Notes From ABC/Disney Event

Below are notes from last week's ABC/Disney Writer's Fellowship event. Enjoy!

GENERAL INFO

  • Last year, 1800 people applied. Space is limited to 8 spots this year.
  • Program lasts one year. Fellows sign a one-year contract.
  • Apply with one sample, a spec script
  • Application materials should be placed on two CD’s: One containing the script, the other contains paperwork, release forms, two letters of recommendation (first year they are doing this).
  • Deadline is June 1, 2011. Application must be postmarked by that date or the application does not proceed.
  • All materials must be included in the package. If something is missing, even a “minor” document, the application does not proceed.
  • Program is NOT a training program. Don’t look at it as a way to start your career, but to further it. The goal of the program is to staff each applicant. They have staffed every one in the last 4 years of the fellowship. Creative Executives are invested in the program and want finished fellows to be polished when they complete the fellowship.
  • This is the only program that has been sanctioned by the WGA.
  • Strong alumni component too (Jane Espenson, etc).
MORE AFTER THE JUMP....

REVIEW PROCESS
  • For the first round, 35 readers read all the submissions, and all the specs are subjectively scored, based on tone, character, story, pace, etc. Everything is read once.
  • From that pile, the top 2-5% of the spec submissions are then dispersed internally to the ABC/Disney Fellowship staff, who read those submissions. The ABC staff will then call you and request additional material (emphasis on original material, pilots are best. You will likely need two pieces of material to show).
  • After that, the group is cut down to about 25-30 candidates, and these finalists go through a three-tiered final round:
    • A mixer with execs, staff and past fellows with the program. This is where the social element comes into play.
    • The ABC staff meet with each of the final candidates.
    • A large panel interview, consisting of ABC staff, ABC execs. s
    • You end up being on your toes for a week and a half.
WHAT THEY LOOK FOR IN SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATES
  • Make sure you can connect your own personality, life experiences and voice, into your writing. Brand yourself. Develop your own POV. This is most important.
  • The writing has to be unique, but your social development, maturity and personality have to shine through as well. Do you play well with others? How do others perceive you?
  • Tell us about YOU. Don’t say you want to be a TV writer or that you are a hard worker. Get personal, let ABC understand who you are. What has been your journey?
  • A personal resume is key, as well. Don’t need to have an agent, or to have been staffed, to apply, but experience within the industry, an ability to show that you are able to stay in the industry, is important.
  • They look at letters of recommendation early in the process.
  • If you have applied previously and did not get it, it is not a mark against you.
WHAT WRITING THEY LOOK FOR.
  • It is better to decide, from the get go, whether you want to be a comedy or drama writer.
  • Again, a unique POV is key to your writing. What unique perspective do you have?
  • Write your voice. Make it stand out. Execute it to perfection.
  • Don’t need to spec an ABC show to gain acceptance, but keep in mind, if you get in, that the goal is for you to be staffed on one of the ABC/Disney/ABC Family shows.
  • Previous specs that have been successfully submitted include: GOOD WIFE, JUSTIFIED, HOUSE, GLEE, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, MODERN FAMILY, ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and PARTY DOWN
  • The program tries to accept a balance of comedy and drama applicants.
  • An example of a standout script that they accepted was an UGLY BETTY when Betty goes to LA and wears a dress that was designed for America Ferrara. Some of the readers didn’t think it reflected the show, but it did stand out and the ABC staff liked it enough to bring the applicant in for an interview.
ONCE YOU ARE IN:
  • First 30 days: go through a variety of workshops (acting, improv, how to break story, writers room). Consultants come in.
  • Afterwards, fellows start pitching what their first specs are going to be.
  • Fellows are matched with Creative Execs at the network or studio. This is a way to help build the company as well.  They have advisory conversations about what they should write next.
WHAT PREVIOUS FELLOWS HAD TO SAY
  • Tony:
    • Wrote a Modern Family and a Party Down.
    • Wanted to write stories that reflected his background: born in Taiwan, grew up in New Jersey. Cultural upbringing.
    • When you pitch yourself: bring in human stories about you that allow others to connect to you on a 3D level. 
  • Vladimir:
    • Wrote a JUSTIFIED.
    • He talks about how something that happened to him early in his life connects to the way he approaches his antagonists in his scripts. 

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