I get two or three emails a day like this from strangers:
Forgive the intrusion. I want to connect with you and request your expertise as to the best way to pitch a series treatment to the cable and over the air TV networks.
I'm sure you've heard this story before. I have a treatment for a 60 minute scripted, dramatic series. […]My treatment is registered with the WGA and I have an NDA that I can send to anyone interested in reading it. Do you have any suggestions on who to approach and how? I realize I have no track record, but, I'm certain it will grab someone in the first 30 seconds.
I don't have time to answer the question individually for people, so I usually refer them to my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING and to this old blog post. Afterwards, they either tell me their situation is special because their Really Great Idea for a Television Series is the Best Really Great Idea for a Television Series to come along in decades…or they call me a jerk for not offering to read their Really Great Idea for a Television Series, refer them to my agent, and give them the names of people to contact in the industry.
And so it goes. You've heard it all before from me, again and again, and it's getting as tiresome for you to read about it as it is for me to deal with it.
But this time I'm leading up to a variation I received on the usual request and I think the exchange is worth sharing with you. I got the following email a few days ago:
I'm writing you because I read your blog and I thought that you would be a great source for information on finding writers. I am currently looking for writers for a couple projects that I'd like to produce and/or pitch and I was wondering if you could give me advice on finding writers for TV and Film. Are there any great messages boards or events to attend? Also, I know you're not a lawyer, but how should I protect my ideas and the writers ideas/work if they were to send me anything. Hope you can help!
That was a new twist on the old question for me. So I replied:
First, let me ask you a couple of blunt questions…with no offense
intended (these are questions you need to ask yourself, too, before
setting out to work with writers). What does a writer need you for?
What is the incentive for a writer work with you developing your ideas
into screenplays or pitches…as opposed to just trying to sell his
own ideas? You mention that you'd like to produce…but do you have
any actual producing experience?
I got a very nice reply, but it was clear that she was still missing the point of my questions:
I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. I'm actually an actress here in LA and I see so many voids on TV and in Film and it's really been frustrating me lately. I have several projects/ideas that I'd like to put together, not for me to act in, but to produce to fill those voids, specifically, in single camera comedy for TV. I don't have any connections in Hollywood or producing experience, but I have the passion and desire to do what I need to do to make things happen. Also, I know people with producing experience who would be more than willing to help me along the way. The only problem is, I'm not a writer and I feel that writing for TV, especially comedy, requires great skills. If all else fails, I will write. I just thought that in LA there has to be writers that are looking to get their work out there as well and who are trying to target the same audience that I'd like to reach. This is my reason for reaching out to writers.
Here's an excerpt from my response:
Please don't take offense at what I am about to say, I just want to be
honest and straight-forward with you, it is not my intent to insult
you or hurt your feelings.
In Hollywood, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. What is
NYPD BLUE? A bunch of cops in NY solving crimes. ABC didn't buy the
idea…they bought Steven Bochco doing cops in NY solving crimes. What
is EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND? A married guy with kids whose parents live
across the street. CBS didn't buy the idea….they bought popular
standup comic Ray Romano and veteran comedy writer/producer Phil
Rosenthal executing that idea. What is BOSTON LEGAL? A bunch of
lawyers in Boston. ABC didn't buy the idea…they bought David E.
Kelley doing lawyers in Boston. The networks buy voice and experience
and relationships and proven success. I'm saying all that because what
you have are ideas…and you are looking for writers to flesh them
out. But since you aren't a writer, and you aren't (as far as I know)
an actress who has a huge following or production deals, you don't
really bring anything to the party, so-to-speak. You don't have the
voice, experience, the relationships, or the proven success.
The best way for you to find writers is to network among your friends.
Perhaps you can find a friend of a friend of a friend who has writing
talent but lacks inspiration (perhaps a friend of one of those producers you know)
You need to find someone who wants to
work with you because they like you on a personal level…not because
you are offering any real opportunity…because, let's face it, you
Why not try writing the scripts yourself…why wait until "all else fails?"
I haven't heard back from her yet, but I'll update this post if I do.