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Why It’s A Good Idea To Find Work In Hollywood As a Writing Team!
by Peter J. Fogel WGA

For years, you’ve watched films and television, either one-hour dramas or sitcoms, and now you’re ready to take the plunge. You want to chuck your 9-5 job with the great health and dental plan and go to Hollywood and make it as a writer.

Beware: Hollywood is tough gig and it has no mercy. You need a leg up on the competition. And one way to do it is to enter into a writing team. I’ve been in both a sitcom and screenwriting team, and my advice is to do it because…

Hollywood Loves to Hire Teams!

Number one. Two heads are better than one. That’s right. Except for a few prolific geniuses out in the market place (William Goldman; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, David Kelly; Alley McBeal) most times a script coming from a team will always be better than a the script coming from one entity. Hollywood wants the best product, and they also love –cha-ching- to get two writers for the price of one.

Why Writing With a Partner Makes Sense!

Writing alone in a room for hours at a time gets lonely. There is no immediate feedback from anyone until your boss says, "Hey, this sucks… start all over."

With a partner, you’re getting immediate feedback, and bouncing ideas off of each other. If you’re having a bad day—he can pick you up. You’re there for each other though thick and thin. Both of you know each other’s weaknesses and can overcome them. He sees things in the script that you miss, and vice a versa. A script will get done faster, which means your ‘re more efficient—which can lead to more income.

You’re both writing half a script, so half the pressure is gone. As a team, you can both concentrate on marketing. You network at one party, he at another. (If he’s not drunk in a corner. Okay, I am sharing way too much here.)

The Best Way to Find a Writing Partner That’s A Good Fit For You!

Writing groups that give feedback on your work, are excellent places to find your "other half."

Someone who gravitates towards your material and gives you good constructive notes—might be the one to approach about teaming up. Taking writing courses at local universities, or attending the big seminars that screenwriting gurus such as Robert McKee and Syd Field teach is a good idea. Network with other writers and let the universe bring you together. If you’re in a sitcom workshop make sure both of you thinks the other’s funny. (You’re going to spend a lot of time together.) Also on-line chat rooms are very helpful to finding that perfect writing partner. As always, go with your gut!

The Most Effective Writing Partner to Team With!

Naturally, the best writing partner is one that compliments you. One that has skills you don’t have and can bring out the best in you as a writer. In other words, you are both on the "same page," and you both bring something tangible to the team.

If you’re in sitcoms maybe you’re outgoing, love schmoozing, and are good at character development and jokes. And your partner is quiet, very analytical and, has a knack for story and structure. Either way—writing together you churn out great scripts. He’s your yin, to his yang!

What Type Of Writing Partners Do Hollywood Like?

Hollywood likes to mix things up a bit. It’s all about marketing yourself and of course, who you know. Certain shows have certain needs. Some need minorities on staff. Others want a woman’s point of view. There are plenty of all male writing teams. So you’re competing against that. So if you’re starting out—my suggestion is if you’re a man, team up with a woman. And if she’s a minority even better. Yes, it sounds manipulative, but no one said life is fair, right? I guarantee you if you’re a Jewish male teamed with an African-American woman who is in a wheel chair -- and you’re really good writers… agents will parachute into your living room to represent you.

You’re unique and they can sell you to producers much easily. Remember: It’s show "business."

The Best Way to Market Yourself As A Team!

Schmooze and become good friends with a working writer who can possibly open some doors and introduce to you his agent. But before that, you have to have the goods. Have two great spec scripts (samples of your work). More is better in Hollywood. It proves you’re not a one-script wonder. Try to focus on the type of shows you both want to write for. But if you can, be versatile. Have a one-hour "Dawson’s Creek" and have a "Buffy."

Two different styles.

Show runners (producers that hire) want to know you can write for their show. My sitcom partner and I had eight spec scripts not including three original pilots. (We were focused and very serious about our craft.) Help your agent to help you. Give him as much ammunition as you can to help sell you!

"How Much Money Can You Make As A Writing Team, or the Downside of Writing Together!"

The standard WGA rate (Writers Guild of America, wga.org ) is approximately $18,000 for a half hour $25,000 for a one-hour script (not counting re$iduals) The downside of writing as a team is that you’re splitting the money.

During the lean times this might take a toll on both of you. Things aren’t going well, and one of you might want to break away and go at it alone. As a team, you’re in a marriage.

So make sure you get along with your partner, and if possible, spend as little time socially with him. After all, you’re writing a lot during working hours, so it’s important to have separate lives. If things get too intense… go to couple’s counseling. (We did.)

Unfortunately, if you do break up, be prepared to start all over. The industry will always think that your partner was the talented one. But don’t fret! Just go out there and write another brilliant spec script by yourself. You know how to do it!

All in all, writing as a team can be very rewarding and a great way to work in Hollywood.

Just look at the credits of all your favorite shows on the air and you’ll see that most of the executive producers are teams. Get the right partner, make magic together… and who knows, the stars could be aligned and you both could create the next "Will & Grace." Good luck.

© Copyright 2003, Peter J. Fogel WGA

Peter J. Fogel is a NY based comedian/writer/copywriter who performs around the country. He's appeared on Comedy Central, HBO, and Evening at the Improv. He's also worked on such shows as Married With Children and Unhappily Ever After. Out in LA, with his partner, he was a member of the elite Warner-Bros. Comedy Writer's Workshop (class of 1999) and is also a WGA member. His material has been quoted in such books as The Comedy Quote Dictionary. Past assignments include writing for Germany's #1 award winning sitcom Rita's World. (Yes. They have comedy in Germany.) His website is http://www.peterfogel.com. He can reached at CompellingCopy@aol.com.

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