https://youtu.be/KeE65k0z_NU?feature=shared

In April I hosted a webinar titled “How To Tell A Great Story” where I discussed the meat and bones of storytelling, the fine line between a good story and a great story, and making your character’s journey more emotionally compelling. This episode addresses questions you asked in our Q&A session that we didn’t have time to answer. There’s lots of great info here, make sure you watch.

Show Notes

Free Writing Webinarhttps://michaeljamin.com/op/webinar-registration/

Michael’s Online Screenwriting Course – https://michaeljamin.com/course

Free Screenwriting Lesson – https://michaeljamin.com/free

Join My Watchlist – https://michaeljamin.com/watchlist

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
No, you’re getting notes and you’re getting paid for it. That’s okay. But if you have your own side projects, do what you want. But even still, you still have to know how to write. You still need to know story structures, cuz you, at the end of the day, you, you have to entertain your audience and your audience has expectations and you just typing to pat yourself on the back may not be entertaining for them. You’re listening to Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. Hey everyone, this is Michael Jamin. I’m back with Phil Hudson. Welcome back, Phil.

Phil Hudson:
What up,

Michael Jamin:
What up? We’re doing another q and a once a month. We do these live webinars and we get a ton of questions that we can’t possibly get through all of them. So this is a special podcast episode where we are gonna answer some of those questions we didn’t get to. And obviously. If anybody has any questions, continue sending us send ’em. You can send ’em to support@michaeljamin.com. Or you could just, where else can they leave these questions

Phil Hudson:
Filled? You can just join the webinar. I mean, the, the webinar’s probably the best place to get your questions answered right away. Oh, for

Michael Jamin:
Sure.

Phil Hudson:
You set up at michaeljamin.com/webinar.

Michael Jamin:
Everyone should be on that. Everyone should be on that. Everyone should be on my free weekly newsletter, Michaeljamin.com/watchlist. Yeah, lots of good stuff. So let’s begin, Phil. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
It’s good. We’ll have you back, get through. Good to be here. You’ve got some awesome interviews in the queue, by the way, like some of these people in here. Pretty exciting. So oh

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we got some good episodes.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. stick around, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, all that good stuff. But let’s get into the questions. So this is from, just to be clear, this is from your April webinar, which was how to write a Great Story.

Michael Jamin:
Okay.

Phil Hudson:
Okay. John Rios. Michael, I tend to doubt myself when thinking of a new idea for a TV show. What makes a good idea for a story?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well that’s, that’s the question. I mean, that’s, honestly, there’s no easy answer for that. Well, that I literally teach in our screenwriting course. And if you wanna learn that, it’s michaeljamin.com/course. What you need to know is, is there enough meat on the bone? You have an idea and you go, well, is is there enough meat on that bone to turn it into a half hour of television, or 60 minutes or a 90 minute movie? And, and that’s what we talk about. We talk about knowing, because everything’s conflict, everything’s emotional conflict between two characters. And so yeah, that’s, that’s, I wish there’s an easy way to talk about that, but that is, that’s the, the bulk of the the course <laugh>, it’s a long lesson. It’s not a tip, unfortunately, but it’s, it’s identifying Is there enough emotional weight to your idea?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. In the webinar we just finished about an hour ago, one of the things you brought up is that you don’t need a great idea. You need a good idea. You just need to be able to tell it really well. Right, right. And that’s the other piece of what the course covers, so, yeah. And the course is not open for enrollment at any time, by the way. Yeah. You, it’s typically opens roughly the first weekend of the month, but not necessarily. So if you want to know more about that, you can go sign up for Michael’s free lesson and you can be notified when the course sale is. The course is enroll or enrollment is open for the course.

Michael Jamin:
It’s only open like three days out of the month or something like that. And, and, you know, we onboard everybody, then you gotta wait for next month. That’s right. All right. More questions.

Phil Hudson:
Photojournalist sf. How are you able to rise above all the details and find the story?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, <laugh>. Everyone wants to know. Everyone wants to know the chorus. Yeah, same question. Basically it’s, it, yeah, same question. It’s, it’s identifying the emotional conflict between two characters. And once you can figure out how to do that, you can send your, cause the story is basically a journey. You’re taking your characters on a journey and the journey, like, like all journeys have to be worth going on. Like, no one wants to take a journey to the garbage dump. When you get there, you’re gonna be disappointed. Is there, what, is there enough to look at along the way? And when you get there, does it feel like you’ve arrived someplace? Because your characters, I say this a lot, it’s like your character doesn’t have to learn a lesson at the end of your story or your movie or script, whatever. Your character just has to be slightly different than they were at the beginning of your story.
Or else, why did you take ’em on this trip? If they’re not changed in some small way, not necessarily for the better, they could be changed for the worse, but they have to be different. Or else, why did we go on this trip? You know? No, a journey. If you take a road trip, a road trip, if you live you know, in Los Angeles, you can’t take a road trip to Los Angeles, that’s not a road trip. You can’t wind up in the same place you’re at. You have have to take a road trip to Phoenix or someplace.

Phil Hudson:
Right. Interesting. Awesome. I get hung up on plot versus the story. Like, the obstacle could be physical or emotional, and sometimes this is the difference between plot and story, right?

Michael Jamin:
Well, the, the a plot is kind of what happens. You know, a plot is what your story’s about. This story is about a guy who who goes box, who, you know, a boxer who gets in the ring and tries to win the fight. That’s the plot. But the story is the emotional journey that that boxer goes on. It’s, it’s, you know, how is that, why are they different at the end? What, what, what were they fighting for? And they weren’t fighting to win the fight. Who cares? What are they fighting for in real life? Is it so respect? Is it redemption? It’s something deeper. So the plot is what it’s about. And the story, I’m sorry, the, yeah, the story is what it’s really about. It’s deep down about, and again, this is what I talk about in the course, and you should go to michaeljamin.com/course and check that out.

Phil Hudson:
I think that a lot of people attack films and they say, oh, there’s so many plot holes mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I don’t know that that’s actually the problem with those films. It’s the story sucked. And that’s why you pay attention to the plot.

Michael Jamin:
I think you can. Yes. And I think, yeah, to some degree I agree with you. Like, and I think sometimes, you know, like a plot hole can be forgiven a little bit mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But if, if the story is worthwhile, you can you can say, well, why didn’t they just pick up the phone? Like, I forgot. You know, why? I don’t know. Obviously it’s better if you don’t have plot holes, but I think they can be forgiven if the stories is worth taking.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, absolutely. Great. Hold me closer, Tony Danza one of the best screen names ever.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Do you find that the majority of writers you meet breaks stories with that much planning? And this is in reference to you discussing in the, in the webinar, all the steps involved, you know, the Yeah. The breaking the story, the one sheet, the outline, like all that stuff.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. The answer is absolutely. I’m talking about every single writer I’ve ever worked with. So it’s not the majority, it’s all of them. If you want to be a professional screenwriter, you better know how to break a story because you don’t just start typing. There are some, like, I’ve read, like Greta Gerwig, you know, she’s like, well, I’d just start typing. Well, okay, if you’re Greta Gerwig, fine. But that process is very inefficient, and, and she admits it herself. She, like, she’ll just start typing until she finds the story and then she goes back and undoes everything. That wasn’t the story. And that’s her process. That’s fine. She’s got her own time schedule, her own timeframe, and she’s obviously very talented. I, I, I don’t think it’s good advice. It works for her, but I don’t think it’s good advice for a new writer. I don’t, that’s not how most writers, if you wanna be professional, you, you don’t get to do that. You ha you’re getting at notes every step of the way. You want to get people on board. You don’t just go off and start writing. It’s, that’s just not how it’s done.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And you have very strict timelines in a TV writer’s room, especially where you can’t get away with that. Yeah. Awesome. Claudia Corto, oh, excuse me. Lemme back up. So this person didn’t have a name. How do you explain free writing? Is it the same as writing organically?

Michael Jamin:
I, I’ve never used the word free writing. I don’t think I have. So I don’t know what free writing is.

Phil Hudson:
I think it’s just people sitting down and doing what Greta

Michael Jamin:
Did. Oh, like free brainin writing organic. Yeah, like, that’s fine. If you wanna write for your look, all, any kind of writing is good, especially if you wanna put it in your diary or your journal. Yeah, great. Knock yourself out. The more you do the better. But when you, when you hope to sell it, if you’re trying to sell something you, you really have to hit these certain points, plot points, and, you know, moments in, in a story that, that, that’s caused that we call that story structure. So you don’t just get to write, you don’t get to just, you know, free brainin. But like I said, it works for Greta Gerberg. She’s a great writer. But you know, I don’t, I don’t think it’s great advice. So I’m not sure, you know, if someone says, Hey, my process is, I, I sit on top of a 80 foot telephone pole and I start writing, and that works for them. Great. I, I wouldn’t recommend it for most people though, you know? Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I think stream of consciousness writing is what I was thinking it was. Right.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Stream of, of conscious stream. Isn’t that the most boring thing ever did Stream of conscious. I think that’s, that’s like telling someone, let me tell you about my dream I had last night. It doesn’t make sense, but isn’t it interesting? No. Only for you. I don’t like hearing about anybody’s dreams. You know what I’m saying? Yeah. It, nothing can be more boring. There’s no reality to it. It doesn’t make sense. And so stream of consciousness sounds, it just sounds terrible to me. It just sounds like a, an excuse to write lazily.

Phil Hudson:
It also feels like therapy and, and we advocate for a lot of, like, working on yourself and personal development on this podcast, but that feels like laborious therapy.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Do it for yourself. It’s self-indulgent though. Like, we don’t want to hear it. Do it for yourself, cuz it helps you, but we don’t want to hear it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. The second half of this question is, is that the same as writing organically? And I think that’s something you talk about specifically. Do you wanna define that for people?

Michael Jamin:
Well, you know, organically, like, I’m, I’m not really sure what, or what are you getting at? Do you think I’m, what do you, what do you want me to talk about? So,

Phil Hudson:
Well, you talk about writing organically where it’s like writing things that are true to you. Writing things that, you know, not necessarily like you’re a plumber, be a plumber, but like, what are the life situations you’ve been in? What is that fight you had with your wife? What is it? Yeah. What is the pain you’re feeling when you don’t achieve your goals? And there’s specificity in that organic life that, that speaks to people. I think it’s more along those lines, right?

Michael Jamin:
If you feel insecure, if you’re a generally insecure people person, then write about insecurity. Your character can have insecurity just because they’re an astronaut. They may be an astronaut and you’ve never been an astronaut. That’s okay. As long as the characters share those traits. You can give your astronaut, make them an insecure person. That that’s, so you’re writing from something that’s from within. Another way to talk about organic writing, this gets back to that Greta Gerberg conversation. You know, when I write in my collection of personal essays, and I know Phil, I’ve talked to you about it a lot, which is I’ll, I’ll just take a memory and I’ll start writing on my own and start until I discover the story. And often I won’t discover the story until like the 20th draft. And then when I find the story, I go back and I toss out all the stuff that’s not, and that’s organic writing to me, that’s writing very organically. I can do that though, because I know how to write and I know in my mind I’ve been doing it so long, it’s just, it’s, I wouldn’t recommend it for, again, for a new writer as a way of, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that because yeah,

Phil Hudson:
You’re, you’re innately and unconsciously putting in specific moments and beats that have to be there to tell a story. Yeah. You’re just, you’re, you have the time because it’s also a personal passion project to do that process. Yeah. Whereas if you’re sitting in a writer’s room or you’re on assignment for a script, you got two weeks to turn in a draft, you don’t have time to do that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right. And everything’s broken. Everything’s agreed upon in the room. The story’s broken, so all the writers know what the story is, and then a writer will go off after it’s been beaten on the right, on the whiteboard, then they go off and write.

Phil Hudson:
So, and I imagine coming back with something different than that is a problem.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, you’ll get fired <laugh> if you go off the reservation and come back with something that everyone didn’t talk about, you’re, you’ll, you’ll get fired. Yep.

Phil Hudson:
Claudia Cordo, what do you do with your side story distractions as you’re writing your main story?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, side story distractions. Like other projects. I wonder if you,

Phil Hudson:
I think what she’s referring to is B plot, C plot, oh, B plot,

Michael Jamin:
Runners plot, stuff like that. Oh yeah. All that has to be broken as well. So there are no distractions. Everything, you know, if you have a main story, then you have subplots going on with other characters. This is par, particularly important film and television. You have these supporting characters on a TV show. Let’s say you have five characters in your a story, your main stories between two characters. Well, you’re paying these other three actors, they’ve gotta do something that week. So you give them a B story or a C story. And again, I teach all about, I teach us in the course this is what people should be signing up for. But you gotta have the, those characters do something and so you give them a slight story that might be one that has less emotional weight because you’re paying these actors and the people at home wanna see the actors do something. So, yep. But again, the B story doesn’t have the same, doesn’t need to carry the same emotional weight as an A story.

Phil Hudson:
And very often the B story is informing the, a story from a different perspective. So the audience is learning lessons on both sides

Michael Jamin:
In a movie for sure. Yeah. Maybe less so in a TV show, but in a movie, yeah. You’ll examine well I gotta think, what movie did I see where it was just about it was exactly speaks to that point. I’ll have to think about that. Yeah. Okay.

Phil Hudson:
Andrew Spitzer, is the outline the same as a treatment or is that something else? And maybe it’s be worthwhile for you to give people kind of the steps? Yeah, a writer, like the process that we alluded to earlier.

Michael Jamin:
So when you’re on, on staff of a TV show, you’ll break the story in the room with the showrunner. They’ll spend a lot of time figuring out the beats. Could be the whole staff. You might spend a week breaking a story. So you know what the first act break is? The second act break is, you know all how the scenes go, basically. And then that writer will go off and often they, the way we do it, they’ll write a, we call it a book report or a one pager. So then they, the writer will go off and then they write, but they write what they, what the story is in, it’s in a nutshell. And what the emotional story is and what the plot is only for in about a page, for just to hand it back to the showrunner. If I’m running the show, I wanna read it so that they’re clear.
I want to get it in writing so that they’re clear on what the story is. Cuz even they may still screw that up. It’s not uncommon. Then you get notes on that one pager. Often that’s what we pitch to the network, say, Hey, this is what the story is. Are you cool with it? Sometimes they say no and then you gotta throw it out. Then that writer will go off and write an outline. Is an outline the same thing as a treatment? Yeah, pretty much Depends who you ask. In my opinion it is. But you know, treatment is really, I guess treatment is really more used for a film. I don’t know. You know, but yeah, an outline will break an outline for like a half hour TV show. Might, may, you brought, might be like 12 pages. And then the script for that same TV show might be 27 pages. So you’re constantly adding more and more detail and getting notes back from the show runner to make sure you’re not veering off course to make sure everyone’s on the same page. And so yeah. That, that’s how that is done. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a long process. And again, that process is what I teach in the course.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Dennis Molina, how do you condense pipe into something useful in the script that moves the scene along? And maybe define pipe for the, those people who dunno?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Pipe is an industry turn we term that we use to describe exposition. So here, like, and you don’t want your dialogue to be piy. So here’s some piy dialogue that you’ve heard a million times. Kathy, you, my, you’ve been my Kathy, you’re my sister. Why would you say such a thing? Right? Why is he telling Kathy that she’s his sister? She knows that I actually saw, oh my God, I saw a line of terrible pipe in a movie I watched yesterday. It was so, it was so terrible. It was like, who would say that? So when you’re writing, it really helps that to have your dialogue not be piy because it, it stands out like a, a sore of thumb and, and a way to do that and I teach this in the course I go into more detail again, is by having a third person in the scene who’s new to all this. Who’s that person over there? Oh, that’s Kathy. She’s my sister. So now it doesn’t feel like pipe. Now you’re just explaining it to a, to a new character. So that’s one way to make a scene feel less piy.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. How, how could you possibly talk to that person like that? That’s my sister. Oh

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right, right. So that doesn’t feel piy. That feels like dialogue.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Great. Julia Denton, have you ever gotten deep into writing a story and then had a brilliant idea that you think would’ve been much better and then decided to go back and change significant parts of your outline?

Michael Jamin:
No, because everything’s, everything is agreed upon in the writer’s room. So that would be, you know, if I have an idea, it better not be, if it can’t be too far different. But if it is a little different, I might say to the showrunner, and as a matter of fact, you know, this happens all the time. You’ll say, Hey, this scene that we talked about, I think it’s a little better if we do it this way. And I know it’s not what we agreed on, but what do you think? And then they say yes or no, but you would never just take it upon yourself to make something a giant change. So but if you’re doing a project on your own yeah. Do whatever you want. I mean, you’re, you’re the boss.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I think defining what a professional writer is is one of those really important things that you’ve brought to the writer’s ecosystem online. Yeah. I think a lot of us just envision it as this romantic, I sit at my keyboard and I write, and then I struggle and I toil over these words and then I receive praise and a big fat check to do that. Yeah. And really what it is, is sitting down in a room with a bunch of other people in a collaborative process mm-hmm. <Affirmative> to execute the showrunner’s vision or the studio’s vision or the director’s vision. It’s not your

Michael Jamin:
Vision. Yeah, no. You’re getting notes and you’re getting paid for it. That’s okay. But if you have your own side projects, do what you want. But even still, you still have to know how to write. You still need to know story structures cuz you, at the end of the day, you, you have to entertain your audience and your audience has expectations and you just typing to pat yourself on the back may not be entertaining for them. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
My wife’s making me watch the X-Files, so I’ve never watched it before. Yeah. And anytime I see Frank Spot show up as a writer, I’m like, oh, this is gonna be a good episode. Uhhuh <affirmative> and that, or, you know, some of the other mega showrunners who came out of that, Chris Carter’s X-Files world. Yeah. and all of those people have shows that I love and they can scale again. Yeah. They, yep. They grew out of that writer’s room doing exactly the process we’re talking about, to then have the clout and ability as the showrunner to make those decisions. But it started with cutting their teeth, doing exactly what someone else wanted.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. A lot of people on Sopranos graduated out of that, have their own shows. So yeah. That’s how it goes.

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 michaeljamin.com/watchlist.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Let’s, that wraps up the questions around story, but there are other sections that I have here. So one is, the next section is breaking in just another YouTube fan. How do you get the writer’s assistant position?

Michael Jamin:
Yes. So writer’s assistant is not an entry level position. And I, I’m not qual even though I’m a showrunner, I run shows, I’m not qualified to be a writer’s assistant because you have to know certain things that I just don’t know, which is how to the script district distribution protocols, there are certain shortcuts and on, on and final draft. I just don’t know. Most, we usually use final Draft. And so to get that job, often you start off as a production assistant and then you cozy up to the current writer’s assistant and ask them, Hey, teach me how to do your job in case you need to take a day off and work for whatever reason, and I need to fill in. And so I know that’s what you, that’s, I know that’s how, that’s what you’ve been doing lately.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s how Hannah, who was our writer’s assistant this season, Mike Rep got bummed to be a staff writer. And Hannah got bumped into be that position. And the sta he, even though he’s the staff writer, he still held her hand and kind of walked her through how to do the job because she had a little less experience than needed, but she’d earned that. Right, right. By proving herself to the showrunners. And Kevin Heffernan talked her about her on your episode of the podcast Yeah. As someone who just volunteered their time and got in and did the work. So, and for me, yeah. I’ve had that happen where, you know, the writer’s, the, the writer’s assistant’s wife has an issue and he has to leave, and then I get called into the room. Right? Yeah. Or someone’s out and I have to step in. So very common that that happens right. From an assistant.

Michael Jamin:
So you’ll be, if we ever get back to work, if the strike is over, I’m sure that’ll be, you know, that’ll be your next step if, if it’s not writing full-time on whatever else you’re doing. Sure.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Great. Ever, Winston, I’m a college senior and I graduate in December. My dream job is to make it into a writer’s room. What can I do between now and December to help me get there?

Michael Jamin:
Right, right, right, right, right. Don’t stop writing, just keep writing. I don’t care what you’re writing, just any short stories, plays, whatever that’s what you, because you’re, you know, you’re not gonna fool anybody into, into hiring you as a, as a, as a good, as a writer. You need to be at that level. So you should be studying. If you don’t wanna study for me, study from someone else, just make sure they know what they’re talking about. You should be studying though the craft writing. And then of course, if you can move to LA the closer you can get to the job that you want physically, the better. So that’s my recommendation.

Phil Hudson:
Solid. And hasn’t changed in two years. Yes. We’re approaching two years of doing the podcast.

Michael Jamin:
That’s amazing. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Derrick Ziegler, for those of us producing our own web series as our calling card, do you have any advice for getting the right people to see our show? Or is it just best to post it on YouTube and hope for the best?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, the, the, the right people are anybody. So if you make your web series and you start getting a million views per episode, the right people will find you because they’re looking for, they are looking for you. Even if your show is terrible and you start getting a million views at prep episode, they’ll find you because you got something, you’re doing something right. Cuz you’re getting, cuz you know, you know, the world must be, is paying attention to you. So even if you’re, even if we think your show is terrible, well the world doesn’t think it’s terrible, so, you know, let’s go. They must know something. So yeah that’s what I would do. Start, start posting it and see, get some feedback and see what’s working, what’s not working, but a webinar. But that’s a perfectly good way.

Phil Hudson:
And the last webinar that you did well, I guess not the last by time this drops, but your May webinar was on this topic right? Is how to get people to attend your, you know, attend your live event or watch your your stuff. Yeah. Something along those lines. But that’s available too. If you’re interested for like a small fee, you can go buy that replay on michaeljamin.com/shop.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I should make that. I, I should clarify. So we do a free monthly webinar, you and I and it’s free for anybody who attends. And then if you miss it, we send you a free replay. It’s good for 24 hours and then if you still miss that, then you can purchase it on my website for a small fee. But you know, it’s, you get too wax at it for free. So.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. Sabrina g how do you know when you’re ready to show your script to someone? Michael said he learned a lot about writing on his first job. So how good does, does a sample really need to be for a first time writer?

Michael Jamin:
Easy. So you give it to your, your mom or your friend or give it to someone, a trusted loved one, rip off the title page and give it to them and say, Hey, what do you think of this? And then they’re gonna say, what do I know I’m not in the business? And then you’re gonna say, write down the script I’m writing for you. You’re gonna say, no, no, I just wanna know when you get to the end of every page, do you want to turn the page and find out what happens next? Or do you not care? Does it feel, and at the end of page 20, does it feel like I’ve given you a gift or a homework assignment and that’s how you know, and 99% of the time, you know, when they read it, give ’em a week or so to read it and they come back to you and you say, well, do you think? And they’re gonna say, eh, it’s okay. Or they’re gonna say, well I like this part cuz they’re gonna, they’re gonna wanna be nice. Well I thought this character was good, right? No, no. Did you wanna turn the page? And if the answer is anything less than glowing, you don’t have anything to show. You have to look, keep working on your craft and until people beg you to read your next piece, cuz they liked it so much.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, yeah. I got that feedback from a writer on that script we did. But I’m also not anticipating that to be the feedback I get on my next piece when I show it to people. Yeah. Because I know that piece is gonna need work after I get feedback from people to make it to the point where they say, holy shit, that was good. Yeah. Which is what the writer told me, which is like, oh, cool. More validation for that one. Still gotta do it seven more times. Yeah. So it’s,

Michael Jamin:
That’s how it’s, that’s the business. <Laugh>

Phil Hudson:
Ryan Greenwood. What different roles makes someone good in a room?

Michael Jamin:
Well, mo you know, there are really no roles anymore. You know, I think you have to be well-balanced. Back in the day when writers staffs were much larger, let’s say on a sitcom, let’s say on Roseanne, they had a big budget. And so you could have on that show they had, most of the writers were standard writers, but they had room for a handful, two or three, whatever com standup comics who were just funny people. And so they probably could, maybe they couldn’t write a script, but they could contribute because they were just so funny. But today, staffs have gotten much smaller and there’s really no place to hide now, I feel. So you are expected to know how to be a very well-rounded writer and, and know all aspects of how to break a story, how to write a story, how to write an outline, how to, how to do all that.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. For some advice for everybody just starting out or feels that’s very daunting. How to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Michael Jamin:
One bite at a time. Yeah. And

Phil Hudson:
The structure, story structure being the most important thing you can learn.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. For sure. For sure.

Phil Hudson:
Then the characters, then the dialogue, you get all that stuff later and the characters lead to the diving, it becomes much easier. It builds upon itself. Yes. As you get stronger and stronger.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It’s, it that’s a good point, Phil, because learning story structure takes away demystifies some of it. And it takes away, when you write a story, there’s so much, you have so many freaking choices you can make as you tell your story. But by learning story structure, you get to eliminate some of those choices. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And you go, okay, I know I have to do, I know I need to do these things now knowing that now I’m free, this actually frees you up from having to make a billion other choices. You know what I’m saying? Yeah. It’s, it being limited actually helps you.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, absolutely. Being put a box is not a bad thing.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
All right. Moving on to collaboration. We have one question on that from Megan Woodard. How do you become more open to collaboration when you’re used to writing independently?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You have to find someone that you, you mesh with someone who you have the same sensibilities with. And I have a partner of 30 years, so we, you know, I know what that’s like. It’s like a marriage. But it, it’s actually good for you, especially if you plan, if you wanna work in Hollywood in any, you’re gonna be collaborating on everything. Whether it’s a movie, youre gonna get notes from the director of the studio, exec, whatever. That’s a collaboration. If you’re in tv, you’re gonna be getting notes from the showrunner and the rest of the writing staff. So get this outta your head that it’s your vision. Unless you wanna shoot it yourself and make your own movies, which is fine, do that. But everywhere else, if you want, if someone else is putting out the money, you are gonna be collaborating. So you really need to learn how to set your ego aside mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and be willing to you know, listen to somebody else. And to be honest, when I work with my partner, if he’s got a better idea, great. Let’s do hit. I don’t really care cuz it, you know, we have to get the work done. If he’s got the idea perfect, that means that one last idea I gotta think of. So, and he feels the same way.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I think it would behoove everybody listening to read how to Win Friends and to Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Yeah. That’s a classic’s been in the lexicon for over a hundred years mm-hmm. <Affirmative> because it just tells you like, Hey, here’s how not to be a jerk, or here not to become off abrasive, and here’s how to interact with people in a way Yeah. That serves the ultimate thing that matters, which is the goal. Yeah. And your goal is their goal, and if it’s not, then you’re in the wrong place.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So, yeah.

Phil Hudson:
All right. Moving on to structure and just a few more questions here. Michael Paolo Ruvalcaba. What is a beat sheet?

Michael Jamin:
Well, yeah. Beat sheet is another word for, it depends, it really depends what your showrunner wants, but it’s not quite an outline, it’s just a rough outline. So if an outline might be 12 pages, like, I’ll say it again. So if a script is 27 pages and the outline is 12 pages, a beat sheet might be five. You know, so it’s just, it’s just the, the layers of detail that your boss wants. If they just want a beat sheet, you’ll say, well, how many pages do you want the beat sheet? And then they’ll tell you. So

Phil Hudson:
We we have a section in the course where I pitch an idea and then I do an outline, and then I write a draft. I do all that, and you gimme notes. And I turned in an outline that was like 22 pages long <laugh>, you’re like, bro. And just to remind everybody, I’d been through the course and film school Yeah. And I still screwed it up. So

Michael Jamin:
Well, like, you don’t need to put that much detail, like, because, you know,

Phil Hudson:
So, so you learn as you go. And I’m just put, I’m just calling myself out just so everyone has, can breathe a little to know it’s okay that you don’t get it right the first time. It’s actually expected and it’s just practice, practice, practice. I definitely didn’t make that mistake again.

Michael Jamin:
You know what though? But sometimes when we sell a show or pilot and they say, Hey, turn in an outline or turn in a treatment or whatever, we’ll say to them, what do you want it to look like? Send us an example of the treatment that you liked and then we’ll, we’ll copy that. We’ll, you know, we’ll do our version of that so that you’ll give them what they want. It’s really a tool. It it’s often a tool that they want. So you like, well, how do you want it? We’ll give you what you want.

Phil Hudson:
Do you find they actually give you an example? Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Sometimes they do. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
I’ve heard other people like, ah, nevermind. It’s okay. Like, they just, they don’t have one. It’s just a step.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Sometimes they don’t, sometimes it’s a word that they have. Then you, then you do, you give ’em what you wanna give them. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Got it. Scott Kuski, what is the difference between breaking and beats, which you might have just addressed, but

Michael Jamin:
Breaking and what?

Phil Hudson:
Breaking and beats. Beats. Like when you’re breaking the story versus beats.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. The, the beats are the, the beats of the story. So when you, you wanna break the story first and that will give you the beats of the story.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. David Tillery, what would you say that a story bible is a detailed outline.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t even know. Like a Bible. It’s, it like, I don’t know why people, you don’t need to know the answer to this question. A Bible basically will say what the, the series is often the Bible is written after the series has been written. So, so like, we’re on season three of some show, and you tell the writer system, Hey, put together the Bible. That means they’ll just write an outline of every single episode, assemble it into the Bible. But it’s already been written. I think some people think they have to come up with a Bible beforehand to sell the show. And I’m telling you this, you, you listeners don’t need to do any of this. No one’s gonna buy your show, your, your series. They’re not buying from you. You need to write one great episode of television, not a hundred. Just write one. It’ll be a writing sample which will help you get work. That’s the whole point of, so don’t stop, stop thinking about you’re gonna sell your TV show. No one’s gonna buy your TV show. Yeah. We need to know if you had, we need to know if you can write, let’s focus on just writing one. You know how hard it’s to write one good episode of tv. Do that

Phil Hudson:
On my end. In Hollywood, I’ve been given samples by producers of story bibles and they’re just pitch decks. Like they don’t even know what they are. So the way that writers think of story Bibles, which is what you described versus what they’re talking about, they’re just different things. And I know of a producer who worked for multiple seasons in reality TV and went to pitch a docudrama, and those people were interested and then asked for them to make a Bible, but it was a step in the sales process. They didn’t need it before they had interest.

Michael Jamin:
Everyone uses it wrong. And you don’t need, you don’t, you don’t need to know the answer any of this. <Laugh>

Phil Hudson:
All right. Magic Misha, what about writing a script from a novel? Do you need an out, do you need to outline that?

Michael Jamin:
Writing a script from a novel?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. From it. And I could think you could take this two ways. I wrote a novel and I want to then adapt my own novel to be a script or Right. I’m taking a novel I love and I want to write a spec script of that novel. And I’m assuming they don’t own the IP or control. Have an option. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Either way, you need to break it. And I would recommend you break it into three acts either way. Because a three act structure just feels right. It just, when you tell a story, it feels right if it’s told in three acts. And so yeah, if you have a novel, I wouldn’t start writing until, you know, what your act breaks are and what your midpoint of two is. And all the beats that I teach you in my course, I would do all of that, whether it’s your original novel or whether you are adapting someone else’s work. Because not all, by the way, not all books are, are really meant for, for movies. They don’t, you know, they’re just not, sometimes they’re just too internal. Not enough happens. And so they, they wouldn’t make for a good movie. They’re not visual enough.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yep. And I think we should also address too, that the course is for everything, not just tv, but it applies to anything story related. So novels, that’s a common question. People get playwrights. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I think you said everything but a dinner menu. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Right. It won’t teach you that. But anything where there’s a story is being told. That’s what we teach. We teach you stories. Stories. Perfect.

Phil Hudson:
All right. Five more questions here. Yeah. Tino sto currently work at one of the major studios in a non-production function. Would you suggest leveraging my current situation to pivot my career as a writer slash showrunner?

Michael Jamin:
Well, don’t even think about being a showrunner. Just think about being a writer first. And in terms of leveraging, I don’t know how you’re gonna leverage anything. You know, just because you work on the lot and you work next door to TV shows, you might as well be in the other side of the country. So you need to get closer to the job you want. And so just because you work in sales or advertising or whatever that is, you are, you might as well be in, in another planet. So I don’t know how you’re gonna leverage other than maybe your boss has connections. You know, obviously these people, we all work in the same industry. So people might, you, people you work with must know other people that you that, so you should use those contacts to, hey, if you wanna be a writer, have a conversation with another writer or a showrunner or, but get, get a job on the production staff of a TV show, either as a PA or writer, writer’s, pa, writers assistant, anything get, get close. But in terms of leveraging, if you know something about ad sales and you work on the Fox lot, so what, you know, we’re all a TV writer, so I don’t, you can’t leverage that knowledge.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I think that’s a great clarification for one of the common questions you get, which is, do I need to live in LA to be a writer? And you say you need to get closer to the job that you want. And in this case you’re saying even if you’re in LA just working adjacent to the job that you want isn’t close enough.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You might as well be. And a guy, I, I was gonna make a post about this on TikTok cuz the guy sent me a very heartbreaking, I won’t answer that. He’s like, I work in, I think he said he works on the fox lot, I don’t remember in ad sales or something like that, and or sports. He worked in sports, but he wanted to be a writer. And he’s been doing it for like 20 years and he feels like he’s close. But so far yeah, you are so close, but you, you might as well be on the other side of the planet because you’re not close enough to the job you want. Just because we park in the same parking structure, it doesn’t give you an advantage. Right.

Phil Hudson:
All right. Denise Jack Row, does story structure apply to reality TV shows, like unscripted shows or docuseries as well?

Michael Jamin:
I’ve never written on a reality show, quote unquote. I’ve never done that. But they do have act breaks, you know, so I do notice that. And they do tend to, they do tend to shoehorn a structure in there, but I’m not the best guy to talk about that since I’ve never worked in a reality show.

Phil Hudson:
Right. Which is why a lot of people, when you interview ’em after, say that’s not how that happened, that’s shot out of order. Mm-Hmm. Like, that’s taken outta context cuz they’re building drama and climax and all these things.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
All right. Just three general questions. Dominic. Papas, how do I write satire about a real person without being offensive?

Michael Jamin:
Well, first change their name. That’s, that’s the best thing. You know, change their name in all the details so that whoever reads it won’t sue you or be offended. But more to that, I think more to the point, you know, I feel I plug my, my, my book all the time. I call, I, I, it’s called the paper orchestra, although I may be changing the title, but anyway, it’s a collection of personal essays and all the stories are happened to me. I can write about them because they’re my stories. I couldn’t write a story about, you know, someone else in my life because it didn’t happen to me, it happened to them. It’s not my story to tell. So that’s what I would do. I I would lampoon yourself before I lampoon somebody else. And, and in my stories, I’m always the hardest on me. I I’m harder on me than I am on any of the other real characters in my life.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Retro night eight. After writing a short screenplay, is it a good idea to have a table read with some friends to get feedback?

Michael Jamin:
For sure. For sure. The only thing is you know, you’re gonna have people reading, acting it out, and you wanna make sure they’re decent actress. But it, it help, it’ll help all around. And if you have your table read, and let’s say you have three people in your script, it, it helps to have a couple people in your audience who are not reading it. You’ll know that you can sense when the, the air gets sucked out of the room when people start yawning, when people are start looking around because they, they’re bored. It could be a, it’s an incredibly helpful tool, so if you can arrange it, do it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And, and that might apply to feature or television plays as well. Yeah. Not necessarily short screen plays.

Michael Jamin:
Anything. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Jane Fleming, are there any follow up questions? If your reader said only I liked the part, can you pull anything else out of them? Or do you just walk away with, I gotta rewrite this.

Michael Jamin:
You gotta wa you gotta rewrite it. That’s it. You know, I, I like this part. That’s

Phil Hudson:
Right. That’s the polite. I didn’t like this.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I didn’t like all. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t, I don’t know what you do with that other than you know, start all over.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Cool. That’s it. Those are the questions from our April q and a. A lot of the questions had already been previously answered on other podcast episodes, so go back and reference those if you didn’t. Don’t feel your question was answered. Michael. Was there anything else you wanna go over with your listeners before we wrap it up?

Michael Jamin:
That’s it. Thank you for listening. We got a lot of free resources on my website at michaeljamin.com. So obviously you know about the podcast, but we, I got a free screenwriting lesson. I got a free webinar. We do once a month free downloads for sample scripts, all of it. Just go to michaeljamin.com and, and, and get, we got a free newsletter that goes out once a week. You’ll find it all at michaeljamin.com.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. There’s literally a tab that says free stuff. It’s a good place to hang out. And the free lesson is a huge underside. And also make sure you sign up for the webinar. This is a great place to get your questions answered live. Yeah. Provide a lot of value, but you’ll also be able to interact with a bunch of other writers who are giving up time on their Saturday morning to learn from a showrunner, which to me, looking from the outside in, I think that’s the strongest signal you can send to those around you and yourself that you are a pro and wanna be treated like a pro. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Right. Beyond that, you have to sit down and write. You gotta do

Michael Jamin:
The work, Phil. You get you raised a good point. We also just, we give some other free stuff away during our webinars, which is an incentive to listen. Yeah. Yep.

Phil Hudson:
Everybody walks away with something even if you don’t win. One of the big things.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
So, great. Michael, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it as always the feedback. Thank you. The insights all very generous. And, and I think we’re all grateful for ’em.

Michael Jamin:
Thank you, Phil. Thank you for always helping me out with everything.

Phil Hudson:
Pleasure. My pleasure, man. Appreciate your your friendship and, and mentorship. Yeah. For everybody else who’s listening, thank you so much for spending some time with us. And if you don’t mind, just do us a favor, go to iTunes and leave us a review.

Michael Jamin:
Alright everyone, keep writing, stay tuned for more episodes. Thanks so much.

Phil Hudson:
Asta Lavista

Michael Jamin:
Asta.

Phil Hudson:
This has been an episode of Screenwriters. Need to hear this with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar@michaeljamin.com slash webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music. By Ken Joseph. 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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