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Published: 8 months ago

Profiles of Television: Kiyong Kim — TV Writing Fellow

Profiles of Television is an ongoing interview series showcasing the variety of professionals in the TV industry, from writers and producers, to those in development, representation, and post-production. These are the many talents involved in television, and the personal journeys behind them.

Today’s guest is Kiyong Kim. A multi-talented comedy writer, he had the opportunity of working through two amazing fellowships (Nickelodeon and NBC’s Writers on the Verge) as well as currently participating in the CAAM mentorship program.
Let’s see what he has to say.

The Medium

First things first: why the television calling?
Originally, I wanted to write features. I had a writing teacher who suggested I try writing for TV, which I had no interest in until The Office came out. It was different, and I felt like I really got that show and the sense of humor. There was a sadness to the show that I really liked.
Around the same time, someone I knew got into the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship. Until then, I didn’t know these fellowship programs even existed. I saw that as an entryway into television that didn’t really exist for features, and I thought I should try.

Three words to describe what you write.
Comedy without heart? Though I’m trying to add some to the pilot I’m working on now.

Three words to describe how you write.
Structured, because I like outlines. Slow, with pilots. And then—what is one word to describe when you’re on the verge of quitting? Whatever that word would be is the third word. Despair?

—the television series that has influenced you the most:
The Simpsons for the sense of humor. I’ve been watching it from the beginning and I still see the latest episodes, even in season 20-something. It influenced a lot of people. What it did really well was make good use of the medium of animation, unlike something like King of the Hill which could have basically been live-action.
And again, The Office as the show for making me actually want to write for TV.

—the one episode of television that defines you:
I don’t know if it defines me, but I thought about it a lot, and that Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones was something else. I saw those YouTube videos of people freaking out while watching that one crazy scene at the end. People started crying, screaming, and throwing things at the TV. Seriously, people don’t react like that when people die in real life. It was a great reminder at how much impact a story can have.

—the television episode that impressed you the most:
Recently, the season finale of Silicon Valley was pretty amazing. Before that, the ‘Chaos Theory’ episode of Community.

—the show you wish was still on the air:
I liked Happy Endings. I was disappointed it got cancelled.

—the show you would never publicly admit to watching, except right now:
SpongeBob Squarepants.

—the show you wish you had worked on:
Friends. It’s still funny. I watch reruns now and it holds up. So many shows since then have tried to recapture that. Each character was so distinct and likeable.

Kiyong Kim Smiling

The Journey

What has been, so far, your journey in the television industry?
I did web design for years and years despite never wanting to do web design. On nights and weekends, I was making short films and was thinking of writing and directing a feature soon. Around that time someone I knew entered the Nickelodeon Fellowship.
I had meant to write a spec for a while, so I wrote one for The Office. I made it to the finalist round but didn’t get in that year. The next, I tried again, and got in.
I learned a lot at Nickelodeon but didn’t get staffed. The following year, I got into the NBC Writers on the Verge program, which was about four months long. Again, noting happened. I had to go back to doing design.
This year, I got into the CAAM Fellowship, where they assign mentors individually to each of the fellow. I was lucky enough to get the person I wanted, Kourtney Kang (How I Met Your Mother). She’s helping me with my pilot and it’s been great.

What is the hardest thing about being a television writing fellow?
There’s a lot of pressure since you feel like you’re so close. Both times I felt like it was my chance, but nothing happened. Of course, there are never any guarantees in the industry, even for people already staffed or repped. Their shows get canceled or they don’t get asked back. That’s just the nature of the business.
At some point, I had to seriously ask myself—Is that something I can live with forever? Is the uncertainty something I can accept? Because if not, I should just quit now and save myself the aggravation. Since I’m a masochist, I’m still going.

What is the easiest thing about being a television writing fellow?
There’s nothing easy. There are lots of really short deadlines, trying to impress the right people, trying to push yourself, or being good in the room. Luckily, all the other writers were supportive of each other. Everyone was extremely talented, and generous.

What is the biggest takeaway from your experience in the fellowships?
For Nickelodeon, it was how much the non-writing stuff matters. Presentation, pitching yourself, egos, the politics of things, and even how luck is involved.
For NBC, the biggest takeaway was that I need to speak up more in the room.

Can you talk about the CAAM mentorship process?
It’s been about a month since Kourtney and I started. When we met up, I pitched her two pilot ideas, and she liked one of them, so that’s the one I’m working on. I fleshed out the story, figured out the characters, and am ready to start outlining.
Having someone with so much experience give notes is incredible, especially in the early stages when you’re trying to figure out the conceptual stuff of how the show will work. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

What is your day-to-day like?
I have my full-time day job. 40–50 hours a week, fairly regular. So then I have to write on nights and weekends, which is difficult. But I do remind myself that even on a show, I’d have to work on my own projects nights and weekends. Luckily, I also have my writing group, which meets every other week right now. That’s been a life-saver—receiving notes, pitching ideas, all the free therapy.

Who do you look up to in the television industry?
I love Greg Daniels. The Office, Parks & Recreation. He also did animation with King of the Hill and The Simpsons. That’s a pretty ridiculous resume.

What is the ideal job you would like to ultimately have?
Running my own show, which is probably what everybody wants. Or just writing for a good show with people you can get along with. Can’t really ask for more than that.

When people from outside the industry ask what you do, what do you tell them?
Currently, I probably don’t mention that I write, just the web design since that’s how I pay the bills.

What is your best professional advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
Well, I don’t feel qualified to give “professional” advice because I’m not a professional writer. I got into a couple fellowships, but I’m not staffed or even repped.
However, what I’m personally trying to do is to have solid writing samples, and meet people who will read my writing. Between writing and networking, I’d probably give more priority to the writing. A sub par writing sample read by the right people isn’t really going to help you.

What is your best personal advice to someone who wants to do what you do?
Give up now. [laughs] Why would you do this to yourself unless you had to? There are so many other, easier ways to make money. When I took the Nick Fellowship, it was huge pay-cut for me. Logically it made no sense. No sane person would do this. If there’s anything else you want to do, do that instead. If you’re cursed like me where you have to write, then prepare to be in it for the long haul.

What is your next step?
I’m finishing this pilot, and hopefully Kourtney will like it. Ideally, the pilot will lead to me getting representation, and then hopefully staffed.
After that, I’ve been wanting to try some sci-fi, either as a low-budget feature to direct, or as a pilot script. I also want to try to pitch an animated show at Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network. I met people while I was at the Nick Fellowship, and I went to art school for illustration, so I think animation would be something I’d be good at.

Any last words?
Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame your lack of success on others. Get feedback from others; it’s hard to be objective about your own work. Be prolific. Finish things.

Many thanks to the wickedly talented Kiyong Kim!

You can follow him on his personal blog of creative pursuits, where he chronicles his own television journey. He is also on Twitter.

Published: 1 year ago

Scribosphere Carnival #2 – Workflow

The Scribosphere Carnival is a weekly discussion from a variety of screenwriting blogs around a rotating theme.

And I’m catching up on all those I missed.

Instigated by Jonathan Hardesty, today’s topic is:

WORKFLOW — Everybody has one, and none are the same. Inspired by a post from John August (referencing this site), you should explain where and when you write, what hardware you use, what software you use, and what you would change about how you write. Have at it!

Where and when do you write?

Unlike some writers, I actually prefer to write in the comfort of my own home instead of going out to a coffee shop (and spend $5 on a latte).
With that said, I like to create an appropriate “space” for the magic to happen. Even if my desktop is in the bedroom, I will try to physically separate the “writing workspace” from where I sleep by moving stuff over to the living room.
This doesn’t happen all the time, but when I do, the complete set-up looks something like this:

As you can guess by what’s happening on the TV, this is during my “research phase” for my Good Wife spec last year. Yes, I like to reverse-engineer the show.

When I’m actually writing, the TV will usually be off, while I display my outline on the external screen (i.e. the one in the middle). My preferred screenwriting software will be pulled on the laptop itself.
And then I type away. On reddit.

My writing schedule is, at best, inconsistent. I rarely have “real” deadlines, so it’s often hard to shoot for consistency.
With that said, I enjoy (in a manner of speaking) going into what I call “lockdown modes”.
As the name implies, it’s a pre-determined amount of time (usually an entire week-end) where I force myself to sit in front of the computer and write/achieve something with very little breaks, and, crucially, no going out. No escape!
This extended, dedicated period of time allows me to completely focus on the one story/task, and think deeper about the problems than, say, a 2-hour writing block every other day. I also try to divide the task evenly across the days (e.g. 2 acts per day for a 3-day lockdown).
Lockdowns are especially great for outlines, first drafts or imminent deadlines.
Binge-writing FTW.

What hardware do you use?

I enjoy the good ol’ pen and paper when I’m brainstorming dialogue/scenes, however when it comes to the nitty-gritty, 90% of the work is done on my computer(s).

As for the tech nerds out there:

I love to build my own computers. This is my latest beast (minus a graphics card).
Processor: Intel Core i7 2600K clocked at 3.40 GHz
Mobo: MSI Z68A-GD80 (MS-7672) 3.0
RAM: 16 GB DDR3 Corsair (800 MHz / PC3-12800J)

Purchased almost four years ago, so bear with me on the specs (although who needs a gaming laptop for writing?!).
Sadly it has a battery problem that makes it less portable: the battery isn’t recognized, which means it only works when plugged in.

HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx
Processor: Intel Core i5 430M / 2.26 GHz
RAM: 4.0 GB
Graphics Adapter: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
Display: 14-inch LED / 1366×768
Weight: 2kg

External displays
Main display: ASUS VE278Q / 27.2-inch / 1920×1080
Secondary display: BenQ FP241WZ / 24-inch / 1920×1200
I also have an amazing TV (primarily used for shows/movies), which is a Samsung UN60D8000.

What software do you use?

When it comes to breaking my stories, I start off using Scrivener. Pretty much the best outline-building option out there (save for actual index cards and corkboards). It’s a great tool when it comes to visually seeing your outline/acts/breaks/stories. Gotta love the color-coded labels.

For the actual scriptwriting process, I exclusively use Final Draft (currently version 8). I may or may not try Fade In for my next script. It looks fairly interesting. Plus, I love black.

What would you change about how you write?

It’s less about how, and more about when.
In a word: consistency.
Trying to find a “sweet spot” is very hard, and I know I should really discipline myself to sit down and dedicate X hour(s) to writing, every single day. And yet, I don’t.
Like getting in shape physically, it’s one thing to say you wanna do it, and another thing to actually do it.
Time will tell if I succeed in that regard.

There’s also the thing about “less procrastination, more content”, though I believe this is less of an issue. You need these short bursts of mental distraction in between your mental back-and-forths when breaking a story.
When it comes to the actual writing portion of things, I’m happy the way I do things (when I do them). Sometimes I talk to myself, or rather talk the scenes out. I’m crazy that way, but it’s not something I’m keen on changing. It’s part of the process.
And then when you’re in the zone, well, you don’t even think about getting distracted.

Write on.

Scribosphere blogs also on the topic:

Shouting in the Wind | Red Right Hand | Jonathan Hardesty | Bamboo Killers

Published: 2 years ago

Zack Stentz’s Stance on Script Stakes

I may not have previously expressed my appreciation for Zack Stentz (from the truly awesome Sarah Connor Chronicles show), so here we go.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying his daily long tweetscussions© about screenwriting for a bit now.
They’re so cool that he should really compile them on his blog.
Since this isn’t the case (yet?), I shall do it for him. Rather, I’ll compile what I think is one of his better tweetologue© from this past month: the August 6 talk about stakes. And not the Buffy kind.

Turns out, scripts need to have stakes. Yeah, shocker. What’s relevant to us however, especially for television, is that stakes can’t be as high as a lot of modern block-busters (at least they are in appearance). You can’t save the planet every episode. In fact, one would think that the average action movie has the Earth/USA in jeopardy, constantly. Turns out, this isn’t quite right. You should dig a little bit deeper to find the real meat. That’s right, character stakes (aka TV’s bread and butter).
Zack specifically goes over a few feature examples, specifically from both Thor (which he co-wrote) and the Star Trek reboot. It may not be much (only ten tweets), but it’s still pretty interesting.

And now, I’ll shut up and let the tweets talk:

Published: 4 years ago

Tips and stories from around the Web: Comic-Con 2011 Edition

We might be bitching about the ridiculous price of the tickets (especially next year’s) or the hotels, but Comic-Con is ultimately a celebration of — well, I’d say comics but we both know that’s not true anymore, so, let’s just say, a celebration of pop-culture mostly for the fans (and the pros).

As this will be my first trip to the Con, I did a bit of research to find some tips and guides.
Needless to say, I found several very interesting ones:
– Kotaku ran an article last year not necessarily on tips about the con itself, rather tips about travelling to it (and in it). Still a very interesting read.
– Another “Top 10″ list to mention is the POVonline convention guide.
– If you’re a Flash fan, then you must know Speed Force. What you may not be aware of is that they published amazing suggestions “for making the most of comic conventions.” It’s all based on personal experience from the author and it has a lot of handy nuggets of information.
– I can’t list great Comic-Con guides without mentioning Shouting in the Wind’s own post. It pretty much answers most of the questions anyone has about attending the con. There’s usually an update every year, though I’m linking last year’s guide since, as you can guess, sadly no ’11 update has been made for now.

A lot of these tips may seem a tad redundant, but it’s pretty clear you can’t go to Comic-Con unprepared.
Three key suggestions seem to emerge:
Pack for the day with food and water, be ready to walk/stand in line with comfy shoes, and, perhaps most of all, have a hand sanitizer. I know I will.

With all of that said, I must also talk about one extremely exhaustive guide/tip-list stands out above all the rest.
I am of course referring to The Comics Reporter’s own 150+ Tips For Attending San Diego’s CCI 2011.
That’s right, the website has over 150 tips, and these are definitely not one-liners. Warning: given its extensiveness, the page is pretty long.
This is clearly a must-read for any attendee, especially the first-timers.

I also thought it’d be a good idea to link in this post several other websites which are great source of intel about the convention.
– First up is SDCC Blog, an unofficial SDCC blog self-described as “the ultimate source for all things SDCC.” Although it’s not as “ultimate” as they seem to think, it is still pretty comprehensive. The most notable part of the site is its dedicated off-site events page.
– A great “counter-point” to this website is Comic-Con Geek, which also provides news on the subject, often more extensively.
– Finally, we have The Beat which has a dedicated Comic-Con section and often brings amazing insight into the con and news around it.

You should also know that the official San Diego Comic-Con website is full of amazing guides, from maps of the convention floor and shuttle information, to exhibitor listings and schedules.

If you’re interested in what my panel schedule will look like (I know I am), here’s a link to MySched.
Some panels still interlap as I’ll probably be deciding last-minute for those.
Obviously, it’s mostly a wish-list, since you can never tell how everything is going to go down.

I’m also hoping for some kind of ‘LA TV Writers’ meet-up to be organized.
And if yourself are attending the Con, you can always shoot me an e-mail!
If nothing is ultimately planned, I’ll probably tweet up something around Saturday, maybe a screening of a crappy pilot — or an impromptu get-together…
After all, isn’t that the point of a convention?