The last day to submit television spec teleplays for the Disney Television Writing Fellowship Program was on July 1, 2009. For the past 3 years, I have tried to submit work, making it possible for me to work as a television writer for a period of one year, but have managed to miss the deadline - each and every time - for various reasons.
In 2007, After graduating from UCSB's Film & Media Program in 2007, I missed the Disney deadline because of financial issues. My Acura Integra was just repaired. A year before, the crankshaft and the timing belt broke. A few years before that time, the car was stolen. When the Disney deadline arrived, I was taking Summer courses to meet the graduation requirements.
I used to drive 200 miles round trip a day to college. In the Spring quarter before graduation, I needed one last course to graduate. The instructor, Dr. Wolf, knew that I needed the course and was aware of my traveling arrangements, but still elected to select other students based on favoritism. The reason I suspected this because many students approached the instructor before class had started and noted they e-mailed him about being selected for the course.
There were only 40 spots open for the course. I was not selected. The film adviser promised me a few months back that I would be selected because graduating seniors had priority over others. Now I was one course short of graduation. I tried to b pursue another course with an instructor that I disliked and that had failed many other students in her past courses. I was willing to make the sacrifice to meet the requirements for graduation. Again, I wasn't selected for the course.
I decided to take the course that I needed in the Summer quarter. Though I would be graduating in the Summer, I would have to attend class for another 6 weeks thereafter. The film course was a Alfred Hitchcock seminar, which I enjoyed. Since I attended that course, I also enrolled in an advanced scriptwriting course. Everything turned out well. I graduated on time, completed the required courses and received my degree. The Disney Fellowship had always been on my mind.
Disney is one of those companies that receives worldwide attention and respect. Any position involving Disney is a career defining opportunity. For some apparent reason, I was unable to submit a package for the program. Whenever I missed a deadline, I had to wait another year to apply for the program.
In 2007, the Disney Writing Fellowship was extended to August 1, 2008. I had plenty of time to submit work. Due to a major family emergency requiring long-terms hospital visits, postoperative care, and excessive freelance projects, I missed the Disney Fellowship again. Was I missing Disney for a particular reason?
After going through major obstacles to prepare for the Disney Writing Fellowship deadline on July 1, 2009, I discovered that things were not working out for me. In order to meet the requirement for the program, you have to submit a 30 minute or 60 minute teleplay, a 500 word biography, a PDF sample of the teleplay on CD, and a notarized application. What held me back from making the deadline?
Before I had left home to visit Northern California, I forgot to bring the items I needed to submit the work. I needed standard brass brads, which are larger brass paper fasteners, but couldn't find them anywhere. In Southern California, they are easy to find. Are standard brads a Hollywood item that can only be found in Southern California? I was starting to think that. In addition to the standard brads, I also needed 60 lb. paper to bind the teleplay together.
In Northern California, I searched several office and supply stores to locate the items that I needed. First, I visited Rite Aide. They didn't have the brass fasteners. The next stops were Wal-Mart, Target, Office Max, Longs, K-Mart, Safeway, Raley's, Staples, and Michael's. Each time, it was a recurring theme. None of the stores had the standard brads that I needed to bind the teleplay. What made matters worse, I couldn't find the 60lb. black paper for the front and back covers.
On the Internet, HBO's In Treatment teleplays weren't available for public viewing. I planned to write the spec teleplay on the show because I understood the show concept and the characters. I managed to work with what alternatives I could find.
After I improvised and was ready to piece together the package, I dropped a Coke on the ground, which shot up and sprayed on my Apple computer. I usually keep my Apple Powerbook G4 in perfect shape. You could imagine how I felt at this exact moment. Though the laptop wasn't damaged in the process, I was starting to contemplate whether there was a reason for missing the Disney Fellowship for the past three years.
The 2009 submission process was just as hard as the previous two years. Essentially, I had to buy another hole puncher, mini gold plated brass fasteners (not acceptable for industry standard requirement), and pay for a notary. Once I started writing the teleplay, I tried to close down the FireFox Explorer and it crashed the computer. Everything that I had written on In Treatment was now gone.
Whenever you do everything possible to realize your dream, everything seems to fail in the process. The signs were not pointing to my dreams and goals. If I would have made it as a Disney Fellowship winner - 8 spots available - then I would have been confined to the program without having the creative freedom to work on projects. Every writing project that I work on for the one year period belongs to Disney.
Whatever personal projects that I own or work on during the time frame are to be presented to Disney first before any other company. My student loans would be due, which the Disney pay of $50,000 for the year would be unable to cover. I wouldn't be able to work a second job or attend college. I really wanted to win a Disney writing spot. I know that I have the skills capable of making a major impact in television writing. What made me think about the obstacles was the Coke.
A few weeks back, I came up with a very creative Coke commercial that is sure to be a big hit. The standard brads made me realize that I should stop procrastinating on pursuing writing positions and opportunities. The Coke commercial and other projects that I'm holding back are keeping me from realizing my dream of being a writer. While I take on freelance work, I am prolonging the real goals that I set out to accomplish 15 years before.
Never think of recurring obstacles as bad luck. Look at them as a test to demonstrate whether you really want to accomplish your goals. I have gone through many struggles because of my Hollywood goals. No matter what, I still manage to move forward without wanting to give up. The standard brads suggested that I should be prepared the next time around to avoid possible delays.
Fixing my weaknesses and being ready for any obstacles will supply me with the essential tools necessary to compete in Hollywood. In retrospect, I wasn't ready for the Disney Writing Fellowship. When the moment is right, everything will fall into place.
You have to look at the positives behind every failure. Think of the obstacles that the main character endured in the Slumdog Millionaire film. Even though the main character experienced such major obstacles - in the end - he finally got what he really wanted - the girl. Winning the money was never his primary focus; it was an added bonus.
Go after your dreams and goals; never give up because of recurring challenges because you never know when that one opportunity will arrive, the one that helps you to realize your dreams.