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Q&A: Matt Laughery – PAGE Awards Gold Prize Winner

November 9, 2011

Doesn't he look like a fun guy?

I care about my readers.  I really do.  Even the new ones (Hi, Javier and Shelby!).  It is this caring, combined with the fact that I’ve been doing the blog for about a year and half now, that made me realize that this blog was lacking something:  Interviews with eventual sitcom writers.  Since I obviously don’t know how to win a sitcom contest, I figured I should at least make an effort to find some folks who do.  Hell, I take it back — I don’t care about the readers.  I wanted to find out more about these award winning writers simply to satisfy my own curiosity.  Most contests give you the name of the writer and the name of the script, but I want to know more!  I want to get inside their brains.  I want to stalk them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, send a few colorful emails, dog-sit for them, clean their car, sneak into their computer and steal any good sitcom ideas, and then eventually (many years down the road) score a staff writing gig on the show that they’ll eventually create.  Don’t ruin this for me, people!

Anyway… Today’s Q&A is with Matt Laughery, 2011 International PAGE Awards Gold Prize winner in the sitcom category (with all those syllables, it has to be prestigious, right?).  I met Matt through Twitter and so can you:  @mattlaughery

***UPDATE – January 2012:  Matt is currently raising funds via IndieGOGO to self-produce his pilot.  Check out his donation page and throw a few bucks his way to help bring For Pay to life.  ***

The Writer:  Matt Laughery

Evan (ES):  Tell everyone a little bit about yourself…Who are you?

Matt (ML):  I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA… moved to Los Angeles when I was 22 and never looked back!  Sorry mom! 

ES:  What television shows are you currently watching?

ML:  The question should be “What am I NOT watching?”  I’m such a TV whore! (Can I use the word “whore” in this interview? [Yes, you can… sorry mom!]) Revenge is my #1 show right now. I haven’t been this addicted to a show since Melrose Place. The original one, not that travesty CW put out a few years ago. I’m also into 2 Broke Girls and Whitney, I’m a sucker for multi-cam sitcoms and laugh tracks. 

ES:  What specs have you written and/or what shows do you plan to spec next?

ML:  I have an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia spec titled “The Gang Gets AIDS” that I’m very proud of.  I also have a Cougar Town spec that’s solid. I’m working on a Happy Endings right now. I’ll probably do a 2 Broke Girls.

ES:  I’m a huge Always Sunny fan, so that title intrigues me…

ML:  The Sunny spec basically follows the gang after Paddy’s Pub is accused of causing an HIV outbreak in Philly. That’s all I’ll say!  It has been rather polarizing to readers, which I understand. Nothing offends me (except the Kardashians) but I know not all people feel the same way. 

ES:  “The Gang Gets Aids” would also be a great premise for a Kardashian episode…  [I want co-producing credit on that, Seacrest]

The Script:  For Pay

ES:  What’s your script about? 

ML:  A publicity-hungry young man begins recording a reality TV show about his secret life as a heterosexual that does gay porn, complicating his conservative Republican mother’s Senate run and risking his relationship with his Catholic girlfriend’s Mafioso family.

ES:  Based on the phrase “heterosexual that does gay porn,” I’m assuming this is cable show…

ML:  For Pay is definitely cable!  I mean, I could rework it for network, especially with some of the jokes network sitcoms are getting past the censors!  But my sense of humor is very cable as it is, so I’m fine with that. 

ES:  Where did the idea come from?

ML:  I actually got the idea and inspiration from an article in a magazine — I think it was Details or Esquire — about the lives of three “gay for pay” porn stars.  These were self-proclaimed “straight men” with girlfriends who just happened to make their money sleeping with other men.  Which is funny, because I’m getting people now telling me “Nobody will ever believe this!  This would never happen in real life!” and I want to say, all serious, in like a Law and Order voice, “It was ripped from the headlines!”

ES:  How long did it take to write?

ML:  The first draft was done in about two weeks, but I went through at least five passes and rewrites.

ES:  How many pilots have you written?

ML:  Two.  For Pay and one called Crumbs.  It’s my multi-cam baby.

ES:  Describe your writing process a little bit — Are you an outliner or do you simply start writing and let the story take over?

ML:  I’m a terrible outliner.  Meaning, I don’t outline like you’re supposed to. I do what I call “character outlining.”  Meaning, where the character starts at the beginning of the script and what happens to the character through each act.

ES:  I like that term “character outlining” — Is this something you discovered after you began writing, or was this a tip you picked up from someone else?

ML:  “Character Outlining” is something I totally made up!  Here’s my thing — especially with sitcoms, but I believe it works for TV drama as well:  If all of your characters resonate with the viewer, they will invest in any story you give them.  I believe it’s why Revenge is catching on; all of the characters are so delicious, whether you love or hate them.  And look at Modern Family, people LOVE the characters. I’m sure people scream “Cam! CAM!” at Eric Stonestreet where ever he goes.  It’s why people have a favorite “Friend” or “Seinfeld.” The characters.

ES:  Did you have friends or family to workshop the script with?  Are you a part of any writers groups?

ML:  I have a fantastic partner that is very honest with me about my work.  He will definitely tell me what isn’t funny and what doesn’t work. I also have two great best friends in different cities that happen to be awesome writers that offer their help.

ES:  Besides PAGE, did you enter For Pay in any other contests or festivals?

ML:  I entered StoryboardTV, which is a fantastic contest for the entry fee. It’s only $20 and it’s a supportive community of writers that can read your script and give feedback as the contest goes on. I happened to be Top 10 and got a half-hour phone call’s worth of coverage!

ES:  Looking back at the draft that won, do you still see parts that you want to rewrite, or are you completely happy with it?

ML:  Sure, I’m always thinking there are things that can be reworked.  I just touched things up on it today.

ES:  If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring writers who have never written a TV script before, what would it be?

ML:  Love your characters. Know your voice… and Please, PLEASE, for the love of God… know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”

The PAGE Awards

ES:  What was your overall impression of the contest (how it was run, the prizes, etc.)?

ML:  PAGE is run smooth as butter! I was shocked at how quick email correspondence was! And a $25,000 Grand Prize?! Who does that?!

ES:  Were there any areas that you feel need improvement?

ML:  Not at all.

ES:  Do you plan on entering again next year?

ML:  Absolutely!  Hopefully with a screenplay.

ES:  Has the contest win led to any new friendships, business contacts, doors to the industry opening, etc.?

ML:  For sure!  As of right now, nothing is solidified, so I don’t want to jinx anything by talking about it.  I will say that I know I wouldn’t have anything near the interest in me and my script if it weren’t for my PAGE win.

ES:  Advice for anyone entering next year?

ML:  Proofread until your eyes hurt. There is always need for a rewrite. Always trust your voice.

ES:  What’s next?  What are you working on?  Anything you want to pimp or sell to us?

ML:  Hopefully I’ll be repped in time for pitch season!  I have a great pilot/show idea that I’m dying to get out there.  I’m also working on a horror screenplay.  Horror films are another one of my obsessions.

A HUGE thanks goes out to Matt for taking the time to answer a few questions.  It was fun and insightful; his tips on characters were great!   If you have any other questions for Matt, feel free to drop them in the comments section or contact him directly:

Twitter:   @mattlaughery



3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2011 11:43 pm

    This was awesome! Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness and generosity to interview Matt. It is very inspiring to read about the winners. I totally agree about making the investment to authenticate the characters.

    • November 10, 2011 10:04 am

      @BJ – Glad you enjoyed it — it was a lot of fun! Hopefully, Matt will come back next year and update us on his fame and fortune…

  2. November 10, 2011 6:52 pm

    Thanks again, Evan! This was a blast! Hopefully we’ll both be running our own shows in the near future! I love exclamation points!!!

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