On December 8th, I hosted a webinar called “What Do Showrunners Look For In A Script,” where I talked about how to come up with interesting and unique characters, as well as how tapping into your everyday life interactions with people can help with this. 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

A Paper Orchestra on Website: – https://michaeljamin.com/book

A Paper Orchestra on Audible:https://www.audible.com/ep/creator?source_code=PDTGBPD060314004R&irclickid=wsY0cWRTYxyPWQ32v63t0WpwUkHzByXJyROHz00&irgwc=1

A Paper Orchestra on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Audible-A-Paper-Orchestra/dp/B0CS5129X1/ref=sr_1_4?crid=19R6SSAJRS6TU&keywords=a+paper+orchestra&qid=1707342963&sprefix=a+paper+orchestra%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-4

A Paper Orchestra on Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/203928260-a-paper-orchestra

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
Well, no one cares that you took my course, so zero. No one’s going to be. That’s why we don’t give a diploma out because the diploma is worthless. No one really cares if you went where you studied, who taught you all they care about? Is the script good or not? Does it make them want to turn the page or not? Do they want to find out what happens next or not?

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about conversations in writing, art, and creativity. Today’s episode is brought to you by my debut collection of True Stories, a paper orchestra available in print, ebook and audiobook to purchase And to support me in this podcast, please visit michael jamin.com/book and now on with the show.

Michael Jamin:
Hey everyone, welcome to a very special episode of What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about. I’m here with my guest host Kevin Lewandowski, and he helps out a lot with the podcast, with all my social stuff, and he’s actually by trade. He’s a writer’s assistant script coordinator, which is actually one step higher than writer’s assistant, so he’s worked on a bunch of shows. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Thank you for having me. Michael, for those of you, sorry I’m not Phil, I’m just kind of filling in for Phil for a couple days, but I’m excited to be here. And yeah, I hope to tell you all a little bit about script coordinating as well and what that all entails,

Michael Jamin:
Fill in and fulfill, fill

Kevin Lewandowski:
In and fulfill.

Michael Jamin:
What shows were you script coordinator on?

Kevin Lewandowski:
So the big one was Why Women Kill.

Michael Jamin:
Did we ever figure out why?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I mean, depending on who you ask, a lot of women will say because of men,

Michael Jamin:
They kill for ratings.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right? Okay, that’s better. But yeah, that was, I forgot how long ago that was, but that was, unfortunately we got canceled four or five days before we were supposed to start filming. Our actors had just landed in Canada and then the next day they announced they were pulling the plug on the show.

Michael Jamin:
Why?

Kevin Lewandowski:
It could be many reasons. I think a lot of it had to do with we were a little bit behind on scripts and then budgeting and we were still kind of in the midst of covid precautions and things like that.

Michael Jamin:
Covid, people don’t realize, especially new showrunners, you don’t mess with the budget. You get things done on time, Ross, you’re screwed. What other shows did you work on then?

Kevin Lewandowski:
So the first show I ever worked on was in 2015. It was the Muppets, and it was funny. I thought if anyone ever caught a break, this is my break. I was like, it’s the Muppets, it’s going to go on for five or six years and I’m just going to notch up every year. And after 16 episodes, that one got canceled.

Michael Jamin:
What’s Ms. Piggy really like?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I mean, she is who she is. Difficult. Yeah, she’s difficult. She’s a bit of a diva. We have to had to cater to all of her needs.

Michael Jamin:
What about, I’m sorry, and what were the other shows? Screw Miss Piggy. Yeah,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Screw Miss Piggy. So after that, a bunch of pilots that never got picked up, and then I worked for a show on Netflix called The Ranch with Ashley

Michael Jamin:
Element

Kevin Lewandowski:
That was a live audience show and I was there for two seasons. I’m trying to think after that. It’s all becoming a blur. I did two seasons of Why Women Kill. Actually the first year I was a line producer’s assistant, and so that was interesting to kind of see the financial side of things and see where they decide to put the money in. And then for season three, they moved me to Script coordinator,

Michael Jamin:
But the Branch was a legit show. That was a big show.

Kevin Lewandowski:
That was a lot of fun because I’d always wanted to work in the Multicam world. There’s just something about show night and it’s just kind of a big party for everyone and you get to see the audience’s instant gratification. It’s just a lot of fun. A lot of fun to work on those shows.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well now the next thing for us to do is try to get you into one of these jobs so you don’t have to co-host with me all the time on this

Kevin Lewandowski:
Podcast. I don’t mind co-hosting with you.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, all right. Well, we’ll see if you feel that way at the end. Okay, that’s fair. So we are doing, this is a special q and a. We do these monthly webinars or whatever, every three weeks actually, and we have a lot of questions we can’t answer. And so we save ’em for the podcast. And now Kevin’s going to feed them to me. He’s going to regurgitate them to me. He’s going to baby bird them into my mouth, and then I’m going to try to answer them as best I can.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Early Bird gets the worm or something like that.

Michael Jamin:
Gross. Kevin Gross.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I apologize in advance for anyone’s name I might butcher.

Michael Jamin:
It’s okay. They don’t need to. I mean whatever if you get ’em wrong. Okay,

Kevin Lewandowski:
So these first few questions are going to be kind of course related questions. The first one is from Dat Boy, D-A-T-B-O-I. And that person’s asking, what are the best tips for making my script shine more than the rest?

Michael Jamin:
Oh boy. Well, I wish he would. Well, he was already at my free webinar. I wish he would sign up for my course. I mean, that’s what the course is. The best tips for making it shine is making sure your act breaks pop, making sure the dialogue feels fresh, your characters are original. I mean, there’s no tips. It’s not a tips thing. It’s 14 hours of, let me tell you how to do it. That boy, I wish. What do you think, Kevin? What’s your answer for him?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think it’s one of the things you always say on your webinars is after taking my course, you’ll just hear me yelling in your head all the time about this is your end of act two moment, this is this, this is that. And I can vouch for that and say, anytime I’m looking through a script or even watching a TV show, because of your course and just understanding the story structure, you get those spider senses like, oh, the raising the stake should be coming very soon. Now we’re about halfway through the episode, so something better be changing here. And I think it’s just, again, everything you say in your course of just knowing those beats when they need to hit how they need to pop will help set your script ahead of amateur writers.

Michael Jamin:
You’re a good student, Kevin.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Thanks.

Michael Jamin:
Alright, what’s next?

Kevin Lewandowski:
So km phs, when I say I don’t have experience, but I have a killer pilot and I took Michael Jamin’s course. How much of a difference is the course going to make in terms of being a desirable hire?

Michael Jamin:
No one cares that you took my course. So zero no one’s. That’s why we don’t give a diploma out because the diploma is worthless. No one really cares if you went where you studied, who taught you all they care about, is the script good or not? Does it make them want to turn the page or not? Do they want to find out what happens next or not? So I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but it’s not the degree. The degree isn’t worth anything. Hopefully the knowledge is worth something.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think the analogy I have in my head of your courses, I look at scripts I wrote before taking your course, and it’s like when you look back at high school photos and I had the Frosted tips, the pca, shell, necklace, hoop earring, and at the time it was cool. And now you look back and it’s like it’s pretty cringe-worthy. It’s pretty cringe-worthy to see those photos. And now after taking your course, I feel like it’s like now I’m wearing a suit and I don’t have the poop hearing and I don’t have the frosted tips, and I’m not as cringe-worthy when I look back at some of the scripts I wrote a year or so ago.

Michael Jamin:
Good, good. All right, good. Very good. Impressing me more and more, Kevin.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right? Next question. Ous. I’m butchering that one. Nope,

Michael Jamin:
Perfectly. That’s how he says his name.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. What are the most important things an inspiring writer should be aware of while reviewing one script before sending it to an established executive or writer?

Michael Jamin:
God, it’s pretty much the same answer as all the other ones. It’s like, do your act breaks, pop? Is it fresh? The dialogue, I’m sorry, but it’s the same answer, so I don’t really have anything to say. Yeah, yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question, mal. Yay.

Michael Jamin:
Exactly.

Kevin Lewandowski:
In a 26 page pilot is page 11 two, late for the first act break, second act break or second act being on page 20.

Michael Jamin:
On the 26 page script, the first back page is on 11, is that what they said?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
It’s not terrible. I’ve seen worse things. I’m assuming it’s a single space. It’s not terrible. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Colin Miller, what is a good system to practice writing every day? I like this question.

Michael Jamin:
A good system, a good system. I don’t know why you like it, because I’m stumped. I mean, I would just say write a good system is to, I’m most creative in the morning, so that’s when I want to write and I try to do my busy work in the evening stuff that’s easier, but you might be a night owl, but I would just carve out time every day and just sit down at the computer and write. And don’t be so precious that no one’s going to look at your first draft. That first draft can be terrible, so don’t just get it on paper. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. I think a lot of maybe misconceptions people have is writing every day isn’t necessarily open up final draft and typing something. Sometimes it’s going on a walk for an hour and a half and thinking about the story you’re trying to tell and laying out the beats in, I live in Glendale and there’s a outdoor mall. It’s fun to kind of just walk around there and people watch a little bit. And sometimes

Michael Jamin:
The Americana, that’s where you go.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yep. Right By the Americana.

Michael Jamin:
Are you in walking distance to that

Kevin Lewandowski:
Few blocks?

Michael Jamin:
Interesting. Okay. Alright. You’d like to go on the trolley.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I’ve never been on that trolley. I’m always afraid

Michael Jamin:
You like to ring the bell on trolley, Kevin. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I’m always afraid it’s going to hit someone.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I know. I know.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think takes up a lot of the bottom of the path.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. All

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right. Next question. So NRS creates, I guess this is a question, it’s more of a comment. It said, agreed. The course is changing the way I see all of my stories. Good, great.

Michael Jamin:
Great.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Christina Sini, who’s a current student, and Michael Jamin’s course, we learned to break and structure story well before writing those bits and pieces of a script glued together that we won’t have to cling to anyone to make them fit. We basically learned how to build in order. I think that goes back to your analogy of laying the foundation first and doing, starting with the characters in beat sheets and then outlining and eventually getting to the physical writing of the script.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, she’s doing great, Christina. She’s having a good amount of success early on, so I’m impressed.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Another very active person in the course, Laurie. John Michael’s course is amazing. When you take the class, you also become of the Jam and Facebook community. We do table reads and give each other notes twice a month. Writer sprints, Wednesday nights and mock writer’s room. So anyone that’s thinking about getting the course, we have this private Facebook group and it’s a bunch of great people in there and we are all just trying to build each other up.

Michael Jamin:
It really is. It’s impressive because when you look at some of the other Facebook groups, the screenwriting groups or on Reddit or groups, it’s mostly people trying to tear each other down. But because this is private, I think they’re not like that at all. It’s a community, I think.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I think that was a big thing for you because you said you were in some of those groups, and I think you even said you sometimes as a professional working writer, you would say something that people would attack

Michael Jamin:
You. Yeah. You don’t, what are you talking about? Oh, alright. I happened once or twice. I was say, I’m done. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
All right. Next question. VV oral, is it worth it? And parentheses story structure is very detailed in your course, so I think maybe it’s worth it, not is it worth it? Yeah. I think it’s just more people praising about your course.

Michael Jamin:
Okay.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Let’s see. Okay, now we have some craft questions. Good. From Mal mavey, they, again, is it okay to end a pilot on a cliffhanger?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s okay, but better not. You’re really counting on the fact that anyone’s going to care, so you’re better. I think what the danger is, you may be writing towards this cliffhanger thinking that everyone’s going to be so, oh my God, what’s going to happen if you don’t write? If all those pages beforehand aren’t so great, no one’s going to care what happens. And so a lot of people write towards this cliffhanger thinking, oh, aren’t you going to be enthralled? And the answer is no, we don’t care.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Yeah. I think trying to work backwards from that I think can be a disservice. And I think it’s just you definitely don’t want that cliffhanger to be more exciting necessarily than your act one break, because that’s what we know what we’re following. Lex Macaluso, once I have a great script, what are the practical steps to do?

Michael Jamin:
Well, once you have a great script, write another one for sure. And then you want to make sure you actually do have a great script. And you do that by showing it to people. And it doesn’t have to be somebody in the industry. It could be a friend or a mother or someone whose opinion you trust. What do you think? And if they love it and they say, this is amazing, show me something else. You’re onto something. But if they say, well, I like this part, or I like when this happened, or This is a good storyline, then that’s not a great script. So you have to be honest with yourself. It’s really, look, it’s really hard to write a great script. Everyone assumes they have it and I don’t assume I have it. So when I do my job really well, I might have a good script. A great script is really, you got to really hit it out of the park.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think just that idea of what is a great script, so arbitrary, and I think it’s sticking to the story structure of what you teach in your course can help set your script apart from others.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And honestly, it is those things that I’m looking for. All the things that I say that when I’m reading a script, what I’m looking for and what I’m really looking for is I want a really good script. It doesn’t even have to be great because a really good script stands out great or amazing is very rare. I mean, how often do you see a movie that’s been made or a TV show and you go, this is a great script. Most of the time you’re like, oh, this is really good.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So if you were reading a script, and let’s say maybe the structure wasn’t where you think it should be, but the characters were very compelling and the characters were witty with what they were saying. Would you still be okay with that? Or vice versa if maybe the characters was a little bit too much speaking on the nose, but the structure and everything was spot on with that.

Michael Jamin:
Years ago we hired on a show, we were running a show and we were reading a ton of scripts, and we got to one where Act one was really good. Act two was really good, and Act three was not very good. And we hired him anyway because we were thought at that point, I was like, he did the first two parts really well, I could fix, or we could fix Act three, not a problem. And so I think that says a lot. You do act one, walk two. That’s a big deal. He’s a young writer.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Do you see a pattern with a lot of writers starting out is Act two where they struggle the most? Or is it act three or is it,

Michael Jamin:
Listen, I don’t make it to act two. If Act one isn’t good, I don’t read further. I get another script. If I get a stack of scripts, who cares about Act two? Fact One sucks.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Ben Miller, what screenplays are the best to read, to learn from perhaps the West Wing pilot, which I read in a screenwriting class?

Michael Jamin:
Well, it depends what you want to write. If you want to write drama, then maybe West Wing pilot, I haven’t read it, but you can also learn from reading band scripts. You can say to yourself, if long as you’re honest, why am I not interested in this? And if you know what to look for, why is the script not compelling? Is the dialogue, is it the act breaks? Do they now you’ll know what to look for? And then the trick is to be honest with yourself. There’s been times even in my early career where I might pitch something to my partner and he’ll say, if you read that in a script and someone else’s script, you’d say, that sucks. And I go, really? I thought it was good. He goes, no, no, you would say it sucks. So then at that point, you got to go, okay, you got to back off. And you don’t fight for it. You got to be honest with yourself.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think another amazing thing in today’s world that didn’t really exist when you start out is pretty much any show that’s out there right now, you can get access to some version of the script, whether it was a writer’s draft or a production draft. Is

Michael Jamin:
That true? How do you find them?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I mean, if you just go to Google and you type in Breaking Bad Pilot script, there’s going to be versions that you can download. It’s always interesting to read those scripts and then watch the first episode and see how much did they change? Because I doubt you’ll be able to find necessarily the final shooting draft online, but those first couple writer’s drafts are available. And it’s always interesting just to see you’re reading it and you really, really like this part, but then you watch the episode and they took it out. You’re like, oh, okay. That’s interesting that

Michael Jamin:
If you really wanted up your game, you could also watch the pilot of Breaking Bag and type out the script while you’re watching it and then read it later and look for what are the act breaks, literally, what are the act breaks? How do they work? What’s the dialogue on that? What’s the last line of every scene? What’s the dialogue? At the last line,

Kevin Lewandowski:
When I was doing writer’s assistant script coordinate stuff, that’s what I used to do to type faster just sit and watch TV and just type out the script as it was happening.

Michael Jamin:
Wow, good for

Kevin Lewandowski:
You. Because in the room, they don’t like it when you say, Hey, can you slow down a little bit? Can I hear that again? No, you got to go.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Okay. Part, what advice would you offer writers to adapt to the inevitable changes in developments expected in the screenwriting field and then years to come? I’m assuming that’s in the context of chat, GPT, ai, that kind of stuff.

Michael Jamin:
Right now, that stuff is being regulated. I don’t know of anybody who’s using it in a writer’s room. That’s not to say I could easily be out of the loop, so I don’t know. But right now, as far as I know, chat, GPT wasn’t a tool. Any writer that I knew was clamoring for, because we all knew if it works, it’s going to put us out of a job. So any changes? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I would just say maybe I’m naive, but stay the course. Figure out how to write without using a computer program or else, because if you’re using the computer program, what do we need you for?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right. Have you ever just to see what it would look like, just prompt, Chappie, just to write you a random scene just to see what it would look like, and then compare it to your knowledge you have of being a professional writer for

Michael Jamin:
Many years. Well, a couple of months ago, my partner decided to put some prompts into chat, GPT to come up with story ideas for Come FD for the show we were on. He just read ’em to me. We were both laughing at how terrible they were. It was like a paragraph of what’s going to happen in this episode. And it was interesting how it was able to glean what the show was and what it was like, but it was just such an oversimplification of what the show, it lacked any nuance. It was kind of stupid. It was like, nah, that’s not, I know. That’s what it was almost like asking a 4-year-old what you think the show is and the four year olds. Yeah. Okay. You’re right. It’s about firemen. Okay, sure. But other than that, the ideas were terrible.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Another question from NRS creates, what are your thoughts on screenwriting competition websites like Cover Fly and the Blacklist? Is that a good way to get a script into people’s hands? Thoughts on one act, scripts, one act plays? Do they have three acts?

Michael Jamin:
A lot of questions. I think you’re the better person to answer the first part.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. So I’ve definitely submitted to some of those contests just to see A, if I would get any more B, what kind of feedback they would give. And a lot of times it’s not very helpful feedback. And you’ve talked about, you have to question who these people are that are giving feedback, because chances are, they’re not professional working writers right now. They would not have the time to go through 20, 30 scripts to give feedback. So chances are these could potentially be recent college graduates that are just doing what they think, what they learned in film school. And interestingly enough, I think Phil, he went through one competition. He sent me what the feedback was, and just reading it, I was like, this sounds very Chat, GPT ai. It was just very, because he sent me other ones he got, and I was like, okay, this feels like a person actually read this. This feels like it could have been put in chat, GPT, write a response based on what you think. And then when I said that to him, he was like, you might be right. He’s like, you might be right. Interesting.

Michael Jamin:
Back when I was writing my book and I submitted to some publishers, whatever, a couple wrote back why they didn’t like it, why they didn’t want to option the book or whatever, and whatever. A couple of them, their feedback was like, no, it’s clear to me you barely read it. Which I understand because these were low level publishing types editors. And on their weekend read, they probably had to read a couple dozen books, manuscripts, they’re not going to give it full attention. And I was like, so some of the criticism, I was like, okay, that’s a fair criticism. But no, but that is not, there’s literally no truth in what you’re saying there. You just phoned it in because you have to read so much over the weekend. So I don’t know. Got to take, no one’s going. I mean, it’s the same thing for these websites. Are they really going to put their heart and soul into it? No. Why would They

Kevin Lewandowski:
Don’t care. They just want the

Michael Jamin:
Money. Yeah. Why would they? Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
You think about someone in your position giving feedback to a fellow writer that might take you two and a half hours, read the script, think about your notes, and then put ’em in a format to be able to explain them to the writer. And I don’t think these people in those competitions are doing that. They probably just read it once and write down what they think. And it’s funny how some of them, it’s what would you rank the character dialogue on a one to 10, and they write six and a half. It’s like,

Michael Jamin:
Where are you getting

Kevin Lewandowski:
That from? One is six and half. So then what would’ve gotten me an eight or an half or a nine?

Michael Jamin:
One of the things we just started doing on their website, if you have the course, our screenwriting course, I have a couple of friends who are high level writers who are willing to give notes. But here’s the thing, you’re going to pay. It’s not cheap. You’re going to pay these people to sit down and read your damn script for two or three hours and they’re not getting $10 an hour. That’s not what they’re going to get. I don’t know what you get paid for,

Kevin Lewandowski:
I guess. So is this a good way to get your script into people’s hands? So I think, yeah, mean it’s technically people’s hands, but I don’t know if

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think they’re the right hands.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Feedback is going to be any valuable. And then thoughts on one X Scripts. One X plays, do they have three x inherently?

Michael Jamin:
That’s an interesting question. Do they have three acts? I would say yes, in terms of the structure, in terms of what makes something compelling, but not necessarily, I guess I’ve written some stories in my book that don’t fall into the traditional three Acts structure, but they come close. They definitely come close to it. And that’s just because, well, it doesn’t really matter why, but you can’t go wrong. You really can’t go wrong if you structure something like the way we teach.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So in your opinion, because heard, sometimes people use a five act structure, and I think for me, I think it’s basically the same three act structure, but so act one will be act one, and then Act two is

Michael Jamin:
Act

Kevin Lewandowski:
Two A and then Act two B. And so it’s kind of broken up like that. So for me,

Michael Jamin:
Well, Shakespeare wrote that way. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And he’s all right. He did.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I mean, I just think it’s easier not to write. I just think three is easier to get your head around. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. I think just the thought of hearing the words, so writing five acts, that just sounds like it can be a lot, but if you could be like, oh, three acts, okay, I can do that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right. Anyone could do that. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next topic, breaking in. DJ asked when starting out to obtain that experience, what sort of job should one be searching for, staff, writer, assistant, et cetera?

Michael Jamin:
You should be searching for the production assistant job anywhere, and eventually, after a season or two, see if you can move to a job that’s closer to the writer’s room. Physically, let’s do what Kevin did. That’s what he did.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think there’s a staff writer that’s obviously not entry level assistant. There’s various assistant positions you could do production assistant, you can do showrunners, assistant executive assistant. I think one of the, or the terminologies people may get confused is writer’s production assistant and then writer’s assistant. And the writer’s production assistant is the one that’s responsible for getting the lunches, stocking the kitchen, making copies, things like that. And the writer’s assistant is the one that sits in the room, types up the notes and the jokes that are being pitched. And they work closely with the script coordinator. And as you’ve said, many times, the writer’s assistant is not an entry level job. It can be very intensive times.

Michael Jamin:
And for what’s worth, I’ve worked with several assistants, either writer’s, assistant production assistants, who’ve since gone on to become staff writers have had successful careers. So it’s not like many. So Kevin, hopefully you’ll be next.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I’m hoping so too. Next question, Sammy. ak. So the best way to get a foot in the door to support and learn the biz write in assistant or pa, we kind of just answer that. Yeah. Production assistant is that entry level. You’re kind of just the gopher and you’re the whatever they kind of need you go do, and you prove yourself to those people above you. And they notice. Notice people notice when you’re either calling it in or you’re really going above and beyond to make whoever’s ahead of you life a little bit easier. Yeah. All right. Now we got some miscellaneous. Oh, here’s a fun question. Tulio, how close are you to officially publishing your book, Michael,

Michael Jamin:
It’s already out tulio. You can go get it. You can find it. Sign copies are available@michaeljamin.com slash book. Or you could search for a paper orchestra on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or the audio book on Audible or Spotify or Apple. How about that?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Get the book. Everyone get the book. The comment to address from Jonathan Loudon, real world dilemma. I like this. Can’t get experience without getting hired. Can’t get hired without experience. That’s why, who is such a reality?

Michael Jamin:
Well, but if you’re starting off in an entry level position, you don’t need to know anybody. You just have to put yourself out there. And then in terms of knowing someone later in your job, well, now you already know people. Now you broke because entry levels, literally, you have a pulse in a car. So I find that it’s a convenient excuse. Put yourself out there, and Kevin, you didn’t have any contacts when you broke into Hollywood. None. So there you go.

Kevin Lewandowski:
You just got to knock on some doors. I think people that work in the industry, they know kind of how it works. Once you break in, you become a pa, and you make those network connections with production coordinators that you’ve worked with and people on the show, and you build those genuine relationships and you do good. Then when they go to the next show and they’re like, Hey, we need someone, then they’ll reach out to you and

Michael Jamin:
They’re not reaching out for you because they’re as a favor to you. They’re reaching out to you because we need to hire someone. And I don’t really want to spend days interviewing.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I already know you can do the job. It’s so much easier just to bring you aboard.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right. It’s not like a favor to you. It’s a favor to them.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book, A Paper Orchestra, A Collection of True Stories. John Mayer says, it’s fantastic. It’s multi timal. It runs all levels of the pyramid at the same time, his knockout punches are stinging, sincerity, and Kirker View says, those who appreciate the power of simple stories to tell us about human nature or who are bewitched by a storyteller who has mastered his craft, will find a delightful collection of vignettes, a lovely anthology that strikes a perfect balance between humor and poignancy. So my podcast is not advertiser supported. I’m not running ads here. So if you’d like to support me or the podcast, come check out my book, go get an ebook or a paperback, or if you really want to treat yourself, check out the audio book. Go to michael jamin.com/book, and now back to our show.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question, all nighters cinema, what makes your script stand out? If it’s a book adaptation and the story isn’t your original story,

Michael Jamin:
Well, do you have the rights to adapt? A book is one question. So if you don’t, I probably wouldn’t adapt it. And that’s not to say that when people think you adapt a book, you still have to have these act break pops. These scenes have to unfold. It’s not like books are a slam dunk to adapt. I mean, there’s definitely some art and craft that has to be applied to turning into a script. So that’s how you make it stand out.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think one of the other things you like to say is if you have a book, there might be a few different stories happening throughout that book. And in your paper orchestra, one of the examples you get, oh, I forget what it was called about the swing dance, and I forgot that chapter

Michael Jamin:
Was called Yes, swing and a Miss.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. As you said, there was other stuff happening at that point in your life, but it was just this story was the one you wanted to tell. Of course you were going to work and doing stuff like that, but this was the story you wanted to tell.

Michael Jamin:
Right. And also, how many times have you seen they’ve adapted a book, I don’t know, a popular book into a TV show movie? And sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. It’s because it’s not as simple as simply typing the book.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And a lot of times people say the book was even better or the book was better anyways. And I mean, it’s hard to take 300 pages of a book and consented to

Michael Jamin:
An hour and a half movie. Right.

Kevin Lewandowski:
David Sallow, what if you a show idea that you have done the work on and think it uniquely speaks to the present moment? Are there any shortcuts possible there or no

Michael Jamin:
Shortcuts to what? You got to write a script. Yeah. There’s no shortcuts to write in a good script, and there’s no shortcuts to selling it. There’s no shortcuts anywhere. Shortcuts. When does shortcuts ever work? I don’t know. Where are the shortcuts? Yeah, little Ed riding Hood. Other than that, in real life, you got to put the work in. Right.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Do you ever watch the, there’s a documentary about the South Park creators and how from they, from blank page to delivering the episode, how many days do you think,

Michael Jamin:
Well, I know they’re super fast, so I would say five,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Six.

Michael Jamin:
Six.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Okay. Six days. That’s very fast. They are delivering it like a half hour before it’s supposed to. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
And that’s because the animation process is so crude that they can do it so quickly, but that’s fast,

Kevin Lewandowski:
And we’ve just gotten used to it that way. So I think with them in an interesting way, that’s why their shows seem like their current and present, because something could have happened in the news last week, and then that episode could air next week. Whereas other animation shows, and I know you’ve worked in animation, sometimes it’s seven, eight months before that episode,

Michael Jamin:
Or it could be nine months, nine months animated show. So yeah, you don’t do anything top of one within in an animated show, not the ones I’ve done.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Next question. What if I wrote lyrics to the theme song? Is that okay to include? I think this might be in the context of one of the things you say in your scripts, don’t write music cues. Don’t write, don’t put song lyrics in there, or something like that.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, if you think you got fantastic lyrics and you’re going to really impress the hell out of someone, but you still have to, when I’m reading the script, I have to imagine what the music is, and I’m not going to imagine the music. And I suppose you can write the lyrics and maybe some people will read it and some won’t. So it’s up to you. Do you really think it’s fantastic or not?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I had a couple scripts that I put part of a song in there and then listening to, I’m like, no, it’s coming out, taking it out.

Michael Jamin:
In my opinion, there’s really no, I’m not crazy about reading that.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
I mean, maybe others are, I don’t know.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Well, I think, I think back to my script, it was I just kind of being lazy. Could I take that three eighths of a page and add something in there that’s going to help move the storyline further, or was I just looking for a, what’s a funny moment I could have right now?

Michael Jamin:
Right. Okay.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Let’s see. From Aaron, in terms of recognizing good writing, writing, what is considered too much in terms of providing direction to actors, description of character, thoughts and emotions, et cetera?

Michael Jamin:
The less the better, in my opinion. You don’t want let the actors do their job, and if you feel you can’t convey the anger in a scene or the love in a scene with dialogue and you’re yelling at the actors, do it this way, then you haven’t done your job as the writer do your job. Not everyone else’s. As far as action lines go, I am of the camp that the shorter the better because most writers or most people reading do not want to read your action line. I suppose one day, if get, I think when you get more successful, if you’re Aaron Sorkin, you can write whatever the hell you want. You’re, because he writes his actions line. I imagine poetry, it’s probably his action lines are probably just as interesting as his dialogue because he’s such a great writer, but don’t count on it when you’re starting off.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I was reading something, I forgot who the actor was, but they said, the actor always requested that their script have commas and apostrophes taken out of dialogue because they felt like they didn’t want someone telling them how to say things. And I was like, I can respect as an actor, but I was like, that poor script coordinator, they have to go through that whole script again and take everything out.

Michael Jamin:
That’s a little bit much to me. It seems like putting a comma there is like that’s just grammar. And if they wanted to take it out, I think they should do it themselves, but whatever,

Kevin Lewandowski:
From Jonathan Loudon, again, how many feature films have you written, pitched, but never sold?

Michael Jamin:
Well, we wrote one completely as a spec, and that did not sell, but that got us a producer interested in our writing, and then we wrote two more that did sell as pitches. We pitched them first, then we got paid to write the script. And as far as I can remember, I don’t think we wrote any other feature scripts. I think we maybe had some ideas that were batting around, but we never actually pitched or wrote, but we work mostly in tv.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So do you know, because from what I can recall, you’ve never sold a feature that actually went into production, correct. Right,

Michael Jamin:
Right. They they never do.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. And how do you think you would feel, because as you say, tv, the showrunner head writer has the final say, and on a feature, it’s the director that has the final say. I worked with someone, his name’s Steve Rudnick, and he wrote Space Jam and the Santa Clause movies with Tim Allen, and he told me this story how he was at a baseball game and he saw someone walking down the aisle and it had a Space jam cast and crew jacket. And he asked the guy and he was like, can I ask you where you got that jacket? That’s a really cool jacket. And he’s like, oh, I worked on production. This was all our rap gifts, and Steve never got one because writers usually aren’t part of the production aspect on

Michael Jamin:
Feature, and he was accredited writer on it. Right. That’s what an actor thought he was. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s probably common. I don’t know why people want to become writers on movies. I mean, it would be cool, but maybe he was heavily rewritten. Maybe he was, I don’t know.

Kevin Lewandowski:
He was so bummed. Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. He wasn’t invited to anything.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Right. Geo, could you elaborate on the things not to say to executives or some examples of what the producer said?

Michael Jamin:
What the producer said? I’m not sure I answered the question.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So can you elaborate on the things, so I guess as a writer, and maybe you gave your script to an executive and they were giving you feedback or said, Hey, maybe do this, do this. How would you respond to those notes?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you want to be positive. Great. We’ll work on that. Thank you. Good idea. Interesting thought. We’ll definitely do our best with that, and then later, hopefully you can take 90% of the notes and the ones you can’t take, you say, I think we address the spirit of your note. Even if we couldn’t address your notes or this one, we couldn’t make it work occasionally, but you’re doing 90% of the notes. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think the phrase I would always hear on notes calls is, okay, well, yeah, we’ll take a look at it. We’ll take a look at that. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
We’ll take a look at it. Yeah. We,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question from Cody, with short seasons, freelance opportunities have mostly gone away, but are there still opportunities for freelance, and if so, how are writers polled in for those?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. That’s a good question because that’s a question. You’d have to look that up with the Writer’s Guild. I don’t remember on our last show there, I don’t recall ever having those guys doing freelance, giving off freelance episodes to anyone. So it used to be a Writer’s Guild mandate if the show was a certain length that they had to give out a certain number of freelancers. And now maybe they don’t have to, but I wouldn’t either way get it out of your head that you’re ever going to sell a freelance episode because it’s just so over my 28 years, I think I’ve sold maybe three freelance episodes and I would do more. It’s not a problem. It’s just that they’re really hard to get.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think a lot of times what happens in writer’s rooms is those writer’s assistants and script coordinators that have proved their worth for a couple of seasons. If that opportunity comes for them to get a freelance episode, the showrunner helps ’em out with that, and that helps them get into the Writer’s Guild and things like

Michael Jamin:
That. That’s usually a bone you throw those support staff after they’ve been there a couple of years.

Kevin Lewandowski:
That’s a nice bonus. It’s a nice check to get. Next question, David Campbell. Does the creator continue to have involvement or do you teach them on the job?

Michael Jamin:
If someone creates the show and they are not the showrunner, which just happened on a couple shows we’ve done. We were not the showrunner and the creator had involved. They were on the writing staff, but they didn’t have any say. They didn’t have the final say or anything. If we are the showrunner, whoever’s the runner has final say. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question, nerds and friends, how many writers’ rooms are virtual remote nowadays? What is the path to becoming a showrunner? Is it a writer pivoting into that role? I can imagine producing experience helps.

Michael Jamin:
No, so a showrunner is the head writer. The way you become a showrunner is by being a writer on many shows and being good at writing, and then the producing aspect of the job. You kind of learn on the job as you rise up the ranks. You don’t have to take a course or there’s no certification, and it’s something you can fake.

Kevin Lewandowski:
For me, I never really understood what the word producer meant. No one in the context of television, because it’s working in the industry, you learn, okay, writers can be producers, but then sometimes accountants, if they’re high enough, they can also be producers. And not every producer is necessarily like the creative vision. Some of them deal with the money aspect of it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. They’re non-writing producers or non-writing executive producers, they’re

Kevin Lewandowski:
Called. Yeah. Next question, K with an asterisk next to it. Are series filmed for streaming services similar to TV regarding creative control for the show runner?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yes.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Easy question. Yeah, all-nighter cinema. How different is trying to greenlight a serial TV show versus a mini series?

Michael Jamin:
It just depends on what the network, usually they’re buying series. They’re not buying mini series there. Sometimes they’re buying limited series. It just depends on the network. And I wouldn’t even approach, again, your goal is to write one great script as a writing sample, and it’s not to time the market and figure out who’s buying what. Can you write a script? Answer that question first,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right? If a studio buys your pilot but ends up passing and an exec at another studio is interested, how realistic is it that they’ll buy it again

Michael Jamin:
If the first one will buy it?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I don’t know. I’m wondering if they’re asking just because one studio passes on your script, does that mean every studio is going to pass on it?

Michael Jamin:
No. No. Usually if you’re lucky, you pitch to five studios and one buys it. That’s how they don’t all want to buy it. You’re lucky if one wants to buy it. But again, what’s frustrating about all these questions that we’re hearing is everyone’s saying, how do I make money selling a script? And no one’s saying, how do I write a good script? Everyone is already assuming that. It’s just so damn frustrating. It’s like, guys, what do you think? How do you think this is going to work? It’s not about the meeting. It’s about writing a damn good script. First thing’s first. So I don’t know, what are you going to do? I yell into the wind. People don’t listen to me on this.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I listen. They’ll listen. They’ll listen. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s almost this weird delusion that people think they’re going to move out here within a year. They’re going to have their own show. And I was just talking to someone the other day that they’re going to USC, and she was talking about kind of her timeline with things, and she said, I want to give myself five years from when I graduate in 2025 to try to get into a writer’s room. And when she said that to me, I said, very realistic. That’s not too quick that, because there’s a lot of luck of, I

Michael Jamin:
Thought you were going to say have her own show on the air.

Kevin Lewandowski:
No, no. She was very much, if I can be in a writer’s room in five years. So I thought, yeah, because tough, because if you can get on that show that season one, it’s not a hit yet, then it becomes a hit that can definitely fast track you a little bit. And my struggle has been, none of the pilots I’ve worked on have gotten picked up and shows have gotten canceled. And I’d like to believe that’s not my fault, but it’s hard to look at the No, I’m kidding. I’m kidding.

Michael Jamin:
But yeah. But it’s a little frustrating when people ask these questions sound to me like when I hit a grand Slam, who do I high five first? They’re like, dude, can you get on base? Do you know how to get a base hit? What are you talking about? Just get a base hit first. So that’s what it sounds like to me. And I wish people would just have more realistic expectations and would take a little more, everyone’s assuming they already knew how to do the hard part.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Next question, given that streaming has changed the face of sitcom series writing, how do you feel about the future of the industry? Are there days of having full writer’s room and staff over?

Michael Jamin:
It certainly seems that way, but who knows right now, if you follow what’s going on, it seems like, it seems like everything’s becoming, we’re slowly moving back to the old days. There’s going to be fewer streamers. They’re going to be consolidation. They’re already talking about these big streamers merging. And when that happens, things will change, but we don’t really know. Right now, the industry’s at a crossroads. They’re not picking up a lot of shows. Now. They will pick up start. That will happen. And imagine a couple of, it can’t go on much longer. They got to have to start pulling the trigger and start making TV shows again. So we don’t know. We’re at the crossroads,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Because I think you said back when you were working on, just Shoot Me In, I think you said King of the Hill, there was more than 15 writers on King. King

Michael Jamin:
Of the Hill. We had 20 writers in King of the Hill, and we were do 22 episodes in a season.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And how many were on Just Shoot Me?

Michael Jamin:
Well, let’s see. In the beginning, I would say it’s closer to maybe 10 or so, maybe 12 at some point.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And in your experience, do you think comedy rooms always have more writers

Michael Jamin:
Than drama? I don’t know. I mean, it just really depends on the budget of the show and how many episodes you’re going to be doing.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think I was watching something about Breaking Bad, and I think they had six writers.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, really? That’s it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Wow. On why Women Kill. We had five.

Michael Jamin:
The thing about drama is that you don’t have to, it is easier in the sense that when you’re writing a comedy, you still need to have that structure. You still need to come up with a story that is engaging, but it also has to be funny. But when you’re doing the drama, you just need to come up with an engaging story, and it doesn’t have to be funny, and you don’t have to punch up the lines. And in that sense, I do think it’s a little easier, but that’s not to say writing Breaking Bad is easy. I mean, what a great show that works.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right, right. Next question from maybe, are there tutorials and Final Draft, a proper guide for making your script presentation acceptable?

Michael Jamin:
What do you think? I don’t know. I haven’t looked at the tutorials.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. I mean, I think the nice thing about Final Draft is they have pre-built templates that you can use. So if you’re writing a Multicam, it’ll prebuilt that template and everything will automatically be capitalized for you. And same thing with Single Cam. And I think one of the things you always say is when you hand your script to someone, they’re not going to know you use Final Draft or one of these other programs to write the script. They’re just going to get a printed out version. And I think there’s minimal things you need to do, make sure the dialogue is in the middle of the page and certain things are capitalized, and there’s a certain format formatting of that. But Final Draft can take care of all that too. So when you’re done writing, you just hit file, export as PDF, and that’s it. You’re done. All the four is done.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, final Draft, like you said, has those templates, and it’ll make your script look like a script, which is great. You got a script, you got something that looks like a script, but does it read like a script?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right. Har Draft does not do that for you. Yeah, it won’t

Michael Jamin:
Do that.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Michael’s course does.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I hope,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Lorenzo, given your friendship with the late David Bellini, have you got any insights on Italian films, TV industry, in your opinion? Is there any difference? Thank you.

Michael Jamin:
From what I knew from David. David when he was a lot, the difference is enormous. It’s a whole different film structure over there. It’s not so much of an industry as it is. I don’t know. It sounded like really hard. And he was pretty successful. He worked on a bunch of shows, and he moved to LA to Hollywood because he was like, this is too crazy here. This is just not enough work. So I think it was a miracle that he was as successful as he was there, but it’s a whole different ballgame

Kevin Lewandowski:
If the script doesn’t have scenes in it. How should it be written? Is it just dialogue and descriptions? Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a script doctor?

Michael Jamin:
Okay. The script does have to have scenes in it. It can’t be all one scene. That’s not going to be acceptable. A script doctor is not really, that’s some bullshit that people say on the internet. No one I’ve ever met ever called themselves a script doctor. We’re all screenwriters. And sometimes you sell your own work, and sometimes you’re brought in to rewrite somebody else’s, and there’s no script doctor. You don’t get a degree and you don’t wear a stethoscope. And that’s not a job. It’s just sometimes will get paid to rewrite someone else’s script, but you’ll only get that job if you’re a really good writer and you’ve written some really good scripts on your own. And then when you do, usually you’re like, hell, I’ll just write. I want to write my own stuff. And you’re brought in to change someone else’s script because it’s like, all right, someone’s giving me money and here’s a job, and I’m in between jobs, so I’ll do it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
There’s no shortcuts. A couple more questions, Aaron. How many followers, subscribers would someone need to have on social media for that to be interesting and asset to a studio or showrunner?

Michael Jamin:
Literally have no idea. And I’m not sure it would be interesting to a showrunner at all as far as the studio, in terms of being a writer. You’re not expected to have a social media following at all. I just happen to have one, but it’s not right. No one’s, no one ever asked me, no one really cares. The benefit is I can promote my own stuff. I have a following, but for a writer, you don’t need that.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. And then our last question, is it okay to make the size of the words on the title page a little bit bigger?

Michael Jamin:
I suppose it is. I don’t try to do anything fancy, but I don’t know why you want to. It’s okay if you want to. It’s not desperate, but I don’t know. I try to make it, I want my script to look like just an ordinary script. I want the pages themselves, the dialogue to stand out. I’m not really trying to make the cover page stand out.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I think it’s like when writing any paper you did in college or whatever the title is, 18 font, and then the stuffy writing is 12 font or whatever.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you can do that.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. I think one of the things you said is the title page. No one necessarily cares about that. If you put a fancy image on there, that’s not going to, people aren’t going to be like, oh, we got to hire this person. We got to hire this person right now.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Don’t even give any thought to the title. I mean, really. You’re not going to fool anybody. So yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Well, that is all the questions we have from that webinar.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. Excellent. Kevin, you did really well. You’re a natural here. Thanks. Yeah. Alright, everyone. Thank you. Please continue coming to our webinars. We do ’em every few weeks. To sign up, go to michael jamin.com/webinar. I got a book out. I hope you all get it. Sign copies are available @michaeljamin.com slash book. And if you want to come see me on tour, go to michael jamin.com/upcoming. Kevin, where can people find you?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I’m on social media, Kevin Lewandowski. Sorry it’s a very long last name. It gets butchered a lot, but I’m there. And yeah, I occasionally make appearances with Michael on these webinars and things like that. So yeah. Thank you all for who’s been coming to the webinars and checking out Michael’s stuff. Just go to michael jamen.com and just start clicking around. There’s a bunch of stuff you can get his free scripts, stuff he’s written. There’s free lessons up there. Every podcast we do gets uploaded there. You can spend hours on that websites. Just go there, click around, buy the book by

Michael Jamin:
The book. Thank you so much buddy. Alright. You’re just going to stick around. Kevin’s going to be back next week for another episode. I believe it’s next week. We will see when it drops, but he’s going to be back around for another one. Alright, everyone, until then, keep writing, keep being creative and all that stuff. Thanks so much.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. I did it again. Another fantastic episode of, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? How do I do it week after week? Well, I don’t do it with advertiser supported money. I tell you how I do it. I do it with my book. If you’d like to support the show, if you’d like to support me, go check out my new book, A Paper Orchestra. It asks the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most. Laura Sanoma says, good storytelling also leads us to ourselves, our memories, our beliefs, personal and powerful. I loved the Journey, and Max Munic, who was on my show says, as the father of daughters, I found Michael’s understanding of parenting and the human condition to be spot on. This book is a fantastic read. Go check it out for yourself. Go to michael jamin.com/book. Thank you all and stay tuned. More great stuff coming next week.

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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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