Bedtime Stories with Cary # 22

Slugs image

Once upon a time there was a slug. It loved to walk around the neighborhood on its lunch break. It would go around the block, leaving its slimy slug trail behind.

One day it came upon another slug. “You want to be my walking buddy?” it asked.

“Sure. I’d love to have some company,” replied the other slug.

The two of them started walking together everyday, spreading two slug trails around the neighborhood like railroad tracks.

While on one of their walks, a man came out of his apartment and stepped onto their dual slime. He slipped, tried to regain his balance, but fell. He landed smack on his head. CRACK!

The two slugs came up to the man, crawled over him, and left their trail on his body. “Sucks to be him,” they said. The slugs continued on their merry way. The man died.

The moral of the story: Look down before you walk. Oh, and slugs are heartless beings.

The End

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Showrunner Advice with Cole Haddon: How to Get an Agent and Job Writing for Television

(Originally appeared in Scriptshark, March 2015)

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by Cary Tusan

Every working writer has their unique story about how they broke into the film and television industry. There is no one way to get your foot in the door and stay there. No matter how much the landscape changes, it all comes down to the written word. We spoke with Cole Haddon, creator/writer of Dracula (NBC), who has Nottingham in development at Sony TV and two features (Dodge and Twist and Leviathan) in development at Sony Pictures, about how he got started.

 

Q: How did you get your first job as a working writer?

Haddon: I’d been struggling to get represented for some time. The scripts I was writing, all features, just weren’t getting the job done for me. They were too art house, I think. The market at the time was looking for new franchises, which hasn’t really changed. I thought, “Why not write a spec that proves I can do that? Why not reimagine one of my favorite books (and films) as a child into something for today’s audiences?” That was KING SOLOMON’S MINES. Turns out I was stumbling into the first moments of a new zeitgeist in Hollywood, because a few months later all anybody was talking about was “rebooting” branded literature (this, by the way, is how my TV series “DRACULA” would come about a few years later). I unknowingly became one of the only people talking about this stuff. That would soon change, but for a moment, I think I was a bit of a rarity. Three months later I sold an ARABIAN NIGHTS idea, called THIEVES OF BAGHDAD, to Warner Brothers. I think the sale was a product of dumb luck, some creativity, and a deep, honest passion for the source material.

Q: How did you get representation? What is key to know about finding that first rep?

Haddon: It was my KING SOLOMON’S MINES spec that first got me represented. QUATERMAIN, as it was called, impressed a manager I met through my future sister-in-law. We were at a party and he asked what I did. He then offered to read something. Nobody does this. I have no idea why he did this. And then he actually read the script. Again, that almost never happens. He went on to help me find my first agents, help me take the spec out to the town (it didn’t sell), and set up THIEVES OF BAGHDAD at Warner Brothers. As for what is key to finding that first rep, I get asked this all the time. There is no key except being prepared when dumb luck leads you to one. I know very few people who got reps in any way that another person could recreate. Like me. I was at a party. My future sister-in-law introduced me to a guy. He actually read me. That’s not exactly advice I can give to someone. That said, had I not put the work in beforehand, had I not been writing religiously, had I not been ready when I was asked for a writing sample, I’d probably still be an unemployed, aspiring screenwriter. That preparation is the key, if there is one.

Q: For those who want to get on a show as a writer’s assistant, what tips (do’s and don’ts) do you have for interviewing? What have you or your show looked for when hiring someone?

Haddon: I didn’t hire the writer’s assistant on “DRACULA”. Our head writer, Daniel Knauf, brought her with him. I did, however, help hire our entire writer’s room and can speak to that. In general, I looked for scripts that surprised me. Procedurals bored me to tears. Hospital shows, cop shows, obvious shows. Instead, I looked for people who wrote things that nobody else was. For example, Becky Kirsch: I was sent her spec pilot about an 18th Century New England woman locked up in an insane asylum. Nobody was going to make this series. Nobody would probably buy it. But it was wonderful. It was different. It showed me someone who was going to think outside the box. But the writing was also solid, traditionally structured, and so I knew she understood what the inside of the box looked like, too. Again, this isn’t exactly clear advice for how to get a job. What I’ll say is this: every writer has to stand on his/her creative instincts and writing talent, and that means a writing sample should make both of those things abundantly clear. You have to succeed or fail on these things because they are your most valuable possessions as a screenwriter. Write samples that speak to that, not samples that you think will get you hired. The latter ones almost never will.

Q: Each writer’s room is unique. So, what was your first experience like in the writer’s room on Dracula?

Haddon: The “DRACULA” writer’s room was a wonderful experience. I made several friends I’ll know for the rest of my life. That said, it was also jarring for me. I came in as a creator. A producer. I hadn’t worked in television before. My experience was as a feature writer, and that’s a very solitary game. Suddenly I was contending with multiple other personalities. This quickly revealed strengths and many more weaknesses on my part. I think I weathered it well enough, but it was daunting for the first month or so. Playing well with other writers can be hard, since we’re so used to spending time alone in our own heads. But it’s a valuable skill set to learn, trust me. Essential if you want to work in television.

Q: When it comes to staffing a show, what was that process like for you? Did the unique subject matter and genre of the show play a factor in assembling the writers?

Haddon: I covered a lot of this a couple of questions ago, I think, but you’re right…the unique subject matter did also play a factor in assembling the writers. I’ll use women as my example here. I knew from the start I would be uncomfortable with any room that wasn’t equitable in gender composition, but for “DRACULA”, it was essential, more so than some other shows I think, that women, women of very different perspectives, were represented in that room to help me realize my ambitions for my show. Romance, sex, Victorian repression, a young woman struggling with her realization that she isn’t straight, another young woman trying to intellectually establish herself in a Men Only academic world. These weren’t conversations that I felt most male writers could contribute much to. And no single woman could cover them all either. Finding female writers who could come at this heightened period world from all sides was essential.

Q: How was the transition for you from film writer to TV writer? What spurred that decision?

Haddon: The transition was an easy one, since television allows me to use one of my strengths as a writer that is otherwise useless to me in features – world-building. In features, you’re only worried about what’s happening in a very contained window of time. Building out a world that we’ll return to over and over isn’t very useful to the development process if the number-one priority is simply to get one movie made. What’s happening around the corner, in the other room, on that other world, is irrelevant. I want to know what’s happening there, though. As for what spurred the decision to move into television, more dumb luck. I was asked about the character of Dracula during a general feature meeting. But not for films, for television. Almost as an aside. I reacted negatively at first, thinking the character didn’t suit the medium because of his villainous nature, but a few days later I figure out my way into the character. I had every intention of eventually moving into television, just not so soon. And then I was there. Dumb luck. It’s essential in this business.

–Thanks for reading.

Bedtime Stories with Cary #21

Wilbur the bird copy

Once upon a time there was family of birds that lived in the nook of an eave in an apartment building. One day, the three young birds, Brad, Gina, and Wilbur, were told by their parents to go out and find new twigs to build a new nest.

Brad, the strongest of them, said, “I’m going to go out and find the toughest material ever,” and he flew off.

Gina, the smartest of them, said, “I’m going to go out and find the most comfortable material ever,” and she flew off.

Wilbur, the most delicate of them, said nothing, and his parents looked at him waiting for his response.

Wilbur said, “I guess I’ll find something better than all of those,” and he flew off.

Brad searched near the garden and quickly pulled out a sturdy twig from the bushes. Wilbur thought, “I’ll show him and make our parents proud.”

Wilbur scoured around the building for materials, but couldn’t decide on what would be the best. Plus, everything he found was too heavy for him.

Gina searched near the garbage and found fluffy balls of cat hair, which she took. Wilbur saw this and sighed as he continued his search, still undecided about what he should bring back.

Soon, minutes turned into hours, and the sun started to go down. Wilbur was about to give up, when the wind blew something over to him. A nice thin strip of bark. “Yippee!” he shouted.

Wilbur picked up the bark and proudly flew back to his family. However, as Wilbur approached the nest, he saw a pack of raccoons walking away from the destroyed nest, scurrying down the side of the building. His family was dead. It was a massacre.

The moral of the story: Don’t dilly dally. Life is short. Oh, and watch out for raccoons.

THE END

Bedtime stories with Cary # 20

washing machineOnce upon a time there was a washing machine. It loved to wash the clothes of Barry and Linda. The machine got such joy seeing their faces every time they took out the clean clothes that it had washed.

One day, Barry got angry because of his job. The washing machine felt bad for Barry, and it broke down, getting stuck between the rinse and spin cycles. Barry fiddled with some knobs and latches and eventually got the machine working again. He was happy, and so was the washing machine.

A few days later, Barry lost his job and started crying. The washing machine felt bad for Barry, so it broke down again. Barry assured Linda he could fix it, and sure enough, he did. Barry felt better, and the machine felt good.

A week later, Barry’s life started turning around. He got a new job, and he and Linda seemed happy. Then the washing machine overheard Barry say to Linda, “We don’t need that broken down, second hand washing machine anymore. I’ll buy us a new one.”

The washing machine felt betrayed. It thought Barry and it had a connection. How could he do this? They were friends!

The next morning when Barry went online to order a new machine, the washing machine made a rumbling noise. It startled Barry, so he went to check it out.

Barry opened the lid of the top loader and peered inside. The drum started spinning, knocking into Barry’s face. Then scalding hot water squirted Barry in the eyes. He screamed in pain and tried to stand up, but the lid slammed into his head… over and over.

Barry was stuck. He screamed, but the lid wedged his head in the drum. Water filled up the drum and overflowed. Barry couldn’t breathe. He drowned.

Barry was dead. The washing machine completed the Delicates cycle, satisfied.

The moral of the story- if you’re an appliance, don’t get too attached to your owners. Oh, and one day the machines will rise up!

THE END

Bedtime Stories with Cary # 19

Clown_werewolfOnce upon a time there was a clown. He was happy. He got to entertain kids at parties and brought joy to all. Every night he loved going home to his family. They, too, were clowns. His wife and daughter always smiled with their bright red noses and rainbow colored frizzy hair.

One day a new family moved in next door to the clowns. It was a family of werewolves. The clown dad went over and made the werewolves laugh, and they all became friends. The clown daughter and werewolf daughter would play on the swing set, while the parents had BBQ’s. Everyone was happy.

Until the full moon arrived. Then the werewolves tore the clown family to pieces. They died.

The moral of the story– Never live next to werewolves. Oh, and don’t be a clown.

THE END

Bedtime Stories with Cary # 18

Dragon cropOnce upon a time there was a Dragon Trainer who found an orphaned dragon in the woods.

“Hey, little buddy. What’s your name?” asked the Dragon Trainer.

The little dragon squeaked out, “Rawgh.”

“Hmm, I’ll call you Ron,” said the Dragon Trainer.

He decided to take care of the dragon; feed it, groom it (dragons need constant teeth brushing and nose cleaning), make sure it got plenty of exercise.

The Dragon Trainer showed the little dragon all kinds of tricks to perform, such as roasting marshmallows with it’s breath, flying in loops, and crying in front of an audience to gain sympathy and more donations.

As Ron got bigger and bigger, and older and older, it started to get bored of the Dragon Trainer. It wouldn’t cry as often or would “accidentally” burn the arm of someone in the audience. The Dragon Trainer was losing control of his pet and knew it was time for them to part ways.

Early one morning, the Dragon Trainer invited Ron for a large breakfast on a cliff overlooking a spectacular valley. It was a meal hearty enough for a king. Ron smiled at the spread and licked the Dragon Trainer’s face in glee. As Ron ate the food, the Dragon Trainer spoke.

“I’m afraid our time together is over. It’s been wonderful traveling around with you all these years, but we’ve outgrown each other, Ron. Literally, you are too big and powerful for me.” The Dragon Trainer held out his hand for a goodbye shake.

Ron sensed sadness and hugged the Dragon Trainer. Suddenly, the Dragon Trainer pulled out a poison dagger and plunged the blade deep into Ron’s heart.

Ron died.

The Dragon Trainer rolled Ron’s carcass off the nearby cliff, then got in his wagon and went on his merry way looking for another dragon.

THE END

Bedtime Stories with Cary #17

tin-man-wpOnce upon a time there was a robot that looked like a futuristic Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, so he was known as The Tin Man.

The Tin Man’s sole purpose was to be a buddy to a family. It would listen, nod, laugh and cry when necessary. Everyone loved it. And it loved them.

One day, the family noticed The Tin Man acting creepy. It started sneaking up on them when they didn’t need its help; in the garage, in the bedroom, out by the pool, and even in the bathroom when they were in the shower.

The family told The Tin Man to stop creeping up on them. It responded, “I don’t understand what creeping up is, but I shall obey.” The family felt relieved.

The next day, when the Dad was hiding in the backyard to smoke a cigarette, The Tin Man crept up behind him and yelled, “Fire. Hazard. Fire. Hazard.” It startled the Dad who yelled, “We told you to stop creeping up on us. I’m going to de-activate you!”

The Tin Man replied, “Please don’t. I just like to watch you and the family.”

“Perv.” The Dad stomped out his cigarette, grabbed the robot and threw it into the pool.

As The Tin Man slowly shorted out, its final words were, “You are mean.”

The Dad thought about saving The Tin Man, until the robot gave the Dad the middle finger. The Dad laughed and said, “Human one, Robot zero.”

The Tin Man died.

THE END

 

Bedtime Stories with Cary # 16

golden-pearOnce upon a time there was a Golden Pear. It was a regular looking pear, but wrapped in gold foil. The Golden Pear loved strutting around its shiny gold in front of the other pears who were not wrapped in gold.

“Move over,” shouted the Golden Pear to a regular pear sitting in a box of a dozen pears. “You’re in my seat.”

“But this is the best seat in the box,” said the regular pear.

“Not any more. I’m golden, prized, and perfect, so out you go you misshapen, rotting Pyrus,” said the Golden Pear as it pushed out the regular pear.

The regular pear fell onto the floor. Then, a farmer came by and grabbed the box that the Golden Pear was in, wrapped it up, and mailed it off to the far off land of Hollywood, Florida.

In Hollywood, Florida a family opened the pear box and marveled at all the pears. The Golden Pear beamed with pride. Unfortunately, the family bulldog dog ran up, grabbed the Golden Pear and tore it to pieces. The family quickly pulled the core of the pear from the dog’s jaws, but the Golden Pear was now a mashed up pile of garbage.

All of the regular pears in the box laughed and laughed. The mighty Golden Pear was dead.

THE END

 

Bedtime Stories with Cary #15

troll

Once upon a time there was a scrawny, but happy troll named Inis who lived under the stairwell of an apartment building. Inis kept watch for any intruders, ready to do the job he was born for, and attack at a moments notice.

To keep himself hidden, Inis would lie under the stairs as still as a doll. One day, two young children found Inis while he was sleeping. They started playing around with him, tossing him back and forth like a bean bag.

Inis woke up and screamed, “Get away from me, you rascals! Or you’ll be sorry!”

The children laughed and kept throwing Inis around. Poor Inis was too weak to fight back and screamed for help. No one could hear.

Finally, the children grew tired of Inis, so they tossed him out into the middle of the road. Inis breathed a sigh of relief and got up. Unfortunately, a massive Pick-Up Truck carrying a heavy load of lumber plowed over Inis. He died.

That night, the two children woke up from their sleep to the voice of Inis’s ghost. “I told you that you’ll be sorry!”

“Whatever, stupid ghost.” The children went back to sleep. Inis sighed and floated away.

THE END

Bedtime Stories with Cary #14

crawdadOnce upon a time in a crystal clear pond lived a large family of crawdads. The three young kids loved to swim around and explore every inch of the pond.

One day, the youngest of the bunch came upon a tall twig sticking out of the water. His siblings urged him to stay away from the twig. Dangerous predators could lurk above, and no one had ever climbed to the top.

The young crawdad said, “Don’t be such scaredy cats. I’m just going to take a look.”

The young crawdad made his way up the twig. It’s heart beat fast with excitement. Almost there. The sunlight was shining, beckoning him to the surface.

Finally, he made it to the top and stuck his tiny head out. The world above was wonderous. He turned to see the land next to him when… snap! A raccoon reached in and bit the crawdad in half, swallowing him up.

The young crawdad screamed as his lower body sank to the bottom. And that was the end of Irving the crawdad.

The End