Monday, January 4, 2016

That time Jane Espenson answered my letter

I spent some of the holiday break cleaning out my office and in doing so, came across some material that has survived several moves with me. I had completely forgotten about this letter, which was a reply sent to me by writer Jane Espenson in March of 2003. At the time, she was just wrapping up work on the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since then she's worked on Battlestar Galactic, Dollhouse, Caprica, Once Upon a Time and co-created Husbands.

I had moved to LA a few months earlier and wrote just under a dozen letters to a number of my favorite TV writers. Longtime readers of this blog might remember my story about writing a letter to Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek, BSG, Roswell) a few years earlier and getting a phone call from Ron in response. I figured I'd had little to lose by trying again, and Jane was the only one who wrote back, which was VERY cool of her.

As it's full of some good advice for people wanting to know how to get started in TV, I've decided to put a picture of the letter up here. Consider this essential advice from someone on the inside.

Because I'm sure people will ask, I don't remember exactly who else I wrote to. I know Joss Whedon was one of them. I'm pretty sure Greg Berlanti was another, along with Tim Minear. Possibly Kevin Williamson. For most of them, I used the Hollywood Creative Directory at the office where I was interning in order to get the address of either their agents or the shows they worked on. Using the address of the agent or the network is always a risk because who knows if it'll get forwarded on. By the time I got around to sending Jane's letter, I think I'd gotten the address for the Mutant Enemy production offices, and so it went more directly to her than to some of my other targets.

When I posted this on Twitter, someone asked if I think I'd have as much luck trying this today. I'm not sure. I think if I was just some dude on Twitter, despite the ease of access there, I'd probably still try the snail mail approach. There's something about a personal letter that seems likely to provoke a response in a way that a tweet or email won't. I don't think writers get much fan mail sent to them personally so a physical letter probably stands out among all the electronic feedback they get on their work.

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