https://youtu.be/762tR2bnZZ8?feature=shared

This week we have Writer & Producer Dawn DeKeyser on the podcast. Dive into this episode for her rich story and beautiful advice for aspiring writers, including why you should pigeonhole yourself.

Show Notes

Dawn DeKeyser on IMDBhttps://www.imdb.com/name/nm0215245/

Dawn’s Websitehttps://www.dawndekeyser.com

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
I’ve made a number of posts about this that yeah, put yourself in a box. People are like, But I don’t wanna be in a box. Put yourself in a box and you’ll worry about getting outta the box later. But right now, you need to sell yourself as who? This is what you are. What do I do? That’s right. That’s

Dawn DeKeyser:
Right. And, and so many new writers are still struggling with that. And I said, People cannot help you if they don’t know where to put you.

Michael Jamin:
You’re listening to Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jam. Hey everybody, this is Michael Jamin and you’re listening to Screenwriters. Need to Hear this. Mike cohost Phil Hudson. He’s got the day off again. He’s doing some more work behind the scenes, but I’m here interviewing the amazingly talented Dawn de Kaiser. And, uh, Dawn, let me tell, tell everybody who you are. Let me also you, I need to remind you who you are.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Okay? Please do

Michael Jamin:
So. You got a long history of writing some pretty great shows. So first you started, I guess, on All American Girl. That was the Margaret Cho show you did Ink Ted Danson. Remember that one? I remember that one. News Radio you wrote a news radio you wrote on All right, already, which I did not know. I guess you wrote with Steven Engel on that one. I didn’t know that. Conrad Bloom, you know, I went to, uh, I went to uh, college with him. We were friends in college, Mark Fostein. Um, but I haven’t talked to him since. And then the Gina Davis show starring who, who started that? Uh, the Becker Becker again. Ted Danson. Let’s listen to these credits you got there was amazing. Uh, just for kicks. Ugly Betty. We know Betty Lafa, Samantha, who if I were on that show, I would’ve been insufferable because someone would’ve said, Yeah, I I have an idea. What if Samantha goes on a date? And I would’ve been like, Samantha, who? That would’ve been my joke all every day. <laugh> Sign sealed. Oh, I skip on the client list. Sign sealed, delivered, hit Streak. The Gourmet Detective Summer. Love the Good Witch. Thank you, John. Thank you so much. Look at me. Are you impressed with how much work?

Dawn DeKeyser:
I am so impressed at. Who knew? I had no idea.

Michael Jamin:
You’ve done a lot of you. So anyway, I thank you so much for joining because, uh, is, we’ve never worked together. I always, even though I’ve known you for years, I always figured we would work together at some point. We just never did. And I blame you for that.

Dawn DeKeyser:
I, uh, I, blame me, we were on the same studio a lot. We were like, Yeah. Next to we had bungalows next to each other. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So that counts completely is, Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You were always a familiar face.

Dawn DeKeyser:
But before we start, can I curse?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t Sure. Why, why would you, Is there something you wanna get off your chest? <laugh>?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. No, just that in the course of talking, it’s gonna play a part of describing my path in life and Oh yeah. I don’t think I could do it without some gods and fucks. So

Michael Jamin:
Do it. Do it up.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Okay.

Michael Jamin:
Cause I we’re getting to the truth again. So let’s begin. How did you become? Where did you start? How did you get into sit? Everyone wants to know how people get into sitcom writing or TV writing. So how did you get in?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, so, and we all come from different angles on different paths. And in order to get to my TV days, I’ll just say a little bit about my background. I was raised in a military family and my dad was a fighter pilot. And I grew up in a very great Sani kind of house. Um, I, I say I was the best son my dad ever had because I was tough and competitive. And I weighed 92 pounds and I was pious.

Michael Jamin:
Wait, did, were you the only child?

Dawn DeKeyser:
No, I had two sisters. So my mom, who was lovely, she would dress my sisters and I all in matching dresses, hats, gloves and shoes. And we would march out onto the tarmac and salute the F four phantoms as they landed.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. And so, and so you moved around the country then? Probably?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, I was born in Japan and I lived in England.

Michael Jamin:
Oh my. And so your Okay. Military brat. And then when you say Great Santa, cuz your dad was strict. Oh, <laugh> is Now, do you wanna start cursing now? What did you want to curse?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, well, let’s see. He, we did have a flow chart of our chores on our bedrooms. And when we were, I think starting at three and four and our beds had to be made with hospital corners really. And we would have to stand in a line, add attention and get, you know, understand what our chores were gonna be for the day and for the week.

Michael Jamin:
Because you are so not that you’re so, you know, kind of almost soft spoken, very gentle. You’re very warm energy. You’re not <laugh>, you’re not a, you know, uh,

Dawn DeKeyser:
It’s taken a long time to get this outta my system. So when I was in junior high, we moved from England to Texas and I went from riding English, um, horseback to competing in rodeos. And I then started racing sailboats. And by college I was on the varsity team. And, um, by the way, I paid my way through college, working two or three jobs each semester. And I started working when I was 15. That’s a little Rob Cohen of me. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Wait, where did you go to school?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, which time? Uh, I went to, so in college I went to the University of Texas and I studied international business, Uhhuh. And then I dropped out of UT and moved to Belgium where I worked at a division of NATO for, for,

Michael Jamin:
I feel like you might speak a lot of languages. Do you speak how many languages you speak?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, I used to speak French when I worked in the warehouse with the Belgians. Right. Um, and then, you know, when my other girlfriends were cheerleaders and all that, I was treasurer of the Latin Club. I don’t mean to brag.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. So you speak Latin. I knew you spoke. What?

Dawn DeKeyser:
And, and so then I, after dropping out, I went back and I finished up my degree in, uh, appropriately named a BS in advertising. And that’s, that’s really when I started my writing career. And, um, let’s see, what did I do? So I started,

Michael Jamin:
You worked in advertising.

Dawn DeKeyser:
So I got to work on tv, radio, and print. And in fact, my first assignment was writing, uh, dozens of scripts for David Brener for Taco

Michael Jamin:
Bell. That was your work. Now I, now I know your work. <laugh>.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s what I’m known for. Um, so getting closer to the TV part, I was living in Dallas. My boyfriend was discovered by a talent manager, and he immediately moved out to LA and became a successful actor.

Michael Jamin:
Do we know his name?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. I went, I’ll I’ll say it. I mean, it was a long time ago. So Tom Hayden Church.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, I did not know that. Okay.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. And so he, his confidence and his uniqueness was just like he broken right away. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I went on to New York and in advertising, which I loved. And you know, after a while, after about two years, I thought maybe I could write something longer than 30 seconds. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I took writing classes at night. I did improv, which I was terrible at because of that. Let’s revisit the military background. I am not spontaneous.

Michael Jamin:
You’re not supposed to go off script when you’re in the military.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh. Oh, no. And I’m very methodical and you know, by this time I was like mid to late twenties and I guess I was having a quarter life crisis and thinking, what, what am I, what do I wanna do and what do I love doing? I loved writing and I loved sitcoms more than anything. Um, I didn’t know how to do that. I called Tom, who was at the time on Wings, that was his first series. And I said, Could you send by now my ex-boyfriend? And I said, Could you send me the writer’s draft through a producing draft? I wanna see the transition mm-hmm. <affirmative> of how this writing is done. And so then I started taping my favorite shows and then doing the stop and pause on the VHS tape.

Michael Jamin:
Like really studying how long a scene would be, how what the act breaks are everything. Huh.

Dawn DeKeyser:
All that. The dialogue, the, and I would map out the beats on a notepad, which by the way, I still write on old fashioned paper notepads for everything. And then I transfer it to the computer. Wow.

Michael Jamin:
That’s old school.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That is old school. And it is all about the ritual. And like, I think there’s something about the the brain to the heart to the hand that gets on paper that I, I don’t get when I write.

Michael Jamin:
But you could, you must be able to read your handwriting. Cause I can’t read my handwriting. I couldn’t even try.

Dawn DeKeyser:
I no, I can’t. I can get the gist of it.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, really? Okay.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Um, so Tom sent me a series of one of one script and, um, I was writing my own two spec scripts. And then I moved to LA with $3,000 in cash.

Michael Jamin:
And where, what I always, I I have to What part in LA did you live at first?

Dawn DeKeyser:
I lived Endless Field, which was being hailed as the New West Village of LA and it is not. And I was living right on Vermont Avenue and I slept on my bathrobe for the first two weeks until my stuff came from New York.

Michael Jamin:
But you had a place all by yourself or you have roommates?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Uh, no, I had a place to myself. I mean, it was $700 for one.

Michael Jamin:
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That sounds about right. That’s a good deal actually. Uh, even then, that’s a good deal. So, okay. And then, and then how did you find a, how did you finally get work?

Dawn DeKeyser:
So I was writing these spec scripts and I sent them them to Bill Diamond and Mike Sal. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And when I moved out to LA, they were my first meeting.

Michael Jamin:
But How did you know them?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Through Tom? Because they were baby writers on the show. Oh,

Michael Jamin:
Right. Yeah.

Dawn DeKeyser:
And they said, you know, we thought you were just gonna be some gal who want, who had this idea of writing for sick homes, but you know what you’re doing. Right. And I was very happy about that. They didn’t give me my first break,

Michael Jamin:
But they, but they weren’t, they were just staff writers at the time.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, yeah. Which is fine. You know, I thought the first thing I needed to do was build a community. So I took a UCLA extension class at night and on the last day of the class, everyone was filing out. Someone turned around and said, you know, the deadline for the Disney Writer’s Fellowship is tomorrow. You have to have your work postmarked by then. Okay. And I ran home and got my stuff in the mail the next morning. And, um, I sort of like that intro that I just talked about my life, I sort of put some of that in the essay that you write for what’s your unique background. And, um, and then sent in a, uh, a Murphy Brown, maybe. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I’m

Michael Jamin:
Not sure you had a bunch of specs

Dawn DeKeyser:
Probably. No, I had, because I’m very methodical, I would spend six months writing each of them. Okay. And that’s night and day work shopping, doing writers groups, doing punch up mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, until I felt like every page that your eyeballs land on made sense and was good and had a joke and you knew where the characters were going.

Michael Jamin:
Before we skip ahead, you said something I thought was really smart, you said you wanted to build your community. Right. Because a lot of people don’t even think about that.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
So you knew you wanted by, you knew you wanted help or you wanted, like what, what were you looking for?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, I knew that I didn’t know anyone here. Tom was off on his own, uh, fabulous life. I knew a girl from Dallas from years before, but, um, there was, there was no one that I could send my stuff to and I did cold calling to the agents and that didn’t work. Doesn’t do anything. Yeah. And so in the UCLA classes, I would usually, if you’ve got a group of 20 people, there’s two that get it, let’s say 10%, they’re

Michael Jamin:
Get what get you or what do you mean get it?

Dawn DeKeyser:
I mean, they get what the, they are really there to learn and to be in that field. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> some others, you know, just they, it’s a fun class to take. Right. But you can tell the two or three people that are very, um, interested in moving their career forward. Right. So I ingratiated myself and said, Let’s form a writer’s group. And that was okay. You know, that was fine until you start meeting people through them, they bring in their set of information that you don’t have access to mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then it just starts growing.

Michael Jamin:
Right? Yeah. You gotta be there. And you, you were there now, how were you making a living? You still working in advertising now?

Dawn DeKeyser:
So I was still in, I wasn’t in doing advertising. I was temping and I had this job at, uh, Disney on the lot where I was answering phones for the head of marketing mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I thought, I’m advertising and marketing. And because, um, at, on the second day, he came out of his office and he said, Who are you and why are you so bad at answering phones? Like you’re dropping calls <laugh> and you’re, you’re sending in the wrong people. And I was like, Yeah, cuz um, this is really what I do. I actually love the One Sheet movie posters that you guys are writing, so I’d like to write headlines for that. And I had secretly gone into the files to see what their freelancers were invoicing them.

Michael Jamin:
Interesting.

Dawn DeKeyser:
And he said, Yeah, I don’t think you’re right for that. So I brought in my portfolio the next day and he said, I think you’re right for this. So I started picking up freelance for movie posters,

Michael Jamin:
But that was not, See some people think that that’s how you break in, but I wouldn’t think that that’s how to break in. That’s just how to make a book. Right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
What do you mean? Like,

Michael Jamin:
Well, like that wouldn’t, working in that advertising side for Disney wouldn’t get you, you know, you’re on the Disney lot, but it wouldn’t get you as a sick, you know, get you work as a sit home writer.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s right. So that predated getting into, so I got in the Disney Writer’s Fellowship, Right. Um, that was over the course of like a two, two month process of interviewing and meeting with their executives. And I went into that meeting thinking, this is what I moved out here for. And they said, So what is your plan if, if this doesn’t work out? And I said, This is going to work out. I really can’t imagine y y’all finding someone better or more dedicated to doing great work. I really wanna do this. I wanna work with my heroes. I wanna work with people that will make me a better writer.

Michael Jamin:
And who were your heroes then?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, weirdly enough, um, I had top a top five. One was Diane English, one was Chris Lloyd, the, the writer. How

Michael Jamin:
Did you know Chris Lloyd? But yeah, I was so surprised you from, how would you know, how did you know Chris? Like how was he? He, Diane English? Yeah,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Diane English. Um, Chris was,

Michael Jamin:
Was he running, He wasn’t running Fraser then?

Dawn DeKeyser:
He was like higher up on Fraser.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. Okay. Yeah. I’m surprised you even thought of him. But I mean Yeah, he’s great. He’s a he is a great writer for

Dawn DeKeyser:
Sure. Yeah, he is. And I can’t remember the other three, but within the first two years of breaking in, I worked with all five of them.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. Wow. Now, what was the fellowship like? Cuz we did the Warner Brothers Writer’s Workshop.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
I’d rather you talk about it. What was the Disney one like? What was your experience there?

Dawn DeKeyser:
It was so great. They picked five people. I think they had in that year, um, 3000 applicants. They picked five of us and Wow. That’s it. Pardon?

Michael Jamin:
That’s it. That’s, I can’t, I I didn’t, I didn’t know it was that small.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, it’s, I think it’s bigger these days. I think they take on 10 or 20, which is good. And they have a, they had another five fellows that did only film. And our five, you know, I’m still in contact with today. We would meet, um, twice a week at each other’s houses. And then usually once a week or every two weeks we’d go to Disney and we would pitch where we are with our specs script. So it was a small, like a small stipend that paid the rent. Oh

Michael Jamin:
Wow. And those five, all five went on to work?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, not consistently. Not really. Okay. But that again, was just, I think it has everything to do with focus. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I’ll talk about that a little more of like, if you, if you are not, if you don’t pick a lane, I am a sitcom half hour multi-camera mm-hmm. <affirmative> writer. That’s what I wanna do.

Michael Jamin:
That Right. I, I so intriguing. Cause I say that I’ve made a number of posts about this that Yeah, put yourself in a box. People like, but I don’t wanna be in a box, Put yourself in a box and you worry about getting outta the box later. But right now you need to sell yourself as who this is what you are. Why do I do? That’s right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s right. And, and so many new writers are still struggling with that. And I said, People cannot help you if they don’t know where to put you. Yeah. And so if you say, Oh, I write drama and comedy and romance, it’s like, that’s great for you, but I only know comedy writers. Right. So I don’t think I’m gonna even help you because I don’t know if you’re really connected with that or with drama or

Michael Jamin:
How serious you are about it. Yeah, exactly. Market yourself. Make it easy for people. Yeah. You know? Yeah. What, See, it’s, so sometimes I, sometimes I wonder, am I just bullshitting? Am I making this up? You know, am I the only one who feels this way? No, I don’t, I don’t think, I think I’m saying stuff everyone else thinks, you know, agrees with

Dawn DeKeyser:
You are not alone. And you’re getting such great information out there to so many people. It’s really spectacular.

Michael Jamin:
You’re very kind.

Dawn DeKeyser:
You’re fan Michael Jam. But

Michael Jamin:
That’s me. So then, okay, so then okay, then what you have. All right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
So then I was in the fellowship and they put, they don’t promise, but they say, we may place you on one of our Disney shows. And that’s where I went onto All American Girl. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And

Michael Jamin:
It, Were they paying you? Cuz I’m Warner of Brothers. If they staffed you in one of their shows, you get, at least back then you would get, you work for like a third of scale. A third. But was that the case on Disney?

Dawn DeKeyser:
We didn’t get paid, but we got paid for the scripts that we wrote because they were already paying. Like, more brothers doesn’t pay you

Michael Jamin:
To pay. Right. No one of those you pay to get in.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh yeah.

Michael Jamin:
We paid. Yeah. We, we paid like, I think it was like $400 each or something. But I think it’s way more than now. I think it’s a lot more now.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Hmm. No, they, they would place you as free labor on their shows. And it was my first experience in the writer’s room. It was hard. I had trouble being heard. And I did end up, we had an order for 13 episodes. I ended up writing three of them.

Michael Jamin:
What was your three? That’s that’s a lot actually for a staff writer. I wonder why weren’t you, you must have been scared.

Dawn DeKeyser:
They liked my writing. They liked, like, I spent again, it was like, I really sweated it. This is another thing that I, that I stress to writers is sweated, you can’t make a lot of money if you’re not putting that amount into your writing and your own career. So

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So 13, that’s a lot. And but what was it like? I mean, were you okay? I always think that when we first kinda just shoot me, I was like, I’m in over my head. I am in over my head. Yeah. How did you felt? The same way

Dawn DeKeyser:
I am in over my head. Um, I, yeah, I, it was terrifying. And I realized that I wasn’t a match for people who had been in writing rooms that were louder funnier, more obnoxious, mostly just louder. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I sat next to this one writer and I, I’d whisper things to him to see if he could pitch them for me.

Michael Jamin:
And did he? Yeah. And, and they went over and then did he give you, did you say as dope? Oh

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Yeah. He would gimme credit. But you know, I said I don’t even wanna push that. I just wanna see.

Michael Jamin:
Right. If

Dawn DeKeyser:
You’re on the right game. Well, I wanna be part of this game, but I don’t know how to play.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right. Exactly. Right. And it takes several, How long did it take you before you felt like you knew how to play? How many years?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, well that’s the interesting thing because my next job was on news radio. Right. And I, I have all, I had felt like an all American girl that I was getting my, you know, sort of getting my feet under me. But that was, they were kicked out from under me on this, on the next actual staff job that I have. Right. That I had. And it took me, um, quite a long time to feel okay in the room. And it really wasn’t until many years later when I was in the ugly Betty Writers’ room because the, you had drama writers there who were so great about staying on focus with the story and not performing and the performance of the comedy when you do a comedy pitch. I was scared of

Michael Jamin:
Oh, interesting. So cuz they don’t have, obviously when you’re doing the drama you don’t have to be funny. So they’re basically just talking about the story points. Cause I haven’t really worked on it and they’re not, Yeah. They’re not hoping the joke will land cuz there is no joke.

Dawn DeKeyser:
It was so weird to, um, go out on, on an act with no joke. It was like, what? Wait, we can just cliff hanger like that. <laugh>.

Michael Jamin:
Do you feel like these drama rooms are more civilized because of that?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, definitely. They were also, they were just more writerly and, um, more mature. And I, you know, I say that sitcom riding was a full contact sport. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I didn’t realize that when I started I wanted to be around really funny people. And it was so much work for me. There was the whole other aspect of being a female writer and oftentimes the only woman in the room.

Michael Jamin:
Why? Talk about that experience a little. What’s that like?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, it sucked <laugh>.

Michael Jamin:
It, it sucked. It sucked.

Dawn DeKeyser:
It was

Michael Jamin:
Sucked. But not all the time. Just sometimes or all the time?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Every time

Michael Jamin:
On every show. Every show.

Dawn DeKeyser:
No. If there were other women in the writer’s room, it was a little less terrible,

Michael Jamin:
But still terrible.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. It wasn’t until I got into dramas and then dramas that I just felt like, okay, I can, I can do my work. I could be funny. I’m much funnier on the page and I would just think, Oh God, I gotta get out of the writer’s room so I can be funny. Right. So that was not the best strategy.

Michael Jamin:
Right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, and I was the only woman on news radio that year. Andy and Eileen were there and they left after a few episodes.

Michael Jamin:
Right. But Right. But you overlap with him. Right. Cause that’s how I, that’s how I met you through Eileen I think.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh, probably. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right.

Michael Jamin:
And you know, they were both very, I remember I’d just shoot me, both of them. They’d pitch a line, like a story, uh, idea and then, you know, people Oh, that’s good. And like, how do you know it’s good? How do they, like how are they doing this? Like how do you know? You know, Anyway, but I think

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s, I don’t know. Would you say that it helps to have a partner? Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
For sure. It helped a lot. I mean I, you know, the two of us were clinging to each other for, you know, for dear life. <laugh>. Um, I think definitely it’s that way more intimidating to do it all to it on yourself. But how do you, what do you like, what do you experience even now or like lately when you have a staff writer who feels the same way that you felt like what, you know

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
What goes on there?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, um, working on pilots, there was one young girl who came in and just to sort of observe mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I just took to her because she was so, um, she had a script in a big binder with all of it color coded with all of her nose. I was like, Oh my God, you’re after my heart. Um, because

Michael Jamin:
She’s so prepared. People, young writers come in prepared sometimes. I’m always

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, they do. And I just said, You are after my heart. I will help you in any way that I can. And she was working for, for quite some time. I think she lives on the East coast now. Right. It’s that, um, it’s that showing up prepared and really earnest. Like, I love that. I kind of love when people try a little too hard and sometimes it can be cringy. I’m like, Yes, I get it. That’s me.

Michael Jamin:
But do you have you also, cause I’ve experienced young writers who kind of don’t under, they don’t know what they don’t know as well, you know, as well and they kind of

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Argue or overstep and, you know, have you experienced that?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh yeah. And the, one of the first things I say is, do not litigate. Do just, just take it in. And it’s also the, um, once you learn how to take notes on your script and realize that it’s not personal, get out of your own fucking way. Get outta your way. Because after like being in writer’s groups, we had rules about how we gave notes to each other. And the person getting the notes has to shut up. You cannot explain why you put something in a script. It’s like, I don’t care why you put it in there. Here’s me as a reader is not getting this part of it. Right. And there’s been plenty of times I’d be giving people notes and just like in classes or writer’s room. Um, Yeah. Classes a writer resume. And I could tell that they didn’t want the note.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Oh well no one wants a note. <laugh>. Yeah. I mean,

Dawn DeKeyser:
I mean just like basic stuff, especially in writers’ groups where if, if they are arguing their stance and their reason for why they wrote something, it’s like, Oh, I get it. Okay. You’re good. You’re good to go. All all’s good.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Right. And so this, see, it’s so funny how we have the same, like we’ve never worked in the same show. We’ve had so many the same exact experiences.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yes. Although I would, I would, Oh you said venture to mention that. Um, you know, and some writers’ rooms, it’s like, I was not safe. I was commented, my body was commented on when I would walk into a room and when I would leave a room and I was told to suck it up by my agents because it was a really good show. Or

Michael Jamin:
Do you think they were trying to be funny or were they’re being sexual harassing? Like, you know, what were they trying, what was the Oh,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Sometimes it was just trying to be funny. But, um, it was funny at my expense I say I was humiliated for sport on a particular show. Right. And they were cruel. And they were also like, my agents came in after one of our show tapings and they looked around the office and went, Oh, I see what you’re talking about. It smells like rancid cheese in here. The guys were walking around in boxer shorts. They had brought futons to their offices cuz they were just staying there.

Michael Jamin:
So like, cuz the hours is terrible. Yeah,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. And they also had jars of their pee in the offices because I thought that was hilarious.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Dawn DeKeyser:
So that’s, that’s not just being like, I

Michael Jamin:
Dunno. And it’s interesting that you, you were able to speak up about this because this was before people were really speaking up about this. You know what I’m

Dawn DeKeyser:
Saying? I didn’t, I didn’t, I mean, I didn’t until more recently. That’s a really,

Michael Jamin:
To your agent at least you did. You know?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, I just said it’s so hard. I mean it’s so Yeah. And that my agents were women

Michael Jamin:
And they still, And you’re, they still,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
I can’t, I want, What do you think if that were today though? I can’t imagine

Dawn DeKeyser:
It wouldn’t happen today.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You’d be taking a lot more seriously, you know. Yeah,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. It, it, it, yeah. It wouldn’t happen today. Um, that, that show ended up not hiring a woman writer for the rest of its run for like three or four more seasons.

Michael Jamin:
And, but from what I understand, well maybe, maybe I shouldn’t say which show it was. Do we say which show it was? I know some,

Dawn DeKeyser:
It may have earlier, but

Michael Jamin:
I know some of the, like some of these shows that you were on the hours were absolutely terrible. Terrible. Like, what were those, what was that like?

Dawn DeKeyser:
That was like being held hostage by a crazy person. Right. And that sometimes the showrunner would be on medication and they would not be able to focus and they would just kind of keep us there. A lot of times you’d hear about showrunners who just didn’t wanna go home to their wife and kids, which is terrible,

Michael Jamin:
Terrible, terrible. Right. Wow.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Wow. So that was, that was hard. I mean, driving home at four in the morning and then getting up at around 10, um, and then getting back to the office by 10 30 or 11,

Michael Jamin:
Was there a lot of sitting around and waiting? Or was it all work?

Dawn DeKeyser:
No, it was a lot of sitting around and waiting and storytelling galing each other. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know. Geez. But, but things are not, they don’t work that way anymore. Which is,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I don’t think so. You gotta, yeah. When you get, that’s a bad situation. Uh, sometimes like we, you know, we did a couple bad hours like on just shoot me, but it was never, cuz we were dicking around, it was because like a story blew, blew up and we had to work till four in the morning. That was a couple of those. But it wasn’t, cuz it wasn’t ill behavior. It was just, that’s just the, you know, sometimes that happens.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, for sure. And you know, people like Steve Levitan and some of the other guys you’ve worked with, they are not there to make a point or single someone out just for fun. Yeah. And you guys, you and Sea were as showrunners, you would never do that. You would never write that.

Michael Jamin:
No. Our goal was always to go home early. That was, how could we go home early today, <laugh>, what could we do to get the work done, Have a, have a good hour. Um, but what about developing when you, you know, come up with your own ideas? What’s that? How does that work?

Dawn DeKeyser:
That was, um, that was usually, uh, someone that I’d be in the writer’s room with. They would come to me and say, I’ve got an idea. Do you like this? Or we would pair up just for the pitch.

Michael Jamin:
So most of your develop, Okay. So people ask me about that. Can you, can you work independently or can you work with team up with people? Cuz we, we, you know, that’s what you did mostly.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. And when I was, um, like I’d say mid-level writer mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it would behoove me to go in with a showrunner or a co p Right. And, um, just so that I could to have those meetings and kind of get the lay of the land until later when I would write

Michael Jamin:
Around.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
But in the beginning, were you, were you kind of working under them or were you literally together.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Together. Okay. Together.

Michael Jamin:
And, and then now, okay, now when you come up with an idea, how does that work alone? I mean,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh, it was, it was great. So we’re, we’ve been talking mostly about the nineties and then after a few of the shows, like I, I went to work through the rest of the nineties, but I did definitely get the comedy knocked out of me. Um, I went on to do a series of shows and over that time there were less and less options because we had the game shows coming in and reality tv. And by 2000 I went to rehab and it was very helpful. I mean, you know, I got this shit kicked out of me and I was no match. I was not cravenly ambitious. I was just always grateful to be there, which doesn’t give you any control. And with, with my, it was a short stint and I was able to piece things together. I also took jobs for shorter amounts of time. Like if they had a full year season, I’d say I’ll work the first 13.

Michael Jamin:
What if they pick, what if they wanted you for the back nine or whatever.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Then I said, I’m not available. And I’d move to New York and just kind of in between each show I had to do a lot of repair. I just had to sleep.

Michael Jamin:
Interesting. I I, I didn’t even know that was an option. Like that’s kind of, I that’s kind of unusual to kind of good for you. Like, you’re calling the shots, you’re saying this is what I’m willing to do. I don’t know anybody who does that, who can do that, I guess.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well I wasn’t, um, I couldn’t, I mean financially it was not the thing to do, but mentally I knew that I had to not put myself in harm’s way. Right. And, um, I always, it also had advertising to go back to occasionally. Right. So, um, you know, by, I would say, so I continued to work. I’d pick up an episode here, um, less staff drops available, but I just kind of eked out a living. It wasn’t the trajectory that I’d started on. Right. And I was okay with that.

Michael Jamin:
Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my videos and you want me to email them to you for free, join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos. These are for writers, actors, creative types. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. I’m not gonna spam you and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michael jamin.com/watchlist.

Michael Jamin:
Basically this is the, the interesting part, which I don’t really talk about a lot on anything is the economics of really being a writer. Because I don’t know, we don’t just talk about it, but cuz we were saying, you know, you kind of, you kind of, you were calling the shots. You’re saying, this is what I’m willing to do. I don’t want, I’ll work this much, I don’t wanna work that much because it’s not <laugh>, it’s not good for me, my mental health. And I get that. Um, but so then to kind of to, you know, had to make, to make ends meet, you also have this other project that you’ve been working on and I wanna talk about that.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yes. So I think we, uh, we were talking about 2000 rehab, excellent. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> very helpful. And so it was on the heels of that that I was starting to piece together what I wanted my life to look like, which was not working 18 hours a day with difficult people. Yeah. So I would, I would take my jobs for shorter amounts of time. Like if a, if a show had an order for 22, I said I’ll work on the first 13. Right. And then I would generally go to Texas or New York and then just repair in between shows. And it, financially it was not a strong way to do it. But, um, I wanted to circle back a little bit on the, the rehab stuff. Um, you had asked at one point about did I, was I an AA and I wanna say that that never worked for me.

Dawn DeKeyser:
And there was this book a few years back called Quit Like A Woman. And it’s about, it was by H Whitaker and it’s about smart recovery. And one of the things that just made so much sense to me was that AA is a AAL system. And one of the first things that they ask you to do is give, give away your power. And the thing is, we women are rendered powerless in so many situations already. Why the fuck would I wanna go into a meeting and, and not have any agency over myself and my decisions? So that’s a part of smart recovery and I love it. I think it’s really

Michael Jamin:
Do do you meet as as often as, as somebody you know, in, in the group or, you know?

Dawn DeKeyser:
No, and the thing about it is, um, I’m sort of a social drinker. I don’t have an issue with that anymore. And it’s really about like, if you have a drink, you don’t start at day one. You just, you figure out if you wanna manage your use of anything or, um, if you don’t want to <laugh>. Right. And, and it’s just, um, it’s just less, um, punishing Right. Say so. Um, and I know that, you know, we’re writers, we’re tender souls and we feel a lot. And I just wanted to get sort of, get that out there. That’s something that’s really helped and resonated with

Michael Jamin:
Viola Davis said something like that, you know, obviously not a writer but an actor, but she said, I guess I can’t remember what it was about, but she’s basically saying someone criticized her for having thin skin. And she goes, I’m supposed to have thin skin. That’s, I’m an artist. Like I, you know, I’m not supposed to have thick skin <laugh>. I’m supposed to feel things and express things. You

Dawn DeKeyser:
Know? That’s right. That’s right. I mean, that’s what we do. We do. And um, we feel things and then we express them and we write them and we get it out there and people get it. They understand that. Um, you can’t be general in really good writing. You gotta be specific.

Michael Jamin:
Right, Exactly. Specific. Yes. Yeah. Well tell but tell me about your summit.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Okay, so sum

Michael Jamin:
It up.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Sum it up. Um, one, sum it up. One of the things we don’t talk about as writers is all that dead air, that space between gigs or the fact that the seasons are shorter now, and there’s the writing staffs are smaller and the industry expands and contracts and the summit called writers making money. Lose the ego, tap into your talent and bring cash in during these weird ass apocalyptic times. I’m said that earlier. And, um, it’s really about what are you doing for passive income investing? How are you keeping the lights on mm-hmm. <affirmative> and these, So I talk to money experts and mindset coaches and, um, we talk about things like cash machines, which is how do you bring in a little bit just in passive income? It’s not hard. Um, if you have lazy assets, like my IRA’s been sitting there doing nothing for a long time. And, um, we talked about what types of entities as a creative person you need to set up and forget it’ll run on its own without you. But just getting all of that in place. And so, uh, in 2020 my life imploded mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And after that, and I’ll just say a little bit like in 2020 my house flooded and I lost about 50 years worth of furniture, clothing, art, stuff like that. And then my husband, um, emailed me d divorce papers.

Michael Jamin:
Right. And then it gets worse,

Dawn DeKeyser:
And then it gets worse. And then covid hit. And then while the house was being torn apart with asbestos, tenting, my daughter and I moved into one corner of the house during, while she was in virtual school, I lost my dream job. I lost the house. And then we just decided to go and spend time in Woodstock, New York with friends, which was good. And then we came back in November and about that Thanksgiving, my husband passed away. Right. So that was very hard. And, um, I spent after, you know, we went through the grieving process and then after we <laugh>, just after we got that done, after we were cured of that <laugh>, I started into just figuring out again, what do I want my life to look like in my career? And I still wanna write. And so I started taking business classes, business coaching, leadership training, um, and talking to money experts and just like, what, how am I setting myself up for generational wealth? Which is something that I didn’t look ahead, I didn’t look to, excuse me. And then my daughter got into college, which was amazing, and she’s in New York now. She’s at the number one design school in the country, Parsons. And we said yes. And then I looked at the, how much it was gonna cost and <laugh> out. Oh. And also in 2020, all my money kind of evaporated, unbeknownst to me. So I was really starting from scratch with no home address. Right. And, um,

Michael Jamin:
What do you mean your money evaporated? What hap what do you mean?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Well, um, my husband was, um, he was not, well, he was very troubled and very ill. And that kind of went with him. So

Michael Jamin:
He, Okay. So he learned,

Dawn DeKeyser:
He found out that we were a few hundred thousand in debt. So again, all that doesn’t matter, it’s just money. So we find out that Ava’s college is 80,000 Right. Thinking, you know what, we’re gonna do this. We’ll just figure out a way. So for the last 18 months, I have been figuring out ways to set our lives up and start bringing in money in a different way outside of tv, outside of just writing as a creative person. And it’s working and I wanna, and I just want people to know that there’s, I

Michael Jamin:
Share that that’s important cuz you know, creative people, like, we don’t go into this profession, at least I don’t think, you know, we don’t go into the special to become middle managers. We don’t go to become to know about money because like, you know, I think that’s part of, also, I’m not excusing any of the bad behavior in TV shows, but no one becomes a writer because they wanna manage people. They go because they just wanna goof off and be creative and do whatever and that. But the problem is that can, that can affect people, other people working underneath you, you know?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah, for sure. You know that as a showrunner. Yeah. And you work up through the ranks because of your writing talent and then you’re suddenly in an administrative position, Right. As a showrunner, right? Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It’s like, I don’t, I didn’t want, I don’t wanna be the boss, I just wanna be a writer. But, but this is how it is now. Now you have to manage people. So anyway, so, but, but so that’s why I think what you’re talking about in your summit is important. So Yeah. Tell us more about it. Yeah.

Dawn DeKeyser:
So I think it’s really important because we are, this is gonna talk about, um, using your left brain in a right brain industry mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it’s not that hard. It’s not that scary. I talked to this one woman who’s known for her millionaire maker series, and I started working with her this summers. Like, what am I, I’m doing everything wrong. I know that, and I’ve made money and I’ve spent it, and I would kind of like to not do that anymore. And her team is, you know, they’re talking about how to get me set up and any of their other clients and it’s been just a complete game changer. Right. Like, it just, um, and she’s very intense and very complex in all of the knowledge that she has. She’s not a Susie Orman or Dave Ramsey where they talk about saving mm-hmm. <affirmative> and don’t have that latte in the morning.

Dawn DeKeyser:
And she says, Oh, you know, fuck all that live. You’re like, make money and do the right thing with it because we just aren’t ever aware of what to do. Like lazy assets. My IRA sitting there, and now I’m going to instead take some of that out and put it into a, an investing group that will, will put money into apartment buildings and real estate. And y’all who have houses out here are, you know, that is great, but it’s not a financial strategy. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And anyway, so I was excited about learning all of this, especially on the heels of having to reconfigure my whole life. And I just wanna get it out there.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You had, you did a giant reset. A giant reset. Yeah. Very overwhelming. I I’m getting nervous just thinking about what you did <laugh>.

Dawn DeKeyser:
It was, um, it was weird. It was, yeah. It was really hard. And, um, yeah, I am grateful. Like I’m grateful for my life. There’s one of two ways you can go when tragedy happens. And that is, you can stay in it and think of the all the other bad things that are right around the corner mm-hmm. <affirmative> or, um, you can pick yourself up and get going in a completely different way. That’s the, that was the, the real impetus for me is like, I wanna do things differently and Oh, and there was something you said about h hustling. Yes. Yes. Um, so I’m, I’m now putting questions out there and answering them and not even giving you any air time <laugh>. Like, we all hustle, we all get that, get the work done. One thing that I wanted to do in this new reset was to not hustle as much what I do. I’m working a lot, but at home on my own schedule. And if it feels like it’s getting stressful or sense of urgency, I take a nap. Right. I just slow down and I wanna do it in a more peaceful way.

Michael Jamin:
Right. That’s so interesting. And so people can learn more about your, the summit@dawntokaiser.com

Dawn DeKeyser:
Slash writers making money

Michael Jamin:
Back slash writers making money. And so then when is the next one?

Dawn DeKeyser:
It’s going to be October 17th through the 19th. So for three days we have, Oh, sorry. For three days we have nine speakers. Right. And each day we’ll talk like one, I talk to an actress who is now writing this really fabulous, um, children’s book series. She loves that. She’s like, I still act, but here’s something that fills my heart. Right. Um, talking to Laura Lang Meyer, who’s intense, she’s still intense. Um, and she is all, she’s, she talks about money in a way of let’s get everything. Let’s not have your bookkeeper talk to your cpa, talk to your business manager. She’s like, We just do everything and, and all in one place, which is what I,

Michael Jamin:
And we should mention, this is all free for people who want to join the summit. Right. It’s

Dawn DeKeyser:
All free. It’s free, free, free. So you just sign up, give me your email and your name, and you’ll get access to all of that.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Right. Yeah. And then, but then you and you also have a consulting business, a script consulting

Dawn DeKeyser:
Business. I do. So all that’s gonna launch to, I am all about putting everything off to the last minute. So that launches next week, and that’ll be on my dawn de kaiser.com website. I’ll do, I’ll be doing script consulting, um, coaching for creatives and the writer’s room. We’re going be, we’ll meet once a once a week

Michael Jamin:
About,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. We’ll do guest speakers and q and a and then writing sprints.

Michael Jamin:
Once a writing sprint

Dawn DeKeyser:
That is kind of a Pomodoro style I put on a timer and heads, pencils up, heads down.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, okay. And then you give a little short assignment. People

Dawn DeKeyser:
Not even, you know, I’ll say, set your intention at the very beginning of what you wanna accomplish in the next 25 minute sprint. Okay. And, um, and we just do check in. It helps to get online or, you know, to check in with other people. Your Facebook group is really going strong and people are finding each other there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that’s been really helpful for them.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. You got a lot going on.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Um,

Michael Jamin:
Now I wanna talk about when you’re, when you’re on a a show, like what’s, what’s your experience like working with new young writers and and what do you see? Dos and don’ts?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. I see the ones that really, that just grab my heart are the ones who try really hard. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they are like, to a cringy point, like I love that. I was working on a pilot and this one young writer came in, she was gi given a shot and she had her script in a big binder, three reading binder with all of her color coordinated post-it notes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that. And, and I just thought, she’s after my own heart. Like I, that’s She was prepared. She was prepared. That’s right.

Michael Jamin:
Because sometimes new young writers, they’ll look at the boss and because the boss very often isn’t really prepared <laugh> because, you know, they got a million things going on. Or even some of the upper level writers are kind of play it loose. But, uh, and so some of ’em think, well, if the boss has got his feet up on the, or her feet up on the desk, so could so can I, I’ll just do what the boss is doing. <laugh>. But you’re not the boss. You

Dawn DeKeyser:
Know, you have not earned the right to put your feet up on the table yet.

Michael Jamin:
Right. So you, But when you see people come in prepared, uh, you know, I like that. I like, sometimes they’ll, like, they’ll say, I have a pitch. I’m like, Oh good. I, they’ll say like, I have five ideas. Well let’s hear ’em. I don’t have any ideas.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s right. <laugh>. That’s right. Yeah. It’s just, it’s just sort of, um, you know, not taking it personally mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And uh, I see a lot of writers who litigate their script. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>,

Michael Jamin:
They overstep. Right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
They do. And they just argue for the, they don’t need to argue. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they, their work is on the page. It either is working or it’s not. And you are in a room with professionals who will tell you mm-hmm. <affirmative> and you don’t need to explain to them what you put in the script and why, because they don’t care. It’s not working. Right. Right. So yeah. It is that losing the ego part of it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It’s, it’s hard for people to, it’s hard for young writers to accept that. Um, and they don’t see it yet. And then as you get older, and then sometimes I feel like, ah, I, I’m like, crouchy the old guy. Um, but I, I don’t, I don’t think so. I think like you just, you have the experience. It’s like, I don’t wanna argue with you. I, you know, I know from experience that this is how, this is how it’s gotta go. This is what this is. What you presented is not gonna work. I just know. I just know that, you

Dawn DeKeyser:
Know. Yeah. You’ve, you’ve done your time.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Um, and do you feel, But how do you, and I think I I I, we talked about this a little bit. How, how do you think people are breaking in today?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Oh, that’s right. I said I do not know. I have no idea. Yeah. I have no idea. Um, what you and Rob Cohen talked about was just coming in from all different angles. Like mine was a winding road getting here. And um, some of it worked, some of it didn’t. But, um, that, yeah. It’s like no one is going to give you a career. They will give you a shot. Right. And that’s why your work has to be outstanding. And I say, not good, not great. Outstanding. And you’ll get work. You know, I, I just, um, and there are so many,

Michael Jamin:
Cause some people think, well, it’s good enough or it’s better than what the garbage that I see on tv. And they think, well, you know, Okay, okay. Maybe it is, but it’s, you know, that’s not good enough

Dawn DeKeyser:
That, But people have been saying that since I started in tv. It’s like, Oh, it’s better than what’s on the air. No, it’s not <laugh>.

Michael Jamin:
No,

Dawn DeKeyser:
No. You, you are competing with a room of 12 professional writers who have each other to bounce it off of. And there’s a reason that they write all of that. It may not end up great. That may be for all these reasons that you have no access to, which is network notes or, um,

Michael Jamin:
Acting notes. The actor you can get it from. Yeah. Um, there’s a lot of reasons even, you know, I haven’t really talked about this a lot, but even writing a bad television show is hard. Even writing bad TV is hard, You know,

Dawn DeKeyser:
<laugh>, it’s so hard. I worked on this one show that was a drama but just inadvertently a comedy. It was so terrible. And I think we got written up in the Hollywood Reporter for it just being so campy. We weren’t going for campy, we were just trying <laugh>, We’re just, just trying to get the scripts to the actors.

Michael Jamin:
Right. How funny. Do and, and do you find, I think we, we’ve talked, I don’t remember we mentioned this, but do you find working cuz you kind of transitioned to from comedy sitcom to DRM or, and even drama, like, um, and I think you were talking about even more chill. Like what? Cause I hadn’t worked in drama, really. So what are the differences in the writing room, the writers’ room for

Dawn DeKeyser:
That? Yeah. It’s a, it’s a’s a huge difference. So, um, 2017 Me Too movement mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that was a game changer for people like me who had been dragged around a few rough corners. And, um, it did change the, it changed the personality of a lot of writers’ rooms. As, as you know, for me, um, comedy was always kind of a full contact sport. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you’d be in the room with comedians, performers, writers, and there would be jumping up and down and just, it was a lot of performance. And so Right.

Michael Jamin:
Because you gotta sell that joke.

Dawn DeKeyser:
You gotta sell it. Right. You gotta sell it. No one else is gonna sell it. Um, so I, my first job in drama was Ugly Betty, but they had, half of the staff was comedy writers, which hadn’t been done a lot or before. Right. So what I noticed was that the drama writers were so writerly and they were so not worried about selling the act break and getting the big joke out on a beat or a scene. And it was, it was so great. It was so great to talk about the story and not about not worry about how you’re gonna sell the joke for me. Right. I, I liked that part of it. And then I went on to be in other drama rooms that were just very respectful.

Michael Jamin:
And how did you make that transition? You had basic, cuz it’s not like you could just jump from comedy writer to drama. You ba you’re kind of starting over

Dawn DeKeyser:
Kinda, you know, I didn’t look at it that way. I will say that drama writers don’t tend to become comedy writers.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Right. It’s, it’s a one, right? You, if you can write comedy, you could probably write drama, but not necessarily the other way around. Right.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Right. I mean, it’s just a whole different muscle. Um, I don’t know. I think I got this shit kicked out of me in comedy, so I thought, I wanna be <laugh>. I’m now more serious.

Michael Jamin:
But now you started writing sample, you had to write samples. You gotta start as if you’d never done ob cause you’d never done it before. You had start writing drama samples.

Dawn DeKeyser:
That’s right. And I found that the agents did not want to marketing me that way. You know, I’ve already established myself and, and they would then have to hand me over to a different set of agents.

Michael Jamin:
That’s interesting. Right? Cause I talk about this. Well, so many people think that soon as I get an agent, how do I get an agent? They say this all the time. How do I get an agent as if that’s gonna help at all? You know, that’s not gonna change your life. Once you’ve, you know, once even when you become at your level, you know you’re in charge,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Right? Yeah, absolutely. And I didn’t get an agent until I was, I’d won some script writing contests. I was in the Disney Writer’s Fellowship. I was writing all those scripts on one of their shows, and I still couldn’t get an agent. Still

Michael Jamin:
Couldn’t get an agent. Yeah.

Dawn DeKeyser:
And so I called, I contacted CAA and uta and they’re like, Yeah, no, we’re very interested. And no one would pull the trigger. So I called CAA back and said, Yeah, I’m going into UTA this afternoon. And that’s when I got the offer. And then I called uta. I said, Yeah, I’m gonna go on, go ahead and go to CAA this afternoon.

Michael Jamin:
And Wow. So you were just bluffing? Yeah. Wow. Interesting. Yeah, we, for a while when we, um, God, where were we? I think we were at, uh, Endeavor. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And we weren’t getting much. Um, we, I guess we weren’t getting to kind of help the support we needed then as soon as, but as soon as we threatened to, to go to uta mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like everyone was called suddenly, suddenly they wanted to talk to us. <laugh>.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. Yeah. That’ll get them sitting up straight. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
<laugh> good for you. That’s hard. That’s, that’s, uh, gutsy. But, okay. So then, um, but in terms of breaking stories, it, is it kind of the same on a, on a drama for

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. It’s kind of the same. Instead of going out on a big blow, you go out on a big cliff hanger. Right. And

Michael Jamin:
A pregnant moment.

Dawn DeKeyser:
What?

Michael Jamin:
That’s, that’s what I was told. It’s called, It’s, it’s a pregnant, a pregnant moment. Like, Oh

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yes, that’s right. Yes. What next? Yeah, <laugh> and I, I just really liked it. I had this lovely experience working with Martha Williamson, who created Touch by an Angel. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And she’s one of like the top Christian women in the country. And she was interviewed on 60 Minutes and she had quite a big career. And I had never been in a respectful writer’s room before. And so I was like, Oh, we can’t say fuck. And they, the two other guys, it was just like four of us. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> said, Oh, no, no, no. And so I thought, okay, no, I’m, I’m, I’m gonna give it a go <laugh>, and

Michael Jamin:
I’m gonna hold my tongue when I don’t have to say be crashed. Weird.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. I’m not gonna be disgusting. So, um, it was a really great experience. Right. That’s interesting. And yeah. And the other, the dramas that I’ve done, and then, and then things sort of went, like I was able to write, um, episodes of Hallmark shows that’s, I call that the women, the women writers ghetto. Um, cause we all, we all sort of end up there doing our cozy mysteries, which, um,

Michael Jamin:
It used to be, I guess children’s shows, but I guess now you’re saying for it’s, it’s home, It’s, uh,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Hallmark has always been the family network. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Family. Family.

Michael Jamin:
But when you develop, are you develop on your own? Are you, are you mostly doing comedy or drama?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Um, comedy, No, I would say both. And I’m not developing a lot. I have had this one idea that I love so much that I’m afraid to write it. I just, I just can’t seem to do it.

Michael Jamin:
Why? Why?

Dawn DeKeyser:
Because I want it to be really good.

Michael Jamin:
Well, why don’t you make, Write it as a book then?

Dawn DeKeyser:
No, it’s a great series.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But if you sell it as a book, then, then you can turn it as a TV show. No.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Mm. Book writing. That’s hard.

Michael Jamin:
Book writing. What would I know?

Dawn DeKeyser:
What writing

Michael Jamin:
<laugh>? What do you mean book writing? <laugh>?

Dawn DeKeyser:
What is this book thing you talk about?

Michael Jamin:
Um, so interesting. But, okay, so I wanna make sure everyone knows more about, I guess I, when we talked about it, I wanna make sure before we sign off, but everyone knows more about how they can get in touch with you, how they can find you and learn more about your summit and your, your consulting services and all that.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. So that’s all coming out next week and maybe by the time this runs, Yeah, probably it’s, yeah, Hope. Um, Instagram @dawndekeyserwrites TikTok @dawndekeyserwrites website DawnDeKeyser.com. And I will tell you, you know, you use your name and all of your stuff. I would, I just was so uncomfortable doing that. I was calling it everything else, but what I am doing. So now it’s just my name.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I know. I was, I was a little in the beginning. I was, uh, you know, it was uncomfortable cuz writers don’t, we’re not actors. We’re behind the scene. It’s, it’s weird for us to, uh, promote ourselves this way. That’s not what we do. We’re not act, That’s what the actors we write for somebody else put them in front. So that was a hurdle for me to, I had to get over, you know?

Dawn DeKeyser:
How did you get over it?

Michael Jamin:
Um, you know, I I I’m always reminded of the Oscar Wild. There’s a wonderful qu I think he said, but I’m not sure cause I can find it again. But he said you’d worry, I think he said you’d worry less about what other people thought. Think about you if you realized how little they did. Which works on two levels, which means they already think you’re garbage. So what are you worried about? Or they’re just, they’re just thinking about themselves. And so, yeah, I just, at some point I was like, I screw it. If people wanna judge me, let, let them, they’re, they’re gonna forget about me anyway. I’m not on anyone’s, you know, why does no one’s staying up late to think about me <laugh>.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Right, right. That’s good to know. I mean, that’s, that is liberating.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. You know, and I, I, I do actually, I’ve thought about it a lot and especially as a writer, cuz I started, you know, writing more like personal essays, more stuff about my life. And, um, and then I kind of realized that there’s like a paradox about judge being about judgment and that, cause I, you know, I, I did this show and then I didn’t want people to think like, my biggest fear would be to perform my work and have people think, Oh, this guy’s not a good writer. You know? And to be a good writer, you have to expose yourself. Yeah. And that’s the paradox. So if I don’t want people to judge me, I have to put my, allow people to judge me. I have to make myself vulnerable so that they might judge me ironically. And if you do that, they ironically won’t judge you. You know,

Dawn DeKeyser:
On your website you talk about vulnerable, being vulnerable. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Dawn DeKeyser:
Yeah. It’s hard. It’s hard because that’s exactly right. You put your yourself out there, your heart and it can hurt.

Michael Jamin:
But to me, the bigger pain is having someone say, Oh, you can’t write <laugh>. So like, that would hurt harder <laugh>. So I’d rather just ex be vulnerable. And that people Wow. Cuz people walk away, they go, Wow, how’d you do that? That was pretty brave. I’m like, whew. No, it would’ve been brave if I gone up there with my less than adequate work then, you know, that would’ve been brave. I feel like, you

Dawn DeKeyser:
Know, <laugh>. Yeah. Yes. Um, keep your work at the highest level. You know, that’s just, there, there are no shortcuts. Yeah, there’s a lot of different ways in, but they’re just not shortcuts.

Michael Jamin:
The, that’s another thing, and I was gonna do, I guess a post about this, but every time I talk to a writer, everyone has a different way in. There’s no, it’s not like becoming a doctor where you go to med school, you take these, you take your MCATs, you go to med school, you to residency for a writer. Everyone has a different path to get in. So it’s not like, you know, it’s more like a curiosity thing When I ask people how they break in, but it’s not like you can follow that path. You have to make your own,

Dawn DeKeyser:
You know? Yeah, no, and for to follow my path, you’d have to go <laugh>. You do a little time travel into an alcoholic family, so I don’t

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you don’t wanna do that. Yeah, no, don’t do it. Don’t do it. <laugh>. Wow. Well, Dawn, I want to thank you so much for joining me. This is gonna be a good one. This is gonna be a good one. So thank you so much. Everyone go check out her website, dawn to kaiser.com. She’s got a lot to offer. The, the, the webinars free. Sit in on that. You’ll, you’ll get a lot and, you know, thank

Dawn DeKeyser:
You stuff for promoting that. Of course. You know, we as writers and not marketers, thank you.

Michael Jamin:
You No, Yeah, yeah. So, you know, you’re being too shy, so I have to promote you.

Dawn DeKeyser:
Okay, yeah, that’s alright. Thank you so much.

Michael Jamin:
Thank you. Yeah. Well, well thank you again. I’ll put this up. All right everyone, until next time. Bye-Bye. <laugh>,

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing, leaving your review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. For free daily screenwriting tips, follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok at @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.

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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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