Ryan Mickels is an executive for Universal Cable, producers of MR. ROBOT, COLONY, and SUITS. He is generously serving on the jury of WeScreenplay’s 2017 Television Contest where he will be reading a variety of scripts from among the finalists.
What is it that grabs your attention when reading a TV pilot? What’s that special something that makes you want to see this script make it to the screen?
When I am staffing for one of our TV shows, I look for specific attributes/talents that my show needs. Like drafting a football team. I am a sucker for a strong voice with a story/emotion that sticks with me for days after reading.
How’d you get into television?
I started in film but fell in love with TV pretty early on. I loved that TV was led by the writer and allowed this creator of worlds to continue a character’s journey through an emotional landscape for tens to hundreds of hours. TV allows the audience to grow, learn and emote alongside the characters on the show.
In TV, do find that a great concept or great characters are more important for a show’s success?
This feels like a trick question. You can’t have great characters without a concept that allows them to grow. On the flip side, you can’t have a great concept without rounded characters that are pushed by the world around them.
What’d be one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring television writers?
Live life, travel the world and talk to everyone you can. The best way to write is to live and experience. This world is too large for our content to be too LA/NY focused. Take giant chances and experience heartbreaking failures. The writers that realize (and write) the true depth in the spectrum of the human experience are the real auteurs in this business.
Are we still in the golden age of television? Do you think we’ll stay?
Yes, we’ve been in the golden age for a while now. It feels like Television (as a medium) might be starting to morph a bit but all mediums are cyclical. Radio, Film, TV, OTT/Digital, VR, AR, Black Mirror implants etc etc. The essence of TV is about telling stories and allowing the audience a peek into worlds that terrify, humor, or mystify us. TV is a very friendly medium to the next cycle. TV already breaks up an episode into acts that can directly translate to “short form”, OTT (over-the-top) and beyond. That is why I think although TV might shift, its essence of sharing a world rather than a single story line will always stay golden.