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The Bricks of Breaking In: Kung Fu Writer Richard Lowe On The Power of Persistence

September 19, 2023
8 min read time

Kung Fu’s Richard Lowe didn’t come from a family of storytellers. His parents had their own business and conversations around the dinner table rose out of newspaper articles that Lowe’s mom clipped from the local paper. Although Lowe didn’t really make the connection to writer until high school, these chats over meals with his family did ignite a love for stories. Lowe elaborates,

“I found that connecting with a character, going on a journey just always spoke to me.”

When a classmate introduced him to screenplays, something clicked for Lowe. He recalls,

“I was like, whoa, this is the basis of a movie. I could do this. You read Stephen King and you’re just like, wow, that’s so many words. Then, I saw a script and it was like this I can do.”

From there, Lowe immersed himself in films and it was Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson that made a huge impact on Lowe. He remembers, 

“The feeling I got leaving the movie theater was exhilaration of, wow, what a powerful story. That’s sort of the movie that was like okay, I’m going to pursue that. That’s what I want to do.”

Read More: The Bricks of Breaking In: Julie Sagalowsky Diaz On Finding Your Voice

Finding your path

Before landing his first writing job, Lowe’s career took a detour to working as a TV editor. Not only did working in another aspect of television production allow him to get a wider picture of the process of bringing together a show, it also helped him grow as a writer. According to Lowe, 

“I knew what it was like to work under a showrunner in a different capacity. They would give notes. I had to understand what do they want from this scene. How can it be cut differently? How can the visual effects be made to evoke the feeling they want? That obviously translates into the writers’ room.”

Lowe first had his sights set on writing comedy. Sharing an original pilot he was proud of with a friend led to Lowe getting hip pocketed by an agent. This also got him a staffing meeting. Although not staffed from that meeting, Lowe made an impression and was asked to write a freelance episode for the show, Dr. Ken.

Read More: How to Write a Comedy Set: Inspired by Michael Bluth and Liz Lemon

With one freelance under his belt, Lowe continued to search for staffing opportunities. He landed a second freelance, this one for a Disney XD show. An encounter with the exec behind the Warner Bros. Workshop gave him the push to apply for the program. Lowe credits his varied entertainment background in giving him a boost for getting into the workshop. He relates, 

“Having all sorts of different things was helpful like, he was an editor on Good Wife, he had written two freelances, he placed at Austin Film Festival, this is clearly someone who knows how to work in the industry and is trying to just find a way in.”

The workshop resulted in Lowe’s first staffing job, God Friended Me, where he spent two seasons. Months after that show was canceled, he found his way onto Kung Fu.

Kung Fu (2021-)

Facing challenges to entry 

For Lowe, the hardest part of getting his writing career started was staying persistent, especially with having a solid, ongoing career as a TV editor. He notes, 

“I could have stayed an editor. At one point people kept calling me for editor jobs. I was like, I’ve had these two freelances and I’ve gone through the workshop and I really need to commit now, but that’s scary as hell. It’s like can you keep that faith?”

One way Lowe faces career challenges is by approaching his career as an education. He explains,

“I’m always trying to learn how to be a better writer. Sometimes that’s really hard because you can’t see your own blindspots. It takes a little bit of effort to be like what sort of education can I fit in that will make me stronger next time I’m in a room. So like on God Friended Me if I had a bad day. Okay, replay that day. What did I do wrong? What would one of the more senior writers do? Just take it in and figure out how you can improve.”

Entertainment is an industry where you hear "no" a lot. How does a writer keep going against all the rejection without getting emotionally shut down? Beyond the persistence needed as a writer, there’s a sort of resilience that’s important. Lowe points out,

“It’s that resolve to say, well okay, tomorrow is another day. I liken it to athletes. I don’t know if Michael Jordan ever had a game where he only scored four points, but it’s like he didn’t give up. He didn’t get emotional about that. He just said get back to work and come to play the next day.“

Taking meetings 

When it comes to meetings, preparation is a key for Lowe, but there’s also a balance that’s needed. He shares, 

“I am a preparer, but I also like to be able to be loose enough that you can see where the conversation takes you. I think a lot of the meetings are just kind of trying to get to know you as a person.”

A strategy that Lowe has found valuable when going into these meetings is visualization. He suggests writers imagine how the meeting might go, talking about your script, a story that might relate. It gives a framework of talking points to hit along the way. He adds,

“I like being prepared because it allows me to kind of guide the conversation, but not feel like I’m just talking at the person. When they’re asking me questions, I can tell a story or sort of talk about myself, but make sure I want to hit that one point. If it gets a rise out of them, then we can come back to it. Then it just kind of feels like a conversation.”

Kung Fu (2021-)

Pitching in the room 

Lowe has learned that persistence isn’t just important in building and sustaining a writing career, but also when it comes to your story pitches. The room has a flow to it. Oftentimes you may have a pitch but the conversation shifts in an entirely different direction, to try and come back to something with a pitch can be tough because everyone’s brain is somewhere else. Lowe emphasizes, 

“It’s trusting that there’s a time and a place and a flow of when to pitch. I have seen some staff writers trying to wedge in pitches, and they might be good, but I don’t think they necessarily always land with as much resonance as you’d want them to because everyone else is thinking about other things.”

The discovery Lowe found in his first room is that pitches often circle back. It could be later that day, tomorrow, in three days or even a week later. He believes,

“If you’re patient with your pitches, the chance to pitch will often come back to you. I’ve found that if I just hold onto my pitch and if I felt strong enough about it, it would eventually come back because the room didn’t land on a solution, it just kind of moved, so eventually you have to come back and figure out what was that piece.”

Kung Fu (2021-)

Advice for up-and-coming writers 

Looking back at the start of his writing career, Lowe wishes he wouldn’t have been so tentative. There’s a fear writers face that the words they put on the page just aren’t good enough. This is something Lowe finds himself pushing through even though he’s now a producer level writer. He admits, 

“I still have to remind myself when I sit down to write a new spec, you just got to get the clay on the table and then you start forming it. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the beginning.” 

Not being tentative also translates to pitching in the room. He encourages, 

“If you believe in a pitch, try and pitch it. Try and see where the room’s not pitching and go there.”

Another aspect of setting yourself apart as a writer is finding your own voice, something that Lowe had struggled to identify on his own, but also something that once identified can fuel a person’s writing. So how do you identify what your voice is? Having gone through this process himself not long ago, Lowe offers, 

“I sat down and I was like, why am I drawn to certain stories? What are the themes that keep coming up in my writing and why?”

With newer writers digging into this task, Lowe recommends,

“If you can identify specifically what character dynamics you are interested in, what themes and what you have to say about them, then you can add that storytelling around it. It just makes that sample pop.” 

This sort of specificity in what you are passionate about writing makes you stand out. It makes you memorable. While you can love everything when it comes to stories, having a direction and focus with your writing resonates in meetings and in pursuing jobs. 

Overall Lowe leaves up-and coming creatives these parting words of advice, 

“You have to keep having the faith that your hard work will pay off.”

Kung Fu is streaming on The CW.

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