CAAM Fellow Johanna Lee Interviews TV Exec. Stephen Tao

By Johanna Lee
2012 CAAM Fellow

CAAM Television Writer Fellow Johanna Lee interviews Mentor and Television Executive Stephen Tao the three essential questions about writing for TV today.

JL: What do you do when you hit a creative block?

ST: I try to figure out a way out of my routine. I might drive a different way to work, or do things out of order, or talk to different people. Also if something is just not happening at that moment, I don’t force it, either.

JL: What’s are common mistakes for new TV writers?

ST: They don’t watch enough TV. They don’t have a sense of structure or what makes a lasting TV show. You have to think not only about people who live in LA and NY but all the states in the middle. You have to watch TV every night of the week. You also need to read all about the business – not only in Deadline Hollywood, The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety but The Hollywood Wire Tap, etc. You have to pay attention to what the networks bought and what they didn’t buy. What they buy is telling, and people need to understand what it is that they are looking for. As the writer you need to do this research. You don’t want to come off looking like a novice, being savvy will get you further.

JL: What’s the most important way the TV business has changed in the last ten years?

ST: More people are watching TV On Demand. People watch marathons of episodes with their DVR. There are more channels now so there is more competition for attention. You have to keep an open mind to your competition. A TV writer needs to be open to writing for the internet, videogames, etc. You need to write in different ways, diversify your output.

Over the years, CAAM has supported media makers through our James T. Yee Fellowship Program and the CAAM Fellowship Program for documentary makers and narrative film professionals respectively. Starting in 2012, we are combining the two programs into one CAAM Fellowship Program to benefit the overall film and media community. The goal of our Fellowship Programs is to nurture a community of talented makers and professional mentors from within the Asian American media microcosm. We’re excited to be announcing our slate of Fellows and Mentors for 2012. Come out to SFIAAFF 30 to meet and mingle with this impressive group of Mentors and Fellows!

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