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Sarah Kelley On Putting the Puzzle Pieces of a Series Together

How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?
Immensely! Before I always heard the term breaking story but I really had no idea, the in-depth process of really nailing down the main characters and going through each scene while tracking it all the way through the season. I’ve been able to take this process and use it with my own stories, it really helps put the puzzle pieces together!

Is there any favourite moment from your first half of the program that stands out so far?
Being in the room in person. I got to know Will and my fellow writers really well, we shared a lot of personal stories, some sadness and definitely lots of laughs. Also, I really like seeing all the cards for each episode up on the boards. I’m a visual person so seeing them all everyday helped me think of new ideas while revisiting what we already had.

How would you compare your virtual room with an in-person room now that you’ve experienced both?
I do like the zoom sessions as it helps not having to worry about travel, parking and gas, and picking my son from school. But it doesn’t beat being in the room in person, in person feels like ideas and conversations can flow better, and we get to know each other on a more personal basis too.

Do you have any advice for future applicants as they prepare their applications or prep for an interview?
Be open minded with ideas, know your showrunner and really do your research on the shows the showrunner writes for. Be specific on how and where you get your ideas for writing, and be humble.

Norman Yi Li On Working with Will Pascoe

 

How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?

Working with Will has been eye opening to understanding the process of breaking story. My preconceptions weren’t as detailed. It’s been more technical in terms of how to organize the story. I don’t think I could have learned it from the internet! I also have a more expanded understanding of who’s in the industry now and how to approach them.  Will’s access to experts and industry has been great.

Speaking the internet, how would you compare the real room to a virtual room?

I don’t think you can be as spontaneous in a virtual room as you can in person. Our in person time was easier that way, but both styles of rooms can work.

Do you have any advice for future PSP applicants?

The mentorship and experience will leave you so much more prepared to apply for work in a room. The bond you develop with other writers becomes an incredible and valuable one. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re ready! You can’t know how your script will be received by the evaluators. Also, pitching is a skill, just like writing. It’s something to work on. 

 

Jordan Hall’s Advice to Applicants

Screenwriter Jordan Hall took a break from the PSP’s Scripted Series Lab 2021 to answer a few questions for us. She includes some sage advice for future applicants.

How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?

It’s been really eye-opening to watch Will’s process. I love that he’s very transparent about what he wants and what he doesn’t. Even before the Lab began, he laid out his expectations for us clearly. He set priorities that were designed to keep the room healthy and fun, and to make sure that everyone felt safe and supported–which made for a terrific environment both online and in the room. It was a really important lesson that one of the first responsibilities of a showrunner is to create the environment for the room, and Will’s really committed to that environment being healthy and human.

He also does his own version of the Chris Carter cue-card plotting method, which I had never attempted before. It allows for much more flexibility than I was expecting. I’m kinda obsessed with structure as a writer, so it was fascinating to watch a compelling story emerge out of an extremely fluid process. That isn’t to say that we didn’t hit a point where we had to make some decisions about an end-point so that we’d have something to plot towards, but it was really exciting to discover how long we could just let the story flow. I feel like I’ve tucked away any number of new tools for television writing just from being a part of that.

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 wrote almost all of Carmilla remotely–I was in Vancouver, the production team was in Toronto, our story editor was in the States–so for me the PSP Zoom Room was a big step up from sketchy Google Hangouts and weird time differences. And there are clear advantages to being able to collaborate across distance. As somebody who would really like to both write TV and stay based in Vancouver if possible, the rise of virtual rooms will hopefully expand work horizons for me, and for other writers in this city. That said, I’m still so glad we had three weeks in person. In a room you can feed off each other’s presence and energy in a way that takes more effort online. We had so much fun and broke so much story in those three weeks. And now that we’re back to remote work, it’s easier because we have the foundations that Will laid in the room.

Is there any favourite moment from your first half of the program that stands out so far?

I really did love being in the room. We were only in for three weeks, and socially distanced because of Covid, but I think that made it even more precious in a way. The effort of getting everyone there: You folks with all the safety protocols. Will having to quarantine two weeks on either end to make it happen. My partner and I have been pretty much locked down since last March(!)–our kid is in daycare, so with a few exceptions in the summer, we just don’t see other people in the real world anymore. So the presence of other writers was invigorating. And the whole crew is so supportive and smart and funny. Best three weeks of 2020 so far.

Do you have any advice for future applicants as they prepare their applications or prep for an interview?

Figure out what you have to offer that no one else does. More often than not, that has to do with why you’re writing in the first place: That vision of the world that only you can see. If you can show them that part of yourself in your writing, and in an interview– I’m not going to lie and say that it will get you every job– but it will probably get you the right ones.

Emma Peterson Nears the Midpoint of SSL 2021

We caught up with Screenwriter, Emma Peterson, to ask her about her time in the 2021 Scripted Series Lab with Showrunner, Will Pascoe.

How has your time breaking story with Will affected your understanding of writing for TV?

I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in but it’s been great. It really helps that it’s a great collaborative group. Seriously, I look forward to each meeting. Watching Will move through what we do next, talking through his process, I’m taking a lot of notes because it’s giving me so much more to think about when I write my own stuff in the future.

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?

There’s convenience to a virtual room for sure, but I miss the energy of being in person after getting to do that for a few weeks. Also, there’s the the awkwardness of interrupting each other on Zoom. My cats get to interrupt us too. One in particular gets really jealous of the attention I give to the screen.

Do you have a favourite memorable moment so far?

The best moment so far was the first day in the room that we really started breaking an episode. Launching in to that was so exciting.

John Wells, Creator of Shameless

The PSP is proud to support VIFF’s Creator Talk with John Wells, Creator/Executive Producer of Shameless. February 18, 6pm PST (Livestreamed on VIFF Connect)

VIFF is thrilled to host John Wells as he discusses the final season of Shameless and shares some lessons learned and knowledge gleaned over the course of his acclaimed career in television.  Over the past three decades, Wells has been a creative force behind some of primetime’s biggest hit series, including ER, The West Wing, and Third Watch. He currently serves as executive producer on the TNT drama series Animal Kingdom, which was renewed for its fifth season; and on Showtime’s Emmy®- nominated Shameless, which was renewed for an eleventh season. He previously served as Executive Producer on the critically acclaimed Southland for TNT, the Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning Mildred Pierce for HBO, and the Emmy® and Golden Globe®-winning China Beach.  Next, he will executive produce Maid, the upcoming series adaptation of Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive starring Margot Robbie, for Netflix; and Red Bird Lane, a TV movie starring Susan Sarandon for HBO Max.

Presented by Creative BC. Supported by the PSP.  For More Information & Tickets: http://goviff.org/ct-shameless

Co-Creators of The Great North

The PSP is proud to support upcoming VIFF Creator Talk: The Great North. February 23, 6pm PST. (Livestreamed on VIFF Connect)

The Great North, an animated sitcom premiering Feb. 14th on Fox, is created by the veteran writers of Bob’s Burgers, Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin.  The series follows the Alaskan adventures of the Tobin family, as a single dad does his best to keep his weird bunch of kids close – especially his only daughter, Judy, whose artistic dreams lead her away from the family fishing board and into the glamorous world of the local mall.  Featuring the vocal talents of Nick Offerman, Jenny Slate, Will Forte and Alanis Morissette, we’re in for a wild and eccentric ride with the residents of the town of Lone Moose!  

Emmy-winning creators, showrunners and executive producers Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin will take us for a deep dive into writing and creating an animated tv series – from envisioning the town of Lone Moose, stocking it with eccentric residents to casting the superb vocal talents.

More Information & Tickets: http://goviff.org/ct-the-great-north

Diversity and Inclusion Workshop For Storytellers in Media

The PSP has partnered with the CCDI to offer an online two session (four hours total) Diversity and Inclusion Workshop tailored to the needs of storytellers in media. To encourage participation, the PSP is subsidizing 75% of the ticket price.

Session 1: Wednesday, Feb 17, 10am -12pm PT
Session 2: Wednesday, Feb 24, 10am -12pm PT

NOTE: This workshop is broken into two parts. Please plan to attend both sessions. 

 Participants pay $25 + GST to register.

REGISTER HERE

Topics covered include:

Module 1: What is diversity and inclusion

This module will define Diversity, Inclusion and what it means to value Diversity. The core of the module is an introductory activity that helps participants familiarize themselves with the concept of diversity and connect with each other by sharing one distinct dimension of diversity that is essential to their worldview.

Module 2: The business case for diversity and inclusion

This module delineates the return on investment of Diversity and Inclusion and the key drivers that are creating a focus on D&I and why they matter.

Module 3: Conscious and unconscious bias

This module will define bias, stereotypes and other related terminology as well as examine the sources, levels and types of bias that affect the workplace. We will also examine how our brains process information, the influence of our perceptions and what informs our paradigms when interacting with others.

Module 4: The impact of bias

The facilitator will illustrate the cyclicality of bias (both conscious and unconscious) and its behavioural impacts. Discrimination and microaggressions are presented as two main manifestations of bias.

Module 5: Strategies to value diversity and inclusion

This final module will provide participants with leading practice tools and techniques to manage bias, and promote Diversity and Inclusion in both word and deed.

 

About Our Facilitator and the CCDI

This workshop will be facilitated by Lenworth (Lenny) Wallace, who brings over 20 years of experience in supporting client learning and involvement in diversity and inclusion. Lenny is highly passionate about supporting cultural understanding and development. He has a master’s degree in Communication for Social and Behaviour.

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion envisions a Canada that celebrates diversity and inclusion, human rights, and equity. Our mission is to generate awareness, provide education, and inspire action that results in positive social change in Canadian communities, schools, and workplaces.

 

 

Jennifer Whalen Q&A (Recording Available)

View Recorded Q&A Here

Jennifer Whalen is a writer, actor, improviser, showrunner and producer. Jennifer can be seen on CBC/IFC’s Baroness von Sketch as a co-creator, executive producer, writer, and co-star of the show. Additionally, she served as show runner for Season 4, Season 5 and the Bonus Episodes of Baroness. The critically acclaimed show has won multiple awards including 12 CSAs, 3 Canadian Comedy Awards, 2 Banff Rockies and 1 ACTRA award, and a Rose d’Or Award in 2019. Currently she is a consulting producer on the new one hour series Pretty Hard Cases (NBCI/CBC)

In her life before Baroness, Jennifer was head writer for the award-winning satirical comedy This Hour Has 22 Minutes and developed long-running shows Little Mosque On the Prairie (CBC/Mind’s Eye) and Instant Star (CTV/Epitome). She has also worked on The Ron James Show (CBC), The Jon Dore Show (Comedy Network/IFC), and the critically acclaimed Gavin Crawford Show (Comedy Network/Shaftsbury).

This event was moderated by BC’s very own Sonja Bennett!

Sonja has written on KIM’S CONVENIENCE for CBC (Leo win for best screenwriting in a comedy), GHOST WARS for Netflix and LETTERKENNY for Crave/Hulu ( Nominated for Writer’s Guild of Canada Award and recipient of the Leo for best screenwriting in a comedy), THE MURDERS and HUDSON AND REX for Rogers and the upcoming FAMILY LAW for Global.

 

Story Department Internship Program Now Accepting Submissions!

The PSP’s new Story Department Internship Program is an extension of our commitment to providing support and career-advancement opportunities to BC-based TV writers. This program is designed for BC writers who are already working in the film and television industry, and emerging writers who are seeking a focused professional development opportunity.
Visit our Story Department Internship Program page to learn more and submit your application.

Recorded Elan Mastai Q&A Available Here

Click Here to View the Q&A Recorded Dec 9, 2020

Elan Mastai is a writer and supervising producer on the Emmy-winning hit TV series THIS IS US. He won the Canadian Screen Award and the WGC Award for his screenplay for THE F WORD (released in the US as WHAT IF). His award-winning debut novel, ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS, has been translated into 24 languages.

Jennica Harper, writer and Executive Producer of the hit show JANN will moderate.

 

Elan Mastai Q&A

Click Here to View the Q&A Recorded Dec 9, 2020

Elan Mastai is currently a writer and supervising producer on the Emmy-winning hit TV series THIS IS US. He won the Canadian Screen Award and the WGC Award for his screenplay for THE F WORD (released in the US as WHAT IF), starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, and Mackenzie Davis. It premiered at TIFF prior to its theatrical release in over 30 countries. He’s written four other features, including THE SAMARITAN, starring Samuel L Jackson, Ruth Negga, and Tom Wilkinson, and has written movies for Paramount, Sony, Fox, Fox-Searchlight, and Warner Brothers. His award-winning debut novel, ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS, has been translated into 24 languages. Elan was born in Vancouver and lives in Toronto and Los Angeles.

Jennica Harper, writer and Executive Producer of the hit show JANN will moderate.

 

Register Here

Will Pascoe Announced As Showrunner in Residence 

 

We are excited to announce that award-winning Writer/Producer/Director Will Pascoe will serve as Showrunner-in-Residence for the 2021 Scripted Series Lab. Pascoe will mentor six up-and-coming BC-based screenwriters selected to participate in the program. He will lead the Writer’s Room as they develop his original series in the PSP’s flagship training program starting in January.

Will Pascoe most recently wrapped Showrunning the third season of Amazon’s hit series, Absentia. Previous to that, he wrote for Fox’s The Finder, Bell/SyFy Channel’s, Bitten; NBC’s drama series Chicago Med; BBC Worldwide/Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons and Hulu’s Shut Eye starring Jeffrey Donovan and Isabella Rossellini. While working as writer and co-producer on Bell/BBC America’s Orphan Black, his episode “Variations Under Domestication” earned Pascoe a Canadian Writer’s Guild Award and nominations for an Edgar Allan Poe Award and a Hugo Award. A graduate of the Writer’s Guild of America’s prestigious Showrunner Training Program, Will has also developed television series for Twentieth-Century Fox, Playtone, and Universal Studios.

Going into its third year, the Scripted Series Lab will implement a hybrid-style Writer’s Room combining in-person and virtual meetings that reflect the current production protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants will still get the full PSP experience including mentoring on their original pilot, additional workshops, and information sessions with other industry leaders to equip them with the skills, experience, and connections necessary to help establish a sustainable career in the province’s dynamic screen industry.

We look forward to announcing the selected 2021 participants in the next few weeks.

Our Q&A with Showrunner Will Pascoe

The news is out! Will Pascoe is going to be our Showrunner in Residence for the 2021 Scripted Series Lab. While this year’s selected group of participants prepare to enter the room in the new year, we asked Will to share some advice for emerging writers.

 

How did you break into writing for TV?

I started by directing short films and then documentaries. Then I started directing commercials. But I was still on the periphery of what I really wanted to be doing which was to write television. I went through the NSI’s Feature’s First program that gave me that first blush of credibility. But it was pure hustle. Writing and rewriting and trying to get people to read my stuff. I asked a lot of questions, asked to take people out to coffee to pick their brain. It’s a grind. There’s no instant success. It’s all little moves forward. But you have to treat it as a job – the hustle and perseverance part. Many don’t. Many think the phone will just magically ring and they’ll be a huge hit. I have yet to meet anyone that got started that way. Building out a network of trusted people is key. I was lucky to have a few mentors who helped give me a nudge along the way.

 

Do you have any advice for writers trying to break in?

You need to write all the time. If you treat your writing like a hobby, people will see you as a hobbyist. You can’t have one script. You can’t have two. You need a variety. Some writers trying to break in put all their energy into one script that they spend a year writing. That’s not going to cut it. You’re competing against people who have multiple scripts and are ready to share them at any time. Hustle and networking are more important than ever. Build out a network of fellow writers. Read each other’s material, give and get notes. Then go back and rewrite. Your first draft won’t be great. They rarely are. Even from pros the first drafts aren’t great. The hard work comes from rewriting. Every draft should get better. Sometimes in leaps and bounds and sometimes only incrementally. But that first draft should be only what you show a trusted friend or fellow writer. Ask them to be honest. Telling you your script is awesome when it isn’t is going to embarrass you when you show it to someone more integrated into the business. Sometimes you only get one shot with someone who is willing to read your script. It could be a working writer who might recommend you for a job or hire you or a prospective agent or a producer who is looking for material. But if you give them something rough and it has typos and other rookie mistakes you could be shutting a door that you want to push further open. So share that first draft with trusted people who aren’t going to make or break your career. Get honest – if not brutal – advice. Then work hard to make it better by rewriting it not once or twice but as many times as needed.

 

What can a junior writer do in the room to stand out?

Contribute. A lot of managers and agents tell their junior writer clients their primary job is to not get fired and advise them not to say much, which is the wrong advice. A showrunner has hired each and every writer on the presumption they are bringing something to the series and into the writer’s room, so junior writers should pitch ideas. They should try and help build the story in the room. That said, they should \be aware of their role and place in the room. Don’t suck up all the air. Don’t talk over the showrunner. Realize when you’ve made your case but the showrunner or the room are taking the story in a different direction so realize when it’s time to stand down. There’s a hierarchy to the room that is both meaningless and meaningful, so know which battles to fight. Also, see if you can find a mentor within the room. Someone a level above you who might be willing to take you under their wing and give you a little private feedback – how am I doing? Am I talking enough? Too much? Am I pitching succinctly or am I rambling? Is there anything else I can be doing? Basically, as a junior writer, you should be prepared to volunteer to do homework. If the showrunner asks if anyone’s seen a movie that she/he wants to reference, you should go watch that movie and then summarize it for others in the room who may or may not have seen it. If the showrunner is into certain movies/shows/books/whatever, your job is to get into those too. Your goal is to capture the voice of the showrunner and the voice of the show so anything you can do to get into their headspace before you write a word on the page is ideal.

 

Do you have any advice when it comes to receiving notes and tackling rewrites?

Accept them graciously. You may not agree with them, and you may have questions about them and it’s okay to ask for clarification, but for the most part, these are notes that need to be implemented in your script. If they aren’t, in most cases you will be rewritten. The goal is to always try and get as much of your words up on the screen, but ultimately it’s the showrunner’s job to implement a story across multiple episodes and to make the voice of the show consistent. If there’s a note you think might be a misunderstanding then it’s okay to ask about it, but do it in a respectful way and realize the showrunner’s word is final. If they want the sky to be red and you think it should be blue, understand that it will probably be red in the end. When you’re the showrunner of your own show you can make it whatever color you want it to be.

 

How has being the Showrunner on Absentia Season 3 changed your understanding of the craft?

I realized that writing is primarily left brain and showrunning is more right brain. Showrunning is about managing people, managing exceptions, managing politics while navigating egos and insecurity. It’s about running a multi-million dollar business that is both lovely art and harsh commerce. When you’re a writer, you aren’t thinking about those bigger picture things. You’re just focused on storytelling and writing a good script. When you’re a showrunner, it’s all about the people in many respects, so time management, strong leadership, financial sense, and people management all become critical skills you need to have on a daily basis.