Gatekeeper QOTD: Karen Kirkland (Nickelodeon Writing Program)

Q: You get well over a thousand submissions each year, all comedy scripts. Can you talk about the steps a script must go through for it to make it as a semifinalist?

Karen Kirkland (Executive Director, Nickelodeon Writing Program): “Our selection process is very rigorous!  There are three ‘rounds’ of reading.  During round-one, all of the scripts are read by script analysts who are experienced at doing coverage and who understand the sensibilities of this Program.   They understand precisely the qualities that I look for in a good script.  Scripts that make it through the first-round are then moved into the second-round.  The second-round scripts are read in-house by development and current series (both live action and animation).  The third-round is read by the Directors, EIC’s and VP’s within development and current series, again both live action and animation.

After the scripts have gone through the several rounds of reading, I then read the scripts that have come through the sifter.  At that point I may or may not “pass” on a few more. The writers of the remaining scripts become the semi-finalists.  Keep in mind that at this point, we still haven’t even looked at the application, the bio or the resume for the writer.  We don’t know anything about the writer other than his or her writing ability.  All semi-finalists have a phone interview with me and it’s usually during this time I’ll take a look at the bio, resume and application so I can start to get a feel for who they are, what their passions are, etc.  I’m naturally intrigued by people, so I want to find out what motivates writers and what drives them to create.  During the phone interview is when I ask for a second spec (hint, hint).   If the writer doesn’t have a second spec – they’re immediately disqualified.  It’s my belief that if you’re a writer – you’re constantly writing, and if you’re a television writer – you should have more than one television spec.  Once I read your second spec, you’re then called in for an in-person interview.  If all goes well during the in-person interview – you’re then a finalist.”

From  Interview: Karen Kirkland, Executive Director of the Nickelodeon Writing Program —  Kiyong’s Blog of Creative Pursuits

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