interview: Raf Esparza, NBC Late Night Writers Workshop

I met Raf back when I was a fellow in the Nick program. He had taken a meeting with Karen Kirkland, and she introduced us. When I heard that NBC was starting a Late Night Writers Workshop, I thought Raf would be great for the program, and it was no surprise to me when he got in.

Congrats on having been chosen for the inaugural Late Night Writers Workshop! You seemed like the perfect candidate because you’ve been doing this for a while: you worked on the Tonight Show as a coordinator, submitted jokes, and you perform a late night talk show at Flappers Comedy Club. How did all that help you write the material you submitted?

Hey Kiyong, thank you so much for the nice words (please do not cash the check I gave you to say said nice things, it won’t clear until the end of the month).

For me, the Late Night Writers Workshop was the cumulation of all the little things I’ve tried to do for the past five years—including my time at The Tonight Show and the creation of my own late night talk show Early Late Night.

At The Tonight Show I learned the discipline needed for a successful writing schedule and the ability to persevere through constant rejection.

Writing monologue jokes is a pretty thankless job (even when you do get paid). You spend hours of your time researching, sifting through news articles trying to find the best takes on the day’s headlines. The minute my shift would end, I’d sit at my computer and force myself to write for at least another hour. After a full day of work, I’d be tired as hell—but sticking to that routine was something that I knew would one day pay off.

I didn’t get a ton of jokes on at the very beginning and would often get discouraged—until one day one of the most prolific writers at the show (an awesome writer named Jon Macks) shared the following statistic: for every 100 jokes you write, 1 will get on air.

Now just take a moment to really think about that number. 1. For Every 100.

(more…)

Continue Reading

interview: MysteryTVWritersAsst

I follow @MysteryTVWrtrAs on Twitter. Apparently we’ve met before, but I have no idea who it is, and I know nothing about this person’s gender/ethnicity/age. I’m not even sure whether this person works in comedy or drama. We got chatting one night on Twitter, and I asked to do an interview. This person’s anonymity allowed for some candid answers about being a writers’ assistant.

What’s a typical day like as a writers’ assistant?

Every day is different. But a typical day is keeping your ass in the seat and taking notes. All the other writers get up to pee, you stay in your seat. Have an important call/text, redirect it to your laptop. I now have carpal tunnel due to many hours over many months with an indecisive Showrunner. It sucks, but it’s the path I chose.

How should someone go about trying to get a job as writers’ assistant?

My story: I was a PA on a show (how did I get that?…there was a listing for a PA gig on the studio website). While the other PA’s would take the long runs for the mileage reimbursement, I would get to know the writers by doing the short runs.  Eventually the writers’ assistant was let go, and they needed someone ASAP…ME!!

(more…)

Continue Reading

CAAM Fellowship: mentor update

Last week I got to go to San Francisco for CAAM Fest, and got to meet the other fellows. Check out the bios and the work of my super talented, accomplished fellows!

http://caamedia.org/filmmaker-support/caam-fellows-2014/

Since getting accepted into the CAAM Fellowship, I’ve had several discussions in trying to decide which mentor to try to go after. Should we go after a writer, a producer, or an executive? If it’s an executive, should it be someone in current series or development? We ended up picking someone who is a writer and Executive Producer. We felt like that role was the best one that could help me. The person we picked is high up and it’s a stretch, but why not at least try, right? Karin reached out to contact the person on my behalf, and I’ve been waiting to hear back.

(more…)

Continue Reading

interview: Kai Wu, Writer on Hannibal

I was a fan of Hannibal on NBC, so when I met Kai and learned she was a writer on the show, I was pretty excited. Then she told me how she ended up getting staffed, and I wanted to share.

Can you talk a bit about your background? Did you study writing in school? Did you work as an assistant? Did you enter writing contests?

I was born in Taiwan and raised in a very small town (Salisbury) in Maryland. I went to Carnegie Mellon for college and while I did study writing, it was for fiction. I always knew I wanted to be a screenwriter so I purposely chose something that wasn’t film/television writing so I could have a different experience. After college, I came out to LA and got a job as an agency assistant. It made my life a living hell but the experience was invaluable. After spending two years in feature development, I moved to TV and worked as showrunner’s assistant and Writers’ Assistant on various shows before finally making the jump. Prior to my getting my first staffing gig, I tried writing contests twice but never got very far. So I just decided to focus on pilots instead of specs and forgo the writing contest route.

(more…)

Continue Reading

CAAM Fellowship interview and results!

INTERVIEW

My finalist interview for the CAAM Fellowship was scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday, Jan 14. I left my office early at 5:30, thinking I’d get home by 6:15 at the latest. I already prepared for the interview, but wanted to do one more quick review of everything beforehand.

The interview was either going to be by Skype or phone. Phone interviews are hard because you get no visual feedback, so I was hoping for Skype. That way I could see the people interviewing me and gauge their reactions, instead of just talking into a void.

Unfortunately for me, there was ridiculous LA traffic. There had been a fire off the Pacific Coast Highway earlier in the day and that road was shut down, so all that traffic overflowed onto the route I take. After an hour of sitting in traffic, I had moved about 2 miles. There was no way I’d make it home in time. I emailed the people at CAAM and let them know the situation, and told them I could do a phone interview later that night at 7 as scheduled, or reschedule for a Skype interview the next day. They replied and said a phone interview later that night was fine.

I ended up pulling over in front of a Starbucks. All of my prep work was sitting on my laptop at home, so I wasn’t able to review anything beforehand. I turned on the light in my car, found a pen and the back of some receipts to take notes on, and had my interview. Not ideal circumstances, but I’ve done these phone interviews several times now: twice for Nickelodeon, and once for NBC. I know how to talk about myself and my work. I thought I did okay, but you never know.

(more…)

Continue Reading
  • 1
  • 2
Close Menu