Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson explain why this popular question is not the right question to ask, and what you should be doing instead. Learn things you can do today to make breaking into Hollywood easier.

Show Notes – Michael Jamin’s Online Screenwriting Course. – Free Screenwriting Lesson – Bruce Miller’s IMDB ( Showrunner of The Handmaids Tale) – Bruce Miller and Margaret Atwood discuss adapting The Handmaid’s Tale for TV. – Person of Interest, Jonah Nolan’s TV Show Phil couldn’t remember. – The Writer’s Guild Foundation Official Website

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael: (00:00)
So today’s episode, welcome everyone. We’re talking about selling a TV show. And before we begin, I’m going to start with a little story that I think might help everyone understand, uh, selling a TV show. So imagine, imagine Phil that we are, uh, we have a business venture and this venture is going to cost us around maybe 10 or $20 million. But we stand to make, uh, from this hundreds of millions of dollars, but what we need to do to make all this money, we got to get a pilot and we gotta get, uh, a plane, someone who’s going to track who will fly us all around the world. Cause this is an international thing. We gotta, we need to fly all across the world. All right. So we’ve we found this guy on the internet and his, according to the pictures, the plane looks really nice.

Michael: (01:41)
It looks pretty good. Right? We go check it out. Me and you, we check it out and, and uh, we go inside the plane. It’s really, it looks great. It’s got wings, it’s got nice furniture. It’s set up. It’s because it looks like it’s the right size for us. And then we talked to the pilot because we need the pilot with the plane and we say, Hey man, this is a really nice plane. You, you got here. And he says, yeah, I built it myself. And we’re like, that’s pretty impressive. You built this all by yourself. Good for you. And then we asked, so, um, you know, how long have you, have you been a pilot? And then he says, well, I have never been a pilot before. Really? Now you just built this. He just, he’s a, been a fan of planes for a long, long time.

Michael: (02:19)
He likes going to the airport, he watches the planes land and take off really. Okay. So, but uh, like what else do you know much about, please know, I’ve never actually been inside of a plane, never flown in a plane at all. And we’re like, oh, okay, well, we’re kind of looking for someone with experience because this business venture, we got to fly all across the world. The airports, some are gonna be big. Some are gonna be small. We’re gonna fly at night. It could be bad weather. It could be tricky airports. And we’re kind of looking for someone with experience to fly this plane for us. Cause it’s a big business venture. And this guy is like, yeah, well, I don’t need any of that. I built this plane. And even though I’m not a pilot, never flown a plane, uh, you should still hire me and my plane because look how beautiful it looks. So what’d you say fell. Should we make cut a deal with this guy? Or keep moving? Yeah.

Phil: (03:02)
Pass hard pass. That’s a hard

Michael: (03:04)
Pass. Okay. So let’s just swap the word airline pilot for a television pilot. Yeah. It’s the same thing. Right? So a lot of people say, well, how do I sell my pilot? And that the truth is like, well, you don’t because a network is going to want someone with experience because there’s all sorts of troubles that come up when you’re making a TV show. And uh, and you need an experienced pilot at the, at the helm to troubleshoot because I, you know, and that’s what they’re paying. They’re, they’re trying to protect their investment at this point. They’re not trying to, um, cheap out and get someone, some DIY guy. Right.

Phil: (03:41)
Would you, if you stand to make that much of a return on an investment, uh, yeah, you’re gonna, you’re gonna S you’re gonna pay the price. You need to, to close that deal.

Michael: (03:51)
Right. Right. And they’re not really, so the network, I guess, like in the old days, it was a little different. When I say the old days, like before streaming, the network was really, they really wanted to get, when you sell a pilot, they weren’t really buying the pilot. They were buying the hopes of a hundred episodes for, they could make all that money. And now with streaming, it’s like, like Netflix, they really hope to do that. Their business model is different. So they’ll try to do maybe three seasons of like 12 episodes each, but they still want consistently good episodes. They still in that. And that’s why they are, they’re paying, you know, who are they going to? If they’re going to buy a pilot, who are they going to buy it from? They’re going to buy either from me or the guy who been DIY guy listening to the podcast here. And so, but that’s not to say they can’t sell. I mean, I don’t want to discourage anybody from selling a pilot, but there are steps that you want to take to, to, uh, increase your eyes, you know? Okay.

Phil: (04:43)
So, so let me ask this question then. Um, would you consider these spec deals that come in, where someone puts up a spec pilot and it sells, would you consider that a fluke or would you consider that to be common or would you consider it to be, um, almost an everyday experience?

Michael: (05:01)
I think you read about it because it’s so unusual. So I kind of think it’s a fluke and, but often they spec pilots. Uh, I don’t really meet, I don’t read many of the spec files and when they do sell, if they do sell, they always team me up with an experienced showrunner because they’re never going to turn over the reins to someone who’s never done it before. They’ll hire someone to oversee it for you and it’s Dennis. And by the way, then it’s not really, you know, you’re not at the helm, so it’s not, you don’t really determine the direction of the show. Someone else is doing it for you because that’s how it works because they want that

Phil: (05:31)
Your investment, you know, it’s interesting when you’re a young writer, you think of these romantic things you hear about, you know, I know myself, I suffer from what I would call prodigy syndrome, where I feel like since a young age, I’ve had to just grand slam every single thing that I do. And that creates a lot of fear and anxiety to try, because there’s this fear of failure and our identity is tied to that stuff. But at the same time you think about these things, you know, I was like, oh yeah, I’m going to go out. I’m going to win the Nicholls fellowship. And my first film’s going to be an academy award winner because I’m going to be put that much effort into, and then, you know, there’s a lot of naivete that comes with doing it. And there’s a balance of, you have to have, you have to be naive to put in the effort, but at the same time, you have to understand how the business works, to know how to get things done. And that’s something that’s become more apparent as I’ve lived in LA for the last five years.

Michael: (06:21)
Right. And you know, one thing I think aspiring writers don’t understand is that pilot that you write on spec is really just a calling card so that you can get meetings and get on a staff job or maybe pitch another pilot. Like if you read a great pilot, whoever sees it, some producer or studio head, they’re going to say, wow, this is really great. This is so well written. We love this. We want to be in business with you. Um, we want to exploit you.

Phil: (06:47)
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. Why did they, why did they say this is great. I want to be in business with you. Yeah. You

Michael: (06:52)
To want to make money off you. It’s not to help you realize your dream At dollar signs. Exactly. And so it’s not like, it’s not like, you know, you may have this pilot that you love and it’s so personal in your heart, but that’s not what they want to buy. They, they, what they will really want is the hire you on a different project. They want to make their idea. And even with me and my partner, we very rarely sell pilots that we want to sell. We sell pilots that someone wants to buy. There’s a huge difference.

Phil: (07:19)
Yeah. This is an interesting thing. So in preparing for this podcast, I actually busted out some of my screenwriting books over here that I’ve read throughout the years. And one of them talks specifically about this. And they’re like, when you go into pitch and you’re pitching your feature, because it looks on feature writing, it says, you have to remember, like, the goal is not really to sell your feature it’s to impress them so much that they think, man, that’s a good writer so that they bring you back to write the project they want.

Michael: (07:44)
That’s exactly right. Right. And when you think of, think of a really good example, like, uh, Bruce Miller, who’s the showrunner of the Handmaid’s tale, which I think is brilliantly written show. Uh, you know, and that’s based on a book, they’re obviously Margaret Atwood’s book. It’s not like, I can’t imagine Bruce Miller as a little kid lying in his bedroom dreaming one day to one day, hopefully run the TV version of the Handmaid’s tale. Like that was not, he had his own ideas. I want to do a show about superheroes or whatever the hell he wanted to do, but it was not to do the Handmaid’s tale. Right? So at some point I imagine the studio said, Hey, we have the rights to the Handmaid’s tale. We’re looking for writers to adapt into a TV show. And he won the auction. He, he won that great job. And, uh, and it’s, you know, it’ll probably change his career, but he has all, he had a long career before this on many, many other shows, ER, I think was his first show. So, uh, it’s not like his dream was to make the Handmaid’s tale. His dream was to do something else. This is just a great opportunity that that came in his way. And he, and he jumped.

Michael: (08:43)
Hi guys, it’s Michael Jamin. I wanted to take a break from talking and talk just a little bit more. I think a lot of you, people are getting bad advice on the internet. Many, you want to break into the industry as writers or directors or actors, and some of you are paying for this advice on the internet. It’s just bad. And as a working TV writer and showrunner, this burns my butt. So my goal is to flush a lot of this bad stuff out of your head and replace it with stuff that’s actually going to help you. So I post daily tips on social media, go follow me @MichaelJaminWriter. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook and TikTok. And let’s be honest, if you don’t have time, like just two minutes a day towards improving your craft, it’s not going to happen. So go make it happen for you @MichaelJaminWriter. Okay. Now back to my previous,

Phil: (09:29)
And this might be jumping ahead, but I think the overarching principle that I picked up from you, your course, and a lot of the things that you teach on your social media and from knowing you for, you know, almost a decade, it’s really this like Hollywood wants good writers. Yeah. The reason he’s getting that opportunity is because he’s proven himself as a good writer. Right. And yeah. And so I think that begs the question. How does one become a good writer? Or what does that look like to impress these people when you’re in the room? Yeah,

Michael: (09:58)
No one wants, as I often say, no one wants to answer that question. That’s too hard. That would require a study in your craft and learning how to write. It’s just much easier to, you know, Hey, I got a script and Hollywood’s fair, unfair, and it’s all about who, you know, and, and you know, it’s all boys club, it’s so much easier to blame Hollywood for your wives than it is to take responsibility and say, well, maybe my writing is not up to par.

Phil: (10:20)
Right. But when it goes back to, you know, your point about this as a business and they were trying to exploit you for dollars, it’s because it is a business and that’s why they call it the business. Right. I’m trying to get into the business show business. And you know, I saw this all the time when I was in, um, in film school is a liberal arts college. I was 28. It was a really strange moment when I realized how much older I was, then everyone else there, I somehow nine 11 came up and was like, oh, where were you? When nine 11 happened? I think I was in third grade. And I was like, I was in high school, like, oh my gosh, like I’m ancient compared to these kids. And they just wanted to, they wanted to make the art. They talked about their art. They didn’t talk about their craft. And I think there’s a difference between that. It is an art form, but it takes a craftsmen to do the job. Right?

Michael: (11:06)
Yeah. I think that’s an example. S analogy my partner often make, which is, um, like we’re Taylor, oh, you want cuffs on these pants? I’m like, okay, you can get cuffs. You want, oh, you want pleats? Sure. We’ll give you pleats. No, you know, that’s the, you know, I’m not gonna argue with you. If you’re paying me money, I’ll try to give you, I’ll give you what you want. I’ll try to make it as good as I can and be able to live with the result. So it’s not horrendous horrendous, but at the end of the day, they’re paying me, which means it’s theirs. It’s theirs, you know, that’s I took money in exchange for this project. So it’s there is now, right?

Phil: (11:37)
Yeah. Right. I mean, it’s no different than anything else. I mean, my background is in the digital marketing world and web design and web development. And there’s, it’s, it’s a common tale that no one will mess up. I project better than the client. Yeah.

Michael: (11:50)
Well, yeah. I mean, you got some, you got to keep them, prevent them from, from doing that. Right. I mean, in the end, you know, the studio executives, it’s not like they want, you know, they want reassurance, they’re hiring you, they’re paying you to write the script and they want to feel that every time you make a decision, even if they don’t agree with you, if you give them a reason why you’re not doing it, they want to know that they’re in good hands. So it’s not like they always want to be a, they always want their way. They just want to be reassured because they want to protect their job. And they don’t really, they don’t know how to do my job, that they have a different job. They don’t know how to be a screenwriter. Right. So, uh, often if you can reassure them or take their ID or convince them that your idea is their idea that goes along with it.

Phil: (12:32)
Yeah. So this goes back to the skill set that I’m very grateful that I fell into that I did not want to learn. And that sales just understanding it. And there’s this great book by a guy named Tom Hopkins called how to master the art of selling. And I was given like the VP of sales at this company. I worked at handed to me and he was like, you need to learn this. And I open it. It’s like from the seventies, it’s from a seminar. He went to when he was a young salesman. And I was like, ah, man. And ultimately I had to come to the church to the realization, like I need money now. And I work a sales job. So as much as I’d love to just be sitting there writing screenplays all day, I need to learn how to master this craft. And as I’m reading through it, the big overarching thing that I learned is it’s really just language, right? It’s the way you refer to things. So, you know, if I say, Hey, I need you to sign this contract. Like red flags go up, you know, start sweating a little like, oh, what am I signing? But if I say, Hey, would you approve these documents? Right. It’s a completely different feeling. Um, if I tell you, something’s true than online, if you tell yourself something is true, that it has to be

Michael: (13:29)
True. Yeah. That makes sense. You know, one of the things I want to include in this con in this conversation about selling your sh your TV show, it’s not so much that they’re buying an idea, they’re buying the execution of the idea. And so if you hire someone who hasn’t, who has little experience, like if we give 10 writers the same mind, the same idea, you’re going to get 10, very different screenplays. And so you’re really buying the execution of it. And hopefully, you know, usually when you have more season’s hand, uh, they will execute it better and they’ll take, they’ll know how to take notes better. And they, even if they don’t take the note, they understand that you have to take the spirit of the note. And often young writers don’t quite understand that. And I, at least, I, I know I didn’t, when I was starting out, it was like, how do I take this note?

Michael: (14:15)
I don’t know how to, you know, I don’t have to do any of this. So that’s, that comes with selling a TV show. So the way, the way in then the best way in, I believe is to become a staff writer on a show. And you do that for many years and you kind of learn your craft and you work your way up. And then back when my partner and I were starting, that that’s kind of what we did. So we were F I think it was after seven or eight years, we were finally offered a development deal. And up until then, most people, most writers are saying, you know, put it off as long as you can’t put it off, because you, you only get one shot to prove that you can do this the first or first one out, you know, then you’re, you’re damaged goods after that basically. But things have kind of changed a little bit where the market is so different. Now, I think people are rushing into selling pilots, and I guess for some people it’s working, but, uh, I think for the long-term goal, you kind of don’t really want to do that. And, you know, I would still recommend learn your craft first before you got and, and, you know, create your own show.

Phil: (15:14)
That’s when we talk about the execution of an idea that this is something that I think about all the time, you know, you’ve made it clear and I’ve seen it in practice from the showrunners on the show I work on with you. Um, it’s really about executing their vision of that and making their job easier. Right. It’s how do we avoid page one rewrites and how do we make it? So the rewriting is a minimal because it’s inevitably going to happen on out. Like imagine basically every script that comes in, they’re going to change something. Yeah.

Michael: (15:44)
And if I fight them on, I can fight them all the way. If I’m the shower, I’m, I’m the co-executive producer. So I’m not the boss on this. It’s a show my partner. And so the showrunners are the two stars and I could fight them. I could say, well, we shouldn’t do it this way. And I get convinced. I could make all these arguments for why my way is better, whatever. And in the end, it’s their show. They’ll just effort, turn in the script. They’ll just rewrite me anyway and they’ll just him off. So I might as well give them what they want as close to what that is, what they want as I can. But how

Phil: (16:11)
Do you marry that with artistic integrity?

Michael: (16:13)
Yeah. I get a paycheck at the end of every week. That’s my artistic integrity.

Phil: (16:18)
But, but can you feel ethical sabotaging your unique vision? I mean, they hired you for your unique take on these things, right? So how, how do you justify that?

Michael: (16:28)
No, they hired me to help them execute the kind of show that they want to make. And so my job is to, is to give them the best possible version of the show that they want to make, not the best kind of, not the best version of the Charlotte. I want to make the best version for that. They want to make. Right. Got it. So if I have artistic integrity or whatever, like, you know, I do save that for my side projects or whenever yeah.

Phil: (16:51)
Just cry yourself to sleep and wipe your tears of anxiety away with a hundred dollar bills.

Michael: (16:56)
Yeah. That’s what I do every night. Just fan myself with this stack of money. There you go.

Phil: (17:01)
So, so, you know, it’s interesting because what I’m hearing you say is when you’re selling a pilot, when you’re handling a pilot, you have to be the odds of you selling your pilot are low. Right. But you need that as a calling card to prove that you can do the job so that you can get a job. Right. And, and having a good pilot helps you get that first step, which is the job, right? Yeah. Um, and my experience, and this might be, you know, we’re going to talk about this in another episode. My experience has always, what I’m seeing is you basically get the agent by having a job for them to sell. So effectively. I have impressed someone and they want to hire me, but now I am obligated to have an agent to get me staffed. Is that kind of how you see it?

Michael: (17:45)
I mean, it’s so hard to get an a, it’s like, it’s hard to get a job without an agent. It’s hard to get an agent without a job, is that that’s the paradox. The minute you have some heat, in terms of someone wanting to hire you is the best time to go out and say, find an agency. Look, I have about to get a big paycheck. You don’t even have to earn your money. I’m going to

Phil: (18:03)
Give you 10% of my paycheck,

Michael: (18:05)
Which you did not earn,

Phil: (18:07)
Which in the sales world, we call that a Bluebird, right? Like, Hey, there’s a blooper just landed on my windshield, like Cinderella. And it’s handing me a stack of cash. And I, as a sales rep will take that every single time, because it is a freebie, I don’t have to cold call. I don’t have to, I don’t have to put in any time, energy or effort. And that will buoy me up to go put in the time, energy and effort on the other deal I’m actually working on. Right. Right. So, so you’re handing them a Bluebird, right. And saying, I’ve got free money for you. And so it’s a no brainer for the agent to bring you on at that point, because

Michael: (18:37)
Yeah. You feel you have, yeah. If you feel that it has legs, if you feel like they can turn, you turn it to something else. Often if, for example, someone’s a writer’s assistant will be able to sell an episode, uh, to the show and the show, you know, the short run and say, okay, we’ll let you write a freelance episode. In that case, it may still be hard to get an agent because it’s not quite, it’s not, it’s not quite the same as saying, well, I’m now a staff writer. They want to hear that.

Phil: (19:01)
Yeah. And you’re not obligated from the writer’s Guild because you’re not a member of the writer’s Guild and you haven’t earned enough points to gain entry. So you could just get a check from that, right?

Michael: (19:11)
Yeah. Yeah. It could be a one-time, it could be a one-time thing and you never work again. So if, once you’re on staff, it’s a little different. Yeah. You know?

Phil: (19:19)
Right. Yeah. So, so going back to the subject of, of selling about, so we’re not going to sell the pilot, but I need a good pilot in order to get an agent who will then hopefully get me

Michael: (19:30)
Staffed or at least to get a yes. Sometimes an agent. Right. We’ll uh, we’ll take you on if the pilot is great. If they really, if it’s great, then they’ll take you on. Yeah, yeah.

Phil: (19:41)
Right. So, so then what I’m hearing you say is you need to have a certain level of skill that comes through a certain level of craft that comes through in that pilot to impress someone. But then you’re also saying 6, 7, 8 years of being a professional writer. You are still learning every single day and perfecting that craft and people are saying, take as long as you can, because you got one at bat here with your developmental,

Michael: (20:06)
That’s kind of where it was. Now. It’s a little different. Now. It seems like everyone with like two years of experiences or whatever, selling pilot, and it seems a little odd, but the industry has changed so much, uh, that that’s kind of, yeah. People, I think people are developing sooner than they should. And, but, but that’s, you know, when I broke in you and wouldn’t even ride a pilot, you would never write a spec pilot. You would write a spec episode of a TV show. You would write us back Frazier friends or cheers. You’d write a sample episode of that. But now those shows don’t really exist. There’s no one or two shows that everyone watches because the audience is so fragmented. So now, um, agents and managers are, or even studio executives are telling people new writers that they should write a, um, basically a spec pilot create from whole cloth, their own TV show, which I think is really unfair because that’s a whole different skill of creating a world as a whole different skillset from, uh, from actually just writing one episode of the show that’s already on there. You don’t have to create the characters. You just to envision an episode, uh, you know, a plot for these characters for that week. And so, and by the way, when I’m, if I’m running a show, I don’t need a staff writer to create a new world. I just need them to, can they mimic the world that already exists. So I really think it’s an unfair, uh, assignment that it’s given to new writers. And I it’s just, it sucks. There’s no way around it.

Phil: (21:32)
Yeah. So you’ve mentioned to me in the past that, you know, and when I was in film school, they said, you know, write spec episodes. So like I wrote a spec Mr. Robot, because I had a tech background and that’s what my professor recommended I do. Um, but at the same time, you’ve also mentioned that I should write specs that match certain tones to show that I have range in the different types of shows. So if someone, so let’s say I’m going into a pitch for Tacoma FD. I could show something along the lines of super troopers or that, that heavy comedy tone that’s very jokey or is very right, which is a completely different tone.

Michael: (22:07)
Right. Uh, and another example would be a spec family guy, which is an animated show. If you have a spec family guy, that’s not going to get you on BoJack horseman, which you know, which was way more realistic, even though they’re both cartoons. So yeah. You want to have the tone match the show, which is why you need so many different specs. And I, and then again, we’re getting into the, it’s so weird, like when I’m hiring, I would, I prefer to read a spec of a show that I’m, that, that I’m familiar with. But again, the other, the other side of the business, they’re telling you

Phil: (22:39)
No dry pilots. So would that advice still apply that I should write multiple pilots in multiple tones to match the tones of popular TV shows or shows that I’d like to be similar to what I can basically just show calling cards and say, this is a pilot I wrote that I’m proud of. That matches the tone of your show.

Michael: (22:56)
Yeah, exactly. And we just had that situation where we were up at my partner and I were up for running a show that’s currently on the air and the show, uh, we had, we have many samples that we could send out. So we had to decide which sample matched the tone best of their show. So,

Phil: (23:10)
Okay. So, so the practice of writing a pilot, it’s not only helping me hone my craft, but it’s also helping me establish a library of samples based on the, it was just going to increase my job opportunities, right? Yeah. Almost like, uh, you know, growing up in Oklahoma that we had different fishing lures for different types of fish, they, they attract different fish. And so to me, it sounds like you’re basically baiting your hook or putting, using a different lure to catch the fish that you’re trying to catch. Yeah.

Michael: (23:37)
Yeah. That’s exactly

Phil: (23:38)
It. Interesting. I did have that conversation with, uh, with a show showrunner recently as well. And he brought up the fact that, you know, one of the, one of the staff writers that he hired as a baby writer, they turned in a script and it was very much, it was like, this is obviously based on the writer’s life. Like it follows them coming to LA trying to get a job in Hollywood. And he said, it didn’t really match what I was looking for. And, but it was the best that I saw. And the other side of that, unfortunately, is I have no idea, no idea how long that person worked on that pilot. They could’ve been working on it for four years. Yeah. Right. Yeah. So how do you, how do you navigate that? Like, is there any way to show that you have more skill set when you’re in that situation where you’re, when you’re trying to get staffed?

Michael: (24:24)
No, it’s often, um, you know, when you’re staffing someone look at me, a stack of like a hundred scripts, you know, you have a lot of scripts of new writers and I will read like the first five pages of each one. And then if it’s, if I, if I’m not impressed with the first five, I’d just toss it because why? Because I have 99 more to go. And so if those first five pages are not wowing me, if they don’t do all the requirements of hitting what a story needs to be, uh, I toss it and that may seem cruel and unfair, but like, what would you do if you were in my shoes? Like you would. Yeah.

Phil: (24:57)
Yeah. You know how to maximize time. Like you have time, you want to spend with your, I think you told me a story once when you were on Marin and like, you had to clean up, like you were in a crack house shooting all day and you had to read scripts still. Like, you’re like, I don’t, I don’t want to read the scripts. I want to be at home with my family. Yeah. Like, but I’m here sitting in a crack house. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael: (25:15)
It was exactly that we shot in a crack house. So yeah. I mean, you got to, the reality is, and it’s the same way, actually, even when I’m kicking over casting, uh, you know, it’s that love that you used to cast in person, but now it’s all people said, submit on recordings. And you know, if you have to get to a hundred actors, you’re not going to watch the whole audition. You’re going to say next, you know, you’re just going to flip it to the next one. And it seems cruel. But at the end of the day, at the end of the day, one writer or one actor is going to get that job. There’s only spot only room for one. And does it matter how I get to that one person, one, person’s going to be happy. Right. And 99 are gonna be disappointed. So it’s really up to you to, to come out of the gates swinging.

Phil: (25:54)
Yeah. When I moved from first moved here, um, you know, when you moved to LA, like I’d been to LA many times for concerts and things. And I refuse to look at the Hollywood sign until I lived in LA. Like, it was just like this weird magic I had to say, I live in Los Angeles and I am here to be a writer. And I remember the first time I saw that sign, I was like, oh, that’s pretty cool. But nothing compared to, yeah. I was going to say, seeing, you know, eating a Cantor for the first time, get funny, but, but really it was when I saw the writer’s Guild building on Fairfax, like all of a sudden, like, man, there’s just this awesome moment. So I did some research and I found out that you can attend writers Guild. Um, what is it, uh, it’s their nonprofit arm, the writers Guild foundation, right?

Phil: (26:37)
Maybe they have events almost every single week that you can attend with working writers. And they have this thing called the ticket and it was a thousand dollars. And I mean, that’s a hefty price even for me, but I decided it was an awesome opportunity because you got invited to every single event and front row seats, reserved seats and all of the, all of the events they had, you got to attend to the VIP parties. So I did that. And, uh, one of the events was, uh, a workshop with Jonah Nolan, um, talking about, uh, Westworld. And he gave an advice similar to your point about the five pages. Uh, he said, when I read your script, I, I, something better happened by the bottom of the first page or I’m done. Yeah, yeah. Right. Like he says, I know everything I need to know about you as a writer, by the end of the first page.

Phil: (27:24)
And he talked about like one spec he read for, um, his other show, which was, uh, what was his other show? I’m blanking on it. It ran for forever. I had to do Jim Caviezel in it. Um, but anyway, yeah, they’ll come to me in a second. But anyway, he said that, uh, he read a writer’s script and he’s like, he’s like, it was filthy. It had nothing to do with our show. And it was just absolutely filthy. But his voice was so interesting that we hired him because he had something to say at the bottom of the first page. Right. So it seems like that’s really, it it’s, you know, to your point, it’s the expression and execution of an idea, not just the idea and having something to say early on. Okay.

Michael: (28:04)
Yeah. And also like people say, oh, it’s going to get, wait till it gets good. Like, wait until it gets good, dude. I’m not waiting till it. You know, you have to start good. I’m not going to ever the ending is going to blow you away. Well, no, one’s going to get to the ending. You know,

Phil: (28:18)
I remember the first, the first spec episode I ever wrote was a spec workaholics. And you were kind enough to read it and to be fair to you, I was way too new to send you anything to read at the time, because looking back on it, it was awful, but you read it and you’re like, yeah, it seems like you kind of Frankensteined some stuff here, which is just like disheartening to hear, but it’s very true. And you said the end was funny. So now you’re, you have to start with that. Yeah. You have to start with the funniest thing in your script and then you have to be better than that. Moving forward. I just remember sitting there thinking like, oh my gosh, that was the FA like, it took forever to come up with that ending. Like how could I ever come up with anything funnier than that? And you know, as you’re, as you get better at your craft through practice and practice and practice, you’re looking back at it now. I was like, I wasn’t even really that funny. Like we can come up with a way better.

Michael: (29:05)
Of course, of course you can. Yeah. And you, um, yeah. I mean, we helped you to become less precious and less yeah. Less attached. The more you write, the less attached you are to what you write. And so, because you have more of a body of work and you’re like, if someone doesn’t like a joke or something or a moment, or I find a throw dog, I’ll come up with another one. Yeah. No big deal.

Phil: (29:25)
Yeah. Right, right. So it seems like the answer really is you just need to be good at your craft and you need to be able to execute it on the page. And if you can do those things, that’s, that’s how you get a job. Yeah. Um, you, you gave me a note a long time ago. Um, it was an, I remember as an email, it was right when I went to film school and I sent an email asking you a question, and you said, um, Hollywood needs good writers.

Phil: (29:58)
This has been an episode of screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael Jackson and Phil Hudson. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing leaving a review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. If you’re looking to support yourself, I encourage you to consider investing in Michael’s screenwriting course I’ve known Michael for over a decade. And in the past seven years, I’ve begged him to put something together during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Michael had time. And I have to say, I wish I’d had this course 10 years ago. As someone who has personally invested in most online courses, earned a bachelor’s degree, and actively studied screenwriting for over a decade, this course has been more valuable to me than most of the effort I’ve put in because it focuses on something. No one else teaches: story. In his course, Michael pulls back the curtain and shows you exactly what the pros do in a writer’s room. And that knowledge has made all the difference for me. And I know it will for you too. You can find more information For free daily screenwriting tips, follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @philahudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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