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TV pilot workshop highly attended

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Armando Figueroa speaks with Associate Professor Martie Cook after she hosted a public workshop on TV pilot writing at Emerson Los Angeles on December 3. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Associate Professor Martie Cook says right now is a fabulous time to write a television pilot—and she would know. With more than 25 years of experience as a writer and producer of TV and film, Cook has worked for three of the four major networks as well as Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, among other major studios.

CookDuring a free public lecture sponsored by the Office of Post-Graduate and Professional Studies at Emerson College Los Angeles on December 3, Cook discussed how to plan, create, and sell a television pilot.

“Right now there’s an abundance of places to show your work,” said Cook. “People are looking desperately for new voices.”

Cook, of Visual and Media Arts, told the audience of nearly 100 people to take chances and be bold when writing a TV pilot. Other pieces of advice: pick a premise that you are passionate about, write something that is not on TV right now, read entertainment trade publications to get an idea of trends, and search the web to see if your idea has been done.

Cook also advised the audience to concentrate on fleshing out their characters, which she said is the most important part of any pilot.

“The biggest mistake I see is writers envisioning their characters singularly,” said Cook. “You have to connect the dots together.”

Among the audience members absorbing Cook’s advice was Brian Wessels ’15, who attended the lecture because he wanted to learn tips and tricks for writing TV pilots.

“I’ve had TV classes before, but never anything concerning TV pilots,” said Wessels, an aspiring writer.

Wessels says he has kicked around ideas, but has yet to put them to paper. As a student in Cook’s Comedy Writing for Television class, Wessels has had the opportunity to workshop one of his scripts.

“Martie’s critique is so insightful,” said Wessels. “You hang on her every word.”

Armando Figueroa, a writer who relocated from Oakland to Los Angeles this December, said he wanted to learn the basics of TV writing from Cook.

“I find that some of the stories I want to write are more character-oriented,” said Figueroa. “TV allows you to dig deeper into themes.”

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Associate Professor Martie Cook hosts a well attended workshop on TV pilot writing at Emerson Los Angeles on December 3. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Cook advised Figueroa and other attendees to write at least one page on each of their characters and figure out their emotional truth.

“What’s at stake for the characters in the series? What do they want?” she said.

At the end of the night, Cook played the first five minutes of TV shows such as The Comeback and Breaking Bad to show the audience how quickly a plot is set up. She told the audience to make every line in a pilot script count and offered one last piece of advice.

“You have to believe in you work,” said Cook. “It’s scary to put your work out there, but all you need is one person. One ‘yes’ can get you a deal.” 

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