How Sheri Elwood sold Jerry Bruckheimer on giving her a Hollywood development deal

Sheri Elwood

Ever wonder how to get your sitcom made in Hollywood?

Start by boiling down your idea for a show into one line, and then get that blurb past studio yes-men to the eyes of a legendary film and TV producer.

Award-winning screenwriter Sheri Elwood, the creator and showrunner of the hit comedy Call Me Fitz, will tell the Women Making Waves 2012 conference in Halifax this coming weekend how she did just that.

Elwood on Tuesday recalled how Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer last summer read her one-line blurb about Call Me Fitz – a morally bankrupt used-car salesman goes into business with his conscience – while leafing through an issue of Entertainment Weekly.

“Bruckheimer saw the short blurb about the show in the fall cable round-up and he circled it and handed it to his development team,” Elwood tells Playback Daily.

After screening Call Me Fitz, Bruckheimer pitched the series to his development people, before he gave Elwood a blind development deal to get the veteran drama producer into comedy.

Despite that overnight success with Bruckheimer, getting Call Me Fitz onto Canadian pay TV was a slow burn for Elwood.

So much so, the veteran screenwriter has sub-titled her Making Waving keynote address “How to get your own hit television show in fifteen years or less.”

“It’s a fringe cable show. You hope that the people watching it are watching it,” she says of the Jason Priestley-starring dark comedy on The Movie Network and Movie Central about a sleazeball car salesman.

Though knee-deep in Call Me Fitz, Elwood is also finding time to develop another comedy in the vein of HBO or Showtime for Bruckheimer and Warner Bros.

She describes it as a single camera, high-concept comedy that skews towards a female audience and is semi-biographical.

Elwood, who increasingly mentors young screenwriters, tells anyone looking to follow in her steps to take their time to develop their own comedic voice.

“You need to go through the steps like any craft. It really is carpentry. It takes a long time to get a lot of life experience to write about,” she adds.

And keep the TV set on.

“I don’t think screenwriting manuals are all that helpful. I watched a lot of TV. And develop a specific sensibility,” Elwood advised.

By that she means find the confidence to listen to your own voice when writing comedy.

Elwood spent years emulating other comedy writers, with mounting frustration.

“It was only when I started writing my own stories, when I was able to apply that carpentry to my own specific sensibility and was using my own personal story, that’s when it took off for me,” Elwood recalls.

What’s more, personal stories prove the most universal for audiences, she added.

The Women Making Waves 2012 conference is set to run from March 9 to 11.