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<editorsnote> Hi, I'm Jen Friel, and we here at TNTML examine the lives of nerds outside of the basements and into the social media, and dating world.  We have over 75 peeps that write about their life in real time. (Real nerds, real time, real deal.) Sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the stories!! </editorsnote>

 

 

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Sunday
Dec242017

#RealDeal: Here's what it's like to have your life turned into a TV show (& then to have it actually sell) PT 3 

I feel like the title says it best, but here's how Jerry Bruckheimer bought my life rights, and how my life was turned into a put pilot for CBS. This is part 3, here is part 1 and part 2. I've also purposefully added canned tracks instead of the traditional gifs. You'll see why in a moment ... 

Quick ketchup, in February 2016, I found out that CBS had passed on picking up Talk Nerdy for the 2016 fall season. Even WITH the Bruckheimer name, and a financial commitment (Talk Nerdy was a put pilot), it still wound up in limbo. To further the blow, in June of 2016 Bruckheimer and Warner Brothers terminated their 15 year relationship ... 

They just weren't that into each other.

For the project (in its current state) to still be considered alive, Bruckheimer and WB would have to renew their option. The sudden split meant that wasn't about to happen. I had taken an idea, walked away from it, got an offer to purchase FROM A SUPER FAMOUS PRODUCER, then ACTUALLY HAD IT PURCHASED IN A FOUR WAY BIDDING WAR WITH ALL OF THE MAJOR BROADCAST NETWORKS, and I still didn't have a pilot ordered to production. 

How is this possible?? Friends that are "in the business" said I had a holy grail of situations.

I heard over and over ...

"This doesn't happen, Jen. You have no idea how lucky you are." 

LUCK? I thought. I was ready to walk away!!! I thought I had!!! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE HAVING A CHILD GO TO COLLEGE!!! I wanted it to make good decisions but THEY WERE NO LONGER MY DECISIONS!! WHY DO I HAVE TO BE THE ONE DECIDING ALL THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME!!

Adulting is hard. 

10 seconds after Kerrigan-ing myself, I decided to flip my perspective. If I wanted the project to continue, I was going to have to be the one to administer the CPR and pump this baby full of new life. Instead of being "mad" at how things played out and victimize myself, why not use everything that happened to my advantage? I got a lot of publicity in a very short period of time. If I truly want to call myself a producer, now was the perfect time to see if I could actually produce.

Here's step by step on how I did it. 

Maestro ... 

Step 1) Ask people who know what they are doing a lot of questions. 

One of the biggest take aways that I have with the "Talk Nerdy" experience as a whole, is that if you are honest and ask for help, people will give it to you. I'll always keep my side of the street clean, and offer to help them in any way - but bottom line is that both sides have to be a balance of give and take. 

Using dating apps alone, I had reached not only the man who wrote my life rights agreement, but also the gentleman who had to make the decision to pass on the bid from one of the other major networks (as Talk Nerdy had gotten too expensive). I asked both of them a lot of questions, but also brought to the table what I would do differently. 

<tangent> Funny story, btw ... While having dinner with, let's call him "Life Rights," I happened to spot Terrell Owens (literally in front of my face, two tables away but straight at 12 o'clock)

Terrell is a big time player on dating apps (I've matched with him on all but Hinge), and for months he would randomly text (sometimes even as a booty call). I would have agreed to a date if he properly followed through, but booty call? Oh hell to the no. 

I excused myself for a moment from Life Rights as I took out my phone and began texting.

"This is going to sound strange, I said, but I have to text Terrell that I'm here."

He turned around, and had already noticed Terrell when he walked in.

"Wait, you're friends with Terrell Owens?"

"No, I said, dating app thing. We've been texting but had never met IRL."

We wound up texting back and forth for a minute or two, and I pretty quickly realized I had dodged a bullet. After giving VERY specific directions on the fact that I was RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIS FACE (I sent him a photo that was also taken the night before with the caption I LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THIS), he still couldn't figure out where I was. I did take sick and hilarious pleasure in watching him try to figure it out though. </tangent> 

Anywho, I took a nugget of information from each meeting, but what struck me was how little these executives knew of the "actual" story. The title and the 103 dates in 9 months were what sold Bruckheimer and Warner Brothers into wanting to develop it, but that was just one out of the over 7500 posts. I knew I had to come up with a way to package the story in as clear of a manner as possible; while I can universally sell ice to an Eskimo, I was too emotionally invested in this story to be logical enough to know how to pitch it. 

I then created a sizzle telling the Talk Nerdy story in under 3 minutes. 

See here ... 

Talk Nerdy To Me Lover Pitch from jen friel on Vimeo.

I showed it to producers, executives, and even VCs that I knew asking if they could connect me to someone who could help (a production company, producer, I was even sent to a studio directly)

Despite my best effort, unfortunately I still had no bites. 

Step 2) Reach out to the person who sold it the first time and see if I can directly make a deal Monty Hall style. 

In December of 2015, I had reached out on Twitter to Morgan Murphy (Talk Nerdy's writer and EP) asking if we could hang out and shoot the shit. I (still to this day) haven't ever met my agents at CAA and the last thing that I wanted was an email intro from my people to her people. I'm my own people, I don't need people to make myself feel important. Writer to writer I respected her work, and much like everything else to this story, wanted to take a non-traditional approach.

We then started DMing, and because we're both writers, the messages were as intermittent as our contact with the outside world. Knowing that she is openly 4/20 friendly, that July I invited her to the Marijuana Don's 4th of July fiesta. To my surprise, she couldn't make it because was having her own, and invited me to that ... 

Read more about this adventure here, and we were even published in the San Francisco Examiner courtesy of my wonderful partner in crime Brokeass Stuart. 

While we didn't have much time to chat at the first party, she had also later in the year invited me to her birthday party (scheduled around Halloween). I'm going to talk to Morgan, I said to myself and I'm going to use the fact that this is Halloween to my advantage (as costumes are my thing). Nothing like showing up with a lampshade on your head to get the attention you want. 

That's not a euphemism btw, I really did show up with a lampshade on my head. 

Anywho, the attention part worked because I was only one of about 10 people that chose to dress up, but unfortunately because Ms. Morgan was the lady of the hour, she was kept quite busy. 

<tangent> Speaking of busy, I also got to FAN GIRL THE FUCK OUT in front of Busy Phillips (who happened to be in attendance). Such a nice human being, and so down to earth. </tangent> 

I then slid back into her DMs explaining that the Talk Nerdy story wasn't really told. Don't get me wrong, I think she did a great job on the pilot, but I think if we focused more on the actual story and created a "ripped from the headlines" delivery style, we could truly have an interactive experience for viewers. We could "post from the archives" at the same time as the show aired, letting new fans in on the story while allowing old fans to remember (and even see their screenshots live)

Unfortunately, Morgan couldn't accept as she was very busy with a little reboot of a show that was kinda popular in the 90s ... 

Here I go again, I thought, back to the drawing board. 

Step 3) Get a manager who can act like "the adult" in the room. 

In January of 2017, I started dating a TV producer. Not only is he genuinely a great human being, but I got to pick his brain on what to do next. 

"I have this show, I said, IT MADE IT SO FAR WITH ALL OF THE MAJOR NETWORKS BIDDING ON IT!!! Yet, it's dead in the water if I don't bring in a new production team." 

He then suggested getting a manager and the following week he began making introductions. 

I took meeting after meeting, and everyone said the same thing, "why don't you write the Talk Nerdy script? You lived it." 

"Yes, I would say, but it's because I lived it that I can't write it. One, I'm too close to it to be objective, and two, I've never written a TV show before. I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I'm doing." 

I was then sent over samples of TV pitches, as I sat down attempting to go to town. 

Still confused, I pulled up a google search and typed, "how to write a tv pilot." 

Weeks later, I had a "cold open" (that was based on an actual experience I had had the week prior) ... 

 

I sent it to one of the managers and explained that I wanted to keep writing out a series of stories and introduce myself to the characters as I go. 

"That's not how you do it," said the manager. 

"That's not surprising, I said since I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what I'm doing.

The encouragement kept pushing from all sides for me to be the writer for the show, but again, I can only wrap my brain around something if I've experienced it. Until I'm part of the process in developing the pilot out (which didn't happen the first go round), I'm never going to be able to produce a product worthy of being pitched. 

(As a writer, I tremendously respect Morgan's work. I couldn't put my name on something that once had her name and not have it be at a certain "level." I've waited years for this moment, and I wasn't about to shoot my own self in the foot.) 

I could tell the one manager I was interested in working with was getting frustrated with my approach, so as quickly as things had begun, they also ended. 

Step 4) Stop trying all together 

My friends at the time would sometimes chime in asking how the show was going, but considering my reaction was typically in the key of "uggghhh," they knew not to ask too often. 

While en route to an event earlier this year, my dear friend Heather asked just such a question, and despite my extreme frustration, I was able to also be honest. 

"I have no idea what I'm doing, and these execs want me to be the one to write the new script, but I know it's not the right thing to do." 

"What was the first one about?" she asked. 

I then told her the logline about the four nerdy girls living and supporting each other both personally and professionally, and she stopped me. 

"No, but what does that actually mean? What did they base your character on?" 

"She's like Charlie Sheen in 2.5 men, but a nerd." 

"What!" she said closing her lip gloss providing undivided attention. 

"She writes these jingles for commercials. I do like though that they mentioned Patrick Swayze, and spinning. Other than that, she's a stoner that doesn't seem to know what she's doing and or doesn't have a lot of ambition." 

"That's NOT AT ALL YOU," she said, "and you're going to alienate the audience that DOES know you." 

I admitted that I had never thought about that. 

She continued, "the thing that I love about you so much is that you just handle yourself. You're quiet and the most unassuming person in the room, yet also so beautiful and ambitious. You have proven that anything you set your mind to you can actually accomplish, do you know how RARE that is?" 

I thanked her for the kind words, and for the first time let it sink in what she said. If I really can pull this off, the Bruckheimer show not selling truly was a blessing. Had it gone to pilot in its current form, I'm not sure how long the show would have lasted meaning that Bruckheimer (based upon the deal I signed) would now own this website, all of the stories, and I couldn't write anything related to it outside of a 7,000 word graphic novel. 

I had a shit deal. I knew I had a shit deal, but from my perspective I got the credit "based on the blog" and I got not one but two checks (for the option). Not bad for a website I had previously walked away from. 

A few weeks later, while focusing my attention on my startup, I hopped on LinkedIn do to some "data collection" for lead gen. ::cough cough:: I clicked on our company profile and to my surprise, I was not the most viewed page in our company. 

<tangent> I've only been on LinkedIn for two years. Much like with Talk Nerdy's launch, I had ZERO desire to get a job via a place where "everyone else was looking for a job." If I was as good as I said I was with social media, I wouldn't ever need to look for a job, so up until I started working for the startup, I never used or had a filled out profile. </tangent> 

Pissed off at not being number one, I then spent (legitmiately) all weekend adding anyone LinkedIn suggested to add. 

Second place is the first loser, I said clicking CONNECT over and over and over, and I have never been a loser. 

Proving a point no one with a sane mind would pretend to care about, I quickly did end up being number one, and with it came the unintentional adding of an attorney I had met while couch surfing. I always liked the guy, but I had no need to continue working with him once the Talk Nerdy show with Mary Parent wound up not getting picked up. 

<tangent> I was also Mary Parent's first TV pitch. Crazy smart woman, fierce respect for her, but the development was all done too early. (Click the above link to see some of the posts. This was where I wanted to document as much of the process as "in real time as possible." Ha. Ha. Ha. I learned my lesson this time around.) I was still literally couch surfing and had only recently gone out on the 103 dates in 9 months. Lindsay Rosin wrote the treatment. She's now doing super well for herself with the Cruel Intentions pilot, and more. (A network has to breathe life into that show. Way too much buzz in social for it not to continue.) I still remember having her shadow the adventures one day, and I took her on the city bus; it was a place most Los Angelinos had never seen before, and I like making fancy people feel uncomfortable. </tangent> 

I then met the attorney at his office a few weeks later, and told not only the story you all just read, but very passionately sold my vision for the project.

"There are so many ways we can turn this into a truly interactive experience for the viewers. All media platforms are merging and this is the perfect project to test some new ideas that I have." 

With eyes lit up like a Christmas tree (er, Hannukah bush in his case), he had a new client and I finally had help. 

"I have someone for you to meet. She's a writer, and we've been friends for over 20 years. She had a successful show based on her book and blog. She's basically you in 10 years." 

I'd love to meet her, I said. 

Upon receiving her full name, I then speed read her book, and watched as many episodes of her show as I could find. This is it, I kept thinking. It's her - I've never read someone's writing that is this honest. The sexual element is just a relatable part of life. There's a fine line with how you can write about it without it seeming overly gratuitious, and she not only danced that line, she triple axled and finished with a curtsey. 

On our first meeting, I told her about my deal with Bruckheimer, and asked her opinion of our mutual attorney. 

"The only time I didn't listen to him, I learned to regret it." 

She also didn't have a great deal with her first time at the rodeo, and I immediately knew that would work in my favor. We're both going to learn from each other. She's the "mama hen" so to speak that I can learn from on how to actually write for television, and I can show her new ways to present a pitch (from both a literal perspective and in terms of distribution)

We then signed a (finally good) deal combining forces (remember, I got my life rights, trademarks, and intellectual property all back from Bruckheimer) and have spent the last nine months working on the pilot and series. My job was to tell her everything and anything, and her job was to pick the strongest elements to base the story on. 

From day one with this, I was super conscious about not just telling "the good parts." I shared with her things I hadn't yet published in the blog, the fact that I'm not "technically" considered "on the spectrum" but I'm pretty close (causing difficulty with people misunderstanding what I mean when I say something). I have a big heart, but I'm blunt to the point where I am either missing a chip or have an extra chip ... TBD. Either way, I wanted it all to be honest. 

By the end of November, after hundreds of emails, texts, and late night confessions - the pilot script was completed (done on spec), and I even made a deck (I learned design working for the startup) to appropriately represent the narrative. 

So, what's the pilot about?? 

The most popular series of posts I have ever written. 

In short, it's a story about ... 

that discovers her ... 

through owning a ... 

I actually fistpumped in my office when the final package was sent off. I might not have known how to write the script myself, but at the end of the day I didn't have to. I couldn't have done this without such an INCREDIBLE partner in crime, and whether or not it sells is out of my control. It's original, edgy, brutally honest, and perfectly timed with the "female awakening" for lack of a better way to say it. This isn't just my story, it's every nerd's journey of finding their voice and learning to be comfortable in their own skin.

In my case, however, I wore latex ... 

These stories would make Bruckheimer blush. 

Oh, and sorry to disappoint, but there's no canned laughter. The fact that this even exists in shows still blows my mind. 

Next up, during the pilot process I accepted a FinDom slave. That was a new life experience and in the process I discovered I enjoy being a domme more now SO MUCH MORE than I ever did before. 

#nerdsunite 

 


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Reader Comments (1)

You aren’t a female boss! Your a boss


Aaron

December 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSparklePigeon

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