by Jorge c Perez
It’s 3 weeks since the official start of this year’s National Hispanic Media Coalition Fellowship (sponsored by ABC and NBC). Time now for the latest in my ongoing series of reports:
We’ve been writing/reading/watch-aholic bees in the NHMC Fellowship program since our breakfast meeting with NBC and ABC Talent Executives. By day we’ve had Show Runners come in to speak: Lee Zlotoff (Macgyver, The Spitfire Grill) Ed Bernero (Criminal Minds, 3rd Watch, Crossing Lines), Network Execs – Lainie Gallers Tartar, Executive Director, Network Drama Series, ABC Entertainment Group, Cable Execs- Erika Kennair, VP of Scripted at Syfy,Producer Kevin Abbot (CRISTELA) We’ve gone to set to see a taping of CRISTELA- which is a Fox show.
By night, we write. And watch NBC/ABC shows so we’ll be versed in their slates. After they read the scripts we’re writing during the program, we have one-on-one meetings with execs in order for them to get a better feel for our personalities and see which shows we might be a good fit for re: staffing.
On the writing front: We’re hopefully producing sweet honey that the execs will eat straight from the jar- stocking our talents in their writing room cupboards. Of 11 writers, three are writing current series specs, and the “crazy eight” dancing bees (myself included – last bee reference!) are writing original pilots. We’ve presented outlines, gotten feedback, and gone on to the draft stage. We’ve modified our log lines. Mine has become:
A visionary young high school coach – hellbent on creating an NBA franchise – must face the sudden responsibility of shepherding 3 teens to manhood.
My initial outline for the Shooting Stars pilot – entitled PLAY WITH FIRE, came in long. They were all taken by the characters and story, but felt it was dense. And it was. The pilot script projected at 72 pages, so I’ve been in edit mode. I have a long middle (not a euphemism;)
It’s an interesting challenge to hear notes from 12 people. The group mind is insightful, but like every other dynamic, sometimes persuasive personalities pitch ideas that are great for a scene, but not necessarily for the whole script. Sometimes it seems that inexperienced writers must bow to consensus. But the problem with that can be that the posited “solution” to a story problem, which sounded so logical floating in the air, doesn’t land so well when you write it.
The story sense in the room is generally excellent, and dialogue tweaks and comedic line upgrades are plentiful. I seem to press or offer the most notes on character authenticity and emotional thru lines (even for comedies. I think it all stems from there).
Across the board, from Ed Bernero and Kevin to Executives– they like to read originals before spec episodes. They’ll ask for a spec as way to tie break or decision make on a writer. They ALL want diverse rooms – which to them means backgrounds and experiences, not ethnicity, although obviously that is an influence into some of our experiences. All of them have hired comedy writers to work on dramas, and drama writers at times to work on their comedies, which I found interesting and surprising.
All the Writers/Producers/Show Runners have been funny, down to earth and honest. One exec gave us her personal email, promised to read all of our scripts, and invited us to set up individual meetings- unheard of access. It’s been fun, refreshing, and given us a really good view of what it’s like inside the honeycomb!
The first four weeks have been a bee-utiful (oops, sorry) experience!
TVWriter™ is proud to be able to present this, the second in an exclusive series of articles by Jorge c Perez. Three years ago, Jorge moved from NYC to Los Angeles to make the jump from triple A to the big leagues in his TV writing career. He’s had a diverse work life exciting cities like NYC, Philadelphia, Miami, Steamboat Springs, Co., Cape Cod, Mass. In June he had two original pilots named Finalists the People’s Pilot Competition, and this past February his screenplay for CROSSING CURRENTS (produced in NYC at Altered Stages) was named a Semi-Finalist in the Sundance- affiliated Latino Screenwriter’s Conference. Jorge can be reached at JPerez@