https://youtu.be/wFQSirUeHV0?feature=shared

In June, I hosted a webinar called “The Truth About Screenwriting Contests and Pitch Fests” where I shared my thoughts on some of these writing contests and the potential scams out there, as well as some bad advice I always hear. 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

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
When I’m in a writer’s room all the time, we don’t use these words that everyone seems to have learned on the internet. That’s why when you said 15 minutes, 15 minute structure, what? It is unfamiliar to me because I’ve, in my 27 years, we don’t talk like that. So when I teach you how we talk, it’s like it’s not as complicated as people wanted. When you learn from somebody, screenwriting, just find out, are they qualified to teach you? Forget. I don’t care if they wrote a book. No, no. What shows have they written on? Hey everyone, it’s Michael Jamin. Welcome back to another episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear this. I’m here with Phil Hudson. Welcome Phil.

Phil Hudson:
What up?

Michael Jamin:
What up? We’re doing another q and a. So once a month I do a live webinar. You’re all invited to go to be invited. Go to michael jamon.com/webinar. The one in June. The topic was, we always do a different topic, but the one in June was the Truth about contests, screenwriting Contests, and Pitch Fests. And afterwards I do a q and a and we try to get to as many questions as we can when we run out of time, and I can’t answer all of them while Phil has kept a file. And now we’re going to answer all those questions for you. So hopefully this will be very illuminating. Yeah, may seem a little random, but whatever. It’s, it’s knowledge. Alright, Phil. Yeah, so hit me with a question.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, absolutely. Just again, for decorum purposes I guess, or flow, we took all the questions. If we don’t answer your question here, it’s probably addressed somewhere else. So we have previous q and a question, podcast episodes. You take questions all the time on your social media there. There’s stuff everywhere. So if your question hasn’t been answered, most likely it’s been answered somewhere else. We’ve already answered. Your YouTube is actually a great place to go for our content. Yeah, subscribe

Michael Jamin:
To Michael Jamon,

Phil Hudson:
Writer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, Michael Jamen, writer on YouTube as well as Instagram and TikTok

Phil Hudson:
And Facebook. And you can go to Michael’s site as well. And I believe in the footer there’s a list of all your social media and they can click on that stuff. So yeah, I’ve broken your questions out into multiple sections by topic and I’ve had to fold some questions together because there were just a ton of questions in this podcast, in this webinar. So, okay. This first section is called Breaking In related to the Truth about Screenwriting contests and Pitch Fest. And Michael, you are not one to mince words regarding all of these hacks and sheets to get into the industry. And I think it’s something a lot of people need to hear and hopefully have, are going to hear from you today.

Michael Jamin:
By the way, I want to say, I’m sorry, Phil, but the webinars are always free and if you miss it, we send you a free replay, which is good for 24 hours. And then if you miss that, you can purchase it on my website for a small fee@michaeljamin.com slash shop. So sorry if you missed it, but you had to wax at it for free. Okay.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And that’s on demand and permanent. It’s not, you watch it once and it goes away or it, it’s like you get it and it’s chock full of good information.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. So Natalie Faler, how do you even find a person to pitch your screenplay to? So since these contests don’t help your career get started, how do you get your career started? How do you come become qualified to get hired or work in any of these production companies?

Michael Jamin:
So what you need to have, you look at your script as a writing sample. You can write a movie, tell whatever you want, a TV show, whatever it is. Everyone’s get so focused on, well, how do I need a Bible? Do I need episode three and four and season 10? No, no. You just need one damn good script that will impress people. That’s all. Just one and one is hard enough. So write your script. And then when you give it to somebody, if it’s good, someone in the industry, they’ll pass it along. If it’s really good, if it’s mediocre, they’re not, if it’s okay or bad, they’re not going to pass it along. You don’t get a chance to sell your TV show if it’s bad. No, you have to write a great script. What’s in your hands? So everyone just assumes that and they assume, well, I already have a good script. Okay, but does anyone else agree with you? Have you given to anyone who agrees with you that it’s a great script because it’s not up to you. They have to agree with you. They have to say, yeah, it’s a great script and then doors will open. But first things first, learn how to write

Phil Hudson:
And that actually jumps us down, you address is can we, Drake ask typically how many episodes do you pitch

Michael Jamin:
One you first go for, you don’t do any, you pi, you give one script. How are you going to pitch an episode? How are you going to pitch a show if you can’t even get the meeting to pitch a show? And you can’t get the meeting until someone reads a script of yours and says, this is a really good script sample. It’s a work, it’s a writing sample. That’s it. It’s not about selling anything. It’s about impressing people with your ability to write. It’s okay if you’re not going to sell it, tell you how many scripts I’ve written the intention even to sell it. It was just to impress people.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. The last part of this question is how do you become qualified to get hired or work in any of these production companies as an avenue of working your way up? And the answer is you start at the bottom.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you start at the bottom way at the bottom where you’re not even thinking about that. You’re thinking, well, how can I become qualified to get coffee for the person who works here? And then you, that’s how you start making contacts. That’s how you start working your way up. So everyone wants to start at the top. My recommendation is start at the bottom.

Phil Hudson:
Beautiful. Liz Romantic besides attempting to get representation from an agent, what’s another way to get my screenplay seen by a producer?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, well again, working Do a fill does works at a production company versus a pa, then I got promoted to associate producer. That’s how you do it. That’s, that’s another way to do it ano, is to start at the bottom. Start making your connections in Hollywood. Another way to do it is to, you can start your own channel on social media where you’re putting out amazing, you’re shooting and making your own amazing content and I’m, I’m talking about scripted, whatever it is you want to do as a scripted, start doing that. Start impressing people with your ability to write and amazing things will happen. But I was going to do a whole webinar on that as well. I know I’m not, I’m giving short shrift to that answer, but I’ll explain in detail in future webinars.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Awesome. Rob Stagin Borg, they say Hollywood Ism All is always looking for new talent, but are they really?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, they’re looking to exploit you. And like I said, you want to be exploited. Why not? They’re looking for someone to make them rich. Everyone is looking for someone to make them rich. And if you have the ability to make them rich, if they look at you and they see dollar signs in your face, you’re in, you’re in. Yeah. But the problem is no one wants to do that. They want to beg, come on, can. No one wants to, no one’s interested in helping your career. They want to help their own career. And the way they help their own career is by finding someone who’s this, who’s got a ton of talent that they can exploit in a good way, but exploit.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. All right. Our buddy, the Jovan shares back, and this question is in reference to one of the topics of the webinar, which is available now for people to buy. If you want to go watch it, it’s michael jam.com/shop. But this is in relation to the topic of what’s the reality and value of competitions and screenwriting contests and all this stuff. And you’re basically saying not a lot and most of ’em are not beneficial.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. You can go listen to the webinar we talk about which ones I think are the best ones and the biggest ones. But the small ones, the little ones, it’s only making them rich, not you rich. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
So with that context, does this advice also go for short story competitions?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t really know. I really don’t know. I’m not in that world. I’m a TV writer.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And that might be short film contests and things, but there’s the occasional short film that gets moved. Like the Poon Dynamite, right? Was it paca? I don’t know. It was a short that was put into Sundance and then it got bought and then it got flipped into a feature. That’s

Michael Jamin:
Very, but they said short story though. This person said short story. Correct.

Phil Hudson:
In the context of screenwriting. Okay. I think it’s really about short films because you talk you story

Michael Jamin:
If, yeah, I mean if you can make something and a respective, especially a film festival, that’s a little different. If you make something at a film festival that gets people’s attention. But that’s what I’m yelling it all along you. You’ve already made it. You’ve already made it and it’s already great. So

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, you’ve done the work. You’re not hoping someone else will give you the in. Yeah. Alright. Sadie Wise heart, what are avenues with getting into the industry with just an associate degree? I keep hearing being a PA is great, but are there also other avenues? Michael, I’ve never once in my life been asked if I have an associate’s degree. That’s something people talk about, but I,

Michael Jamin:
No one cares. Phil, I want to know, can you get the coffee? Can you pick up lunch? Yeah. Do you know how to use the coffee machine? That’s what I want to know. I don’t need to see your diploma.

Phil Hudson:
This will be fun. So this is my diploma cover. I was handed when I walked across my stage at my college graduation. It’s empty, right? There’s no diploma in here. Why? My school went defunct, my school closed.

Michael Jamin:
They went out of business.

Phil Hudson:
There’s no, there’s no diploma. Did I earn it? Yep. Do I have the honors? Yep. Do I have photos of me? Did my family come? Yep. There’s no diploma in there. If someone wanted to see my diploma, I couldn’t even show it to them. That’s how little it matters in the industry. Yeah. Can you do the job?

Michael Jamin:
But this person wants to know, are there other avenues other than pa? I mean, if you want to break into the business, you’re going to have to start at the bottom. I’m you, I’m sorry. You don’t get to become an executive producer unless you’ve, you know, got to start at the bottom.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, yeah,

Michael Jamin:
Absolutely. But again, I have a i’ll, I’ll probably do a webinar coming up where I’ll talk about things, other avenues to break into the business if you absolutely cannot move to LA and you insist on not starting at the bottom, what else can you do? It’s going to be a harder, but there are things you can do, but it’ll be harder.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Ah, we met a bunch of people are going to sign up for that one. That sounds like, that sounds like a lot of the questions we get. Okay, great. Rob Stagin Borg, again with so many services out there designed to help in Arian quotes, new riders. How can a new rider tell what is legit and what is this scam? A scam?

Michael Jamin:
I would assume everything’s a scam. I think

Phil Hudson:
That’s the answer.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of service that they’re talking about. If it’s a coverage service, you’re going to be read. The person reading your coverage is probably not qualified. They’re no more qualified than you are unless you were able to find a writer, a working writer, a successful working writer with credits that you’ve seen on I M D B on shows. And those people are out there that have the time to help charge people to read, to give notes or whatever. That’s your due diligence. You got to find them. But wouldn’t, a service is different like a service is what are you going to get? You’re going to get a minimum wage paying person reading your job. But if you can find a working writer to do that, and because of the internet, you probably can then expect to pay. You expect to pay for someone’s expertise. They’ve earned it and you’re going to have to pay more for it. Sorry. That’s just how it goes. So if you want to pay $50, you’re going to get $50 worth. If you want to pay $400, you’ll probably get $400 worth.

Phil Hudson:
And you got your start taking lessons from a former writer who was retired and doing that, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. But that’s a little different. But yeah, I, I wanted to learn from people who had the job that I had, who I wanted rather the job that I wanted getting charged.

Phil Hudson:
Dominique Davenport. Hey Michael and Phil, what’s up Dominique? Hey, I’m a PA from Atlanta. I’m just now getting my footing in the industry. What steps should I be taking starting out?

Michael Jamin:
Good for you. You’re already got your foot in the door. Maintain those relationships that you have with everyone who works there, from the producer to the associate producer to the coordinator. Just maintain those relationships and prove that you’re a hard worker. That you’ll go above and beyond because when they get their next job, they will bring you along with them. They don’t want to want to train someone from scratch. So my advice to you is to be nice to whoever you’ve worked for as a pa, the coordinator, all the way up to the producer, the executive producer, show them that you’re a hard worker. Show them that you hustle, that you go above and beyond because when they go to their next job, they’re going to want to take you with them. Why is that? Because they don’t want to hire someone brand new and have to break them in. And maybe that person doesn’t have your work ethic, so it’s just easier for them to work with the same people and promote those people. So you’re, you’ve got your foot in the door. All you got to do now is continue doing more of the same, which is continue impressing people with how hard you work. Don’t say no to anything. Get there early, leave late. Good for you. You’re in, you’re in. So just work your butt off and you’ll do great.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Hannah Chartier, who’s the writer’s assistant on Tacoma fd, and this is very specific to Atlanta. I was talking to her and her story is she volunteered and did a bunch of work for the broken lizard guys for Super Troopers too. And then the she PA on that. And the producer was so impressed, he brought her along as his assistant for Miss Marvel in Atlanta. And I was talking to her on set and she was telling me that, and I was like, oh, that’s cool. I know Miss Marvel’s stunt Double Cassidy. I went to film school. They’re like, oh, I know Cassidy Cassidy’s. Awesome. That’s how small the industry is. So someone I went to film school with in New Mexico who’s working as a stunt person and an actor in Atlanta knows someone that I’m sitting on a set in Santa Clarita, California, dressed in 13th century French garb.
Like we’re having a conversation about that person. So that word does travel and your reputation does precede you. So Chelsea Steep, should Hollywood go back to proper employment? So for those who aren’t aware, Hollywood used to literally have a contract on you as a writer, and you only work for Warner. Oh, and you only worked for M G M and that was your job. And you wrote things for them and you were on their payroll. And then that changed with a rider’s strike and the formation of the Rider’s Guild to stop that because credits were being assigned to producer’s, girlfriends, and whoever it was. And you had no say because you were just an employee. And so they started a union to protect writer’s interests. And that’s how the W G A began. And they think this question is saying, should writers, should we go back to that as a form of employment?

Michael Jamin:
I think you answered it really well. I mean, some writers are lucky enough to have an overall deal at a studio and they get paid well, but most writers don’t. That most writers are just jumping from gig to gig. And that’s why we’re on strike right now because the studios have turned it into a gig economy. So there’s a happy medium somewhere, I hope.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, Sadie Wise Heart again. Where would be some good organizations or companies to find jobs as rider’s assistants, also with the rider’s strike? How would that affect that process?

Michael Jamin:
Well, there are no jobs during the rider’s strike. So that affects that process. Writer’s assistant is not an entry level job. It is a job you have to be trained and qualified to do. I’m not qualified to be a writer assistant.

Phil Hudson:
It’s a union job too.

Michael Jamin:
Now it’s a union job covered on I O C, right? Yeah. Yep. But you have to, someone has to train you how to do that. And I’m not, I’m a showrunner and I don’t know how to do it. And so usually you start as a pa and then you ask the writer’s assistant who’s above you, how do I do your job in case I poison you? And that way I can take your job if you fall sick and they’ll train you to know how to do that job because you have to know how to use the software really well. But you also have to know the distribution protocols, who gets scripts when and how they’re distributed. And so it’s a little bit complicated. There’s some notes you have to know how to take notes really well, but it’s not an entry level job, but it’s a a job you definitely want to get if you are an aspiring screenwriter for sure.

Phil Hudson:
Yep, yep. Everything’s different right now and going to continue to be different. Even if the actors strike at this time, they have voted for the authorization to strike. So yeah, Tom Miller, if I get rejected from contest and get nos from query letters, what do I do?

Michael Jamin:
There’s your problem right there. If you get rejected from a contest, reputative one, the big ones that we talk about in that webinar we just did, and don’t, you’re not going to get rejected, but you’re not going to, let’s say you don’t win, it’s because you need to work on your game. You need to become a better writer. How about work on that? It’s not some, they’re telling you maybe you’re not good enough, but in the meantime, you should always be working on your craft, get better and better as a writer. And that, you know, don’t need a contest to do that. You, or you can also shoot your own stuff. You can make it. I’ve done plenty of webinars on what I would do, and I’m going to do another one on what I would do if I had a break into the industry today.
But at the end of the day, if you are not a good writer, there’s just no demand for you. And I know you’re going to say, well, but aren’t there bad writers working? Sure there’s a whole range of writers working, but the bad ones aren’t going to keep writing forever. They may have gotten lucky. And that can’t be your strategy. Your strategy can’t be Well, they’re bad. I can be bad too. No, there’s no demand for demand for mediocre writers. You need to work on your craft and get better. But there’s a lot you can do and we’ll talk more about that in future webinars. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I’d also say that a lot of that rejection, keep in mind that that also might be topical. It might be related to your subject matter, and it may be that some of those are very specifically looking for stories. Like Sundance for example, is a good one. They’re looking for underrepresented voices, and so they’re looking at indigenous stories and they’re looking at people with something interesting. So the work I’ve done there, they’re very fascinating people and typically from a different ethical, racial, more of a, what we call a protected class background who have not had opportunities to tell their stories that are unique. So you got to understand your audience too. And that’s still a lesson you got to learn. So, alright, Jarret Frierson, ultimately what’s most important, establishing connections and networking or making your writing the best it can possibly be?

Michael Jamin:
Well, if you could have the best network in Hollywood, and if you’re writing is no good, no one’s going to go out in a limb and hire you. I mean, because that they’re jeopardizing their own career. If they have a show and they can hire one writer and they got some bad writer that’s not contributing and is going to drag them down, they’re not going to risk their career for you. I don’t care if you are their babysitter, you know, have to be good. So why can’t you do both at the same time? Why can’t you work on your craft while continuing to make the context and expanding your circle? But again, I talk about, I’ve talked, I’ve spoken about at length about what that means, what your network means, and your network isn’t people you randomly send emails to once a year to keep. That’s not your network. Your network or your, is your cohort people, your friends, people, you’re close to, people you work with, people, your class, your graduating class, this is your network. It’s not people who you’ve reached out to on LinkedIn and they decide to friend you. That’s not your network.

Phil Hudson:
No, it’s Kevin who texted me today and said, Hey man, how are you doing? We haven’t talked story in a while. You want to hop on a call and we have a call tomorrow to go over stuff. Oh, great. He’s the guy, the who sends me things to read and I send him things to read and we hop on the calls and we spend an hour talking about them. Great. Perfect. It’s so awesome. Cool. Moving on. This section is craft. It’s just how we do the job. Olivia asks, some teachers say you need establishing shots. Others say no. Who’s right?

Michael Jamin:
Well, I guess if you’re going to shoot it, you always want to, if you’re shooting something, get an establishing shot. It helps establish a location. We always have establishing shots. I’ve never been on a show. You need establishing shot, especially if you’re going to cut from one location to another. If you’re doing a scene in someone’s house and the next scene is in a restaurant and you don’t put an establishing shot, people are going to think, wait, is there back room of the house? A restaurant? They’re not going to be confusing. So get the grab an establishing shot. Do you need to put it in your script? No, you don’t need to put, say exterior restaurant day. I mean, you could say Interior restaurant day. So you don’t need that. You don’t to slug an establishing shot in your script, but if you’re going to shoot it, get one.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a good question in an answer I wish I would’ve had in 2009 and 10 when I was writing a lot of establishing shots for no purpose

Michael Jamin:
In my script. Make it more, does it make the read more enjoyable? No.

Phil Hudson:
And more and clear and Right. The slug line makes it clear. I am inside a restaurant.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I get it. I know what a rest, the

Phil Hudson:
First ad, the first A d will schedule. Yeah, exterior shop. Yep. Yeah, right. Tamara Hanssen. What would you say are the most important things to pay attention to when writing a thriller? And what would you say is the biggest difference between a horror versus a thriller? I thought it’d be an interesting one because you’re a comedy writer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I’m not really the best person to ask. I mean a horror because I don’t write either one of them. But a horror can be just a slash fest, a slash film, which is guts and gore and a slasher movie where there’s a mass murderer at a campground that’s a horror movie. Could be. Whereas a thriller, it doesn’t have to be all that guts and glory. It could just be the fugitive, right? A guy running from the law. There was no guts and Glo guts in that. It was just a guy keeping one step ahead of almost like an action movie. So those are the kind of differences. But in terms of writing, they still both need to have a story. Both need to have, you both have to follow a story, and that’s something that can be learned.

Phil Hudson:
And that’s the answer, is the focus on telling a good story. And then you’ll learn the tropes, right? Yeah. Because

Michael Jamin:
No one wants to read a story. If your screenplay screenplays, they go camping and the dad gets murdered, and now the sun’s running from the ax killer, who cares? What’s the story? Yeah, it’s it. It’s great Down. But

Phil Hudson:
Silence of the Lambs, silence of the Lambs, on the other hand, wins the Oscar Oscars because at that end scene, we are worried Clarice Darling is going to be consumed by this darkness she’s been avoiding.

Michael Jamin:
So it’s not just plot, it’s plot and story. Make something great.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s solid answer. Christine, I’m an artist getting into production for animation. What would you say is the most important thing I would know from your perspective as a writer on an animated show?

Michael Jamin:
Well, if you’re an artist, I mean, these animation houses often give you tests. And I, I’ve never worked at an animation house, even though I’ve worked with many. And the tests, can you draw? I know Disney famously has a, I think they call it like a sack test or a potato sack test or something where they ask animators, this is, you Google it, you’ll find it to write the emotions. Imagine a sack of flour, and now make, it has no eyes, no no limbs, no arms or legs. No eyes or face. Make the sack sad. Now make it excited. Now make it angry. And this is a famous test that they do to show all the emotions of a sack of flour without relying on the facial expressions. And that really apparently is what made Disney so amazing in animation way back when they first started. So study all that. But again, I’m not an artist for animation, so I’m not the best person to talk to.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. See, it rings true though. The magic carpet in Aladdin. Very emotive, very expressive, no face, no arms. So Conrad Michael, what’s your rules around character descriptions when introducing them? How many samples would you recommend? Oh, it’s two questions. I apologize. First question.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, character description, shorter is better. And you want to describe them a little bit, and it helps to give ’em a little bit of their personality. And it shouldn’t be cliche. A girl next door is pretty cliche, doesn’t know how hot she is, is cliche, give some juice to this character. And in that description, age, what do we need? What do they look like? That helps. But also to help describe their personality just a little bit. And in a way that’s not a cliche. That’s often why people say, think Jack Black or whatever. That does help. We know Jack Black is a little outrageous. We know he’s thinks he’s cool. Maybe he isn’t, but he’s got that attitude that helps. That’s one way people do it. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Wardrobe important as well, because it tells us who the character is. Something else you can consider, a lot of people don’t think about.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, if you need a woman, that was a note. If she’s wearing overalls that says something about maybe she’s out, maybe she’s outdoorsy, maybe she works in the garden a lot as opposed to wearing a dinner gown.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And it gives eventually, if it’s going to get made, gives you costuming department something to work with. So yeah. Anyway, Viki. Wow. Viki, can you tell us about the eight episode structure of the Hollywood movie in three acts, storytelling? Is there anything else? Jan from Finland?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t understand the question. What is it?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, so 8.9 0.88, that structure of a Hollywood film, right? They’re specific beats and metrics you need to hit within a structure. It’s more of a formulaic approach. They said eight episode, I’m pretty sure they’re talking about eight beat or eight point, and I think that’s famous,

Michael Jamin:
The topic. I thought they’re talking about eight episodes. Okay. So they went, if the question is, can you tell me more about the points of

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, the eight, they’re saying the eight episode structure of the Hollywood movie. And so I think what they’re saying is the

Michael Jamin:
Eight point structure. Yeah, that’s why I did hear it, right? I did hear it right. You did hear it. Right. Eight episode structure, that doesn’t make sense.

Phil Hudson:
No, it’s eight point structure of a Hollywood movie compared to three act storytelling or in three act storytelling.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. Okay. So I was confused. So I teach in my course, I teach three act structure, and that can be applied to everything. Whether you’re making a movie, a TV show, half hour, 90 minutes, 60 minutes, doesn’t matter. Three act structure, it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. It’s just that in a movie, it’s going to be a little, everything act is going to be a little longer lengthwise than in a half hour TV show. In terms of these points that you’re talking about, not episodes but points. Yeah. Also, when I teach my class, there are points that you think that have to be met. The bottom of act one is a point, the middle of act two, the bottom of act two, I teach all this. I have a certain number of things that you have to do per episode in order to tell a compelling story. It’s not formulaic, it’s just something that you need to have in a story so that it feels like you’re not just treading water. So that stuff happens. So if you’d like to learn more about that, we have a screenwriting course. It’s only open once a month for a couple of days, but you can sign up to find out when it will be open. And that’s at michaeljamin.com/course.
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 going to spam you, and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michaeljamin.com/watchlist.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Keenan, what is your opinion about whether writers should adopt and master three act structure versus the mini movie method? Roughly eight, 15 minute movies that make up a feature. Is there any reason they should be blended together?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t even know what that is. I only know three act structure. I don’t know what this 15 minute, I don’t know where you’re learning this stuff from. I don’t. What difference does it make if I’m telling a story? I don’t. Okay. Just so you know, when I tell a story on a sitcom, it’s not 15 minutes, but it’s 22 minutes because sitcoms tend to be short. So is there any difference between a 15 minute sitcom and a 22 minute sitcom? No, it’s cutting out a couple of minutes. That’s all. There’s just no difference. Everything is three act structure. Boy, they make things. Boy, the internet makes things hard for people, I think.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, these are a bunch of branded terms that I’ve read about in books and in other places that you’ve not, because you don’t look at those things. Yeah, I don’t.

Michael Jamin:
And

Phil Hudson:
Ultimately, from my perspective, it’s just a lot of it is very, very confusing. It does get very formulaic into, you know, need to introduce everybody, every major character of your script. By page three, you need to have your inciting incident on page 10. You need to, and your script act one on page 25, and then it becomes so burdensome. And then you fall into the dark zone and wasteland of act two, where no one tells you what you have to do in that.

Michael Jamin:
But then talk about making your course. There’s so many people Yeah, go ahead, Phil. Go ahead.

Phil Hudson:
I was going to say, but then in your course, it’s like, oh, they’re very clearly defined what I need to do in the top of act two, middle of act two, bottom of act two, very clear. And it’s like, oh yeah, this all makes way more sense. And now I understand exactly what I need to do. But

Michael Jamin:
It’s also simpler. It’s like they make it so complicated.

Phil Hudson:
Well, they feel like making it complicated and naming it something fancy is a way of just making it sophisticated and seem more advanced. And that’s the thing. I mean, I do Brazilian jiujitsu, I wrestled in high school. I like grappling Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s, just a, it’s when you talk about climbing a mountain, that’s my version of climbing a mountain right now is just getting tapped out and practice murdered by a bunch of people half my size. And there’s this thing called white belt mindset, which is looking for the cool hack and the cool trick that the other guy doesn’t have. But then I watched this black belt. He did a, literally watched it last night. There’s a black belt who’s talking about a study that was done out of 500 fights in Juujitsu. You’re not punching people in the face, it’s just submissions and grappling. He said, out of 500 fights, what is the percentage of specific moves that won a fight? And it’s like the first three, the top three make up 50% of all wins. And they’re the basics. The next four, the other basics. And they make up 95% of the taps. So people are so caught up in the tips and tricks and hacks and it’s, it’s fundamentals. It’s all about fundamentals. But

Michael Jamin:
Also when I’m in a writer’s room all the time, we don’t use these words that everyone seems to have learned on the internet. That’s why when you said 15 minutes, 15 minutes structure, what I, it is unfamiliar to me. Yeah. In my 27 years, we don’t talk like that. So what I teach you is how we talk. It’s like it’s not as complicated as people want to, when you learn from somebody, screenwriting, just find out, are they qualified to teach you? Forget. I don’t care if they wrote a book. No, no. What shows have they written on?

Phil Hudson:
And this is advice that you give to everyone. You literally say, if it’s not me, you don’t need to learn from me. Find someone who has done the job. Look them up. And you, me didn’t make me, you asked me maybe a year ago to put up all these samples that used to be in the course publicly on the site so people could vet your writing and see your writing just as a like, Hey, you to help people, here’s some samples of real shows. You can go watch on Hulu or Netflix or tv, wherever right now that exists, that were produced. And get an idea of whether or not they want to learn from you. And if

Michael Jamin:
You don’t think,

Phil Hudson:
Find somebody else. Right?

Michael Jamin:
Right. Find someone. Just study their work. Do you like it if learn from them if you don’t find somebody else.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Lynn Marie, in my last script, I had too many characters. When you are hired as a writer, are you given a number of characters? Does it depend on the story you’ve created?

Michael Jamin:
No, the, it’s not. It’s not like you’re given a number, but you can’t service all of them if you had too many characters. So you can’t service all them. And so you have a bunch of actors you’re going to hire, whatever your number of actors that’s on your TV show or movie, whatever. Let’s say it’s five main actors on, let’s say you’re doing a TV show, you have five actors. And if you can’t service them, if you don’t, can’t give ’em anything to do, they’re not going to be happy. I actually was watching an interview with Alan Ruck from Succession, and I think he was talking about season two or season one, I don’t remember. But he said the first three episodes of that season, he wasn’t doing anything. And he went to the showrunner and director. He goes, guys, maybe you want to kill me off because, because I’m not doing anything.
And they said, please don’t go into the, I know it’s slow now, but we have great stuff for you later in the season. And he’s like, oh, okay. And he said, I’m glad I stuck around because they did. He almost made a mistake of leaving. But you can’t have an actor stand around and not service them. Why are you paying them? So I go through this in the course as well. How many characters should you basically have for a TV show? For a movie? It’s a little different, but you got to give ’em something to do. Why are you paying them?

Phil Hudson:
And without naming names, and this is something I just read yesterday. Some other advice on the internet. Combine characters so that you’re not randomly dropping in new people throughout the movie or abandoning those. You’ve established a lot of bad advice about characters as well on the internet. And if the answer is, what do they serve? The story,

Michael Jamin:
They have to have something to do and they have something to, they can’t just stand around and nod when somebody else says something. You got to give ’em a good at a strong attitude or else why are they in the scene?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Awesome. Moving out of craft, another section. Being a pro anonymous. I was an actor on Lopez, one of Michael Jam’s shows. Loved it, critically loved, but I felt the network it was on really limiting it, limited it. How do you compromise with a network on the final product?

Michael Jamin:
They’re paying for it. You give ’em what they want. What’s the compromise they’re paying you? Do you want to work again or not? They have the right, this is what they want and you have to give them what they want. That’s the compromise. Obviously, you’re going to try to do it to your best of the ability so that you feel it’s good, but at the end of the day, you give them what they want because it’s paying for it. What’s it? What’s the stuff? My art, my words? What’s that? How is that going to put foot on your plate when they fire you?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, when we first started, you referred yourself as a tailor. Do you want to talk about that?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, basically, I think of myself as a tailor. When someone comes in, they say, I got slacks. And I say, okay, you want cuffs. And they say, yeah, I want cuffs. Okay, I can give you cuffs. I don’t say, I don’t, no, you’re going to ruin my slacks. It’s theirs, whatever you want. I can give you pleats, I can give you cuffs, whatever you want. And I’ll try to make the best. And I can give you a recommendation. I could say, you know what? You wouldn’t look good in a three double breasted suit. You’ll look better if it’s a single breasted. And they’ll say, but I want double breasted. Okay, I will give you the best double breasted suit I can.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. That’s being a pro. Great. Yeah. Jim, someone offered me an option with no payment. Is it worth it to tie up my script?

Michael Jamin:
An option with no payment? It sounds like a bad, sounds like a bad,

Phil Hudson:
That doesn’t sound like an option. It may not actually be legally binding, by the way. In most states, there has to be an exchange of money to be able to option. Sometimes it’s a buck, sometimes it’s a significant amount of money. But to me, Michael, my unsolicited opinion here is run. That is just a waste of time. And if you listen to the last podcast that we did, I recently just had an experience similar to this, not exactly this, but run.

Michael Jamin:
I was, that’s my

Phil Hudson:
Opinion, Michael.

Michael Jamin:
Years ago I was a writer. I was accessible writer, working on a TV show, and my partner and I wrote a script and we didn’t sell it. No, actually it’s not true. We s That’s not true. We sold it to H B O and then we got the rights back and then some other network because the H B O decided not to make it. And then some other network wanted to buy it. And I’m like, oh, okay. And their offer was $1. And I said, well, you’re going to have to do more than that dollar. I told ’em to go fuck off. So sorry you don’t get my script for a dollar, but suss out these people. I don’t know what kind of option, why, I don’t know. That’s not really an option. It doesn’t sound like a good deal. Who are these people? What

Phil Hudson:
That sounds, sounds like to me is some guy who thinks he’s a producer is sees something in you and wants to take advantage of you at your expense to go hawk your script, to go make a dime. And the answer is, if your script is that good, other people are going to read it and they’re going to want to pass it around and they’re going to want to make it. And that’s an option. That’s something to pursue. Someone offering you an option for nothing. It’s just move on.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it sounds like, it sounds suspicious if you’re, you’re professional, if your gut’s telling you to run, then run. Listen to your gut. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
My gut is speaking for you, Jim. Yeah, run. Cool. Moving on, miscellaneous, just a bunch of questions. Probably four or five here, Michael. Okay. Mark, how does one copyright a screenplay and how much does it cost?

Michael Jamin:
You can register your screenplay with the writer’s GU of America. I don’t know, it might be 35, 40 bucks or something, a copyright. I think the minute you write it, it’s copywritten, you know, can mail yourself a copy but in the mail and keep it sealed. But again, I don’t give legal advice on this channel, so I’m telling you what I know. If you’re really worried about it, you can get an entertainment lawyer or you can Google it and you can find out for yourself. So I don’t give you any, again, there’s nothing in it for me to give anybody legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. So these are a couple of options, but please explore

Phil Hudson:
More. Electronic filing is $45, so standard application is $65 and you can

Michael Jamin:
Do it for free. And that gives you certain protections, not all, but do your own due diligence. So

Phil Hudson:
It also publishes it in a registry that is searchable and anybody can go find your script. And there you go. But again, idea versus execution.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Right. It’s all about the execution. Alright, Tina, should we get it registered with the W G A before we have someone read it? What is the best way to get your script in front of someone for just notes? And Perry does registering a script with the W G A protect the IP from being stolen from me.

Michael Jamin:
I’ve only registered, I should do a webinar on that, on getting stolen. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
That’s a big topic and it’s a scary look. The questions from my perspective, they’re scarcity mindset questions. You need to be smart. But if you’re worried about someone stealing your idea, it’s saying, well, this is all I have. Instead of saying, okay, I’ll just move on. And it’s very hard to prove theft of intellectual property unless it’s just very hard. It’s a case that very rarely wins. And I know of one very famous case that we did talk about early on in the podcast where there was a film that came out and they lost in France. France said that they stole an idea from someone and they had to pay a ton of money, but it was produced and made out into the world by a professional filmmaker before they even got there. So anyway, that’s just my thoughts.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, you know, can register. Ultimately, you’re going to have to put your work out there if you want to get hired and if you can keep, you want to keep it yourself and if you’re so worried about it, and you’ll never, no one’s going to find it in your closet. So I, I’ll probably do a webinar at some point talking more about this at length, but ultimately you, you’re going to have to put your work out there and be careful who you give it to. Don’t give it to the guy in Starbucks with the hbar mushroom mustache, but you can give it to reputable studios and you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. One thing that just came up again, we talked about before was registering your script with the W G A and then putting your registration number on your cover feels, it feels pretty amateur.

Michael Jamin:
It feels a little Bush League. I’ve only registered for whatever what it’s worth, only one script in my entire career. That was the first one I ever wrote. And then I was like, I can’t, and then I was like, I can’t afford to do anymore, like 40, whatever it was, 40 bucks. I can’t afford to do this.

Phil Hudson:
You can submit it directly through final draft by the, you can register your script through Final Draft Now. It’s been out for a couple years, but I

Michael Jamin:
Didn’t know that.

Phil Hudson:
I think registering your script and as a paper trail, that can be served as in court as evidence is one thing, but putting it registration number on your script is another mark of, yeah, maybe don’t do that. Yeah, maybe. Yeah. Ryan McCurdy, how does someone who is in multiple guilds, the W G A D, G A and P G A navigate their jobs? Do they just not write but will direct or do they not work at all? How do people who are in multiple guilds? Oh, so it’s a repeat of the question. I apologize, but I don’t know if this is reference to the strike specifically, but I thought it was a good question for you because you W G A and D G A, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, but it’s not, and I’m not even an active member in the D D G A, whatever job you’re working at, if you were working as a director, now you, there’s nothing to navigate. You pay dues. If you’re getting directing gigs, then you will pay dues on those directing gigs and you have writing gigs, then you pay dues for that. So there’s nothing to navigate. It’s just like you only pay dues if you earn money for the work you’ve done. Although I should be clarified, you do have a low monthly fee of, it’s probably 25 bucks every quarter or something like that in addition. But there’s nothing to navigate really.

Phil Hudson:
And during this strike it, I think specifically, not to speak for the Writer’s Guild, but the research I’ve done as someone who is kind of at that stage of my career where I do have the opportunity to have some meetings with people and have some conversations and conversations I’ve had with the W G A, right? It is against the W G A strike guidelines to have meetings with signatory companies right now regarding written work. That does not mean you can’t sit at home and write. And it does not mean that you can’t work with other writers and pass things around. And what it means is you shouldn’t be seeking employment or to gain monetary value from a signatory in violation. So regardless if you’re in the guild or not, you shouldn’t be doing that.

Michael Jamin:
Right. So next question,

Phil Hudson:
Lindsay, what was the biggest surprise to you when you first started working in the writer’s room?

Michael Jamin:
The biggest surprise was everyone was incredibly talented. This is when I was on Just Shoot me and I was in way over my head. I was able to write one script on with my partner. We wrote, I was able to be funny on my own, at my own pace, but in a writer’s room, when you’re surrounded by really talented writers pitching ideas, I didn’t understand the difference between a good idea and a bad idea idea. I had no idea. And I was worried about being fired because I didn’t know how to contribute. That was really eye-opening. It was like, man, everyone is so funny. And I’m laughing after a couple weeks. I’m like, no one’s paying me to laugh. I’m getting paid to make people laugh. I better figure out how to do that fast and figure out how to contribute meaningfully in a writer’s room.
And that really means understanding story structure, that that’s kind of what I teach in the course. If you were lucky enough to get that break, God, you don’t want to screw it up by not understanding how to story structure and understanding how to do the job. Man, if, here’s the thing, if you get hired tomorrow, not wonderful, you got hired in a show, sign up for my course immediately and cram it because you do not want to get fired from your job because you don’t understand how to do the job. And I’m telling you, 99% of new writers just don’t, because there’s so much to learn. So whether they get fired or not, it’s a different story. But I’ve see, I see people flame out all the time.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking seeing that turnover, even for someone at my level just knowing I want that job so bad, but at the same time, coming to the realization that, man, I wouldn’t have been able to do that job either.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Think you think can, and you have the enough gumption and ego to push you along to say, I can do that job. And you have to have that blindness to reality to continue moving forward. But there’s also a level of reality you have to settle into, say a personal assessment. Yeah. I would’ve been fired too. I would not have been able to execute.

Michael Jamin:
Phil. You know me, I never yell at people, take my course. I’m never saying sell my, I’m never sell a sale, sell. Take my course. You don’t. But if you get hired on a staff job, take the course please. Because if you get fired off this thing for not knowing what’s sick, oh, you’ll kill yourself. You will be so upset that you are not prepared so

Phil Hudson:
Well, on this note, did, didn’t you have a friend who was a showrunner who basically wanted to offered all of her writers your course? Yes. They didn’t know story.

Michael Jamin:
I forgot about that. Yeah, I did have

Phil Hudson:
A, without going into detail of the that, do you want to talk about that? The conversations you were having with her about what those struggles were?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. She was running a show, a big show on a major network. This is a friend that I’ve worked with many years ago, but she’s a really talented writer. And so she was running this show with a bunch of new staff writers, and she was just so frustrated with the quality of work. Actually, I’m not sure if she was running it or she was co-running it with somebody else. So maybe it might not have been her show. She might have been co-executive producer. And she was very frustrated and she was like, I wish everyone here would just take your fricking class so that I don’t have to educate them so that they could stop arguing with me all the time when I’m telling them what a story should be. So they would stop arguing with her and just listen and contribute meaningfully because it’s like so frustrating is when a new writer doesn’t know how to do a job, they’ll often fight for something because they don’t know any better and they want to contribute and they fight for something, which is a terrible idea without knowing what a good idea is. And she was like, Ugh, this is so frustrating. I wish they would just take your damn class so I wouldn’t have to waste energy yelling at them or arguing with them.
And she’s a good writer. She’s talented. She’s worked for 20 something years.

Phil Hudson:
And again, I’ve seen in my limited career in the writer’s room, I have seen people burn out for arguing with the showrunners about something that ultimately doesn’t matter to the story, and more specifically arguing with the showrunner’s vision of what the story should be.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Oh boy. It’s

Phil Hudson:
Sad. And you have a whole section in the course too about writers. Were medicate, how do you behave in a room? And I had conversations with the lizards when I was on tour about that etiquette and the reality of the fact that when you’re new, shut up and listen. Shut

Michael Jamin:
Up.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Only open your mouth if you have something that is stunning. Yeah. So awesome. Two more questions here, Olivia, ask, does the corp help? Does the course help us find an agent at the end?

Michael Jamin:
Well, I mean, it doesn’t give you instructions on how to do that, but it’s certainly going to, it’s certainly if you can’t write a good script, good luck getting an agent. So the course teaches you how to write a good script. Hopefully doors open after that, but good luck. You’re not be able to trick an agent into hiring you if you don’t know how to write or not hiring you. I don’t like the expression representing you. Sorry. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s a good point. Two, two things. One there, I believe there is a q and a in the bonus section where you do talk about agents and managers. Yeah. And you go over the realities of that situation. Two, I’m blanking. Oh, you did? I didn’t you do? Oh, one of our early podcasts. It was like episode five or something, was talking about agents and managers. So go back and listen to that podcast. Yeah, good stuff in there. Lindsay. Last question. Do you prefer to be a member of the writer staff or be the showrunner?

Michael Jamin:
So when you’re starting off, when I was starting off, I did not want to be the showrunner at all. Like I knew I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And then I did it for about 10 years as a rest, staff writer, learning, soaking it up after about 10 years, you rise so high that the next step is you either become a showrunner or you just don’t work because there’s just not that many jobs. So becoming a showrunner actually opens up opportunities. So my partner and I took that jump and we started looking for opportunities to run shows and we ran. We’ve run three shows when we were before we became showrunners. You’re always looking at your boss. You’re always thinking, I bet I could do my job. I bet I could do his job or her job better than he or she can. Then when you finally get that job, you’re like, Ugh, it’s so hard. It’s so hard. I don’t know why I thought I was so arrogant to think that, and now, like I said, I’ve done it. I’ve proven to myself the show I’m currently on, co-executive producers. I’m not the showrunner and I’m perfectly happy not to have that pressure of being the showrunner. I’m perfect. I make less money, but I’m perfectly happy.
But if the next job is showrunner better than being unemployed, I’ll take whatever. I’ll happy to do it. But I’m also, it’s not an ego thing for me where I need to be the boss.

Phil Hudson:
In the documentary showrunners that I’ve recommended many times, there’s a showrunner who says that a network at a certain point is so concerned with getting the thing done, that if you were literally dying on your deathbed and you had to be wheeled, you are like, I can’t come in. I can’t do the job. I would have to be wheeled in on a gurney and put up on an iv. They would say, what kind of gurney would you like and what kind of iv? What would you like in the iv? Yeah, because the showrunner job is that important to the overall production. Yeah. So do you get paid for the stress involved with that?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. Although about the shows that I did, they were cable shows, so they were less money. They network

Phil Hudson:
Critic, critically acclaimed table shows.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
So that’s it, Michael. That’s your June webinar q and a.

Michael Jamin:
Woo. Yeah. Thank you so much everyone. We got a lot. What can you do, Phil? If someone, like I said, I should mention this. All the webinars are free to attend. If you attend, we always give you a little something special if you miss it, we send you a free replay within 24 hours. If you do not watch that and you want to watch some of the old ones, they are available for purchase on my website at a small fee. All this stuff, I got free lesson, I got a free webinar, I got a free newsletter. Sign up for all of it on my website, michaeljamin.com. If you want to see me tour with my book, my forthcoming book is called right now. It’s called the Paper Orchestra. Maybe changing the title. I don’t know, but you can learn more about that. If you want to see me in your city, go to michaeljamin.com/upcoming. I’d love to see you there. I’d love to see everyone there.

Phil Hudson:
Oh, it’s great too. I went for my birthday last year. You did a performance in an incredible performance. Yeah, incredible performance, but then also I wait your birthday’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Michael Jamin:
Oh God. My dad called me today. He goes, happy birthday. He goes, it’s not my birthday yet. He goes, I know. Why’d you call me then?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Anyway, I went and then it was fun. I got to meet people from your course who I’ve talked to for years and they were there supporting and fun stuff, but really, really cool way to see how story moves and it’s not like you have the amazing sets and choreography and like crazy lighting. It’s you moving people with words and it’s with words. It’s a great explanation, A great display of what storytelling should be is how I would describe that.

Michael Jamin:
Thank you, Phil. Thank you. Yeah, everyone come see it. I thank you so much. Alright, Phil. Until next week.

Phil Hudson:
Keep writing. Say

Michael Jamin:
Keep writing. Alright. Thanks everyone.

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/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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