Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Checking in with 2006 Teleplay Sitcom Winner Todd Linden

This week we decided to check in with last year’s Sitcom Teleplay Competition Winner Todd Linden. Todd won with his spec script “My Name is Earl.” We thought we would check in with him and see what he is up to now.

Mary: How did you hear about the Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition? Why did you enter?

Todd: I first found out that the Austin Film Festival had a Teleplay Category after applying the year before to the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop. The director of that program informed us about it. I went online that night and read all about the competition on the AFF website, knowing immediately that I would be submitting my specs there. I submit my spec scripts to as many legit contests and fellowships that I can find, because the more places that read my stuff, the more chances I have to get noticed. The Austin Film Festival gave me that chance to be noticed.

Mary: The AFF Teleplay Competition only accepts specs for currently airing cable and network television shows. Has having a spec for "My Name is Earl" been helpful when pursuing work?

Todd: Well you're not going to get a writing job without examples of your writing to show, so having an "Earl" spec, as well as several other specs, has been a key part of my search for that first staff writing position. But you have to stay current so people know you're in a constant state of writing. Showing a Friends spec you might have written five years ago is going to seem recycled and lazy. Just like AFF, the industry wants to read spec scripts of existing shows to judge your understanding of character voices and ability to come up with creative and solid storylines. I write my specs with that in mind, and then look to contests like AFF to help promote the scripts I've written. Now that my "Earl" spec won AFF, I can send showrunners and studios a critically acclaimed script, which may give it a boost over the competition.

Mary: Since the festival, what have you been up to?

Todd: Writing, and writing a lot. I wrote a spec pilot. Currently I'm working on a couple of different scripts including a "How I Met Your Mother" spec. When I was in Austin I met Brant Rose of the Brant Rose Agency. After winning the sitcom category, he showed interest in meeting me. I met Brant and his partner, Toochis, back in L.A. a couple of months later, and I have since signed with the Brant Rose Agency. I'm still looking for that first professional writing opportunity, but it is such a weight off my back and an added motivation knowing that everything I write now has the ability to be seen all around town with help from my agents. Along with all the writing, of course, I still have to make money, so I continue working in television production. There are pros and cons to working in TV Production as a writer: the main con is you work long hours and have less personal time to write, but the main pro is you meet so many people in the industry who might be able to help you down the road. With all the talent you may have, this is still a profession based on connections.

Mary: Would you encourage others to enter the Teleplay Competition?

Todd: Absolutely. This competition got me my first agent! If you've written a spec script, submit it to as many contests as you can. And if you haven't written a script yet but you want to be a writer, use AFF's deadline as the motivation to start writing. We're all fighting to get noticed, so why not get your stuff out there to as many outlets as possible. By entering the competition I gave myself a chance. By becoming a finalist, I got a free pass to all of the screenings and panels the festival had to offer, which was amazing. And by winning, I have grown more confident in myself as a writer and I have found an agent to get my material out there. Winning that competition was an honor I'll never forget. All you have to lose is a few bucks, but what you have to potentially gain is a chance to launch your writing career.

The Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition deadline is June 1st. We accept any spec for a currently airing network or cable television program. For more information on this year's Teleplay Competition check out www.austinfilmfestival.com.

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