By Trai Cartwright
Post 6 of a 6-part monthly series
Happy New Year’s, writers! Just like everyone else, we’re making our resolutions, dedicating ourselves to special projects. Maybe it’s a book we’ve been trying to finish, or personal essay careers we’ve been longing to launch, or short story publications we promised to pursue, if only we had the time.
The time, of course, is now. The time is always now.
In doing my own soul searching and trying to find just what was going to make 2014 extra special and gratifying as a writer, a very surprising answer came to mind: TV.
That’s right, TV.
While working in Hollywood for 15 years, I’d focused primarily on feature films; despite Buffy and The X-Files and the early years of The Sopranos, TV was never “the place to be.” It was all about film. I’d done my share of work in TV—I’d been the writer’s assistant to legendary 70’s TV writer Jay Tarses, had worked for several months for the “pixie father” of reality TV, Mike Darnell, and had even spent a few glorious weeks on a desk in Chris Carter’s X-Files office (swoon!).
And just like every other writer in town, I’d written my share of “specs:” teleplays that riffed on hit shows in the hopes of getting a staff job, and had even written three or four pilots, even though it was nearly impossible for an outsider to launch a show.
Still, I wasn’t convinced I was a TV writer. I couldn’t nail the voices like so many great TV writers can, and couldn’t fathom being in a tiny room with other writers, jamming out draft after draft for twelve hours a day. Staff writing seemed like its own special hell, and I might never get to have my own voice craft a show.
TV had always been there…and had never been of particular interest.
What a wonderful thing to discover that TV has changed.
Last month, I spoke to an agent taking pitches at an MFA residency, and this is what he had to say:
“There are so many people and production companies looking for TV content right now, there’s actually not enough. I’m disappointed more people didn’t pitch me pilots. Features are tougher than TV right now—you don’t need a show runner, you don’t need a show bible, you don’t need a resume, you just need a great idea.”
A writer friend of mine in LA just told me that 85% of the jobs for screenwriters right now are in TV.
And three things occurred to me:
- Without even trying, I came up with three ideas for TV shows I’d love to watch.
- I know a lot of people who’ve expressed interested in learning to write for TV.
- NOW is a great time to pursue that dream of creating a TV show.
My New Year’s Resolution: write as many pilots as I can (I’m halfway through my first one already—23 pages, so easy!), and add Writing the TV Pilot to the Film Program I’m designing for RMFW.
Not only am I going to teach screenplays in 2014, but I’m also going to teach teleplays, and I can’t wait.
So if you’ve got a pilot (or 6!) rolling around in your head, contact me, and I’ll put you on the list for this exclusive class. Join me in the newest media gold rush—it’s an amazing time to be a TV lover!
Are any of you venturing into a new writing medium?
Trai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.