Hey, everyone, Michael Jamin. This is one you need to hear. This question was sent to me. Pay attention. “I’ve heard from script readers in the industry that they highly recommend …” Whoa, stop right there. Stop. There are no script readers in the industry. Got it? Those are people who want to be in the industry. So whatever advice they’re giving you, they’re giving you as an outsider. And you’re going to be like, “Well, they got training.” Okay, from who? “They got trained from the owner.” Okay, and who’s the owner? “Well, the owner did an episode of Benny and the Bear four years ago on freelance, and then two years after that, he did half a season on Trigger and the Happy Boys.” And you’re like, “Okay, well, it sounds like the owner knows more about the industry than I do because I’m whatever, I’m in Indiana. I know nothing.”

That doesn’t mean they’re qualified to be giving you advice. And to be honest with you, to be perfectly honest, if any writer who’s worth their salt, if they’re being honest with you, the first five or even eight years of their career they’re going to admit to you that they really didn’t know what the hell they were doing, and that they relied on the knowledge of the showrunner or the co-executive producer, someone really high up, a writer with a lot of experience to basically help them break the story, to get detailed notes on the outlines, to help with the draft, to help craft the whole thing. The staff writers really don’t do much at all. They contribute in ways they can, but most of the time is them learning and soaking it up. And so I know that was the case for me. First five years, I was like useless. So, to get advice from someone who maybe did it for a couple of seasons on some show, again, I’m not sure if that’s the best person to be giving you advice. Now, if you could find a script reader or a service that you’re getting notes from a retired writer, 65 or whatever, and he or she worked on a couple or a lot of shows, made a living out of it, if you can find that person to give you notes, hell, that’s worth the $2,000 or whatever the hell they’re charging you.

But I’m going to continue because this is some frightening advice. Be wary of who you’re getting the advice from. Like I said, they worked on a couple of episodes or maybe they did a season on The Sopranos, and you’re like, “Wow, Sopranos is a great show. They must know what they’re talking about.” Again, no. The showrunner knew what the hell they were talking about, and the upper-level writers know what they were talking about, and they helped guide this young, baby writer. It’s like just because they were on one great show doesn’t mean they’re really qualified to be telling you anything other than how to scratch your ass, and do you really need help scratching your ass?

So, let me continue. “I’ve heard from script readers in the industry,” not in the industry, “that they highly recommend having a happy, uplifting ending to your pilot script.” Okay, so now you just paid $2,000 to have someone read your script to tell you “they highly recommend having a happy, uplifting ending to your pilot script.” Why? That’s the dumbest note you just paid $2,000 for. Why? Okay, if your pilot script is for the Disney Channel, sure, yeah. They’re going to want happy, uplifting. But if your pilot script is intended for FX or HBO, they don’t want a happy ending. The only happy ending they want in your script is if it takes place at a brothel in Vegas on a massage table. That’s the happy ending they want. Right? Okay. So, be wary of the kind of tips you’re getting. This script readings thing, like I said, I’m sure there are good people, but it’s not a regulated industry, so how do you know if you’re getting good advice?

I think one of the most valuable things from this course that I offer is that I go through the process of how we break stories, and how professional writers do this so that you can give yourself your own notes. And of course, there’s going to be subjective things that you’re like, “Well, should I do it this way or that way?” Well, that’s your opinion. You get to choose whether you want a happy ending or a sad ending. You get to choose. So, honestly, you need to learn that process. The process will help you give yourself your own notes. But lay off the script readers for a while. You’re going to give me a heart attack, okay?

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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