By Kelly Smith and Theresa Miller
Gloria Calderón Kellett knows how to write a good pilot. She is currently a writer on the CW series “iZombie” and before that, she was a writer and producer on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement”, “Devious Maids,” and “Mixology”. She has sold four pilots to major networks (Fox, ABC, CBS & TV Land) and has written award winning plays. She is a founding member of the sketch comedy group And Donkey Makes Five, and has written and performed stand-up comedy at The Improv and The Comedy Store.
We are so excited that Gloria is going to teach a live online class for Writing Pad. During this 7 week Writing A Pilot That Can Fly Class, Gloria will teach you about the mechanics of pilots and how to navigate the complexities of the business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a solid outline, have written at least one scene from your pilot, and be well on your way to an executive producer credit on the next hit series! Snag your spot before they’re all taken!
In the meantime, Gloria was generous enough to share her insights on writing in Hollywood.
1. You were a writer and co-producer on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” What is it that you loved about writing the show?
I loved, in particular, how personal those stories were to the writers in the room. So much of that stuff happened to us and because we were the same age as the characters, we were able to dramatize it for the screen. Fun stuff.
2. You also were a writer and supervising producer on ABC’s “Mixology”. What was the process of generating scripts for that show and how was it different than writing on “How I Met Your Mother”?
It was a single camera show as apposed to a hybrid multi-camera. Both shows implemented the use of flashbacks, but “Mixology” has the added challenge of taking place in one evening so we had to come up with stories that were both satisfying in a twenty minute chunk and would also progress throughout the series arc. The themes of love, romance and sex were the same with both so because I like to write relationships, that was particularly fun for me.
3. A lot of comedy writers were either in sketch comedy groups, did standup, or both. In what ways did these things help you in comedy writing?
Both sketch comedy and stand-up were tremendously helpful to me. Mainly, it teaches you to be collaborative because a writers’ room is nothing if not collaborative. Joke writing is a skill one can always improve upon, so if you force yourself to write jokes daily, you’ll get better at it.
4. Is it easier or more difficult for women to break into TV writing, in your opinion?
I think more opportunities open up every day for women. It is hard for everyone out there. The only thing you can do is work really hard to be really specific in your voice and keep writing. The cream rises to the top whether you’re male or female.
5. Congratulations on becoming a new mother! How do you balance the demands of motherhood with writing?
My job is all about jokes, but being a working mom is no joke. We need to have a support system in place as it truly does take a village, but it is extremely challenging. I have two children and I just try to be present when I’m with them.
6. How important is networking vs. sending out pilots when trying to find work?
Networking is very important. But more than that, it’s knowing how to network. Nothing is more annoying than people who don’t know me and have never worked with me and ask me to get them a job on a show I just got hired on. It’s just not the way to do things. However, if you were a PA that worked really hard and moved up to Writer’s Assistant and worked really hard and after working together for years asked me to read your spec, would I read it? Yes. Often times I think newbies want favors without first making themselves helpful and invaluable. This is a town of scratching one another’s back. Don’t ask me to scratch your back if I’ve never met you.
7. You’ve sold several pilots. Have you ever had to change a pilot drastically to fit what the network wanted? How did you manage that?
In one experience I have had, the pilot that I sold ended up not being the pilot they wanted and, halfway through the process, I realized that it had completely morphed into a different show. In some ways I was trying to take every note to accommodate what I thought they wanted, but in the end, I lost my voice in the process and wished I would’ve stuck to my guns a little more. Every time you do a show or pilot, it’s another opportunity to learn. I’m still learning so much!
8. What invaluable lessons are you going to be teaching in your pilot class?
All I can share is my point of view, the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned and the strategies I’ve developed along the way. While those are specific to me and my experience, I definitely think that there is a lot there that can be helpful to others when writing a pilot, pitching pilots, and going out for staffing season. For more specifics, you’re just going to have to take my class.
Thanks for chatting with us, Gloria! It was extremely helpful. Don’t forget to sign up for Gloria Calderón Kellett’s Live Online Pilot Class!