I was on Stage 20 at Warner Brothers Studios yesterday. We were doing pre-shoots for the season premiere of MOM. During a break, I found myself sitting next to my colleague, Adam Chase. Adam has a long and impressive resume as a television writer and producer, including several years on FRIENDS. Since we had a few minutes to chat, I told Adam about this blog. I asked him what advice he gives to aspiring TV writers. Adam offered two pieces of advice immediately:
1) Don’t show your first draft to anyone in Hollywood. Adam said that when he was trying to break into TV he saw too many aspiring writers show first drafts of their work to agents or other people who might possibly help them. Adam said, and I agree, that almost all first drafts are terrible. Show your first draft to your friends or to a teacher, but don’t show it to anyone who might be in a position to help you get a job. Adam said that people in Hollywood should only see your twelfth draft. You write “First Draft” on the title page, but it’s a draft you’ve been rewriting for a long time. This seems like obvious advice, but Adam reminded me that too many writers are impatient and blow perhaps their one and only opportunity for a break by offering a script that still needs lots of work.
2) Write something original. As I’ve stated many times before on this blog, a spec episode of an existing series is no longer useful in getting a job. You have to write a spec pilot. Adam said that he broke into TV over twenty years ago with a spec episode of THE SIMPSONS. But he confirmed what I have been telling you. Spec episodes are no longer accepted as an example of your work. Adam said he regretted this change because he feels the spec episode is often the best way to show you have the talent to be a TV writer. But the business has changed, and spec episodes are out of fashion.
Adam shared with me the story of how he broke into the business. He was a student at Northwestern University majoring in theater. He gave up acting while still in college and turned his energies to writing and directing. After college, he and a friend packed up all their belongings and moved to Los Angeles, Some other Northwestern alumni were already here. Through friends Adam found an employment agency that placed people in temp jobs in the entertainment business. He got a job at a small but prestigious Hollywood talent agency as an office boy. He started reading any and every script that came into the agency and learned from what he read. While at the agency he heard about an opening as a personal assistant to a Hollywood producer and director. Though dozens of people had applied for the same job, Adam delivered his resume in person. He ended up getting the job. Adam told me he decided he would become the best personal assistant he could possibly be. Adam said that when the director would ask for a beverage he would run to get it and run back. He worked extra hours and did everything he could think of to impress his employer. At night he worked on his spec scripts. After over a year working for the director he was able to get someone to read one of his scripts. Even after the director read his script and liked it, Adam had to wait another year before the director gave him a writing assignment. But the assignment finally came, and Adam’s career was launched. In the eight weeks that I have been working with Adam I have been impressed with how hard he works, even now that he has made it big.
Which brings me to the question that I posed as the top of this post: How much do you want it?
Adam Chase worked his ass off for years to get his lucky break. He moved to LA. He took whatever job he could find. He used his imagination and all of his energy to get himself noticed. He was patient and tenacious, talented and resourceful.
Adam wanted success and he got it because he knocked himself out to get it.
How much do you want it?