by Steve Hartman
Don’t ever say no to a meeting because you never know when the case of your life is going to walk through your door.
For show creator Dara Resnik, the advice her father/lawyer gave her for taking meetings has served her well. She has had an envious career starting with a staff writer position on Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and includes writing for Daredevil and Pushing Daisies. Resnik’s latest show, The Horror of Dolores Roach, will premiere on Amazon Prime, in which she serves as executive producer.
The Horror of Dolores Roach was based on a podcast by Aaron Mark who sold the IP to Blumhouse in the summer of 2019. Mark set up a meeting with Resnik because he needed a co-showrunner who knew TV well because, while he created the play and the podcast the material is based on, he acknowledged that he wasn’t an expert in TV.
Mark’s recognition of his limitation is a lesson in itself on how best to succeed in a collaborative setting. Whether it’s finding a co-producer or building up a crew, surrounding yourself with competent people who can offset your weaknesses is one of the signs of a good leader.
With The Horror of Dolores Roach, Resnik anticipated being on the project in a supervisory capacity but soon found the material too fascinating to leave behind to pursue other projects. She started working on the pilot alongside Mark in the fall of 2019 and hasn’t looked back.
Once she considered the pilot strong enough to take out, Resnik and Mark started pitching to various networks and platforms. Amazon, who had been eyeing the project for quite a while, ultimately bought it — this was the winter of 2020, just before the pandemic hit.
In the early days of the pandemic, they couldn’t get the green light. Instead, Resnik worked in a mini writer’s room and churned out three scripts and, in December 2020 they were asked to pilot it. Happy with what was created, and after spending over two years on a project that wasn’t guaranteed to see the light of day, they received the green light for the series in September 2021.
“It’s a great example when you love the material and the people it’s worth sticking with it,” Resnik shared of the experience.
Creating Dolores Roach
Dolores Roach is a complicated person of color who does really dark things. The challenge is how to get the audience allied with someone who commits the acts that she does. Part of it comes from the talented actress playing the lead role: Justina Machado, whose comedy experience brings brightness and relatability to the character.
“I think that’s really scary for people which is what makes it exciting,” Resnik said of the character. “We haven’t seen a character like this on TV.”
Notes from the studio
“We were lucky,” Resnik said regarding the notes they received. “We had great partners with Blumhouse and Amazon — this has been a labor of love for them. Blumhouse is a master of horror so there’s no better name to have on this and Amazon has been tracking this for a long time.”
Amazon’s notes helped the creators to work in the voice of the platform; something, not all writers realize when pursuing a platform. Resnik has worked with a lot of platforms and she notes how they all have different needs.
“Apple is different than Netflix and Netflix is different than Amazon,” she said comparing it to standard TV networks. “Fox and NBC and CBS have different needs.”
This is no longer the network days with a handful of stations and shows to consider. Resnik can point to statistics that indicate how much content is out there.
“Any given year they’re shooting 700 shows. That’s how niche things are getting, so there’s room for these blended genres,” Resnik noted regarding the horror/comedy genre of her show. “One thing I tell my students, many of who are women or people of color — is there has never been a better time for them. There is so much room.”
Tips on writing a pitch deck
Resnik also teaches and could create a pitch deck based on what she provides her students.
“It has 10 points I like to hit in these kinds of meetings,” Resnik said regarding the presentation of pitch decks to executives. They include:
- Why this project is relevant to you
- Why this project is relevant to others
- The tone
- Information on the first season
- Information on future seasons
- How long the series intends to run
Final thoughts on writing
Resnik recommends writing a lot because you’re your own factory.
She shared, “There’s a great scene in tick, tick…BOOM! where Andrew Garfield’s agent says to him, ‘Write the next one and then write the next one.’”
Geoffrey D. Calhoun in episode 145 of the Successful Screenwriter podcast Adapting the Horror of Dolores Roach with Dara Resnik added that when it comes to being a professional writer, “It’s not just selling your material, you’re not just selling your abilities, you’re selling yourself.”
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