Jocelyn (above left) lives, works and scribes in Los Angeles, and Ryan (right) is a New York-based writer. Together the Manns siblings make up a unique and talented brother-sister writing team. The duo recently won Season 4 of Filmmatic's Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship competition, and they have been nice enough to give us insight into their background, habits, and winning TV pilot "Time Janitors"!
1) How long have you each been writing?
Ryan: I've been writing seriously for about 4 years, but before that I've always approached any work I have, school or professional, with "how can I make people laugh?" at the forefront of my mind.
Jocelyn: I've been writing, in some form or another, since I was little. I found screenwriting a few years ago in college and never looked back.
2) What screenwriting training have you received?
Ryan: I've taken a few classes at UCB and Gotham Writers but I actually didn't realize I wanted to write for TV (or even that you could write for TV, like, that's a real job??) until I was out of school. So the vast majority of my "training" has been from self help books and the university of Youtube.
Jocelyn: I went to the University of Texas film school and took some screenwriting courses there. We're also both in a few writers' groups and that has been a huge part of our training I think, just to write and get feedback and then rewrite.
3) How long have you been writing together as a team? Is this your only co-authored work?
Jocelyn: We've been working as a team for about three years now. We've got a number of other pilots that we've written together and nearly all of our work since then has been co-authored because we found out we really liked working together.
(Jocelyn and Ryan, pre-screenwriting partnership)
4) What benefits, and pitfalls, have you experienced as a rare "sibling writing team"?
Jocelyn: There are a number of benefits. As a writing team we've got twice the perspectives of an individual writer, which in our case means a joke has to make twice as many people laugh in order to stay in the script. As a brother/sister writing team, we've also got the advantage of seeing a script from a male and a female perspective. We also basically have all the relationships rolled into one. We work together as writers, we're siblings, and we're friends.
Ryan: It's amazing how much that can help when you're writing a story and you have a real human relationship with your partner that you can pull inspiration from. It literally is having an extra brain you can reference.
Jocelyn: As for the pitfalls, we think there are fewer than more traditional writing teams. We're family, so we have the security of knowing the other will always be there.
Ryan: Plus for me, I don't have to worry about whether I'm annoying my writing partner, because I already know I am.
5) What writing habits work for each of you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions?
Ryan: We try to schedule our writing sessions and either meet up or more recently, jump on zoom. The technique itself is a little like reverse hot potato. If I'm struck by inspiration I write while Jocey looks over my shoulder. Then usually something I've written will jumpstart her and she'll take over the writing. We usually end up passing it back and forth about 50 times or so in a two hour session.
Jocelyn: Sometimes one of us will go on a binge-writing session on our own, but always immediately after either of us writes something, we'll send it to the other to read. The second set of eyes is such a help.
6) What genres do you lean towards? Are all of your works comedy, for TV?
Ryan: We definitely gravitate toward half hour high-concept comedy, but we certainly have other projects that we're passionate about, including a couple hour long dramas.
Jocelyn: We love genre, and comedy, and so most of our stuff ends up being genre comedy. When we say genre, we mean it as a catch-all for sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural stuff. And, some of our work is very much for adults (like Time Janitors!), but some of it is also for kids and young adult audiences.
7) Our judges loved "Time Janitors", how would you describe the project to our readers?
Ryan: Hoooo boy... so, do you know what happened to David Carradine? If you don't google it, because I don't think we can publish it here. "Time Janitors" is a time travel show that turns traditional notions of time travel on its head. It's not glamorous, it's filthy. It's not cool, it's a pain in the ass. It's not something that your traditional heroes do, it's blue collar work done by everyday people who just wanna go home. So that's what our main characters are: two time janitors who, in the pilot, are sent back to 2009 and the death of David Carradine.
Jocelyn: Every fancy new technology becomes workaday at some point, so this a post-invention of time travel world where it's like any other job: office politics, annoying co-workers, wanting that promotion, etc., except it is still tied to the fate of the world through the Butterfly Effect. So you have the most important job in the known universe, but you're underpaid and overworked. We just thought that was such a funny contradiction, but also a little bit uncomfortably real for something so fantastical.
8) What are you working on now? Any solo projects or all team-work?
Ryan: I'm currently in the middle of rewriting a heist, and Jocey's drafting a sitcom about a woman that inherits a cult from her estranged father. None of our projects are really solo anymore, as we're both so heavily involved in the other's process.
Jocelyn: yeah - we usually have a couple of projects going at the same time. It helps to be able to juggle them with each other.
9) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot or feature?
Ryan: There's a lot of effort involved. Some people make it seem easy but the real secret is that they all work hard. Don't let writing a crappy scene discourage you. You can edit and improve a crappy scene, you can't edit a blank page.
Jocelyn: And write something you're passionate about. It makes all the difference and people can tell when they read it.
Congratulations once again to Jocelyn & Ryan Manns, the Season 4 Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship Winners. All contact requests for the Manns will be forwarded to their attention.