Last time, we were answering Lonny’s question about how to prepare for a showrunner meeting. So picking up where we left of…
5.) STORIES ABOUT YOURSELF – This is an important one (it should probably be higher in the list). As a baby writer, no showrunner expects you to come in and be the “star” writer on the show. In fact, many may not even want you pitching or writing in the first few weeks or months on staff. So you probably won’t need to pitch episode ideas in your meeting.
HOWEVER—you’re still there as a storyteller, and they still want you to entertain them… as well as get a sense of who you are and how you see the world. Showrunners also need to know they’re hiring someone with extensive life experience—a reservoir of stories to draw upon.
So think of short, fun anecdotes you can tell to illuminate something about yourself (in relation to the show). If you’re meeting on Breaking Bad, tell a funny story about the week you spent in jail… or how you dealt with learning that you—or someone you know—had a potentially fatal disease. If you’re meeting on Glee, tell a personal coming-of-age story. If you’re meeting on Two and a Half Men, talk about the tribulations of raising a teenage… or the struggles of post-divorce life… or your tumultuous relationship with an adult sibling.
I have another friend—a fairly high-level producer—who keeps on his computer an ACTUAL LIST of stories to tell… and he brushes up on them before every meeting.
(P.S. – As I said above, while, as a baby writer, you probably won’t need to pitch actual story ideas in your meeting, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple in your back pocket, just in case it comes up. You’re not pitching in hopes of getting stories on the show; you’re pitching to prove you understand the types of stories this show tells.)
6.) WATCH OTHER WORK THE SHOWRUNNER HAS WRITTEN OR PRODUCED – This probably falls into the “extracurricular brown-nosing” category, but I always like to check out a few other things the showrunner has done. Other episodes, essays, screenplays, magazine columns, short stories… whatever will: A) help me better understand their writing and point-of-view, and B) allow me to tell them I’m a fan of their work.
7.) BRUSH UP ON OTHER SHOWS – As with any job, if you wanna work in TV, you need to know what’s happening on the landscape. Be ready to talk about other shows—especially popular hits like Mad Men, Modern Family, and The Big Bang Theory, or shows similar to the one you’re meeting on. In other words, if you’re meeting on a procedural like NCIS, be versed in the work taking place on Criminal Minds or CSI: New York or even Dexter.
Also—prepare to talk about any water-cooler television that may be happening. If American Idol is on the night before your meeting, be able to chat about who got booted, what was sung, who stunk, etc. You’re there to talk and gab about the stuff people in TV love to talk and gab about—so be ready!
(To be concluded next time. Until then, feel free to post comments and questions or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)