Monday, April 7, 2008

More than just deadlines and guidance

(Note: the above image is supposed to represent six degrees of separation...uh, how exactly?)

A few days ago, Amanda wrote a post to answer the question of whether or not it's worth it to go to school for television writing. I don't want to spend a lot of time on that subject in general, but I did want to highlight something she said for all of you aspiring writers in high school.

If you're thinking of going to a school for film or television, look very hard for what connections they have to the entertainment industry. Don't want to go to school in LA or New York? Okay, but you should definitely pick a school that has an intern program with LA-based companies. Or, barring that, research the faculty to see what kind of professional credits they have in the industry. Trust me, if you come into this town with any connections whatsoever, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. One that can literally save you years of pain and frustration once you're here. I cannot stress this enough and wish that I'd had the foresight to do it before I chose a school. (Ah, to be back in those heady days of "I'm going to write novels," all the while struggling to squeeze out more than one good short story a year.)

Anyway, in her post Amanda referenced the Extension classes Jul and I have been taking. She described them as paying for "deadlines and guidance."

She is not wrong.

However, she neglected to include several things...very possibly because I never mentioned them to her:

1. Courses are taught by professional Hollywood writers. While actual credits vary, most have worked on several TV shows and/or sold numerous specs. Some have even been Showrunners. What this means to me is that--at the least--the person has a pretty good idea of what he or she is doing in terms of crafting a script that works; and at the best, if you get a person who still has decent connections and likes you, that's never a bad place to be.

2. Your classmates are trying to break in just like you and doing the same things you are. In my class of under 20 people, we had an actual staff writer on a daytime soap, a writer's assistant on a primetime drama, a professional comedian and several people who had various connections to agencies and prodcos. It's like being in a really big writer's group.

3. This is LA, land of unexpected connections. A few weeks ago Jul got invited to a mixer for writers, actors, agents and the like. We went with the intention of meeting the writer who invited her, but before that even happened ran into an Extension writer/instructor who we'd taken a one-day course from (which, by the way, was free with our paid longer course). He actually recognized us and called us over before we even saw him, introduced us to people and offered to take a look at some of our work.

The Extension classes are obviously not an end-all be-all, but I've come to slowly accept the fact that the path to success in the entertainment industry relies heavily on the snowball effect: the more people you know, the higher your chances are of "making it" sooner. Everyone says this ad infinitum, but I think it's something each person has to learn for his or herself. I know I did. That's the easy part. The hard part is making yourself go out there and meet people, and for Jul and I, having a structured environment like a classroom to do it in is well worth the price of admission.

That and my company will pay for my classes...hopefully.

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