Thanks for Noticing: Reality interrupted TV writing dreams

Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I considered moving to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I took two trips there. I’m no longer considering such a move.
The idea was to try to become a television writer, but reality interfered.

During my first trip, I visited a college friend who’s trying to make it as an actress there. She warned me about some of the quirks of California.
According to her, a new resident could expect to pay $2,000 in various DMV fees, and don’t you dare think about bringing a mattress across state lines. Transporting fruit into the state is also prohibited.

They like their laws in sunny California.

But I didn’t like their traffic. It took me over two hours to drive from Santa Monica to Burbank in the middle of a weekday afternoon. At least I had time to take in the sights.

My second LA trip was mostly confined to UCLA, which was hosting the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop.

The program is a sort of ideological diversity initiative, open to applicants who are not West Coast Democrats. So pretty much anyone from Central Virginia would be welcome to apply, and it’s held annually. (That’s a hint, aspiring filmmakers.)

They accepted me based on one of my TV pilot scripts. I was probably the only student there who hadn’t directed or produced a film, so I felt a little out of place.

Still, it was an interesting experience in which I got to listen to various writers, producers, and directors talk about their careers and provide contradictory tips.

Paul Guay, who wrote the Jim Carrey film “Liar, Liar,” discussed the ins and outs of pitching movies to Hollywood’s gatekeepers, reaffirming my belief that television is the better avenue for screenwriters.

The most educational part, however, was when I had the opportunity to submit a pilot script to a working producer—and he actually took the time to read it. (I have to say, almost everyone was nice as could be.)

I expected rejection, but the reasons for the rejection were enlightening.

For one, the script was too “talky.” Generally, Hollywood dislikes dialogue. They apparently feel dialogue is for the theatre and visuals are for film. So my playwriting experience backfired on me there.

More disheartening was this producer’s preference for a “procedural” approach to the show—meaning a reliable formula to return to each week.

I had envisioned evolving characters and themes over the course of a season, sort of like a televised novel. His approach probably made more business sense, but I’d lose interest after a few episodes.

I wound up converting that idea into a series of novelettes—stories of roughly 13,000 words apiece that will eventually combine into a long, full novel, called “RIP.”

The first novelette is now available as an e-book, and Hanoverians will recognize some of the scenery, particularly a certain hollow, historic church structure. (All names are changed. Liberties are taken. And no character is based on anyone.)

So that means I now have two e-book series out. See sherrierbooks.com and facebook.com/drsherrier for details.

I’m not making any money, but at least I didn’t spend $2,000 just to register my car.

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