Get It On The Page with Top Script Consultants Craig Kellem and Judy Hammett

Wednesday 23 January 2019

This week at Into The Script, we are welcoming back Craig Kellem and Judy Hammett from Hollywoodscript! Celebrating the release of their book 'Get It On The Page', Craig and Judy are sharing some of their best advice and tips with us.

Craig served as a development executive at Universal Television (VP of Comedy Development) where he developed and sold the hit series “Charles in Charge” as well as many other shows such as the acclaimed series, “Domestic Life” which starred Martin Mull, (executive produced by Steve Martin). At 20th Century Fox Television Craig was Director of Development for Late Night, Syndication and Daytime, where he conceived and sold the well received “Roadshow” reality pilot for NBC. He has also served as a SNL staff member (Associate Producer and Talent Consultant).

Judy has lived and worked in various regions and capacities: In Namibia, Africa, as part of a health care program; in Lexington, Mississippi as part of a human rights organization; in Bologna, Italy, directing a language school and teaching English as a Second Language.

Her professional experience also includes research, story packaging and administrative work at Universal Studios, and providing coverage for APA (Agency for Performing Arts) as well as ghostwriting.
Craig and Judy have been at the forefront of WHAT studios are looking for, and what it takes to turn a mediocre story into a MARKETABLE concept. So, get ready to take notes and don't forget to head over to Into The Script over on Instagram for details on how to win an exclusive FREE copy of Judy and Craig's new book!

1) Between you, you have both worked with some incredible platforms; including Universal Television, 20th Century Fox Television, and SNL, as well as being featured in publications such as Now Write! Screenwriting. What first inspired you both to begin your career in this industry, and can you share with us how your first ‘break in’ the industry came to be? 

We are father and daughter, and come from a family with a lot of show biz running through it (Craig’s father was a songwriter/music publisher; his brother is a LA talent and literary agent, and his mother was a TV personality). 

So it is all we know, and we were blessed with having been provided first breaks through family connections. We were both very interested in writing (and related areas) from an early age and while Craig got a job working as an assistant (to practically everybody) on a TV series in NYC, then worked his way up the ladder of the industry, Judy worked a summer job as an undergraduate doing research and story packaging for a TV show, then went to graduate school for English/Creative Writing while doing freelance script coverage. 

Soon after Craig founded, he invited Judy to freelance for him as well while she finished graduate school. Before we knew it, almost two decades had passed, since for us both, the work we do with writers is a vocation. 

2) From your wealth of experiences in story and development, and currently as script consultants – you’re right on the pulse on what networks and studios are looking for; can you share your top tips when it comes to writing that stand out spec script? 

As mentioned, Craig’s brother is an agent and here's what he says, which sums it up well: 

"When I read a spec script, I look to be invested in the story immediately. Whether it's a comedy or a drama, the conflicts have to be interesting and grounded in believability. I also like it when the lead character delivers some wish fulfillment so you can root for them. I want scripts to have twists and turns, but not be choppy and predictable. Studios looks for star vehicles, so it must be a script that can attract a star and director to the project." 

The material must not only have a very strong story that is relatable, full of believable, ever-mounting conflict and populated with heroic characters whose dramas feel intensely human and universal, but the whole piece must lend itself to showcasing the talents of known actors and directors. 

At the end of the day, it is the currency of their interest in the project that will often move a script from page to screen. 

3) What would you consider to be the most common challenges that you see writers struggle with, and could you share your advice to overcome this? 

Although well intended, writers often have trouble realizing that they are glossing over the creation of believable characters, and finessing storylines in their scripts, as they rush to just get the thing DONE. 

Seeing a project through to a truly polished draft, regardless of how many revisions it might take, is essential. It is easy to give into the utter frustration that the script still isn’t ready for the marketplace. 

We encourage writers to slow down, walk away from their pages for a while, then circle back and take the time to refine their script before sending it out, since crossing every last “T” on all fronts really does matter, and can be the difference between an “OK” script that gets passed on, and the script that wows readers and is moved up the pipeline. 

Re marketing, it's no secret that breaking the door down to get into the industry isn’t easy. 

But that said, the reality is that the TV/film industry needs great content, and a hefty, ongoing supply of it to boot! 

Especially in our current day and age. More than ever, there is an inexhaustible demand for excellent material. 

Never underestimate the power of being armed with great content.

Just keep writing and generating material about which you are passionate. 

THINK OF YOURSELF AS A WRITER at all times, even if you struggle to believe this. No matter how much time it takes, stay focused on the fact that the industry needs solid pages, period. 

Be focused on being the artist that will provide them. Submit material whenever and wherever you can, without stopping or caving to (again) frustration. 

There are places out there that you can always penetrate. 

4) What are your 3 top tips for other filmmakers and writers when it comes to networking and building professional relationships in this industry? 

Avoid making enemies, work your ass off, be honest and genuine, and live with the comfort that this creative arena is hard for everyone – no matter where they are at on their path.

Make sure you always have another way of making a living apart from your work as an artist, so that you can just keep growing your creative career. 

Your absolute discipline, good attitude and total commitment to your craft are the most valuable tools you have. 

5) Can you discuss your incredible platform Hollywoodscript in more detail, and your roles as script consultants for any new screenwriters who may not be familiar with the term? 

We love what we do since and as said, we relate most deeply to writers and are passionate about working with material.

It's good fun and very satisfying to work with writers, supporting them in making their content “sing", helping them get their vision on the page, and then do what we can as consultants to facilitate their journey into the market place. 

We both consult on scripts for movies and on pilots and series for TV. 
We also provide Works in Progress services for writers who are at the beginning stages of their projects. 

Details regarding all this can be found at our site: 

6) You have an exciting new book ‘Get It On The Page’ just released, can you share with my readers a sneak peek of what to expect when they purchase your book? 

The back of our paperback conveys this best: “This book comes as a result of years on the frontlines, providing deep consultations to writers everywhere. All sequences are offered in a blog-like fashion, like an intimate chat, meant to make screenwriting an easier, more intuitive process. Stressing meticulous preparation, we explore the necessary prerequisites from starting a project, fully vetting your concept and beyond. The journey from inspiration to creating content, then honing, perfecting, and getting it ready for serious submission is the soul of this book.” 

7) What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for working in this industry, and would you mind sharing with us? 

If you're attracted to this type of work, take it seriously and fully engage it.

It may be unpredictable and feel something like a roller coaster ride, but that should not deter you if you genuinely love writing for screen and the like. 

Sometimes it may not seem like it, but there is a constant demand for good ideas and good writing.

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