Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Adam Balsam

An interview with screenwriter Adam Balsam regarding the Acclaim TV Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: It’s a sitcom pilot called “Present Tense” about a struggling screenwriter who takes a job teaching English to a class of adult immigrants in Los Angeles. In a truly bizarre coincidence, I myself am a struggling screenwriter who teaches English to adult immigrants in Los Angeles. What are the odds? After years of writing sitcom specs for existing shows, I decided to try my hand at a pilot and use my own wretched life as fodder.

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: This script won Second Prize in the Page International Contest, and was a Finalist in both the Scriptapalooza and Slamdance TV contests. I entered the Acclaim TV contest because I’d heard good things about it, and it was one of the few contests that accept sitcom pilots.

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: The contest was very well run. Everything happened on time and my prizes were delivered on schedule.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you find the feedback helpful?

A: I received a nice congratulatory letter which had a few bits of feedback in it, but nothing in great depth.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: Truth be told, I don’t think a lot of Hollywood players are actively searching for undiscovered sitcom pilot scripts. On the other hand, a lot of people are interested in reading pilot specs as a writing sample, so doing well in a contest is a good way to get people to read your stuff. So far, however, I have not had a direct request to read the script as a result of this particular contest.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: I have an MFA in Film from NYU and moved to L.A. a decade ago. I studied improv comedy at the Groundlings, Second City, and Improv Olympic, wrote a lot of sitcom specs, worked as a Writers Assistant in TV, and wrote a produced episode of “Murphy Brown.” To quote our dear dear leader, George W. Bush, landing a TV staff writing job proved to be “hard work... it’s hard,” so I moved over to writing features. I’ve written about nine so far, and l have won or done well in several contests.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: I live in L.A. and just received a $70 parking ticket on Olympic today. I had until 3:00 and the ticket is marked 3:07, which sucks for me.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: I’m currently working on two features. One is a broad, Zucker Brothersesque comedy called “The Village Idiot.” It’s about a medieval village idiot named Dumkopf who yearns to move up in life and become a fool. The other is a sports comedy called “Geezerball.” It’s about a group of 40 year-old guys who had been on an undefeated basketball team back in high school. Now, one of their sons is on the same team and goes undefeated, prompting the 40 year-olds to challenge the teenagers to a game of hoops. The old guys then have to round up their old teammates, who are in various states of physical and mental disrepair. Both scripts were developed in Advanced Screenwriting Seminars at UCLA Extension, and have benefited from a lot of feedback. Care to read one?

Posted Friday, October 27, 2006