Dare to try. I’m all in.
I spend the first months of quarantine, like most of us, clueless of what was happening. I had no idea of what was going on and at first, the lockdown was supposed to be only for 30 days. What I wasn’t counting on was that the government would have no idea of how to control the virus and keep extending it. After thinking a lot about this mess and only getting angry, I decided to focus on what would make me feel alive and happy. My writing projects and my blog. Out of nowhere the projects picked up.
I’m currently working on some scripts for the Nickelodeon contest. I have to submit a spec script from the list and an Original Comedy pilot. A Spec Script is a document that proves that you can work for the show, using the same tone and voice, almost like you would fit in to a work in a company. It’s like a skill test on indeed.
If you write scripts or read it, you know each one of those is about 28 pages in maybe 3 or 4 acts, a cold opening, and a tag. The preparation for the scripts is intense, because after all if I did a good job and get lucky, I could get a trainee placement in California, which would be ideal and give me chance to work with I study to do. The spec script it’s the hardest one for me.
During the Creative Writing Classes for Entertainment, at Full Sail, I had about 5 or 6 classes I had to write scripts. They were all about ten to twelve pages each and we were constantly having to give feedback and receive feedback, but receiving feedback from peers that know less than you, it’s like screaming at the top of the mountain. It echoes, but it doesn’t do you any good, and it is too vague. I had two scriptwriting classes, even though they were the peeling my skin with a knife, I retained the most information of all classes because I enjoyed it.
On the first Writing for TV class, we had a very sweet teacher, he comprehended that some of us had never done that before, and took it easy. We had to choose a show from the list and continue to work with it on Writing for TV class II. I choose the show I was most familiar and comfortable to write for, Brooklyn 99. I had to study everything possible about the series to recreate my spec script as if I was working on the show, like the character’s mannerisms, obsessions, reactions, and vocabulary. It is easy to write on a series that had been on the air for a few seasons, but this time the show I choose to write for this contest only had one season and about 10 episodes altogether. Pen15 is a great show, but I have to confess that I’m having trouble writing with their voices.
Pen15 is executive produced by Andy Sandberg’s Lonely Island Production’s company, who plays, Jake, the main character from Brooklyn 99. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I like writing about shows that I enjoy and I’m familiar with, so study about it it’s not torturing. For example, I could never write about NCSI or Law & Order. It’s just not my kind of show. I have been watching interviews and reading about the show’s creator, learning what the idea behind it. That’s when I get in trouble. Since there are not many episodes or seasons, there is not much I can research.
Here is a little bit of my process to write a spec that I learn at Writing for tv I and II, while at Full Sail University, taking the Creative Writing Bachelor’s degree:
1- Write an outline of the idea.
Writing a few outlines ideas and coming up with the best one, works for me. Everyone has a different way to do it. Write the outline first, so you have something to follow.
I use colored note cards, so I write different acts in different colors and number the cards.
2- Create a Beat Sheet.
This is like mapping out the episode and how things will evolve through the acts. You have to know what is going to happen in the A-Plot and on the B-plot. For example, for this spec, the A-Plot is Anna lends Maya a notebook with personal stories, so Maya could read it, and Maya loses it. B-Plot is Maya dealing with her Aunt bullying her during a visit to her house.
If you have time, you write a treatment document, with all the scene heading and what is supposed to happen in that scene, without dialogues. I won’t have time for it this time.
4- Start writing the spec.
During the process, I research what type of show is it and how many pages the script of an episode has it. For Pen15, I learned that they have a Cold Opening of 2 to 3 pages. The first and second acts are about 8 pages each, so the third and the fourth are smaller and they contain a 1-page tag. It’s very similar to Brooklyn 99.
I’m not on that stage yet. Hopefully, I will get to this point by the end of the week. I understand that this is a contest to be a trainee, but if I look sloppy, they will pass me without even reading the first page. Make sure the punctuation is correct, the Scene Heads are according to what’s happening and the dialogue makes sense to the kind of show you are trying to be part of. That’s what caused me lose all the points and I almost failed my class.
It’s a not difficult thing to do, it’s easy when you have written many other scripts and have the experience in your hands, which I don’t have much besides those classes. You can always learn. I think is like any other job where you have a set of rules to follow so you get work done in time. As I wrote here before, in January I made plans to go back to LA to study screenwriting, my plans are yet to happen.
About the Original Comedy Pilot, I will work on something based on my life, while married to a white conservative man from Indiana, which I hope, since is my creation, it will be easier to write. I have to so much to say in that pilot, I’m boiling.
All the other projects are a little obsolete for now, like the comic strip and the illustration online classes, even the Food Photography project, I had to put on the side for this month. First things first. This contest feels like I’m looking for the Golden Ticket to get into the chocolate factory.
Thats it for now! I have to go back to my scripts.