Wednesday, October 31, 2007

T-minus 8 hours...except not really...probably

Will the strike happen? Will it be resolved? Will it continue to loom for weeks and possibly months?

I vote loom. One should always vote loom.

Check the WGA and Variety websites for updates.

And then tell me those updates because I'm lazy.

(That and I'll be hanging out with the fiancee and her parents tonight.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Don't chuck Chuck just yet

Consider me officially back on the Chuck bandwagon.

Last night's episode was fun and entertaining and left me wanting more. Just my luck (and I mean that in a good way) the "next week on Chuck" ad promised just that...and what looks like an interesting tidbit for the ongoing story/mythology. Nice.

The episode even managed to answer a criticism that some have had of the show: that squeezing Chuck into spy missions every week feels forced and awkward. (e.g. He doesn't seem like he belongs.)

Regarding that--first off, it's the concept of the show. If you don't buy into this as a fish out of water story, I don't know how to help you. It's supposed to feel like he doesn't belong because...he doesn't. Crazy, I know.

However, let's pretend I find this to be a valid criticism. I will wholeheartedly admit that it seems kind of silly to put Chuck up against trained fighters. Or any fighters. It's silly, because clearly he'll lose. So far, I think the show has embraced this silliness, so that doesn't bother me.

But if it did bother me, last night was the answer. Last night, Chuck's nemesis was not yet another agent trained in 80 different kinds of combat. Instead, he faced off against a weapons expert...or, really, a computer nerd.

In the realm of the show, completely believable and a fair opponent. Brain versus brain. Not to mention an amusing slap-fight in Chuck's car.

Anyway, all of this is to say...don't give up on Chuck yet. While not without its faults, the show deserves far better than the middling ratings it's been getting.

You hear that, Nielsen people? Stop watching Dancing With the Stars.

For reals, yo.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Previously on TV:

More and more of our shows are just not being recorded by our DVR, and Time Warner really needs to look into this problem. (Hear that, Time Warner? Of course you don't. You hear nothng.)

Luckily, at least a few things have escaped this fate. For every lost Chuck and Gossip Girl episode, there's a full Big Shots and 35 minutes of the Mad Men season finale... Oh, wait, that kind of sucks too. But at least we got whole epiosodes of Pushing Daisies, Dexter, Ugly Betty and...Damages.

Was that a finale or was that a finale? (Answer: It was and hopefully it wasn't.)

A hallmark of this first season, the Damages finale kept the twists and turns coming until the very end. Even better, they were twists and turns that not only made total sense, but actually made earlier things we'd seen better. Now that's damn good writing. TVguide.com has a great piece up about the finale (and possible next season), but I wouldn't read it until you've gotten through every episode from this year. Don't say I didn't warn you. I'd have to say, once all was said and done, the season was a solid A- for me. Please FX, give it another year to gain traction with viewers. I promise I'll hound everyone I know.

Mad Men is a bit of a different beast. I know people that I respect who absolutely love it, and I am definitely drawn to it because everything feels purposeful and high quality and just...intelligent...but I have yet to truly like an episode. Jill Golick has written a couple of very interesting and insightful posts about the show that I highly recommend checking out; they've made me grudgingly respect the show more than I already did, but I still stand by my feelings. She says that the show highlights how different the characters are from us by emphasizing their unthinking sexism and racism (among other things), then finds ways to remind us that we are just like them. It's this second part that I haven't felt yet. I don't really like or feel connected to a single character on the show. And I don't think the show cares that much. Which I'm fine with. I absolutely believe that Matt Weiner is creating a piece of art here, it's just not art that I connect with. I've found that when I really do force myself to engage with the show (something that it demands from its viewers if you want to understand it at all), the rewards are less than I hoped for. Regardless, I'll probably keep watching because it's one of those things that, as an intelligent person, you feel like you should watch. Like a Citizen Kane or a Raging Bull--other examples of art that I completely respect but, to varying degrees, don't necessarily like all that much.

On the Dexter spec front, good news and bad news for Jul and I. The good news is that it seems like we really understand the characters. The bad news is that so do the writers on the show. The last episode severely damaged (and may have ruined) our B-story, because the main character of that plotline seems to have already moved past the point where we had them. Such is life in speccing TV, though.

And speaking of Life, why isn't anybody watching it? Seriously, people, it's one of the best new shows of the year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maybe I should suggest myself too...

Jul's column is currently on the IMDB hit list. Just go to the main page and scroll to the bottom.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Because I'm awesome

That's why my joke pitch got a laugh at our Act I table read today. Yup.

I don't even know if the writers remember that it was a pitch from me, but I do, and people laughed.

Zing!

Yes, I will keep plugging her

Juliana's latest column just went up.

Here's her tease from last week: Check back next time to discover the connection between Trinidadian Calypso folk songs and Scott Baio.

Read it.

(Note: Use the above link. I'm not sure if I'm screwing up or the PinkRaygun site doesn't have a good link to the column itself-and not each individual post-but the link I have over on the right side only goes to her original column.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why Outing Dumbledore Troubles Me

I try to keep this blog focused on television writing mostly, but today I'm changing it up a bit.

So Dumbledore's gay. Rowling said so.

I know this is probably old news to you all, but I just heard about it today.

The sexual preference of Dumbledore bothers me not at all. Gay, straight, bi, asexual, even into this: ))<>((

I don't really care.

I should clarify, though. If Dumbledore's sexuality played a part in the books (I'm sure some may argue that it did, based upon comments from Rowling, but I'll get to that) or even was mentioned at some point in the story, that wouldn't bother me either. Just another interesting facet to an already interesting character. In fact, kudos for putting an awesome gay character into what is largely a story for children. I think it's great that kids get to see a gay character being kickass and grow up seeing non-heteros as normal people.

But Rowling outing him now bothers me for two reasons:

1) The books are out there and they belong to the world now. Providing us with new authorial insights is unfair and kind of disrespectful to an audience. I hated it when Ridley Scott gave a definitive answer about Decker in Blade Runner (I won't link to it. Find it yourself if you want.) and I hate it here. Just a personal preference, but I like being able to come to my own conclusions rather than having them handed to me. This is an argument that Rebecca Traister makes very well on the second page of the above Salon article, so I won't belabor it.

2) If you read the article I linked to above, the "evidence" Rowling gives to show how clear it should be that Dumbledore is gay kind of disturbs me:

"But a close reading would reveal that 'The Deathly Hallows' was shot through with intimations about the headmaster's sexuality, and not just in reference to his love for Grindelwald, which Rowling describes as a teenage passion that makes the otherwise responsible young wizard forget his family and go uncharacteristically batty. The book kicks off with an obituary by Dumbledore's school chum Elphias Doge, who describes his first meeting with the teenaged Dumbledore as a moment of 'mutual attraction' and who later tells Harry that he knew the wizard 'as well as anyone.' Then there is the lurid language of a scurrilous postmortem biography of Dumbledore, in which writer Rita Skeeter wonders about the close relationship between the headmaster and his young pupil: 'It's been called unhealthy, even sinister ... there is no question that Dumbledore took an unnatural interest in Potter.' Here Rowling is aping the leering, speculative tone of news stories about gay priests, Cub Scout leaders, and teachers accused of inappropriate relationships with their charges.

When she gets to the Grindelwald relationship, Rowling is clear from the moment Harry spots a photo of young Dumbledore with a 'handsome companion.' In the shot, the boys are 'laughing immoderately with their arms around each other's shoulders.' A neighbor describes the relationship between Albus and Gellert: 'The boys took to each other at once ... even after they'd spent all day in discussion -- both such brilliant young boys, they got on like a cauldron on fire -- I'd sometimes hear an owl tapping at Gellert's bedroom window, delivering a letter from Albus.'

And then there is the publication of an original letter from Dumbledore to Grindelwald, in which the wizard chides his friend for getting kicked out of his foreign school, concluding, 'But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.' When Harry has a chance to chat with the deceased headmaster toward the end of the book, Dumbledore tells him his version of the story: 'Then, of course, he came ... Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me ... Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes.'"

(I added the bolding)

What upsets me about the above passage is not her insistence that these things point to Dumbledore being gay. In this case, since she's told us his sexuality, they are clearly valid indicators. I'm annoyed because I'm afraid these things will be taken as indicators for homosexuality in general because of her insistence about how obvious they were.

This reminds me of a story I heard on NPR a few years back that made me sad. They were interviewing an American soldier who said that it was good they were there in Iraq because they could teach things to the Iraqis. His example: when he first arrived, sometimes the Iraqi men would hold hands in public. Horrified at this display between men--heterosexual men, mind you--he told them that it was improper and that men didn't act that way.

That's kind of how I feel about a lot of the above "evidence." How dare two young men laugh and have their arms around each others' shoulders? How dare they send each other letters and get excited by each other's ideas?

Really, I guess this is more a rant about social mores than anything else. (Apparently I have a lot of rants lately.) It pisses me off that these are the indicators. Obviously, it's nowhere near as bad as pointing out that Dumbledore likes musicals or fashion or shops a lot or something, but it still bothers me. It tells me that there's an acceptable way for men and boys to act, and a way that will be frowned upon. And if you cross this line, however innocently, you will be branded a certain way. I'm not surprised by this knowledge in a general societal way. It sucks, but anyone could tell you that that's just where we are as a culture right now. I just wish that someone as influential and obviously smart as Rowling had a bit more care.

End of rant. Back to your regularly scheduled lives.

22 Daisies! (and four more vamps)

Great, now we have to start thinking about spec ideas--Pushing Daisies just got a full season order.

And Moonlight has been given four more episodes (or at least scripts). Good for them. I don't think the show has quite found its footing yet, but I always root for the fantasy/sci-fi stuff to succeed.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's my DVR's fault, Viva, I Swear

We have our first scripted casualty of the season, and I didn't even get a chance to watch it because our DVR screwed up and didn't record it.

In other news, last night's Dexter had a little something to do with my Ranty Rant. They planned it, I just know.

...and I was going to link you to TV Guide's recap of the episode, but they don't even mention it. Sigh. Well, I won't ruin it. It comes at the end of the episode.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Don't mess with the sisterhood and other ideas I hate

Okay, first let's get something straight so that hopefully I'm not barred from future jobs. I like Grey's Anatomy. A lot. It's one of the better shows on television and has maintained its spot in the Top 5 on our DVR for a couple of years now.

Allan Heinberg is a really good writer who has worked on a lot of projects that I respect. And according to a friend that interviewed him he's a really nice guy, which counts for something.

That being said, last night's Grey's did something that I hate, hate, HATE, and that makes it time for a Ranty Rant.

For those of you who dislike spoilers, I apologize. Stop reading. This is your warning.

Seriously.

I warned you...

Callie finally had it out with Izzy for sleeping with her husband, George. She said something along the lines of, "What George did was bad, but what you did was worse. You're a woman and you understand what it's like. You're a traitor." Etc, etc.

I'm sure that I'm butchering the line, and if someone knows it and wants to correct me, please do. But the sentiment was basically that Izzy violated the sacred sisterhood of being a woman by sleeping with another woman's husband, and this made her even worse than George.

(Retching sounds)

I don't often use profane language on this site, but... Fuck that. Fuck it.

This argument makes no sense. It's not like Callie and Izzy are friends. That at least would make sense to me as a betrayal. But this...ugh.

I'm actually offended by this line of thought. It's only a step away from saying, "It's your fault. You tempted my man and you know that he can't help himself!"

(Again, retching)

This is the worst kind of excuse for bad behavior.

If you are in a relationship and your partner screws around with someone else, it is your partner's fault. They are the ones who fucked with you. They are the ones who did the betraying. Doesn't mean that the other person involved isn't an evil bitch/bastard, but they certainly didn't violate you in the same way that your significant other did.

And to imply that this isn't true, I just... I can't... UGH!

Yet we are told this again and again in popular entertainment, and it just kills me. It's like that Jon Stewart Crossfire interview: This kind of argument actually hurts us. As human beings.

So I beg you, writers of the world, keep this off my television and out of the multiplex. It will greatly reduce my urge to strangle things, which is good for all of us.

And now because I mention it, here's that video. Because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


Back Nines

Two more series just got full season orders. Neither one is much of a surprise.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Private Practice and The Big Bang Theory will both get 22 episodes this year.

Practice is so far the highest-rated new show, and Bang gets higher ratings than its lead-in, How I Met Your Mother.

I've never seen Bang, and most of what I've heard is mixed to negative. But hey, it's a simple, clear set up and seems to be pulling in a decent number of viewers.

Practice is actually not horrible, which is a huge surprise to me after last years atrocious backdoor pilot/2-hour Grey's episode.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trade Envy

Amanda's latest post made me realize how much I miss being at an Executive's desk...for the trades. Every morning, a fresh Hollywood Reporter and Variety appeared on my desk.

But no more.

My bosses now don't get the trades, and I am forced to walk into the next cubicle to get them.

....

Yes, that's right, I said the next cubicle. Sue me--I live in Los Angeles and we don't walk. (And yes technically I could just go to their respective websites to look, but did I ask you? Is this your blog? No. No it is not.)

So Amanda's post inspired me to shuffle 10 feet (5 there, 5 back) and guess what? Right there on the front page is a great little story about how the AMPTP came to the sudden realization that they are total assholes and decided to only sort of be assholes: They withdrew their stupid and pointless proposal that would "revise current residual formulas to allow studios to recoup basic costs before making residual payments in the future." Uh, right. Like that was ever a serious proposal. All it succeeded in doing was get the WGA up in arms and look foolish and blustery too.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into the nuts and bolts of this thing because

1) Craig Mazin does it better on a blog actually devoted to these kinds of issues.
2) I don't really know what I'm talking about.

Speaking of which, I have a completely unfounded suggestion/hypothesis for all of you wannabe writers out there still seeking representation: If this strike happens, and it most likely will, go after the managers.

Why, you ask? Well, this is just a thought, but...

Studios, producers and prod cos are basically out of the question at this point unless you're interested in animation (which the WGA recently said it would also bar writers from doing, despite the fact that they have no jurisdiction there) or reality TV.

I've read a couple of articles, including this one Amanda linked to in her post, that says agents are being told that nothing on the studio side will be read until the strike blows over.

Translation: agents won't want to read your work. Even more than they don't want to read your work now.

But managers... Well, this may be a longshot, but the job of a manager is to give you career guidance and develop your work. They can help to get you an agent. Some very good ones might even be able to get you work, but from everything I've heard, you'll need an agent as well. The point here is career guidance and development. These are things that take time, and I would at least like to think that a manager might be more willing to take on clients even though they may not see a deal anytime soon because, well, that's what they do. That's my hope, anyway.

Beyond that and the obvious "keep writing" axiom, I'm looking into UCLA Extension courses (seriously this time, the partner's on board with the idea and my company will pay for mine:) and will probably continue entering contests. At the very least, these two things will keep us writing, but hopefully they'll also get our names out there and help us make connections so that when the strike is over we'll get an agent and get on a show immediately.

Yes. That will happen.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how or if the strike will affect you and what your plans are. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mmm, The Wire

This post from Jill Golick doesn't really tell you anything new or groundbereaking, but sometimes it's just fun to read about how great something is.

What, you don't know how great The Wire is because you haven't watched it? Why are you reading this site? Go rent/buy (don't steal) it now! Heck, if my bosses ever return them to me, I'll loan you the first two seasons.

Everyone should be watching this show. Everyone.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My fiancee's title is better than mine

Juliana's first Pink Raygun column just went live. I'm not sure if this is going to be weekly or monthly or what for her, but you should definitely bookmark her page. Or subscribe. Or pay me money to email it to you every time she posts a new one. Ooh, I like that last one.

Her column is called "Breaking In: True Tales from Women on the Rim" and follows the journey of women who have or are trying to break in to the entertainment business--with a focus on women in the sci-fi/fantasy universe.

These first few columns detail her experiences trying to work her way up the entertainment ladder, her current position she's been able to make contacts with several actresses and writers--sci-fi and otherwise--so you can also expect interviews/articles with/on them in the future. Exciting, no?

If you happen to be a professional and would like to be featured in Juliana's column (because clearly there are so many of you reading this blog) I'd be more than happy to put you in contact with her.

More Janey Jane and her friend Marcia

Yesterday Jane posted the rest of Marcia's reflections on being a writer's assistant. You can read all of Marcia's thoughts here.

If you've been following along with me, I decided to comment on Marcia's thoughts and share my own experiences. You can read those here. (Or just scroll down, you lazy reader.)

Regarding Marcia's most recent (and final) post, I don't have as much to say, besides highly recommending that you click on the above link yourself and read her thoughts yourself. There's really not the same hierarchy where I work in terms of writer's PA, writer's assistant, script coordinator, etc. At least not one that I'm aware of.

I do absolutely agree with her about the lucking into it part... But as with everything, it's luck+hard work. My personal journey to getting this position started more than 18 months ago, when I was working as a subtitle editor. (You could probably even argue that that job was preparation, which adds another two years to that 18 months, and that before that my intern gig doing coverage--and more--for indie producers gave me a leg up. But let's not go there.)

While working fulltime as a subtitle editor, I applied like crazy for all kinds of assistant jobs for six straight months. It was horrifying and disheartening and left me downtrodden. I'm sure every single one of you looking for entertainment jobs in LA has a story like this. But something good happened.

A month or two into my job search, I applied for a producer's assistant job. Since this is a big company, their recruiter called me and talked to me about it. She even offered me the choice of two positions for which to interview: one was working as an assistant on an animated TV show; the other would be assisting two producers on an animated feature. It was made clear to me that the feature job was better and would offer more opportunities, but I did question it since my interests lie in TV. Did I make the wrong call? We'll never know. I also found out that the recruiter's brother and I had gone to the same university and we talked about that for a few minutes. The interview didn't pan out, but she was extremely nice.

Another month or so passed and I saw a posting for an assistant in the Story department and naturally jumped on it. As luck would have it, the job was with the same company and I dealt with the same recruiter. Just like before, she was really nice. Also just like before, the interview didn't get me anywhere. I later discovered that I didn't get it because the project had been put on hold.

More months passed and I applied for job after job, but no luck. Then one day I got an email from the recruiter. Their VP's assistant was going out on longterm maternity leave. Something like 6 months. They really needed someone ASAP and she thought of me. Could I come in that day to interview? I hemmed and hawed. A temp job? Hmm. Also, I was in shorts and a t-shirt--was that a problem? The recruiter went to check and I called my fiancee to talk to her about it. We thought it was too much of an opportunity to pass up. So I went on the interview, shorts and all, and immediately clicked with the VP. Got the job. Her old assistant never came back, so I became permanent.

After literally a year on her desk, the writer's assistant on one of our features decided to leave, and both the VP and the recruiter told me I should apply. I did, which you can read about in my first few posts on this blog. Exciting, scary times. But eventually I got the job... And got the praise of two professional writers, since the main part of my application was letting them read my pilot.

So there you have it. Persistence+contacts+luck...+talent, since there was a guy they liked before me, but when they read his script they decided he wasn't a good fit.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Read Jane's Blog. Read Mine. Compare. Discuss

The great Jane is doing something awesome right now on her blog. She's having a real live writer's assistant, Marcia, share her experiences from the room. So cool. So depressing.

I thought it would be fun to highlight the similarities and differences in our experiences. Keep in mind that one huge difference is that I don't work in a TV writing room. My bosses are writing a feature animation project and at most there are three writers at a time in the room pitching ideas and trying to break the story. That being said, I've bolded Marcia's points and written what I've experienced directly afterward.

1. The pay is just enough to get by and more hours than you can imagine.

True, the hours are longer than my last assistant job with an executive, but nothing awful so far. Generally I'm there 830-730...I have heard tell of much longer hours possibly coming in the future, though, and have already worked one weekend and one night until 10 (but I got free dinner out of it!) The pay, somewhat surprisingly, is not bad at all, and the benefits are excellent. Plus, I am guaranteed to be paid on a 50 hour week even when I work less than that. Not too shabby.

2. It'll never be the job you pictured when they handed you your diploma back in college. Not even close. A sentence you're sure to mutter under your breath: "I'm so glad I worked my tush off for a first rate education from a four year institution for this."

Yes and no. As with any assistant job, I've been asked to do a few boring, menial tasks, but I've found that to be more than balanced by the fun side of being asked to write my own pass on various documents, being in the room with writers and simply watching the process.

3. You'll be expected to sit quietly by as you watch a roomful of people do exactly what it is you'd cut off both of your hands for a shot to do (and that's a big sacrifice considering you need those hands to keep your current job.)

This is sort of true, although I have a feeling less true for me than others. My bosses seem to respect my opinion and have no problem with me offering up ideas. I try to do it sparingly and in lulls, but the point is that I get to do it. They've even incorporated a few of the things that I came up with.

Marcia also points out skills she says you absolutely need:

1. Make sure your typing skills are honed. This may seem obvious, but new writers' assistants are frequently shocked by the fast pace of a writers room. Nothing will get you fired faster than an inability to keep up, causing notes to be incomplete and basically useless to the writers. That includes being adept at spelling and punctuation. Often, the writers assistant's computer is connected to a large TV monitor so the writers can see what you're doing, and nothing distracts them more than your errors.
[NOTE FROM JANE: THE TV MONITOR IS NOT GENERALLY USED IN THE WRITERS' ROOMS OF DRAMAS.]

Thank god there's no monitor in the room where I work. I try very hard to keep up and am slowly learning which things are important to record and which don't matter as much, but I always get a sense of panic when one of the writers turns to me and says, "Did you get that?" Uh, I think I did. No one has had anything but good things to say so far, though, so hopefully I'm doing okay. A few days ago they finally went to pages after weeks of breaking the story and outlining, and I turned in somewhere around 105 pages of notes from the room. This is not including meetings I've had to record and transcribe, which would probably add another 100-200 pages.

2. Study up. Be an expert at one of the two most popular scriptwriting software programs, Final Draft and Movie Magic. I have found Final Draft to be the most common, but Movie Magic would be number 2. If you're already a pro at one, it wouldn't hurt to have a cursory knowledge of the other, if only to be able to convincingly lie when you're asked in an interview. Also study up on MAC and PC operating systems. The computer in the writers' room tends to be whichever the show runner prefers, so be prepared to use both.
[NOTE FROM JANE: MOST OF THE SHOWS I'VE BEEN ON HAVE USED THE WRITERS' ASSISTANT AS DE FACTO TECH SUPPORT, EXPECTING THEM FIX ANY COMPUTER PROBLEM THAT CROPS UP.]

I think this is one of those "duh" things that applies to just about any job you take: learn as many programs and operating systems as you can. Being called on for tech support isn't so much a writer's assistant thing as it is a young person's thing. This is definitely something I should work on, as I have no experience with Movie Magic and only moderate experience on Macs.

3. Thicken your skin. A writers' room is a place where writers need the freedom to pitch any and all ideas, including the outlandish, the shocking, and the sexually explicit in order to have something to temper down for air. It's not a room where one should feel censored. Censorship is the antithesis of creativity, so a cringe, a self-righteous stare, or any other form of judgment on your part is a bad idea. It gives you what some writers would call a bad "room vibe." I'm not saying prepare yourself for a hostile work environment, but don't expect a normal one either. If you don't think you can handle that, walk away now.

You remember that story from a few years ago of that woman who tried to sue the Friends' writers because she felt violated, right? Well, get ready to feel violated. Luckily I'm not easily offended, but we've had long conversations on everything from gay bathroom signals to Fidel Castro to poop dildos. Yes, that's right, poop dildos. This shit (he punned) goes on all the time, and you just have to embrace it. If you can't, I would suggest considering writing features...or novels. The Room is going to be the Room whether you're an assistant or on staff, so...

That's it for today. Marcia will apparently be telling us more sometime soon, so watch Jane's blog. I know I will.

Trajectory of a Writer's Assistant

Just thought this was amusing.

For most of the week I was putting together a talent package. Read about it here if you really want to.

Thursday I was writing character descriptions that are going to be sent to marketing and used in promoting the movie (note: the writers revised these, and even those revisions aren't something you'll probably see unless you're a company interested in doing some kind of promotional tie-in).

Friday one of my bosses got his Clippers season tickets and had me divide them into pairs by game and put them in envelopes.

This, my friends, is the trajectory of a a writer's assistant. Or any assistant, really...except I get to help with making a movie. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

To Paraphrase Eddie Izzard, "Google yourself when you get home."

Really. It's amazing what you might discover. Like, for example, that your pilot was named a semi-finalist in a couple of contests that didn't bother to tell you. Who knew?

WriteMovies

Semi-Finalists (official):

Juliana Weiss - On Duty
Juliana Weiss - On Duty - Supplementary Materials
Charles Welty - The Problem of Cell 13
Gali Wexler - THE SEALED ROOM
Darren Whisker - Squeeze Play
Darren Williams - OFF SCREEN
Craig Williams - Cape of Good Hope
Kevin Wilson - The Route
Mark Winzer - The Interview
Susanne Wolf - Die Geisel (The hostage)
Paul Stefan Wolff - Legion
Michele Wong - The Principle of Uncertainty According to Hal Bruno
Aaron Yarber - Sleepin' Dogs
Scott Yarborough - How I Met Your Mother: "Barney Goes Missing"
Meske Yasar - Die Reise durch mein Leben
Ahron Yeshaiek - Miles in Time

and

Congratulations to all the semifinalists of the 2007 Summer AAA Screenplay Contest.
Feature Screenplays:

TBD
Teleplays:

30 Rock - Commencement by Anthony Roberts
American Dad - The Spy Who Sired Me by Andrew Kemp
Battlestar Galactica - Down by Gray G. Haddock
Boston Legal - Silence Is Not Golden by Scott Cunningham
Boston Legal by Hilliard Guess
Chronically Single by Abby Anderson
Desperate Housewives - The Golden Retriever by Valerie Manahan
Dexter - Doppelganger by Angela Jorgensen
Heroes - Black Box by Alaina Niemann
House - Model Behavior by David Lee
I Am A Patriot by Matt Marshall
Kayfabe - And in this Corner by David Lee
Kelly by Cathy Salenger
L'il Bush - Draft Dodgeballers by Kay Christianson
On Duty by Juliana Weiss & Josh Roessler
Supernatural - Pyro Genesis by Y. Shireen Razack
The Lupus Experiment by Leonardo Millan
The Office - Bring Your Pet To Work Day by James Mickler
Ugly Betty - This Could Be Love by Sandra Branum & Bernard Branum, Jr.
Weeds - Happy Birthday Ted Bundy by Anthony Roberts
Without A Trace - Dead Or A Lie by Tamara Smith Roldan

FYI, I edited out everyone on the WriteMovies semi-finalist list before Juliana's name. Speaking of which, where the heck is my name? Grr.

Even more exciting is that AAA is still ongoing, so (crossing fingers) we might do even better!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Working on my package

And that title was to illustrate how difficult it is to be funny. Really. It wasn't an actual attempt by me to be funny...

Moving on. My main assignment this week seems to be putting together a "package" for "talent." What does this mean? Well, gentle readers, sit right back and allow me to regale you with tales of working on an real, working production.

As always, these are just my experiences and are not meant to be representative of the way things are done everywhere. Frankly, half the time I don't know how things are done here, so I wouldn't dare to guess how they're done elsewhere.

A talent package is basically a sales document sent out to an actor that you want to cast in a particular role for your production. The package I've been working on consists of a title page with a little cartoon in the corner, several pieces of artwork to show how the character looks and let them know the visual tone of the story (I imagine this is one pretty specific to animation), and a couple of written documents.

(Here's where we writers tend to perk up and take notice, and here is what's been the bane of my existence the past few days. But in a good way. Really.)

The written documents include:

A letter from the writer/directors, which includes a description of the character the actor is being asked to read for.
A separate character description of the same character, ostensibly in greater detail (no idea here; still haven't figured this one out).
A 1-2 page story synopsis.

On Friday afternoon I was told that these documents would need to be ready by today. I was also told that the previous writer's assistant should have left copies around somewhere that I could draw from. For the most part, neither of these things turned out to be true.

After a fruitless search through the old assistant's things Friday (not to mention searching my bosses' computers without asking for anything that looked helpful--they were gone or I WOULD have asked), I spoke to my bosses Monday morning and by that evening had received a couple of old documents that would prove useful.

But let us recap for a moment. Given this assignment Friday. Due Wednesday. It's basically now Tuesday and I'm finally getting started.

Part of Tuesday is spent in the room taking notes; a larger portion is spent pulling bullet points out of a meeting transcription and delivering it to executives. Still, I manage to get through a couple of drafts of character descriptions and synopses...but nothing great.

Go home, sleep, and WAKE UP AT SIX IN THE FRIGGING MORNING because I'm nervous about coming up with something good in time. Write for an hour before I leave for work. Spend all Wednesday at work rewriting the synopsis and character description and tweaking the letter to the actor. All the while dealing with coordinating getting the artwork from various departments and physically putting the package together. Continually being told by the producer that it must be mailed out today.

Writers still haven't had time to look at the documents because they're, you know, a little busy writing the actual movie. Finally I meet with them at the end of the day to look over it...and they tell me there's no way it's going to be mailed out today. Not because it's bad--they haven't read it yet. But that's the point: The writers haven't read it yet. Documents that will be read by someone they hope to cast as the lead of their movie are not going to go out without their approval. Duh.

So here I sit, writing this to you as they rewrite me. And I couldn't be happier. Except for maybe losing some of that stress I hold in my back. Not that I have anything to stress over.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Weissroessler.com is up and running again

You know, if you're feeling bored and want to read us and give us notes and/or tell your agent/manager/producer/development buddies.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Breaking Down Dexter

And now for something I'm sure you'll all be very excited about. As Juliana and I break the story for the Dexter spec that it's taken us far too long to get moving on, I'm gonna try to let you in on a bit of process. Yay! Fun!

A few weeks ago we watched several first season episodes and broke them down. We counted story threads (A-story, B-story, etc) and how many beats each of those stories received. We tried to find an act structure for the show, but so far haven't had much luck. Personally, I find that very difficult - there are lots of places where an act break theoretically could appear, and it's hard to judge. Maybe we're wasting our time, but it seemed an interesting exercise to attempt. If any of you have done this for Dexter, I'd love to hear what you've found.

Anyway. Today I'm going to give a little breakdown for episodes 107 and 108 that may only be of interest to me. These will very likely include plot spoilers just by their very nature, so if you haven't seen the first season of Dexter and want to remain pure...well, if you truly want to remain pure I wouldn't recommend ever watching Dexter, but I digress. The point is, read on at your own peril.

Episode 107 - Circle of Friends

Short description: This is the episode where Dexter discovers that a young killer he let go in an earlier episode is up to trouble again; also, a suspect is arrested for the Ice Truck Killer Murders.

Story threads: I found 5 separate story threads, not including the flashbacks to earlier episodes, which don't seem to tell their own story; instead they provide further information for the A- and B-stories. I also did not include what could be called a Doakes runner because it ties in closely with the A-story. Three of these are full stories, two feel more like runners.

A - Dexter must stop the young killer he let go
B - Deb/Batista catch the Ice Truck Killer
C - Rita deals with Paul returning home
D - Deb starts to fall for Rudy
E - LaGuerta and Matthews butt heads

The episode contains 50 scenes, according to the script, and divvies up the beats like so:
A, B, B, B, A, A/B, C, B, C, B, B/E, C, C, A, B, B, C, B, A, B, A, B, B, C, A, D, C, C, A/B, D, B, B, B, B, A, A, D, A, A, E, B.

What that amounts to is:

A - 11 beats
B - 19 beats
C - 8 beats
D - 3 beats
E - 2 beats
(the possible Doakes runner, in case you're wondering, would have 3 or 4 beats, all intertwined with other stories)

This is an interesting episode because technically A and B should probably switch places, as the overarching Ice Truck Killer story takes precedence over the of-the-week killer. However, that's the structure I've chosen, so...what-ev.

Episode 108 -Shrink Wrap

Short description: This is the episode where Dexter goes up against a psychologist who is convincing his patients to kill themselves.

Story threads: I found 6 separate story threads in this episode. Four feel like full-fledged stories and two are runners. I labeled them A thru F in decreasing importance, but since this is my opinion I'm sure there can be some debate over which truly is the A-, B-, C- or D-story.

A - Dexter vs. the psychologist
B - LaGuerta tries to prove Neil Perry is a fake
C - Deb and Rudy fall in love
D - Rita deals with how Paul's return affects her kids and her relationship with Dexter
E - Father flashback runner - Dexter remembers Harry almost killing him to teach him a lesson
F - Runner with Angel being served divorce papers and dealing with it

This episode contains 45 scenes, according to the script, and parses out the story beats like so:
A, A, C, C, D, A/C/F, A/B, A, A, E, B, A/B, F, A, C, D, A, A, E, E, B, C, F, F, A, D, D, C, C, B, A, E, A, D, B, D, B, A, A, C.

What that amounts to is:

A - 15 beats
B - 6 beats
C - 7 beats
D - 5 beats
E - 4 beats
F - 4 beats

It's also a bit interesting because often a single scene will include beats from more than one storyline. And the beats may not be completely accurate because of the way I counted them. For example, in the Angel runner there are two beats together that could be counted as one; the reverse happens in the Deb storyline, where I might have counted a single beat as two at the end. However, this is roughly the structure.

Overall

There are several constants I noticed in Dexter, and probably many more I didn't notice.
1) Every episode begins with a Dexter voiceover emphasizing his otherness from everyone around him.
2) Every episode has flashbacks. Most episodes have flashbacks involving Harry and young Dex, but even those episodes that do not, like 107, still incorporate some kind of flashback into the storyline.
3) Most episodes have a complicated plot structure with upwards of 5 concurrent stories.
4) Most episodes have an of-the-week killer, and if they do not, there is still some mystery element to solve, as in the episode where Dexter tries to figure out how his biological dad died.
5) Most scripts hover around 60 pages.

Well, that's it for now. Hope this was fun/useful to people. I'd love to hear what others have noticed about Dexter that I may have missed.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

New Season Grades (in which I sabotage myself by speaking ill of shows I'd kill to be writing on)

Well, we've only had a few weeks to digest this new season of television, but that's more than enough time for me to be opinionated about it. Here are my thoughts so far, show by show. In no particular order...

1. Chuck - Like the cast, like the dialogue and the tone...it's a good show. But not great. After an entertaining premise pilot set things up nicely, this past week we were saddled with an episode that felt like it was treading water a bit. Someone more intelligent than me basically said "the premise of this show is that people who don't know if they can trust each other have to work together to save the world." Very true. We learn this in the pilot. So why did we need an entire episode devoted to whether or not Chuck could trust Sarah or Casey? This easily could have been (and should be) an ongoing arc throughout the season/series, but should not be the main plot of the episode. Still, they handled everything well, so...B+

2. Reaper - I actually enjoyed the Reaper pilot even more than Chuck - unfortunately I thought the second episode was an even bigger step down. It practically felt like a second pilot, with the main character refusing to accept his role as Satan's reaper until halfway through the episode. Which would be fine, except that he already accepted this responsibility last week. Why the step back? Still funny, still very well written dialogue (and Ray Wise makes every scene he's in crackle), but I have no interest in watching Sam whine and avoid his job again. B-

3. Gossip Girl - Who ever thought that Kristen Bell would be the worst part of any show? Well, technically it's not so much her as it is the hammy voiceover. I know this is a longshot, writers, but is there any chance of dumping the Gossip Girl parts of Gossip Girl? B

4. K-ville - To be fair, I only watched the pilot, but I thought it was pretty ridiculous. Juliana watched the second episode and said it was better, but basically just a standard procedural. What is this, CBS? No thanks. C

5. Heroes - I've said this for a while, but Heroes is probably the worst show that I enjoy watching. Nothing this season has changed my opinion on that. B-

6. Journeyman - I really, really want to like this show, and I have hopes that it will someday meet my expectations, but right now it's got a long way to go. Like, for example, making me care about the characters. C-

7. The Office - I like The Office. It's never quite been something I have to watch every week, but I always like it when I do. Could it work week-to-week as an hourlong? Hmmm. B+

8. Bionic Woman - Another show I really want to be good. The first two episodes were retooled, but I'd love to know what they thought they were improving. I can say having seen the pilot at Comic-Con that the parts they changed were definitely not the parts that needed changing. Prove me wrong, but...C+

9. Moonlight - Read the reviews. D

10. Big Shots - Wants to be a male-oriented Desperate Housewives. It isn't. C

11. Life - The pilot was really, really good. Far better and more interesting than I expected. A-

12. Grey's Anatomy - Shonda, why are you shitting all over your female characters? Seriously. The only one who doesn't seem to be getting the shaft and being blamed as the "problem" is Bailey. Bailey rules. B-

13. Private Practice - I hated the faux-pilot from last year, but was surprisingly okay with the real pilot. Who knew? Haven't seen this week's episode yet, but...B

14. Dexter - I like Dexter. A lot. And we're writing a spec, so I'm probably judging things a little differently as I watch it, but the season premiere did nothing to dissuade me from the belief that this is one of the best shows on television. A

15. Desperate Housewives - They resolved the Edie story in a way that actually made sense, and I like me some Fillion, but please, give him something more interesting to do. B

16. Dirty Sexy Money - One of my bosses called this an unfunny Arrested Development. He's not wrong, but I've still enjoyed both episodes so far. Great cast, and so far an interesting character study for what is essentially a soap. B+

17. Ugly Betty - I loves me some Betty, but there was one really bad line this past week from Wilhelmina: "I'm black and you're hispanic, so let's not dance around the subject like a couple of white people." Come on, Betty, you're better than that. A-

18. 30 Rock - Much like Betty had one horrible line, 30 Rock had one brilliant line: "Tell her she needs to lose 30 pounds or gain 60 - there's no place for anything in between on television." Hilarity. B+

19. Cane - S'okay. I felt like I could see the big Jim Smits I-will-do-anything-to-protect-my-family moment coming from a mile away, but otherwise it's a fine if unremarkable show. B

20. Pushing Daisies - I'm still waiting to see how this one continues the storyline in future episodes, but it's by far my favorite show of the new season. If the next few weeks maintain the quality of the pilot, I'll add a plus on the end of this letter. A

Friday, October 5, 2007

Two Firsts

On Wednesday night I got my first joke pitch into the movie.

On Thursday, as the writers were reworking the outline for a pitch, I had another first - my joke was cut because it broke up the flow of the scene.

Sorry I haven't been posting as much, folks. Making a movie is hard.

Yes, even as a writer's assistant.