Sometimes I'll get e-mails from aspiring writers that I think are worth sharing because they ask some valuable questions. Here's one I received from Zach Meincke.
Hello Mr. Janes,
My name is Zach Meincke, and I'm currently a student in the Second City writing program. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions for me.
First off, the link I found was to your 365 day sketch page, which is pretty cool. Obviously being a new student in sketch comedy got me looking for sketches to watch and read. My main aspiration is to make a career out of writing (tv and film mostly), but I find myself having trouble starting off. I was wondering if you had any pointers on how to get my work out there, and if a sketch is good enough, maybe sold.
Answer, Part A: Well, Zach, if I had the answer to that, my personal assistant would be answering your e-mail instead of me. As of now, I have not made any money from the sketches I have written. The only time I have been paid for my written work is when it has been commissioned, usually for a corporate training project. While I am proud of my work in this area, it involves a lot of client and producer input and the product is not anything I regard, personally or legally, as mine. I do enjoy it and it is fun. I have been able to do this through The Second City and Fig Media. And given what I know to be true about working in Hollywood, it's probably good training for that. How does one get in to that? Hanging out, meeting people, schmoozing and networking. It also helps to be getting your own work out there as much as possible so people have a reference point for you.
Answer, Part B: So, how do you get your work out there? By any means necessary. Form associations in classes and put on your own shows at the Skybox or Gorilla Tango. Be on the lookout for opportunities through Chicago Dramatists, PerformInk, The Reader and Craig's List for people looking for short works. There are many short works festivals around the country and in Chicago. You also have a film background, so get your stuff on YouTube and Funny or Die.
Answer, Part C: If you really want to writer for film and television, get thee to New York or LA. Learn what you can here, but you'll probably have to load up the truck and move to Beverly... Hills, that is. Swimming pools. Movie stars.
Last term I had Glenn Earich. He told me the best thing to do is produce my work. Would that be doing something like you are on your site?
Answer: Yes. It's one way. I am totally writing 365 sketches to draw attention to my skills as a comedy writer, but the real pay off, for me, will be when the scenes are produced. Not sure how that's going to happen, yet.
Also I saw your banner said it was copyrighted to you. Is that just something you wrote on the banner without registering your work? Doesn't that mean nothing? Just curious.
Answer: There's no way I could afford, or would want to spend the money, to register each piece. The thing about copyright disputes boils down to being able to prove when a writer wrote something. When I publish a piece on my blog, it is time stamped. I also send an electronic copy of it to a group of friends of mine and it also gets posted on Facebook. My ass is covered. Whenever you write anything, make sure you are tracking the dates from rough draft to subsequent versions.
I guess all I'm looking for at this point is any advice you might be able to throw at an aspiring writer like myself. I would find it very helpful. Who knows, maybe you'll eventually be teaching one of the writing classes I'm in.
Answer: The smartest thing I've been able to do is find the right people to hang with and work off of. I do a lot of writing with WNEP, a theater company which formed out of a Second City class. But I don't get enough of a writing fix through them, so I also formed Robot vs Dinosaur (formerly, TeatroBastardo) which is geared towards writing high quality sketch comedy. Most of the people in RvD have been through the Second City writing program. The two guys who haven't been through it, I met at ComedySportz. So, meet people and get with people whose writing you admire and you feel you can learn from.
Hope that was helpful, Zach. There's also some stirrings about us restarting RoboWriters- a weekly drop-in sketch writing classRvD used to host that I frequently lead. I have a small group of students committed to making it happen. They are currently trying to nail down a day, time and place. We'll announce it here when everything's ready to go.