I hear a lot of people say not to work on specs, only focus on pilots, because agents and showrunners don't want to read specs. Well, I went to a panel…
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.
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.
Last Oct, a friend who had gone through WOTV a couple years before me emailed me about the CAAM Fellowship, which is a fellowship for Asian Americans in entertainment. She had gone through the program and said it was great, and she said I should apply. I hadn’t heard of it before, so I read up about the program on their site.
2013 was an interesting year. Not a good year writing wise, at least as far as tangible results go, but really great for other stuff.
My top 3 goals for 2013 were:
- Be a working writer, and get staffed on a show.
- Write at least 2 new pilot scripts.
- Write a feature script.
How many of those did I accomplish? None! Not even close.
Here’s what did happen with writing:
- I finished up WOTV.
- During WOTV, I had to leave the writers group I was in, but afterwards, I returned to the group. Thanks for letting me come back, guys!
- I started a new pilot. I got the outline done, but didn’t finish it.
- My pilot that I wrote during WOTV, Mailboys, was a 2nd rounder at the Austin Film Festival. I went to the festival with several friends and had a great time! I need to write a post on my experience there at some point, but the panels were inspiring, the parties were fun, and I even took a picture with Vince Gilligan (I’m pretty sure everyone who went to Austin has this same picture).
11/25/13 it's that time of year again!. i'll update this post as i hear more. if you have any news to share, let me know. congrats to those who already…
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…
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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8731wo2jV8k
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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ORIGINALLY POSTED 5/18/12:
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.
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…
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