Hey! It's your old friend Patrick Walsh! Remember me? I used to run a writing column here with the ingenious title "The Write Stuff?" (Check out all 25 previous posts here.) I answered your screenwriting questions, offered advice, and conducted interviews with film and television writers? I look like Brad Pitt, but with better abs? There you go. You remember. Anyhoo, when last we spoke I had been staffed on the FX comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I'm still there. It's a dream job, and I intend to share my experiences on the show with you closer to the season premiere in September. But for now I want to tell you about a great way for you (yes, you!) to break in to the big time: NBC's Writers on the Verge program.
If this seems like a shameless advertisement, know that it's only because I myself am a graduate of the program and I absolutely loved it. I am NOT doing this because I am receiving money from anyone at NBC. (Though Lord knows if NBC would like to give me some money, I will gladly accept it. You hear me, Zucker? GLADLY.)
Now then. You've got questions. I've got answers.
What is "Writers on the Verge?"
It is a ten-week program focused on polishing writers and readying them for a staff writer position on a television series. They are looking for writers who are "almost there," but need that final bit of preparation with their writing and personal presentation skills.
What can the program do for me?
My writing partner and I had an agent when we started the program, but several in the class did not. Now, every single one of my classmates is represented by an agent. My writing partner and I didn't get our job at Always Sunny through the program, but several in the class got staffed because of the program's excellent reputation and the hard work of the course instructors (and excellent writing, of course). In fact, five of the eight in my class are currently staffed as writers on television shows! What my writing partner and I personally got out of the course is confirmation that we were headed in the right direction on some matters, and a wake-up call about things we thought we were doing well that we were actually effing up. We also got two unbelievably helpful mentors -- one a writer for The Office and one an NBC executive.
What are the classes about?
When I was in the program, roughly half the classes were focused on helping us better learn how to handle ourselves in meetings with network executives and showrunners. We had a variety of speakers offer advice, including My Name is Earl showrunner Greg Garcia and Heroes showrunner Tim Kring. The other half of the classes (and some homework time!) were focused on crafting a "spec script," a script for an existing show. It's a fantastic experience to hammer out a script with a whole room of feedback and viewpoints.
When and where are the classes?
There are two classes a week, one on Tuesday night and one on Thursday night, each running from 7 to 10PM. Classes are held at NBC Studios in Universal City, California.
Do I have to live in California to take the course?
Well, it would be quite a commute from Idaho! As I've said in this column before, if you want to be a professional television or film writer, you pretty much have to live in or around Los Angeles. There are rare exceptions, and I realize that's not ideal for everyone (I'm a Missouri boy myself), but if you want to make it in Hollywood...you kinda gotta live near Hollywood!
Will I get paid?
Nope. But there's free pizza sometimes.
Is this strictly a program for minority writers?
Not strictly, but writers of diverse backgrounds are particularly encouraged to apply.
How long do I have to apply for this program?
Until June 30th (3PM Pacific). That's three weeks, bozos! Don't do what I always do and wait until the last minute, either. You'll forget. You'll forget!
How do I apply?
Official applications are available at www.diversecitynbc.com and www.nbcunicareers.com (under entry-level programs).
What are the application requirements?
1) Applicants must submit one properly formatted television spec screenplay based on a show that aired new episodes during the 2007 - 2008 season on any broadcast or cable network. This script must be submitted as a PDF file.
2) Applicants must provide two brief essays (as a PDF - not to exceed 250 words each) to answer both of the following questions:
a) What from your background do you bring to the table as a writer that provides a fresh perspective in your storytelling?
b) What television show most inspired you to become a television writer and why?
3) Applicants must submit a copy of their resume (also as a PDF - including their e-mail address and phone number).
4) Applicants must fill out a release form for their submitted script. Once signed, release forms can be scanned and e-mailed in with the application or faxed to (818) 866-2537.
5) Applicants must be able to provide their own housing and transportation in the Los Angeles area for the duration of the program.
Can I live with you?
So there you have it! When I was doing this column more regularly, the question I got the most was "How do I get my foot in the door?" Well...here's an excellent answer. If you've got a finished television script and have been wondering what to do with it, now you know. If you've been tinkering on a script for a while, this should be incentive to get it done. If you haven't even started a script...hurry up! If you have any further questions, be sure to check the websites or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you still have questions, that's what the comment section is for!
Oh, and GOOD LUCK!