I was told recently of a TV writer wanna-be who has dismissed the various writers' programs in Hollywood. He's so convinced of his own singular talent that he doesn't need to bother with such things. In no small amount of time, he believes that his genius will be recognized all on its own.
Look, I'm all for self-confidence. You need it if you're gonna stare down a blank sheet of paper or screen every day for a living. But you also need at least half a brain when it comes to making opportunities for yourself. By my unofficial guestimation, the various studio-sponsored programs for new and emerging writers will staff anywhere from 30 to 50 first-time staff writers each year. Anyone passing up a chance to be included in those ranks is clueless.
While you're waiting for the spotlight to find you, pal, every other writer in LA just got to take a step forward because you left the line. You just made it that much easier for everybody else to have a shot, and that much harder on yourself.
But don't listen to me. I don't know anything. Except that I'm a working TV writer thanks to the Warner Bros. Writers' Workshop, which I cannot recommend highly enough. But be warned: you have to bring your A-game not just to your spec, but to your personal essay and (if you advance) to the personal interview as well.
The submission window is fast approaching for the WB workshop. You have from May 1 until June 1 to apply, and you've got a wide range of approved shows to spec.
The submission process should not be approached lightly. I cannot stress that enough. Here are some sobering statistics to prove the point. When I applied to the WB Workshop in 2009, there were over 1,300 spec script submissions. From that pile, my script was one of 10 that made the final cut. In 2011, the number of submissions rose to 1,800 -- again, only 10 were selected. Expect even more this year.
Yes, those odds are staggering. But guess what? The odds are always staggering. If you're a wanna-be TV writer with half a brain, you already know there are thousands of people just like you in Hollywood right now. They are your coffee baristas and waitresses and bartenders and cubicle monkeys writing and scribbling whenever they can, cranking out specs and making themselves ready and available for any break at all.
Of course, these programs aren't the only way into the industry. Some people land the coveted position of writers' assistant or PA on a show. This is hard and thankless work, and sadly it cuts into that valuable writing time, but it can often serve to open doors for new writers. Other wanna-be's are talented and lucky enough to write an original spec that gets someone's attention and maybe, just maybe, is actually bought by a production company or studio.
My point: you need to be doing all of these things. You never know which door is gonna open, so the last thing you wanna do is block a potential path with arrogance or stupidity.
Below are links to some of the other programs for new writers. All are worthy of your time. These aren't the only ways to break into TV writing. But wanna-be TV writers simply cannot afford to pass them up.
Unless you're just really, really stupid.