writing program notifications – rejection

it’s that time of year when the writing programs (nickelodeon, wb, nbc, cbs, abc/disney) start notifying people. if you get a call, that means you made it past the first of several rounds. most of us will not get calls, and this is a message to all those people.

getting into one of these writing programs is hard. there are a LOT of submissions and it’s ridiculously competitive. at nick, i think there were about 1300 submissions. only 25 or so make it onto karen’s desk. then from there, she might only pick 12 or so that are good enough to be semifinalists. 12 out of 1300+. then that will probably be whittled down to 5 finalists, and then 3 fellows.

i just got my rejection letter from warner brothers yesterday. 1700 scripts were submitted for 8 slots. last year, i think 7 of the writers accepted were for drama, and only 1 was for comedy. that makes me a feel a little better.

a few things i want to share:

– i met a girl who submitted the same exact script to nickelodeon and disney last year. she didn’t get a call from nick, but she got a call from disney. evaluating the quality of a script is subjective, but if you’re a good writer, the odds will even out and at some point, someone will recognize your good writing.

– these aren’t training programs. it’s not grad school. they want people who can already write at a professional level, people who they can staff. keep writing until you get to that level. you really have to fine tune your scripts to get to that final level of polish. put the time in.

– read all the interviews i did with the alums from the writing programs. most of them applied for several years before getting in. you have to be persistent and keep writing. keep getting better. practice your craft. hone that skill.

– read my post from the panel i went to, where all the tv writing program directors talked about what they were looking for.

– read this article. http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/c5bdbb79#/c5bdbb79/62

– you should start writing or revising the spec you’re going to submit for next year. start now, not a month before the deadline.

– also, have original material ready. cbs requires original material when you submit, and wb will ask for original material if you are a semifinalist. i’m not sure what the new fox program will be like, but the old one required a pilot to submit.

– lastly, this isn’t the only way to break in. one of the interns at nick was recently hired as a script coordinator, and hopefully one day she’ll be promoted to a writer. one of my teachers, ed lee, told us we should try to break in working as pa’s, then try to get jobs as writers assistants. from what i hear, though, those jobs are super competitive as well.

to those who get calls and are semifinalists, congratulations! if you’re like me when i got the calls from nick, you are probably excited, nervous, anxious. you might feel a lot of pressure. i mean, this is your dream, right? you want to be a writer, and this is your chance to break in. but there are oh so few spots in these programs, and many semifinalists won’t make the cut.

if you get that close but don’t make it in, take it as a sign that you’re headed in the right direction. it’s validation that your writing is good, so keep writing and try again. that’s what i did, then i made it into nick the next year.

i guess instead of all the above, i could have just said – keep writing, but then i wouldn’t have been able to procrastinate from writing my pilot.

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  1. Great article as always. I’m finishing my undergrad now in film & economics and I’m a little lost as to what I want to do. I like to think I’m not the only one with doubts. I’m attracted to writing because I believe in how powerful it is, and I enjoy that feeling when reading something with quality. When I write I tend to put myself down a lot because I feel everything I write is awful – that’s my biggest hindrance. But I guess I have to get through it. I’d like to improve so I can hopefully apply to the writing programs in the future.

    I’ve enjoyed all your posts. Good source for inspiration.

    1. hey armando. thanks for the comments. have you heard this quote from ira glass?

      Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.

      We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

      -Ira Glass

      1. I’ve never heard of it, but thanks! I appreciate it. I have to say Ira Glass pretty much nailed what I’m going through. I never thought about my taste being a part of it. I completely agree with him when he says that “your taste is why your work disappoints you.” I’m too concerned with amounting to greatness on my frist try. But I’ll get over that.

        I read your reply this morning and it got me motivated to work harder on a spec pilot I’m doing for class that can hopefully serve as a writing sample.

        Thanks again and good luck!

  2. Thanks for this–I’m expecting my rejection from the WB any day now. I have a not-really-related question: I read the most recent TV writers’ chat transcript, and most people (including yourself) agreed that you have to be in LA to have any kind of success. Some people say New York, my current city, is the next-best option. Could you expand on your opinion from the chat?

    1. hey sarah. yeah i think you have to be in LA if you want to write for tv. features, you might have a little more flexibility, but even then, i would suggest moving here. LA is where all the work is! i see 2 main ways to break into tv writing – getting accepted into one of the writing programs, or working your way up from pa to writers assistant to writer. if you get into a writing program, they’ll make you move here, and if you want a job as a pa or assistant, of course you’ll have to be here. you have to be here to form relationships with people. if you want to write for tv, i can’t think of any advantage for not being in LA. plus the weather is usually pretty nice.

      here’s an article on the subject – http://www.scriptmag.com/2010/11/05/primetime-do-all-screenwriters-have-to-live-in-l-a/

  3. Hey kiyong! Two questions, 1) if we do get the call should we be prepared to have the interview right then and there? And 2) when would be the time to give up hope if we aren’t contacted?

    Thanks so much for always taking the time to respond and help us all out! 🙂

  4. Thanks for answering your readers’ questions so diligently and thoroughly. Those articles (and the commenters’ posts) were useful–I think I already knew the answer but was hoping for a different one, being that moving to LA without a safety net is so intimidating. But I do like nice weather 🙂

  5. For those still waiting to hear from WB or ABC, I can tell you that :
    1) WB rejection ltrs have gone out – if you were in the top 5 percent of the 1,750 scripts submitted, they are inviting you to a writing seminar next month on the lot.
    2) ABC has asked select candidates for 2 additional writing samples. I’m assuming based on that read, they’ll do invites for interviews. But I could be wrong, there might be another level before interviews.

      1. I have a question on TV Writer Wannabe’s comment – would the invite to the writing seminar from WB come with the rejection letter? Or at a later time? And also, if we haven’t heard from ABC, should we assume we have not made the first cut?

    1. I live in Los Angles, have my confirmation email that WB has received my script and payment, yet I have not received a rejection, top 5%, nor a phone call. Anyone else not heard word one on anything and getting frustrated? I don’t assume I made it to the next round, but no news is good news right? Their website says interviewees will be notified no later than 9/21, so there are still a few days left to be rejected/called, however it seems like people have heard either way by now and I’m getting concerned. Please help.

      1. Thanks Kiyong, that exactly why I’m frustrated. It seems like 3 weeks ago people got letters or good news, and I’ve received neither. At this point I’m assuming it’s too late to be asked for more materials since the program starts in Oct. Is it possible they’ll just call to set up an interview and not ask for more materials (doubtful), or should I assume my rejection letter somehow got lost in the mail? I’d rather get a rejection letter at this point to confirm my suspicions than get nothing and wonder “what if?” especially since I paid 30 bucks per submission.

        1. well, i applied and haven’t heard, so i’m just going to assume i didn’t make the cut. i’m sure at some point they’ll send letters of rejection and letters of top 5%. i know this time of the year when everyone is waiting to hear from the writing programs can be very stressful, but sometimes programs run behind and there’s nothing we can do but wait.

      2. Oof, my bad. I didn’t realize the thread above was from last year’s program. All this time I’ve been assuming you’d heard three weeks ago that you didn’t make the cut and assumed others had too. Crazy writer brain strikes again. This makes more sense now. Thanks again for the advice.

    1. TV Writer Wannabe is correct re: the ABC/Disney fellowship. The two additional writing samples they asked for were due last week. They didn’t say what the next step was, but assuming it’ll take them a while to read all of the scripts, I don’t think the phone interview (the traditional next step in previous years) will be for a while. And according to their website, notification letters don’t go out until the end of the year.

      Re: WB. I haven’t received any letter from them whatsoever. Nor an email or phone call. Does anyone know someone in a similar situation with WB?

      And finally, anyone have any news on NBC’s WOTV?

      That’s Kiyong! I love your blog (which I discovered through johnaugust.com).

      1. thanks for the info! i think people in LA already got their snail mail letters from wb, either rejection or top 5% rejection but seminar. it might take longer for those outside of ca to get their letters. as far as i know, nobody has heard anything from nbc yet.

  6. Oh, I’m very local. Already called WB and left a message. What likely has happened is that it just got lost in the mail. I just am curious if anyone has actually heard from them re an interview? If not, then I have a smidgen of hope left. Smidgen.

    1. Logan, would you please post an update if you hear anything? I’m in the same no-letter boat, although I am in AZ. (Not that this should take the USPS five extra days to deliver.)
      I said “should.”

      1. Oh, I am so happy to hear you’re in the same boat as I am! I was literally nauseous all day waiting for the mail to come (4:30pm!).
        Yes, I will post here as soon as I hear anything at all. Will you please do the same?
        It would be interesting to know (and to satisfy my obsessive thinking for a minute or less) if anyone else outside of LA (i.e. further than AZ) has received a letter.
        Best of luck!!

  7. UPDATE NBC Writers on the Verge: Per Jen Grisanti (the writing instructor for WOTV)–“Ok, I know many of you have been waiting to know what’s going on with WOTV. Here is the plan. Next week, phone interviews will begin by mid-week for the first cut. In person interviews for the second cut will be the week of 9/19. Final decisions will be made by 9/23. I know that many of you have been asking so here is your answer. Good luck to all!” (off Facebook).

  8. I was at Screenwriting Expo and Jen Grisanti mentioned that all those who have advanced in WOTV have been called. She did say that in the past, some of the interviewed writers didn’t work out and they’ve called others later on…but that is unlikely this year. Apparently NBC is really excited about the writers they’ve picked.

  9. Hi, all!

    This is all very helpful info!

    Does anyone know if ABC/Disney allows original material to be submitted in the second round? I’m not sure if they’ll want more existing TV show specs, or if you’re able to expand a little if you make it to the second round.

    I appreciate the help! Posted this on another board but this one seems to be hopping. 🙂

    1. Geeta,
      Disney’s requests to applicants for the two additional writing samples went out about a month ago. They asked for original writing samples.
      Good luck!

  10. ABC/Disney Update:

    They have started doing phone interviews with semi-finalists. (yes, the interview is done at the time they call) So I assume based on the read of submitted 2nd and 3rd scripts, those who make the cut will get a phone interview and those who don’t…..
    The next step is an email within a week notifying those who have made it to finalists.
    Those finalists will do in-person interviews in November. The 8 writers in the 2012 program will be chosen based on those interviews.

    FYI: The CBS program held orientation last week.

  11. re: ABC/Disney
    I believe the phone interviews are over. I know that emails have gone out to finalists advising them of their status with more info to come on dates of Nov. in-person interviews. Not sure how many finalists were selected this year but program director said this spring the number would be 25-30. The final 8 will be chosen out of that pool by Dec. 1.

  12. Hello I submitted to this years ABC Writing Fellowship is it true that semi finalists would be contacted in September so that they can submit additional material and give the panel time to review and decide who makes the finals?

      1. Thank you so much for your insight. I have found your blog very helpful and I am in the process of revising my follow up submissions. Thanks again.

  13. This is great information! I stumbled upon you as I tried to figure out if I should attach a bible at the end of my pilot submission to Disney/ABC.

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