Join the PSP for an info session on next years Scripted Series Lab.
Hear from our Program Director and past participants about their experience and have your questions answered.
Date: Thursday, July 8th
Location: Zoom Webinar
Screenwriter Corey Liu has been working steadily since finishing the Scripted Series Lab 2019 program, including a stint in the room on Susin Nielsen’s new drama, Family Law, set to premier on Global later this year. Thank goodness he’s getting good at writing in a system rather than letting adrenaline and deadlines run the schedule. Corey says he’s a fan of the Pomodoro method. “You tell yourself you only have to feel crappy for 30m if the writing doesn’t start to flow. (But it usually does.)”
When Corey thinks back to the Scripted Series Lab, he says “learning how to break a mystery with Showrunner, Sarah Dodd, and getting experience with how to organize an episode, was an invaluable experience. In a mystery you’re trying to steer the audience’s attention. You give them enough clues but also you’re trying to manipulate the viewer into thinking certain things. So much is centered in structure. Every act is a unified thought. The same goes for episodes.” He adds, Sarah Dodd taught them that “every show leaves questions that we manipulate the audience into thinking they have the answer to to.”
Corey’s advice to this year’s participants is “don’t get attached to you or ideas in the room.” Most of his ideas don’t end up on the wall, “and that’s fine!” Also, don’t get too automatically critical of other people’s pitched ideas. He adds, “Remember when you get notes from the mentor, still just really sit with it and think about where it might be coming from. What are they identifying even if you don’t love their solution.”
Since completing the Scripted Series Lab 2020, screenwriter Adam Hussein has signed with an agent and continues to work on several projects. He’s particularly excited about a novel he’s been adapting that sounds like a perfect match for his legal background and social justice interests.
Reflecting on his time in the room, Adam thinks showrunner, Rob Cooper, was “really good about pressing us on our networking skills, on taking chances and reaching out as much as we can. This has already served me well and helped me to stay on top of it.”
His advice for future applicants? Work on a sample that is the clearest representation of who you are and what your voice is. “What’s gotten the most attention for me,” he explains, “hasn’t always been my most marketable work but it shows my voice and shows my passion. Focus on that above all else.”
Petie Chalifoux has a whole folder of rejections at home but she says, “you can’t give up. Accept the “no,” and keep moving forward. Never give up. Somebody out there is ready for your project, you just don’t know who until they see it.”
Petie runs a production company, Tohkapi Cinema, with her partner, Micheal Auger. Tohkapi is a Cree word meaning “Opening Eyes” and it’s a 100% owned and operated Indigenous company. Her hard work and her dedication to putting herself out there is bearing fruit. The project she worked on at the PSP, “Disappearing Moon,” has received development money and is currently being worked into a feature and a short. Petie and her team will be filming the short this summer, “and we continue to push for it to become a TV series.” Petie’s documentary, “Bella’s Story,” recently aired on APTN.
Looking back at her time with the PSP, Petie says she’s grateful to Sarah Dodd for holding a space for her to use her voice in the way Petie was taught, in a way that was respectful to her own culture. She adds, the most useful skill she came away with was “learning how to break a story.”
For 2020 Scripted Series Lab Alum, Renuka Singh, writing is a family affair. Her sister is also a working TV writer and the two of them have been hard at work on a new project.
For Renuka, time spent in the room was emboldening. “Near the end of the program,” she muses, “we were reflecting on our experience and Rob Cooper told me I had to get confident and throw my ideas out there. That’s how you get your ideas heard. Your ideas might get shot down but that’s part of the process – it leads to the next idea.” That advice extends to communication with the Showrunner as well. “At any point where you are bumping on something…don’t sit on it. Go to the showrunner and ask for clarification. They will tell you exactly what they are looking for, saving you from spinning your wheels and building up your relationship with the Showrunner.”
Her advice for future participants is practical. “The program is scary and uncomfortable and all encompassing at times, so set your personal affairs up first so you can take time for self-care. The room is so fun! But it’s a challenge too. Make sure you fridge is well stocked.”
Scripted Series Lab 2020 alum, Steve Neufeld, has several projects on the go, but he’s especially excited to be working on his new novel. “It’s nice to really savour the language in a way that’s different from writing scripts. On the other hand, TV is so focused on structure, that I think it’s informed my novel writing in a positive way.”
Thinking back to his PSP days, Steve says, “So many lessons sound simple but you learn through the experience. For example, interrogate your first idea and dig for more ideas. Don’t just go for the first idea. The room is the perfect place to learn this and I try to remember it when I work on solo stuff.”
He thinks of the whole process from pitching to breaking as throwing spaghetti at the wall and not getting your heart broken when something doesn’t stick. “Learning not to let the ‘no’ get you down is so organic to the process,” Steve adds. “Those muscles get flexed every day in the room. I miss the camaraderie.”
Steve’s advice to this year’s participants is to keep contacting people. “Have lots of stuff that you can pitch. Try to enjoy the whole process as a process rather than looking at it as wins and losses. See the whole thing as the dream, not just getting the show green lit.”
Scripted Series Lab 2019 Participant, Mike Orlando, enjoys teaching screenwriting online for Vancouver Community College, as well as writing coverage for a local production company. He’s had an MOW optioned, as well as the script he developed while in the Scripted Series Lab. Of course, he’s always working on writing more scripts.
I asked Mike what his most lasting impressions from his time in the room were. Mike said, “I will always remember the naked person in the apartment building across the street from our room. The naked person always seemed to interrupt my pitching! But seriously, something I think about to this day is the incredible diversity of that room – the five of us and the Showrunner. Gender, orientation, ethnicity… It felt like everyone had a free-flowing role in the room. I really appreciated that and will always want to be in a diverse room.”
Mike’s main piece of advice for this year’s cohort is to maintain their relationships with both the group and the industry people they meet. He added, “When you hear how people get their breaks it usually ends up being a non linear line of relationships and putting yourself out there.”
Mike’s advice for people hoping to get into the program is to submit a sample that is “most unique to your voice.” He suggests that genre is less important than the script that shows specific strengths and is memorable. “Show something of who you are that a Showrunner would want to add to the room.”
Todd is currently the executive vice president of Enderby Entertainment Canada where he helps oversee development and production. He recently completed writing the family animated feature film Sunny.
When asked what it was like looking at projects from the production side, Todd says that his writing experience gives him an informed POV on the development end. He loves working on the market side now, supporting writers. He’s exposed to all levels of scripts and makes use of his experience getting notes now that he’s giving notes.
Todd looks back at his time at the PSP Scripted Series Lab with the key takeaway that people can come together and create something solid in a short period of time. Diversity of backgrounds in the room is vital. (Age and background as well as gender and race.)
His advice for this year’s cohort? – Contribute as much as possible and learn how to listen. Lose the idea of competition. Listen to others. When you get an idea, sit on your big idea for a moment. To make sure it’s really formulated.
For those who reach the interview stage for next year’s SSL, he offers this sage advice: “Your script and application got you this far. Tailor your pitch prep based on who that showrunner is as much as possible. Consider what that showrunner is going to need for this particular show. Take all your skills and abilities, being honest about who you are, but think through how you can best be helpful and prepared to be of use to this Showrunner. Whatever you can do.”
How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?
It’s made a big difference. Will gets into the minutae and small details that they can’t teach in books or school. His real world experiences are what’s gold for people like me trying to break into TV writing.
How do you feel about virtual rooms now that you’ve been in both a virtual and an in person version of the story room?
I have to admit I can see the value of an in person room. I really enjoy the small talk with my fellow participants in the program and just getting to know them and Will, but the virtual rooms make for less small talk and more of a straight to business mindset. It’s more efficient but it doesn’t make up for the teamwork you can find in person.
Is there any favourite moment from your first half of the program that stands out so far?
There wasn’t one single moment but I can still recall the excitement of waking up eager to talk to the team to break more stories. It’s kind of addicting when you get started. I haven’t woken up that eager for something for awhile!
Do you have any advice for future applicants as they prepare their applications or prep for an interview?
Hmm- that’s a tough one but just like I’ve heard from our showrunner and the PSP team, I would say present the version of yourself that sticks out. What makes you unique among all the other voices out there. Don’t exaggerate or embellish, but let them get to know you and your passion.