Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Laser-Focused Writers

Don’t just say, “I want to be a writer.” Say, “I want to be a TV writer.”

This was just one of many pieces of advice dispensed at last night’s information session with Frank B. Gonzalez, Director of Talent Development Programs at Disney | ABC. The event featured a panel of current Program Writers and a load of information about the Disney | ABC Writing Program, how to submit, and what makes a successful candidate.

Here’s the gist as I heard it:
  • Be a great writer
  • Be passionate & confident in interviews
  • Be socially ready for the writer’s room
All of which is accomplished through having laser focus on one goal – becoming a working TV writer.

The Disney | ABC Writing Program is incredibly competitive – in part because it pays $50K a year plus full benefits – but also because it actually places its graduates on writing staffs. It’s not for people with a passing interest in TV writing. It’s for people who are committed to breaking in and pushing their career forward. There are only 8 slots each year for a combination of drama and comedy writers.

Sitting in the audience listening to all of this, the thoughts swirling in my head were, “Yes. This is what I want. I’m ready for this. Bring it on. Let’s do this!”

Do I have a new spec script to submit this year? Nope – not yet. Deadline is June 1st – plenty of time right?

I’m not worried. I have laser focus. I can do it.

Other excellent, no-brainer pieces of advice from last night:
  • Allow yourself time to devote to the application. Don’t knock yourself out of the running by forgetting one or more of the required components.
  • Writing is also reading – read as many TV scripts as you can and read the trades to keep up with the biz
  • Watch television! If you tell them you don’t watch television, your interview is over
  • Think about your logline as a writer – what is your brand? What makes you different from the next guy? What do you bring to the table?
  • Your spec should have the sensibility of an ABC show – they’re immediately trying to think where they can place you in the Disney | ABC family of shows
  • If your spec script makes it past the first round, you’ll need to produce two more writing samples – get that portfolio together now!
  • You’ll be pitching yourself constantly throughout the application process – get comfortable being an open book
  • Don’t spec a first year TV show – it takes time for a show to get established and for an audience to get to know that show. Spec a network show that’s been on at least 2 seasons or a cable show that’s been on for 3 seasons.


  1. Did they mention whether they are willing to look at spec pilot scripts for the two additional writing samples if you make it past the first round? Since specs of existing shows are pretty much mostly just used for these programs, I spend most of my time developing original material.

  2. They didn't specify - I'll try to find the answer to that. I sincerely hope they're open to pilots for the second and third sample because I only have the one spec!