austin film fest!

i'm going to the austin film festival! it'll be my first time, and i'm really looking forward to it. everyone i know who has been loved it. i haven't had…

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interview: Sam Miller, Writers’ Assistant

EDIT 10/22/13:

Sam and some other writers are making a multicamera web series pilot, and are raising money on kickstarter. Check it out.

The video is here:


Ten writers met through an email group and formed a writers room. They produced a 22-minute pilot episode which they are distributing as the web’s first multicamera web series. They’re trying to raise funding to shoot five more television-length episodes. They are the largest crowd-sourced writers room of its kind and many of its members have professional credits working with writers in both television and features.

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Sam worked as a Writers’ Assistant on Desperate Housewives, and is now on the Nickelodeon live action show Supah Ninjas. Before that, he worked in comedy development at ABC Studios, and is a writer who got to the phone interview stage in the ABC Disney Writing Program. I met him through the yahoo tv writers group.

What is your background, and how did you break in with your first industry job when you got to LA?

I started screenwriting in high school with some short films. I went to college at Vanderbilt which had a small film program so I was able to take three screenwriting courses, ending with two feature scripts. The year I graduated, a Vanderbilt alum, Chad Gervich, started a program called “Vandy-in-Hollywood” which got students internships in Hollywood. Chad got me an internship at ABC Studios in creative affairs. He also wrote a business guide for TV writers called SMALL SCREEN, BIG PICTURE which I cannot recommend highly enough. You know how they say there’s no manual for becoming a TV writer? Chad actually wrote a manual. It’s been my Bible.

Writers’ Assistant jobs are super competitive. How did you first get that job?

After working at the studio for three years, I met with my boss’ boss’ boss’ who referred me to a production executive that set me up for an interview on Desperate Housewives for a Writers PA gig. I interviewed with three people, including a friend I met through a studio co-worker, and was offered the job in the room because they knew I’d already done food runs as an intern.


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my parks and rec cold open

i had a poll last week to see which of my spec scripts people wanted to read: 30 rock, parks and rec, or happy endings. the numbers were overwhelmingly for…

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which cold open should i post?

i get a lot of emails from people asking to read my scripts, but my policy is i only give my scripts to friends. however, i decided to post just the cold open from one of my specs, but i can’t decide which one. help me pick which one by voting below!

the choices are:

  • 30 rock – this script got me into the nick fellowship, and past the 1st round of abc/disney
  • parks and rec – this script got me into NBC wotv
  • happy endings – this is my latest spec that i sent to wb, abc, and cbs this year


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google searches answered

here are some google searches people used to find my blog, and answers to those questions.

when do they notify finalists for the tv writing workshops
– usually around september for the first round. nickelodeon starts earlier, sometimes late july. it’s coming up!

how many people apply to tv writing fellowships
– between 1000 to 2000 a year, depending on the program. disney used to get around 2000, then they asked for letters of the recommendation, and it dropped to 1000 that year. wotv received around 1600 last year, 1900 this year. i think nickelodeon gets around 1300, but keep in mind it’s all comedy writers and fewer slots.

odds of getting tv writing fellowships
– this is related to the question above. disney and nbc take 8 people a year, cbs, wb, and nickelodeon take less. i’m not too familiar with the new fox program. 1 in a 100 is 1%, so 1 in a 1000 is .1%, and they receive more than a 1000 submissions a year, so less than .1%.


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mid year creative review 2013 / wotv wrap up

the year is already half over! so far, i finished wotv, and have been working a pretty cool full time day job as a designer at shazam. my top 3 goals for 2013 were:

  1. be a working writer, and get staffed on a show.
  2. write at least 2 new pilot scripts.
  3. write a feature script.

here’s my semiannual progress report:


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nbc writers on the verge – cross program mixer 3/12/13

we had a mixer with writers from the various network writing programs, including cbs, wb, disney, the new fox program, and us from nbc wotv. there were maybe 40 writers plus the people who run the programs. it was really crowded, and a lot of fun.

here’s something you might not have known: many writers go through multiple programs. this is my second program, and i met others who went through 2, 3, and even 4 programs. people who are good enough to get into one often times get into another. but why would a writer do multiple programs? because getting into a writing program is no guarantee. it’s not like winning the lottery. obviously, the ideal situation is you get into a writing program, and then you get an agent and get staffed immediately after. that doesn’t always happen though. the programs are a chance to meet other writers, work on writing samples, and meet execs, but yeah, there are no guarantees of getting staffed.


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reader question: spec stuff

fellowship deadlines are around the corner, and someone had a few questions about specs.

Hi Kiyong,

I’m currently on my 3rd draft for my Happy Endings spec and have a few questions about it.

1.) I have a main character drifting aimlessly through the B & C plots and not really contributing anything to the story should I even bother including them? Outside of a few lines in the cold open.

I feel like these programs want you to demonstrate your understanding of the show’s voice, which means incorporating every main character into an A-B-C storyline. Shows like Community have characters barely appear in an episode and it works. I’m also not Dan Harmon though.

2.) I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to introduce new characters into a spec. I understand not creating new characters where the entire episode revolves around them, but what about a minor character that serves the plot? For instance I included Penny’s boss, a character never mentioned before, but fits into the show’s universe.

3.)Is it ok to introduce new locations? I’ve only been using established sets so far.

4.) What do judges want more in a sitcom spec? One bursting with jokes or funny plots that are tightly constructed? I guess this depends on the sitcom as well.

good questions. here are my thoughts:


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nbc writers on the verge – my pilot is done

after struggling for weeks, i finally finished my pilot, and i’m happy with how it came out!

i had a lot to think about after the last round of notes and the feedback from the table read. at times, i wondered if i should give up on it completely, throw it away, and just write a new pilot from scratch. instead, i let the script sit for a couple weeks, and i let the notes sink in.

around this time, i had a meeting with my wotv mentor, who works in comedy development at nbc. he was nice enough to read my script and he gave me some very insightful notes, and that’s when things started to click.


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