This Week in Coaching: Meeting Prep!

Week ending 10/4/19

(it’s my dad’s birthday on Friday. Mazal Tova, Natan!)

As always, all names have been changed to protect the innocent

I was talking to a manager friend the other day. When he asked me how I was doing, I answered: “These are anxious days.” And for a lucky few of my clients, these days are all about interviewing for, and eventually finding out whether or not they got into, the prestigious TV writing fellowships.

It’s a privileged position to have writers up for spots in every major TV writing fellowship. Just earlier this year I was able to jokingly claim that I finally got the fellowship equivalent of an EGOT, having now had writers in every major TV writing fellowship and program, from Sundance and HBO Access to WB’s TV Writer’s Workshop and the ABC/Disney writing program. I’ve never had more writers get asked for second scripts or get invited to interviews then I have this year, and we’ve yet to find out who made the first cut for ABC/Disney. All of which makes it an exciting time, but it’s also nerve-wrecking. Having done this for many years, and seen many of my writers finally break into TV writing through the fellowships, I know exactly what’s at stake here.

A few weeks ago I wrote OPEN LETTER: TV WRITING PROGRAM HEARTBREAK to those writers who poured their hearts into  their application materials, and still didn’t make the first cut. Trust me, these later rounds, and the heartbreak they bring, are just as tough. My objective through this: Make sure that my writers go into their interviews completely prepared, so that, whatever happens, however the chips fall, they know they’ve done everything within their power to make things go their way.

In that sense, when the WB interviews wrapped up, I felt a complete sense of satisfaction: Each of my three writers who went in for an interview told me that they felt ready to answer all the questions asked of them, and were completely prepared and in their element. Those questions and directives included (and are generally questions that anyone should be able to answer at the drop of a hat):

  • Tell me about yourself (and remember, that means a story, not a chronology of your life!)
  • What do you write/what is your brand?
  • What are some of the themes and character types that you are interested in exploring? 
  • What are you watching?
  • How does your life experience inform your POV?
  • Who are some of your favorite TV writers?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Other suggestions that are important to keep in mind for every interview or general meeting include:

  • Always know who you are meeting with! And not just their names; learn what they’ve worked on. (Politely) stalk them on social media. In short… Doing research in advance is critical. 
  • Look to connect, get real, and quickly. Nothing is off limits. Your job is to be focused, memorable, and likable.  
  • Come ready to share one or two more anecdotes from your life, just in case. Where you grew up, how you grew up, what brought you into writing, etc. Anything that can help you stand out, connect, and be specific and memorable.
  • Be ready to talk about things you are interested in outside of writing: Traveling. Beer brewing. Silent Karaoke. You want to present yourself as a well rounded person, with a wealth of interests and experiences to draw from for your writing.
  • For general meetings, always come ready to talk about what else you might have in your arsenal, as well as what you’re working on at the moment. 

At the end of the day, whether one or all of my writers land one of these coveted spots in the TV writing programs, what matters to me is that the writer walks in prepared (though not overly rehearsed!), knowing that he or she has done all that is within their control to make things go their way.