Though I should probably turn Facebook notifications off–that’s one of the things that are on the “I should really do but never get around to it” list–my friend replied to a post in a large group board that we both belong to. And I got a notification of her activity. For some reason, I clicked, and it brought me to a post from someone who was convinced that her ideas and dialogue were lifted from a spec script she entered in the writing program aka “fellowships” run by the networks and studios. She concluded that because she advanced in other fellowships but not “Warner Brothers and NBC,” her writing went into a “think-tank” for the writers of New Girl.

post

When she saw an aired show that resembled her plot lines and used similar dialogue, she felt that she was the victim of theft.

I ended up putting my two cents in.

Totem Pole

As a person who worked with several of these diversity departments and programs, either with my organization, MAPID or as a panel moderator and as a script reader, I know that these departments are very removed from the actual shows. Location wise, they may not even be in the same zip code. And sorry to say it, but not only are these diversity departments removed in the internal structure of the network, they’re low on the totem pole.

So getting a script to the actual writing staff for a particular show is difficult in itself. Disney ABC sends writing samples for its program participants in order for them to place them on the shows, but these are scripts of a few writers who have been vetted and have the backing of the program. If it was so easy to pass on scripts to the writing staffs, Disney ABC would take a lot more participants in their program.

Work Load

The network programs get approximately 1500-2000 entries per year. Give a half-hour to go through each of those scripts, and that’s about 750-1000 hours. No member of the writing staff or assistant would want to expend that amount of time going through the scripts of varying quality–being polite not to say “some really bad scripts”–to find a couple good ideas and some lines of dialogue. The Original Poster replied that an intern might. But that still would take up 40 days of the intern’s time. That is, if she was worked 24 hours a day. I know many interns may feel like they are worked to the bone, but that’s a little extreme.

While New Girl has waned both in the show’s popularity and as a spec submission, it still garners a significant devotion from writers.

All the program heads say that 20% of the applications aren’t filled out correctly so they are immediately disqualified. That leaves us a minimum of 1200 entries.

Let’s say 1/2 of those submissions are comedy. Generous, but let’s say that’s true. So we’re down to 600 at the minimum

Then 2% of comedy submissions are New Girl. That’s 12 scripts. With a half an hour reading those scripts, that’s six hours. But you have to find the scripts, log the scripts, extract the really good lines and plots, send it over to the writing staff, and do numerous other administrative tasks involved. Plus you have to have been already placed in the diversity department HQ along with, I guess, the other writing staff interns, who are all spending a day away from where they really should be, to look at scripts. Scripts, I say, that are riddled with typos and grammatical errors, to say the least.

I’d rather have my intern watch other TV shows to life ideas from them. There’s more quality control in doing that. Heck, having her run down to the store to get me a gluten free muffin is more beneficial to me.

Thar She Blows

The OP said that she will pursue a grievance with the WGA. That seems a lot of energy and workload expended for many people and that isn’t likely to return with a favorable outcome. Many of these shows as well as the studios and networks have internal procedures to protect them from issues like these. They even suggest that entrants register their submissions with the WGA and/or US Copyright office.

 

When I was around ten years old, I was watching Jeopardy and considering that with all the game shows on–even at that prehistoric era–people are getting ten minutes of fame that soon no one will be un-famous. Six months later, Andy Warhol came out with his famous line attributed to him eternally. Would I love to say, “I was 10, and I came up with that idea fist”?

I do, but no one will believe me.

And One More Thing…Well, two

I wrote that the writing program staff do keep abreast of social media conversations, especially those pertaining to their work. Several years ago, this burnt-out actress who controversially received one of the Big 4 awards as a child, railed against me for replying to her post that her choice to spec a soon-to-be cancelled show was risky, at best. One of her supporters called me a “random person.” I’m hoping that the program staff caught wind of this insipid, bull-headed diva and crossed her off the list upon submission arrival.

Several of the responders to the posts are friendly with staffs of the program. Facebook friendly even. If I got a Facebook notification, there’s a chance the program staff did as well.

 

By the way, I mentioned in my post reply, New Girl is a FOX on FOX show. It has nothing to do with either Warner Brothers of NBC Universal.

 

–Ken Choy

Related posts: