needed to get my first TV writing job. But this leads to my next point, which you’re probably not going to like…

On Moving to Atlanta

If you want to write in television, you need to be in Los Angeles. All the writers’ rooms are in Los Angeles. All the writers are in Los Angeles. All the agents and managers are in Los Angeles. There may be a couple of shows who write out of Atlanta, but I don’t personally know of any. Even the writers’ room for the show “Atlanta” is probably in Los Angeles. (I may be wrong… but I’m probably right.) Now, I’m not sure if you’re moving from Los Angeles to Atlanta… if you are, I would maybe rethink that strategy. If you’re moving from somewhere else to Atlanta, I would very much think of Atlanta as a stepping stone to get to LA. Keep your eye on the prize.

I hope that answers your questions about writing samples. Also check out my article on HOW TO BECOME A TELEVISION WRITER.

2017 Emmy Scripts – Download PDF – All Nominees

2017 Emmy Scripts

EVERY SINGLE 2017 EMMY SCRIPT AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD PDF.

All of these 2017 Emmy scripts are the television scripts that were submitted to the Television Academy for consideration in the 2017 69th Primetime Emmy Awards which were held on September 17, 2017. The files are hosted by the academy, not by this website. Follow the links below to read and download the pdf 2017 Emmy scripts.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

If any of these script links are not working, please comment or email me, and I will take care of it ASAP. Enjoy!

2018 Emmy Scripts – Download PDF – All Nominees

EVERY SINGLE 2018 EMMY SCRIPT AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD PDF.

All of these 2018 Emmy scripts are the television scripts that were submitted to the Television Academy for consideration in the 2018 70th Primetime Emmy Awards which will be held on September 17, 2018. The files are hosted by the academy, not by this website. Follow the links below to read and download the pdf 2018 Emmy scripts.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

 

If any of these script links are not working, please comment or email me, and I will take care of it ASAP. Enjoy!

Getting a Job is Hard. Getting a Screenplay Produced is Awesome!

Lately, I’ve been working my ass off trying to convince people to let me work my ass off. I have called several different productions over the past week. What I’ve come to realize, is that people (usually) don’t hire people they don’t already know. It’s becoming a real pain in the ass trying to get the position I want, especially when people retain the same crews over and over again — on every production! Unfortunately, that old Hollywood adage still holds true – getting your foot in the door IS the hardest part.

Another thing I realized is that trying to join a Union right out of school is also a massive pain in the ass! I NEED to have some work experience, to be accepted by the Union… but I sorta’ need to be already accepted by the Union before employers will hire me for said work experience. Funny how that works, huh? So, on that note —-> I’ve also become aware of the fact that just because a state is a “Right-to-Work” state, doesn’t mean someone will hire you if you’re not in the union. It might be illegal, but one production came right out and told me that if I wasn’t in the IATSE, then they weren’t going to hire me. I’m sure I would love the IATSE if I were in it, but right now… it’s a fucking pain in my ass!

So, now that I’ve accepted the fact that I am not going to get the job I originally wanted, I’ve started re-applying to all the same productions for a set PA position. Only to learn, that more than half of the productions I’ve applied to are now totally crewed up!

If you are planning on working in the Industry, I guarantee you will come to loathe the term “Crewed Up.” Every time you hear it, your immediate response will more than likely be the “f-word”… screamed at the top of your lungs… in complete anger and frustration. Just make sure you say it after you hang up the phone.

In other news, a short film that I recently wrote is now being produced! I got to visit the set last night, and it was pretty weird/amazing to witness my words being brought to life.

Now that I’m done with the short, I have finally started on my next feature, which is a little more innocent than my previous scripts. It’s kind of like How to Train Your Dragon meets E.T., and I’m writing it for animation, even though I know all the big animations guys (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks… etc.) develop everything in-house. It’s a story I’m passionate about, and if I do it well, I can at least use it to snag an agent or a producer’s attention.

I’ll keep posting every once in a while about the trials, troubles, and tribulations, which arise from my attempts at getting a job in the motherfraaaacking movie industry.

Oh, and look for a new script review coming soon! As well as a further detailed article on what I’ve learned while trying to find a job.

:FADE OUT.

Graduated! Now what…

Finally graduated from college. All done.

Now, what do I do?

The hunt for work has officially begun. I’m craving it. If I’m not on a production soon, I might just paint my bedroom walls with the inside of my head. Too bad my friend’s IMDB pro account expired. I need to start cold calling and throwing my resume around to everything going on anywhere. The hardest part right now seems not to be getting onto a production, but figuring out where to live/stay for the first couple weeks while I find an apartment. I need temporary housing around the Atlanta area until I get a few paychecks. That sounds like a bitch to figure out. Craig’s list? I don’t know. Hotels are expensive.

The good news is I hear there is an ass load of production coming to Atlanta this year.

In other (writing) news, I finished another feature. I’m sitting on it right now while I develop a couple more ideas. I know it’s not going to rewrite itself, but I think some time apart will give us a fresh start when we reignite our relationship. I am developing a script for animation right now. I’ve never written for animation, but I think it could be a lot of fun. It’s also a very innocent script, unlike the R rated thrillers I have been writing recently. I’m excited about it.

I also have a stack of unread screenplays to read and review. So I better get started on some of that.

That’s where I am in my life.

The Walking Dead Season 2 Official

Just hours after my previous post I was perusing around IGN and read that Frank Darabont has confirmed Season 2 of The Walking Dead.  This is good news.  This means that the show is so good that AMC doesn’t feel the need to test season 1 before they greenlight season 2. There will be 13 episodes, and they are supposed to start shooting in February 2011.

For more about Season 2 and the possibility of casting Michonne, visit IGN.

Zombies on TV and I Love AMC

I don’t know about you, but I can not wait for the zombie apocalypse. First thing I’m going to do is grab my surviving group of friends. Next, I will take over the closest Walmart. Just think about it. Walmart has everything you need to survive. Slowly eat your way through the food– fresh to canned. You have ammo and guns, clothes and toiletries… practically anything you would need to survive. Plus you can get on the roof for some fun afternoon zombie sniping, then at night head over to the electronics section and watch a movie or play some video games. With all the video games, board games, and lego boxes, who could get bored?

As you can see, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about zombies. So it should come as no surprise that I am super excited about AMC’s new up and coming show The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead, based on the comic book by the same name, is about Police officer Rick Grimes and his attempt at leading a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies. When I first heard someone was finally doing a zombie TV show I was skeptical. I knew someone was going to fuck it up. Then I heard the show is on AMC. I immediately got super excited. AMC, so far, has been pretty amazing at acquiring TV shows worth watching. Breaking Bad is amazing, Mad Men is irritatingly addicting, and even their new show Rubicon has me watching every week. Zombies check AMC check Frank Darabont, wa wa wa wa WHAT! You mean the writer/director of amazing films such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile is behind The Walking Dead!? Well, now I’m just ecstatic.

The show, which airs October 31st, was shot in Atlanta. This is also exciting because Atlanta is close to where I reside and a place I plan on trying to find a job after I graduate. So, be sure to watch it when it airs so that it receives a 2nd season, and let’s pray it stays shooting in the ATL.

Check it out HERE.