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JAMES TISON - 10 Questions



10 Questions from the June 2014 TV Screenplay Winner.

WATCH Interview with the Writer
1. What is your TV SPEC SCRIPT for SOUTH PARK about?

My TV Spec is a South Park script centered around Cartman's quest to "follow his dreams." Motivated by a flamboyant career fair mascot, Cartman borrows money from Sallie Mae to attend a musical theatre academy, but soon learns that student loans come with some unexpected consequences.

2. Why does your TV SPEC fit within the context of the original show?

My favorite South Park episodes use absurd exterior characters, extended parodies, Cartman's bigotry, and the occasional campy musical number to bring fresh perspective and harsh criticism to social issues. In that sense, I think my script fits right in. Plus I used the "F" word, like, a lot.

3. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing stand up and sketch since 2007. I started venturing into TV scripts in 2012, so I'm relatively new to the game, although in many ways it feels like an extension of sketch.

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

This question makes me realize what a gay, gay man I am, because it's a toss up between "Terms of Endearment" and "Sister Act 2."

5. What artists would you love to work with?

I'd love to be in a writer's room with Mike White. He's seems like such a funny, sad, sensitive, intelligent person. The first season of Enlightened was the most refreshing portrayal of sadness and narcissism on TV in years. Likewise, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall while Mitchell Hurwitz and team were constructing the 4th season of Arrested Development.

6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?

I've written two proper TV specs (South Park and another spec comedy pilot). I have written a number of sketch and web series over the years, and have a number of articles and personal essays published from my freelance blogging work.

7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

Ideally, I'd like to be working as a television writer. The dream of dreams would be writing for and performing in a sketch show or sitcom. If that doesn't pan out then I'd like to be the Prime Minister of Canada.

8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

Typically I'll get an idea for something and then blurt out a really rough draft and try not to worry about the gaping plot holes and structural issues. Once I get the initial ideas out of my system, I'll go back and rearrange, cut, tighten, and work on structure. As I get older I try to focus on organization and plotting in advance a little more, but results have varied.

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I worked as a community organizer for three years in progressive NY state politics. It nearly stripped me of my idealism, but I still get pretty riled about class inequalities and LGBT issues.

10. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?

This is my first year actually submitting my TV scripts to competitions and fellowships, so I wasn't expecting to do particularly well. Mainly I wanted honest, constructive feedback about my formatting, story, and dialogue, which I definitely got from WildSound.

11. Any advice or tips you'd like to pass on to other writers?

I'm just starting out myself, but I have found it helpful to get input on my scripts from everyone I possibly can, even friends and loved ones who know nothing about TV writing. They're not very helpful on formatting, but sometimes just being a TV fan makes someone qualified to see what the next step of script revision needs to be.



JAMES TISON