I really wish I had time to answer all the mail I get. It's not even that I get all that much; but given my schedule, and this bizarre desire I have to maintain a personal and family life, it's just impossible. Particularly when a lot of the letters ask the same questions -- which is what this FAQ is designed to answer. If you have any questions still unanswered after reading this, email me and I'll try to respond in a reasonable amount of time. And please -- give some thought to the reasonableness of your queries or requests.
How can I write a script for my favorite TV show?
Writing a script for your favorite TV show is easy. Just sit down at your word processor or typewriter and do it. Selling a script to your favorite TV show, however, is nearly impossible. But it can be done. Here's how:
First, research the show you're aiming for. Know it backwards and forwards, inside and out; be prepared to quote every single memorable moment from every single episode since it first went on the air. (Don't be silly; of course you can. We live in a world in which the Bible has been translated into Klingon. You don't have to go that far.) Know those characters as well or better than you know your own family. When you feel you've done that, come up with a story that illuminates them in a way you've never seen on the show. Important tip: Do not bring in a new character and tell his/her story, unless by doing it you bring to light a side or aspect of the main character(s) that we haven't seen before.
Now write the script. (If you don't know how to write in production format, there are lots of books out there that will tell you, or you can download script examples from many places on the Web -- see my "Links" page for the URLs to some of them. Or look at some of my scripts posted on this website. But beware falling into the quagmire of obsessing over the shot headings, transitions, etc. It's the story that's important.) When you've finished it, polish it. Go over it and over it, until it shines, until every comma, parenthetical, line of dialogue, etc., is absolutely the best you can do. You've only got one shot at that show with this script, so you have to make sure it's your best possible effort. I mean this. You're lucky if you get the staff to read it once -- they won't read it twice.
Next, get it to someone on the show who will read it and who can (ideally) buy it. If he's one of the many who can say "No" but can't say "Yes," find a way to get it to the showrunner, or one of the producers. This is the hard part. If you know someone on the show, ask them to read it. If you don't, use every means within the law to put yourself in the same room with one of those someones and get to know them. Yes, this probably means moving to LA -- you can't network long-distance, even in the Internet Age. How badly do you want this?
Most shows will not look at a script that's been sent in "over the transom" (i.e., not by an agent), for legal reasons. To find a reputable agent, call or write to the Writers' Guild (you can find a link to their webpage on my "Links" page) and ask them for a list of agents. Start calling them or writing to them, and keep doing it until you find one who will send your script to the show. In short, get the script to the people on the show and get them to read it, by any means short of stalking or otherwise alienating them. Remember: a producer's job is not to find new writers and guide them along, unless he/she is convinced that by so doing his/her job (getting episodes produced) will be made easier. If a producer does read it, and feels that there's potential in the script but that it's not quite there, he will do one of two things: Buy it for the story and assign it to be rewritten by one of the production staff, or ask you to do a rewrite. Obviously, you want the latter. Again, try by every means possible to convince them that you should be allowed to shepard your work through to the end. If they're adamant that, due to time restraints or other contingencies, they want the rewrite done in-house, smile and take the cut-off money. Be nice about it, because in all probability they'll ask you to pitch (come up with more story ideas) again.
Yes, it does sound a lot like the old Steve Martin routine about how to be a tax-free millionaire ("First: get a million dollars ..."). But it can be done. It is done, by lots of people all the time. I did it. You can do it. The information on how to do it is out there. If the talent and the drive is in you, you can make it happen.
Why don't you somehow convince the powers that be to bring back (Gargoyles/ Invasion America/ Dungeons & Dragons/ etc.)?
Because they ain't my shows, monkey boy. I worked on them as a "hired gun" -- someone who helps develop the show and writes scripts. I own not the tiniest bit of any of them, and whether they live or die is not my decision. When the show's over, or when my part in it is over, I move on. You should too.
I've got a great idea for a (movie/ TV series/ whatever). Would you collaborate on it with me?
No. Please understand that my refusal to look at the work of someone I don't know as a possible collaboration is nothing personal -- I simply can't, largely for the same legal reasons that studios can't, and also because I don't have the time. There may be others in this business as good as me or (probably) better who don't adhere to this policy, but I barely have the time to pay proper attention to my own projects. Hell, it's taken me three months just to write this FAQ.
If you'd like to hire me, however, see my WRITE.PERIOD Writers Workshop section.
How do I go about selling my novel?
To a great degree this is like selling a screenplay or TV script -- again, perseverance is the key. First you must have the project completed -- in this case, if you want to sell a novel, write it first. The same exhortations as above apply: Make it absolutely the best you can do. Go over it like Flaubert went over Madame Bovary, agonizing over every punctuation mark. The only thing that feels worse than a rejection slip is a rejection slip for something that you know you could've made better.
If you're trying to meet professional people in the science fiction, fantasy, horror or related fields, you could do worse than attend some of the larger sf and fantasy conventions. They sprout like mushrooms all over this country and abroad, all year long. Industry professionals, both in publishing and in film/TV, often attend. It never hurts to buy an editor or an agent a drink and chat with them a bit -- it gives them a face to put with the manuscript they see on their desk, and sometimes that little edge is all that's needed. To get a fairly complete "where and when" list of conventions, check out Locus, the science fiction newsletter (once again, hie thee to the links page).
Where do you get your ideas?
The same place you do.
Can you send me (scripts/ souvenirs/ cels/ etc.)?
Again, sorry, but no, for the same reasons as above. If you want an autographed copy of a book or script I've written, and have a copy of it, send it to this address: Michael Reaves, PO Box 7956-119, Canoga Park, CA 91309 USA. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope and I'll get it back to you as soon as I can.
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