Leesa Dean: Build It & They Might Come


Adventures of a Web Series Newbie – Chapter 96
by Leesa Dean

Last week there was a much talked about article in Deadline about the new WGA study that confirmed what most of us already know: That most tv writing jobs go to white guys in their 40’s.  And that women and minorities have “actually lost ground as compared to their white male counterparts.”


Yes, we need people out there advocating and changing things from within tv networks and shows.  Networks need an overhaul.  Not just in terms of the content they’re showing but in terms of staff.  People of color and women need to not only have their voices heard creatively but need to be able to pitch to more people of color and woman who understand where they’re coming from (it’s already been established the audience exists–look at Empire) and help shepherd diverse authentic through the development and production process.

If you have an agent, it might be a little easier now for you to break in because diversity is a buzzword right now. But I still believe that even if you do have representation, you still should have an online presence.

If you develop enough fans/presence online, doors will open.  It won’t happen overnight, but it’ll happen. And if you don’t have an agent and aren’t lucky enough to get chosen for one of the multiple diversity initiatives at networks, it’s the only way in.

Look at Issa Rae.  She attempted to break in the traditional way, didn’t get anywhere and ultimately hit pay dirt with The Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.  Does she have millions of subscribers?  No. That’s vlogger territory. But for a web series, she’s WILDLY popular. And she got a pilot deal with HBO (among tons of other opportunities including a book deal). Which is very, very impressive. And inspiring.

Speaking of HBO, they launched a diversity initiative for writers this past week and I didn’t end up submitting, which kinda drove me batty for the first part of the week (felt like I was missing a huge opportunity and beat myself up about it for a few days).  The initiative was open to people of color and/or women.

I didn’t submit cause I’ve been spending most of my time the past few years working on shorter form material (web series).  I like to submit fresh (ish) material and while I do have a few other shows I’ve been working on and one comedy stood out in particular, it was conceived as short form. I didn’t have the time to drop everything and not only do a rewrite but a series premise overhaul.  I believe in the show too much to shortchange it that way.  Sigh.  So, I missed out on this one and, from the looks of it, it might’ve been a good thing.

Turns out they only accepted scripts from the first 1,000 submissions, which, right off the bat, is off-putting and frankly, not the way to run a competition.  Competitions should be about who does the best work, not about who’s lucky enough to get their script through based on the vagaries of an internet connection.  Also, they didn’t have any meaningful way to qualify diversity which, pretty much, negated the entire reason for having this in the first place. Unless this was HBO’s way of saying, “Hey, this a preview of what Hollywood’s gonna be like. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”  Needless to say,  tons of people missed out–I don’t know one person whose script made it in and everyone I know who submitted did it at 9am when they opened–and, naturally, social media went berserk.  Yes, there was huge backlash.  Huge.  Even this guy flipped out.

Imagine if I had taken 6 days off to kill myself redeveloping a show from scratch and writing a 30 minute script and…it didn’t make it through.  Talk about being PISSED! I have a friend who spent 30 hours prepping to submit, only to be barred.

Anyway, I’ve decided to continue developing the comedy that stood out as a 1/2 hour comedy and down the line, when another opportunity crops up, I will be ready.

Author: ChilltownTV

I'm primarily a writer. Sold a few series to tv networks and production companies but never had anything get on the air. So I taught myself how to animate and completed 3 digital series, launching two. The first, Chilltown has been named one of "Five Web Series That Should Be on Your Radar" by ABCNews/Univision and a "Show to Watch" by Tubefilter. The second, Lele's Ratchet Advice Show, garnered a fanatic cult following. As a result, I now do Lele's 60 Second Wrap Up, a weekly comedic entertainment report (which I write & perform) that airs on urban radio stations Rhythm 105.9fm and the Just Wake Up Morning Show on WWRNfm.

3 thoughts on “Leesa Dean: Build It & They Might Come”

  1. Truth. I was putting together something to submit, and when I checked the website on the day the submissions opened, it was already closed. Whatever.

    Great post–if you can’t get in the traditional way, be a pioneer. 🙂

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