This week is free TV resource week on the blog. I'm pulling together a comprehensive guide of all the things that any aspiring TV writers should be taking advantage of. The cost of anything I cite will be nothing or "next-to-nothing."
First up is a podcast I discovered about two months ago called Children of Tendu. If you want to work as a TV writer, this podcast is utterly essential. There's no other way to put it. If you haven't started listening to it, you're already behind the curve.
The show is hosted by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (creator of THE MIDDLEMAN, writer/producer LOST, HELIX, MEDIUM) and Jose Molina (AGENT CARTER, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, THE X-FILES). What they have put together is possibly the most detailed, piece-by-piece breakdown of what it means to be on a writing staff, what the day-to-day work is like, how to be the kind of staff writer your showrunner wants, what to do and what not to do.
A running theme of the podcast is "don't be an asshole." There's a great deal of emphasis on how one "serves at the pleasure of the showrunner" and that there's no way around the necessity of being collaborative and easy to work with. Both men are candid about how they themselves have broken this rule early in their careers when the didn't know any better. Jose recounts a cringe-inducing moment when he responded to a showrunner's story pitch with, "Doesn't that seem a little desperate?"
I don't see too many places where the politics of being on a writing staff are laid out so thoroughly and not only should this podcast be a wake-up call to every writer who shoots me an email pleading that they think TV writing is the place for them despite their total introversion or dislike of having to compromise their singular vision. I'll put it this way, if the mere thought of taking general meetings fills you with paralyzing fear, working on staff isn't the place for you and this podcast will make it abundantly clear.
Among the other topics discussed are dealing with your agents, staffing season, your first script, what all those producer titles mean, how to accept notes, and dealing with actors. They also bring in former showrunner bosses from time to time, such as Naren Shankar (CSI), Rene Echevarria (DARK ANGEL, MEDIUM) and Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters.
Like me, Javi and Jose worship at the altar of the great (and sadly departed) Michael Pillar, showrunner of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and co-creator of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and STAR TREK: VOYAGER, and one of my professional idols. Pillar gave a great many writers their first shot, and the writing staffs of his TREKS were filled with first-time writers who now are among the most successful showrunners in TV, including Ronald D. Moore (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Brannon Braga (SALEM, TERRA NOVA), Bryan Fuller (PUSHING DAISIES) and the aforementioned Naren Shankar and Rene Echevarria. Piller's name is invoked a lot, and this'll have you often rushing to rewatch TNG episodes, which is never a bad thing.
The podcast currently consists of 13 episodes, plus one "Christmas Special" and a crossover with the Nerdist Writer's Panel. If you're motivated, it shouldn't take much to catch up. Javi and Jose say there'll be more episodes once they go on hiatus from their current staffing gigs, so there's no time like the present to catch up!
Children of Tendu website -
Javi Grillo-Marxuach on Twitter
Jose Molina on Twitter