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Comic Con 2018: A Guide for Aspiring TV Writers

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It is that time of year again! If you are involved in the entertainment industry in any capacity, chances are that there are folks in your circle who are excitedly gearing up to attend San Diego Comic Con later this month. If you’re an aspiring TV writer looking to make the most of this year’s SDCC experience, look no further. I’ve got your back.

For those who aren’t familiar with this yearly phenomenon, the San Diego Comic Con is the largest comic book and entertainment industry convention in the United States bringing in well over 150,000 attendees. It consists of four full days stuffed with programming, tons of official and unofficial off-site parties and events, and some world-class people watching. For more info for beginners, here is an article I wrote after my very first SDCC.

Comic Con can be very overwhelming if you’re new to the scene. Between the hundreds of panels, screenings, and booths, there is simply no way you will see and do everything you’re interested in. And that’s okay!  Here is my recommendation: Take a look at the schedule and mark down not-to-be-missed panels followed by secondary panels you’d like to hit if you’re feeling up for it in the moment (back to back panels can result in brain overload), take a brief glance at the showroom floor map and take note of any artists or geek gear booths you want to be sure to hit, and then let yourself enjoy the ride. Give yourself some flexibility – you never know whom you might meet and have a great conversation with, and you don’t want to cut off every human interaction because you’re frantically running between panels. Or maybe you do – no judgment.

I’ve taken the liberty of reading through the entire SDCC panel schedule for you, dear aspiring TV writer – you’re welcome – and here is my breakdown for panels that are most useful to us.

*Note: I am NOT including panels that take place in Hall H. Hall H is about as easy to get into as Fort Knox – yes, it is essentially where the “headliner” panels perform, but you almost certainly have to waste an entire day of the convention in line in order to get into Hall H THE FOLLOWING day. I have attended a ton of panels in the second largest hall (Ballroom 20) and other larger rooms and have never had a problem getting in. Absolutely focus on Hall H if you’d like to, but in my opinion, the TV writer magic happens elsewhere.

[2017 SDCC INTRO TO TV WRITING PANEL] An exceptional panel from 2017, the Intro to TV Writing panel, featuring Terry Matalas, Ryan Condal, Sera Gamble, Karen Horne, Spiro Skentzos, and Keto Shimizu.

TV SHOW PANELS

There are a gazillion panels for individual shows – both live-action and animated, on everything from YouTube to cable to major networks – that usually consist of screening clips of past or upcoming seasons and great panels with the cast and executive producers. HINT: Executive producers are usually head writers and/or creators of the show! These panels are chalk full of fantastic insights about the inception of the show, how different characters have developed, how they structure their story arcs, and teases about what is next for the series. Sometimes there is even a panel made up entirely of writers from one particular show, like this Inside the Big Bang Theory Writers’ Room panel (I attended this panel the last time they had it in 2016 and it was fantastic!)

Take a look at the schedule to see if a show you love (or even an upcoming show you’re looking forward to!) has a panel of their own. Here are a few, just to get a taste of the variety that is out there: Charmed (yes, the new one!), Origin, George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Castle Rock, Robot Chicken, Duck Tales, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Stan Against Evil, Supergirl, Arrow, Man in the High Castle, and The Flash. This is only a small sample of the individual shows that have an entire panel dedicated to them, so be sure to take a look at the schedule to find some of your favorites.

CRAFT/BUSINESS OF WRITING PANELS

While there are a lot of panels that focus on breaking into writing for comics, graphic novels, and other kinds of writing, there are also some fantastic panels for TV writers and ones that relate to anyone looking to break into a creative field. Here are some highlights:

Fictional Languages in Comics, TV, and Film

Psychology of a Cult TV Show: Episode 5 – I have attended previous iterations of this panel in the past and have really enjoyed it!

Intro to TV Writing – I have attended this panel as well, and it is always a hit. BONUS: Karen Horne, who runs the NBC Writers on the Verge program, often gives fantastic advice about applying to the network writing programs! BUMMER: It conflicts with the Big Bang Theory Writer’s Room panel. Decisions, decisions!

Masters of the Web: Launch and Grow your YouTube and Podcast Channels

Forge Creativity with Time Management Skills

The Writer’s Journey: Maximizing Your Potential in the New Marketplace

Traditional Narrative and Digital Storytelling

Take a brief look at the ones that seem interesting/relevant to you!

[2017 SDCC SPARK YOUR CREATIVITY PANEL] Last year I had the great pleasure of being a panelist on the SPARK Your Creativity Panel, which was a blast! Featuring content creators Jenny Lorenzo, Camille Falciola, America Young, Etta Devine, myself, Heidi Cox, and Stephanie Pressman.

NOT TO BE MISSED TV WRITING PANELS

Here are a few of the panels that I will absolutely be making time for:

The Pitching Hour – creatives from some of today’s top shows discuss taking an idea “from conception through production.” A lot of great topics are covered, and even though I’ve attended this panel previously, a new mix of writers means new insights!

Inside the Writers Room: From Script to Screen, the Break-Down – this panel is always a riot and is packed with fantastic TV writers!

Women Rocking Hollywood 2018: Female Filmmakers, Pilots, Projects, and Paving the Way to Parity – This was easily my FAVORITE panel from SDCC 2017.  Although we are in a very different place in the entertainment industry today, last year’s conversation was so inspiring it had me in tears.

And of course, a sprinkling of panels from my favorite shows! For me, I will definitely be attending The Magicians panel – I love me some sassy magical women smashing the patriarchy. #LongLiveKingMargo

[2017 SDCC THE MAGICIANS PANEL] A shot of actors Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve, who play Quentin and Julia, on The Magicians panel last year. It was barrel of laughs!

Y’all – we’ve established that I’m a nerd, right? I am not kidding even a little bit when I say that I take notes at the writing panels I attend. If it is a show I am familiar with (which makes it SUPER fun), I take notes about how they develop their characters and story, how seasons have unfolded unexpectedly, and little details that writers share about their likes/dislikes in the writer’s room. At the craft and business of writing panels, the focus is usually on giving advice to writers who are trying to break in – take advantage of that! Keep those notes, because one day soon you may be submitting scripts to or interviewing with some of these people, and won’t it be wonderful to know if they prefer to read specs of already existing shows or an original pilot? Knowledge is power, my friend.

There is so much more I can say about Comic Con, so if you’d like to continue the conversation feel free to tweet at me!  Will you be attending #SDCC20218? What panel are you most looking forward to?

Not attending Comic Con this year? Did you know that SDCC offers FREE badges to professionals in the comics and entertainment industries? Their applications just opened for 2019: check it out here to be part of the fun next year. Due August 16th!

Geek on, y’all.

Sarah Eagen

About Sarah Eagen

Sarah is a Writer, Actor, and Choreographer who believes in the power of positivity. After earning degrees in Theatre and Neuroscience and studying at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Ireland, she was in the midst of earning her Ph.D. in Genetics when she decided to follow her passion of working in the entertainment industry. Sarah wrote, produced, and starred in the webseries "Magic for Muggles" based on Harry Potter. She was a finalist for the Women in Film/Blacklist Episodic lab in the fall of 2017 and is working towards writing for TV full-time. One of her scripts was performed live by the Parsec award-nominated podcast Once Upon a Wine and another will be featured in the 2018 Fun Size Horror anthology. Sarah played helpful paralegal Carol in CBS's action comedy Rush Hour, based on the films. She also Guest Starred on Lifetime's scripted series "My Crazy Ex".