“Roswell, NM” – TV Writing Q&A

“The #RoswellNM writers’ room starts tomorrow, as do lots of other rooms around town. I’m stoked… and bored. Anybody got any TV writing questions for me?”, asked Carina Adly MacKenzie last night. The writer of The CW’s re-imagining got entertained by many interesting questions and she gave some insights into how the first day in the writers room for the sci-fi show will look like.

The first day includes ”A lot of get-to-know-you stuff, and a lot of what we call “blue sky” — crazy pitches that can come from anywhere, without much direction or structure.”, the writer revealed.

So, how does the new team start working?

They will arc out the full first season first. Carina Adly MacKenzie explains, that they will break it into ”chapters” and the next step is: ”[…] episode by episode. Always circling back to character and emotion.” When the pre-work is done and the episodes will be written, she follows this simple rule: “I start by asking “what do I know, what do I owe, what do I want.” Then break it down by character, A B and C story, then weave those stories together & make sure act-outs and climactic moments fall in the right places. Then outline.”

But one of the first things the new writing staff will discuss is where the journey of the characters will end some day. Crashdown’s Roswell Rewind team refered to “Gilmore Girls” showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino, who knew the last words of the series right from the beginning. MacKenzie quickly replied and revealed: “It’s one of the first things we’ll discuss tomorrow.”

Check out the embedded tweet below and browse through the questions. “Roswell, New Mexico” with Jeanine Mason and Nathan Parsons in the lead roles is expected to first air in late April next year.

Q&A – June 3rd, 2018

carlyn: What’s the room like on the first day?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: A lot of get-to-know-you stuff, and a lot of what we call “blue sky” — crazy pitches that can come from anywhere, without much direction or structure.

Gooblythe: Do you guys white board a lot in there?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Yeah. Though after the events of the last year I’m strongly considering writing in invisible ink.
Gooblythe: What happened last year? Storylines got out? Sorry, I missed this…
Sarah: The show runner on TO snapped a pic in the writers room and posted on Twitter without realizing the breakdown of a pivotal plot point/episode was shown and spoiled. Picture was everywhere. 😕

Shadia: Have you ever had a moment when you’ve doubted your writing? If so, how have you overcome it?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Every day. I reach out to mentors for notes — but mostly, I take a break, get some air, listen to some music, and then come back and revise it until I’m happy.

Yes, any advice for a 21 year old going trying to figure out what to major in I’m going back to school, and I would love to be a show runner one day❤ Thank you❤
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Your major doesn’t matter. Major in what you love to learn about, not what you want to do for a living. It’ll enrich your brain and train you to love learning and consuming information.

JESI: Is it too late for someone who is almost 30 with a master’s degree in early childhood education to get into tv writing because tbh I’m still kind of bummed I didn’t get to chase the dream when I was in school…maybe PBS kids would hire me? 😂
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Not too late. There’s a writer I hired who is doing his first primetime show — and he’s already lived a million lives. He had a whole career as an NYPD cop, among other things.

Britney: If someone wanted to start getting into the tv writing business. What would you recommed I start doing?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Get to LA. Write all the time. Read scripts. Take any job that gets you closer to a writer’s room.

Liv: Do you arc out a whole season or more and then work down ep by ep, the other way around, or what combination of the two?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Yes, full season first, then break it into “chapters,” then episode by episode. Always circling back to character and emotion.

Sophie: Do you have like a process you follow when you write an episode??
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Yep. I start by asking “what do I know, what do I owe, what do I want.” Then break it down by character, A B and C story, then weave those stories together & make sure act-outs and climactic moments fall in the right places. Then outline.

Megan: What were you looking for in potential writers when you were creating the room & your team in general?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Diversity. I needed people who could speak to the latinx experience, the black experience, the “passing” experience, the gay experience, the conservative experience, the Muslim experience, the undocumented experience. Who had police & military experience. AND ALL GREAT WRITERS.

Dani: More so a character development question… when creating your characters do you automatically build the background for him|her to decide that’s what made them who they are upon their introduction? Sorry if I’m confusing you.
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Nope. I learned from Aaron Sorkin to build backstory as it becomes relevant to the present, not lock it down early.

lyn: how much inspiration are u taking from the books and original series??
Carina Adly MacKenzie: None from the original series, except for some homages. We took basic archetypes and settings from the book, but we didn’t ask the writers to watch the series or read the books. We’re going kinda rogue.

planet of the aliens: What has been the worst and best day in a writer’s room ever?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Best day was the day I got my first episode. Worst day was something I’m not gonna talk about publicly. It was a learning experience.

china: How do writing rooms work exactly? Do you plan out a full season and then work on each episode with the end goal in mind or do you go episode by episode connecting stuff together that results in a end goal? Or both?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: I prefer the first way. Other rooms do it differently.

Kehau Lyons: how do you know when writing is good? or bad? is it like, ugh so corny, no one would ever say that? and the goal is to make it sound as authentic as possible for the character/situation/context?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: I think you just feel it.

lyn: what was your aha moment when you realized that tv writing was what your wanted to do/something that you’re good at???
Carina Adly MacKenzie: I didn’t really have one. It’s been a long road. I have always loved to write and felt confidence in myself in that arena.

MiaS: When are you planning to deliver the first script? Any fear for this aventure beginning tomorrow?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Sure, lots of fear. But I have an amazing team.

Spherical Time: Can you submit on spec for show you want to write for? Er, or can anyone?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: A lot of writers won’t read a spec for their own show for legal reasons. I won’t.

cande: not a TV writing question but any good reads lately? I’ve been re reading Murakami
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Just read Sam Lansky’s “The Gilded Razor” and love it. And I read @oliviagatwood poetry every day. When I travel & forget my Olivia Gatwood book, I go to Barnes & Noble and get a new one.

AspireAuthor: Have you heard of #TheArtistWay I’m currently working through it! It’s very helpful!
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Yeah @real_kaylaewell recommended it to me! When I have a little time on my hands after we wrap the season I’m going to start it.

Shadia: Were you able to hire on TV writers who are Muslim for #RoswellNM?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Yes. Three Muslims in our writers’ room — two practicing, one non-practicing.

J M: Is it harder or easier to write a world when there is a sourcebook (eg novels, movies, previous shows?)
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Both. There’s a framework that already exists, but there’s a lot of pressure.

Emma Wilson: I’m about to go into a writers room for the first series I’ve created. Any advice?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: ME TOO DUDE. First, congratulations! My advice is to figure out what everyone is good at — everyone has a “room superpower” — and then let them do it without too much micromanaging. They’ll feel like they have some investment & ownership over the final product.
Emma Wilson: Thank you. And congratulations to you too! I hope your show makes it to Australia so I can see it 😀

Genny: Will we see any witches meet aliens?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: God I hope not

Collin Lieberg: Can you/me/we find mentors via social media before moving out to LA or do we have to be there first?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: I was here in LA first, but still found mentors via social media. I think it’s possible to connect from a distance. But I always recommend people get to LA as soon as possible.

Jordan: If you live in a different state and you’re trying to make that jump to LA to get into tv what advice do you have as far as applying for jobs goes? How do you get your foot in the door?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: I literally found my first job on craigslist.

Davina: That’s exciting! What was the first moment when you realised this was the right direction for you and you where living you’re dream job?😃
Carina Adly MacKenzie: It’s hard to say. It’s always harder than it looks from the outside. Doesn’t feel quite like a dream yet, hah.

Roswell Rewind: Is social media a problem for the writers room, when you hear what fans want for the characters all the time? How do you deal with that?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Not a problem for me. We’re already so far ahead of what fans are watching, and the fans always want different things.

Roswell Rewind: The Gilmore Girls showrunner knew the last words of the series from the beginning. Is this a topic in the writers room as well? To plan where this journey for the characters will end some day? (hopefully in the far far away future) Or did you knew it while writing the pilot?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: It’s one of the first things we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Justin: I’m from Georgia and thinking about moving up to Atlanta to possibly get into the writing side of television/drama shows. What suggestions do you have since you’ve been up there? Thanks!
Carina Adly MacKenzie: It’s hard to get into writing in Atlanta. MOST writing happens in LA. Atlanta is great for production, though.

Allison: What’s your advice for someone trying to break in once they’re in LA?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Be bold. Talk to everyone you can. Try to build connection on social media. START A BLOG.

T Thomas: Any favorite older shows that inspired you or you wish you could time travel to write on?
Carina Adly MacKenzie: Veronica Marsssss