Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A week old, a dollar short and WAY behind on writing

Or at least I feel that way.

But that's none of your concern. What is of your concern is this now week-old post by the Finke-ster about pilots we might be seeing for next season.

Some particularly interesting highlights, at least to me:

Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas
- described as a "hugely ambitious Harry Potter-type series." Cool...if it makes it. Sounds expensive.

Castle - starring Captain Tightpants himself. Guess he won't be on Housewives any longer...

Prince of Motor City - Hamlet in Detroit. Yeah, I'm a sucker for Shakespeare adaptations...

Fringe - J.J. Abrams riffs on the X-Files. But is there a smoke monster?

Dollhouse - In Joss I trust.

My Own Worst Enemy - Christian Slater is Arnold in True Lies crossed with Ed Norton in Fight Club. Awesome or awful - you make the call.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And Joss makes typos. Just like us regular people.

Red Right Hand has a Dollhouse pilot review sans spoilers. Because he's cooler than me. And yes, the pilot has typos... Is it weird that that knowledge brings on a kind of giddy joy?

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (5)

Last week I put up the first post in a series (inexplicably numbered 4, but bear with me) that will show you, step-by-step, how Jul and I built the story for our Chuck spec. It's here, if you're interested.

If you're just here to learn the structure of Chuck, I've tried to tackle that, too. Look here, here, and here.

But back to breaking our story...

So far, all we have is a couple of vague ideas:

1. Chuck flashes on Awesome doing something bad or involved with spies somehow.
2. Chuck complains about being the Intersect, then loses his ability to flash, which makes him realize that he likes being the Intersect.

Number 1 seems pretty self-explanatory. Not necessarily good or bad, but easily gettable. You immediately know what the story is. You understand the stakes for Chuck, because the fate of his sister's fiancé may now be in his hands. Or the fate of his sister, assuming Awesome might be a bad guy who's really, um, awesome at hiding it.

Number 2, however, brings some baggage. In the show, Chuck has no control over his flashes and no choice about being the Intersect. A simple story about him realizing he likes it (while I think somewhat self-evident in the show) might say something definitive about his character that it isn't necessarily good to say in a spec. His story is one of a guy who is thrust into a situation and simply has to deal with it, so him having the Intersect in effect taken away and then wanting it back...something just seems a little dangerous. He needs to need it back. So...

Ideas Refined

Chuck flashes on a super-spy and sees Awesome doing bad spy stuff--he needs to flash on Awesome again to prove his innocence; inexplicably his flashes stop working and cause him pain. Now he has to do real spy work to prove Awesome's innocence and figure out why he can't flash.

Something about Sarah and Casey fighting each other. Maybe Chuck asks for time to flash on Awesome and Sarah agrees, but Casey doesn't. Sarah has to stop Casey from trying to take Awesome in until Chuck can flash and prove Awesome's innocence. Hilarity ensues. (Note: B-story)

Beginning, Middle and End

Chuck flashes on a super-spy and sees Awesome doing bad spy stuff; he needs to flash on Awesome quickly to prove his innocence, but suddenly his flashes stop working.

Chuck tries to figure out what's wrong with him that's preventing him from flashing while attempting to do real spy work on Awesome to find evidence he's innocent--he fails miserably at both.

Chuck realizes that he's been going about things wrong and needs to be himself: he thinks of the bad flashes as a computer issue and solves the problem; he also decides to be honest and ask Awesome about the spying thing (obviously without mentioning spying) and Awesome gives evidence that proves his innocence. Happy times are had by all.

Next week:

Ideas Further Refined and B-Story (Beginning, Middle and End)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

At the risk of becoming Whedon central

Not that she needs the "traffic" from this lonely little blog after getting picked up the other day by Whedonesque, but Jill Golick has some more Joss-y Dollhouse stuff up that very briefly dissects the structure of the script.

I'm thrilled he's using a four act structure, but only cautiously optimistic it'll stick around. The Chuck pilot was written in four acts, too, but that didn't last long...

And having just gotten my hands on and read the pilot today, I have to agree with her and just about every other critic who's spoken out: it's pretty damn shiny.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dollhouse pages that may cause salivation

Found these via Jill Golick.

What's really interesting to me is that you can see the edits because he uses strikethroughs.

Tee hee.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hey, Buffy fans

Spoil yourself on season 8 with some Furey over on CBR.


That's right, I'm obscure.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Now that's a celebrity sighting

I've lived in LA since 2003.

In that time I've seen and refused to follow Kevin Smith, stalked Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk around Venice, shook hands and spoken awkwardly with Joss Whedon, walked the strike lines with countless writers, actors and other awesome creatives, had George Lucas back away when my friends and I approached him at a Writers Guild event, and been recognized by other writers as someone they knew (note: they were mistaken).

Heck, the first two jobs I had after moving out here had me interacting with famous folk on a daily basis...and sometimes calling them about their late video rentals. Not to mention that I now work with people that many would consider celebs.

Still, I envy Matt and have to salute him. This is a pretty awesome celebrity sighting. And yes, that would make a perfect little capsule review for Beowulf.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (4)

Today, Jul and I begin our second UCLA Extension course, the one in which we will actually be writing first drafts of our Chuck and Pushing Daisies specs. To celebrate, I'm going to start posting weekly progress on Chuck as I write the script...from three months ago.


As I start to write actual pages for the script, I'm going to take you through the stages of creating it -- from the initial idea through to the final outline. And when the first draft is done, I'll probably post that too...or at least make it available in some way.

Some of these posts will be longer, more complicated and more interesting than others.

None of them are meant to represent The Only Way to write a spec script. This isn't even necessarily my way, it's just the way that I used to craft Chuck.

Without further ado:


Chuck flashes on Awesome doing something bad or involved with spies somehow.
Chuck complains about being the Intersect, then loses his ability to flash, which makes him realize that he likes being the Intersect.

(Hint: this is not one of those longer, more complicated posts. I will not judge its level of interesting-ness.)

Next week:

Ideas Refined and Beginning, Middle and End.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Now I want to watch TV Land more (read: ever)

Kay has (yet another) great post up, this one about auteur theory and the lack of recognition for TV Showrunner/creators, not just in the wider world, but in the industry itself.

Read. Enjoy. I demand it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This would have made high school chemistry SO much more interesting

And I thought I was so cool when I wrote the story and drew levels for my own TMNT game when I was a kid. It started with the turtles getting captured by Shredder, so you would start the game playing as Splinter, Casey Jones, Mecha Turtle...and I can't remember if there was a fourth character, but eventually you rescue the turtles and they become playable characters and...why hasn't somebody made this game yet? Come on, it would be freaking awesome.

Still...<*cough*>tangent<*cough*>...that's nothing compared to this.

Speaking of Magic, we need to get a game together, people, because it's been too long. You know who you are...

More Head! (sorry, I had to...)

Seems Tony Head's got a role on a new show on NBC this fall, Merlin. Yes, it's about what you think it is...except probably more like Smallville. Here's the show description:

MERLIN - "Merlin" brings to life a new legend for a modern audience. "Merlin" is an exciting, hour-long fantasy series set in the mythic city of Camelot -- but inspired by 21st Century storytelling. Before Merlin (Colin Morgan, "Doctor Who") and Arthur (Bradley James, "Lewis") became legends, they were ambitious young men looking for adventure, hoping to live up to their family's expectations, discovering love and finding their own true destiny, making mistakes along the way. The innovative, action-packed drama has cross-generational appeal and paints a picture of Merlin and Arthur's early life that audiences have never witnessed before. Anthony Head ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Richard Wilson ("A Passage to India"), Angel Coulby ("Magicians") and Katie McGrath ("The Tudors") also star. A FremantleMedia Enterprises distribution of a Shine production for BBC.

Interesting. For NBC's full fall lineup, click here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another perspective on writing Dexter

Another reader, Tommy, is also writing a Dexter and had a few different answers to the questions that Adam posed.

He points out, quite validly, that just because the show has no commercial breaks doesn't mean you can ignore structure entirely, and says he does use act breaks in his spec -- just not literally. Every 10 pages or so, where a normal act break would fall, he has a momentous scene that takes the story in a new direction. Smart. I believe our story does this as well organically, but he's not the first person I've heard from who actually plots these beats as act breaks just to make the structure easier when writing.

Unlike Adam and I, Tommy is setting his spec after season 2. It's a great choice if you can pull it off. Originally our spec was set at the beginning of season 2, but after the first two real season 2 episodes aired, we knew we were screwed and had to change the story and move it forward in time. So really what I'm saying to Tommy is...good luck with that :)

He also used flashbacks (seems flashbacks are still the way to go!), but warns against falling into the trap of having flashbacks just for the sake of having flashbacks. I wholeheartedly agree. It is vital that you tie them in thematically with the main story you're telling as this is what the show does. The purpose of the flashbacks is always to illuminate some aspect of Dexter's personality...and often Harry's as well.

And Tommy has a question:

"Dexter has a very complex structure. Most TV shows have an A, B, and C story, but Dexter often has as many as five stories per episode, including a season-long story (Ice Truck Killer, Bay Harbor Butcher), a single-episode long story, a story that may last a few episodes...

In any given episode, you might have a story about Dexter tracking and killing someone, a story about Dexter and his relationship with Rita, a story about Angel and/or Debra tracking a killer with Dexter's blood-analyzing help, a story about Dexter and Harry told through flashbacks (that may be self-contained, or serialized), a story from the season-long arc, stories from each characters personal lives, such as Doakes and his mom and sisters, or Angel and his wife... Every character is allowed personal and professional conflicts, and their role as supporting or lead is always changing. Also, oftentimes one individual scene can include multiple story threads.

It gets complicated.

Since we're all aiming to write a self-contained script, the season-long arc is automatically out. And since it's only one script, you can't include everything. How did you/do you plan on structuring yours?"

What I learned breaking down all those Dexter episodes is that the show varies quite a bit on the number of stories in a given episode. Whereas one may have 7 plot threads, another only contains 2 or 3. I think you kind of want to split the difference and just make sure A.) it feels like it could be a Dexter episode and B.) you're servicing the story you want to tell without just trying to cram stuff in there a la the flashback problem you mention.

And on the don't-take-my-word-for-it front, our Extension instructor basically said it is not necessary and often not good to match a show exactly if it often juggles 5, 6, 7 storylines and has bits for every single character. You should be fine streamlining this down to three or four stories and focusing on the main characters.

For example, while pretty much every episode necessitates Dexter, Deb and Harry, you could easily get away with having a storyline for Angel, but cutting LaGuerta out completely. Or vice versa. In my opinion, the same goes for Rita, though her impact on Dexter's life is often a good foil for his police work and extracurricular activities.

Until next time...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dexter + job = Not what you're thinking

While I'd like this post to be about Jul and I getting a job on Dexter, that has not come to pass. But what has come to pass is that new reader Adam emailed me a couple of questions about how to land an entertainment job and how to spec a Dexter.

Speaking of which, if you have previously emailed me a question and I haven't answered it, please resend.

I just realized (thanks to Adam, who referenced sending me two emails even though only one appeared) that my gmail doesn't have the same regard for you as I do and could very likely be considering you spam (its definition, not mine!). So anyway, please resend any questions I haven't answered and I'll try to be more diligent in checking my spam folder.

Without further ado, here's Adam:

"I'm currently looking for work to get my foot in the door and start meeting the people I'll need to get closer to writing for TV. And we all know how fun looking for work is. In your blog you talked about how you got your current job, and you mention getting on a desk assisting a VP after six months of hardcore job search. Can you go into more detail about those six months? Did you apply to anything and everything? Or were you just seeking out jobs that people you knew could refer you to?

I'm currently talking to everyone I know and applying for everything I can find, but I generally assume that must things off the UTA job list and other such job sites are no good (people hire people they know or who are referred by someone they know, etc.). I'm always worried I'm leaving stones unturned. And I'm also not
so great at the networking thing. But I'm getting better."

I actually got the job you refer to because I was relentless with the UTA list. After much trial and error, I came to the conclusion that the way to go was to ignore anything more than a week or two old and blanket submit more-or-less generic cover letters with my resume, only personalizing it if the job sounded really interesting. The UTA list allows you to apply to these "older" posts because it has a much more limited audience and therefore fewer people are applying to the jobs. If you're using something like to find jobs, don't even bother if the position was posted more than a day ago...and usually you're probably screwed after a few hours pass.

The few connections I had did net me an interview or two, but in the end it was all me. I interviewed three separate times with my current company...for three different positions...over four months. I kept getting asked back because the recruiter liked me and wanted to bring me into the company, and finally it paid off.

So while personal recommendations and connections are definitely best, I highly recommend the UTA list. Applying to that first job at my company ended up even being the thing that created the connection that ultimately landed me an actual job, so you never know how it's going to work out.

"I'm going to dodge the issue of act breaks (like you I broke episodes in Season 1 and 2 down for quite a while until I found an interview with Melissa Rosenberg where she said that they specifically worked at not having a formula for the show, and then I just ended charting out episodes like features) and focus on what I'm dealing with now:

- When you two wrote your script, did you place in a specific place in Season 2, or was it more of a vague, What If? I tend to like putting my specs in very specific pockets of time in the latest season, but this is proving difficult with Dexter. It's such a dense season, with episodes often falling right on top of each other. So I've decided to try and stretch out the time a bit between episodes 5 and 6 of Season 2. I was curious how you guy approached this.

- Did you decide to use flashbacks? They're a little on and off in Season 2. In the end I thought I'd use Jane Espenson's advice and use whatever they use often enough.

- How did you handle the end-of-episode hooks? It's really not a Dexter episode without some kind of big arc hook at the end. It's not always there, but more often than not. So I'm torn over this. Right now my ending is modeled more after the end of "Love American Style," but that was a unique episode.

Anyway. Just some general questions. And I don't know anyone in my circle of writing friends who have or are specing Dexter."

Aww, that's sweet. Adam assumes we've finished our Dexter spec. I'd like to say that's true but unfortunately it's still in that half-outline/half-script form that it's been in for months. I blame lots of things, from the show itself for taking our B-plot to Jul and I not thinking things through well enough in our revised outline to our recently completed (though the second one starts next week) Extension class where we individually outlined a Chuck and a Pushing Daisies spec. Oh, and there's that little webcomic thing we're working on for Pink Raygun. And zombies. Always zombies.

But anyway, on to Adam's question. Jul and I did place our episode in mid-season 2, but beyond that we tried to stay away from positioning it too specifically. I think we did this because we didn't want to get too tied down to a specific season 2 occurrence or something, but setting a spec between episodes isn't a bad idea at all, so go for it if that's where your story works best.

We did put flashbacks in, and probably for the same reason you're going to - based on Jane's advice. More often than not the show has flashbacks, so we came up with a thematically relevant series of flashbacks.

As for an end-of-episode hook, I'm not 100 percent sure what specifically you're referring to. If you mean something like "Oh my god, Doakes just saw Dexter kill a man, what will happen next episode??" then no. And I think that's a horrible idea, personally. Even if I were doing a Heroes, I would try to come up with the most self-contained story I could find and wrap up as much as possible by the end of the spec. You're right when you say "it's not really a Dexter episode without..." etc. But, well, it's not really a Dexter episode. It's a spec. What works on the show doesn't necessarily work in a standalone piece of writing. Your job is to tell a good story that fits into the world of the show and puts everything back where you found it by the end of the spec. That being said... Part of our spec involved Dexter trying to keep Deb off of his scent as a BHB suspect, but ultimately his actions actually lead her to something that likely will bring her closer to the truth. That's where we leave Dexter at the end of the episode, having inadvertently made things worse for himself. So it definitely had kind of a "big arc hook" at the end, but it was still something vague enough that it didn't disrupt the real season 2 stuff. I think. That was our theory, anyway.

Amusingly, I know several people speccing Dexter, including Michael, who you should totally harass because the bastard and his annoyingly fast writing skills has already written not one, but two Dexter specs. Jerk.

But still, it's definitely one of those shows that hasn't quite hit in terms of being the show to spec. Give it another year. As long as the show doesn't start to suck because of the departure of the showrunner. Sigh.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Peter Weller gets around

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's not TV, it's...DVD (1)

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5."

The instructor of the TV writing course I just finished took a few minutes each week for something he called Oh Wow and Oh Please Moments. You know, those moments you have watching a movie or (in this case) TV show that make you stop and take notice in either a really good or really bad way.

People referenced everything from Dexter to Medium to the The Office and often found good and bad in both. I brought up The Wire on two occasions to talk more or less about the same moment - once as an Oh Please and once as an Oh Wow. Constant readers probably already know that I'm talking about the way Omar was handled in season 5.

But there was another show I really wanted to bring up every single time we did the exercise. It was a little show Jul and I were finally watching after having friends tell us for years about how amazing it was and how we just had to see it. And that's exactly what I wanted to talk about--how amazing it was...about 2 percent of the time.

For the most part, I found this show to be over-written, over-acted, under-produced and just generally kind of bad. I am talking, of course, about Babylon 5.

Please, hold off on those torches and pitchforks and allow me to explain.

First off, all we've watched so far is season 1 - we just started the second season. I've been told by just about everyone that the first season is by far the weakest, so I'm still extremely hopeful about the show overall. Plus...there's that 2 percent I mentioned. Even with all of the often painfully, laughably bad, the ideas explored in the overall story and sometimes even individual episodes are really interesting, and every once in a while a moment of brilliance sneaks in--almost as if by accident--and literally takes my breath away.

A moments like the one below I stole (shh) from IMDB:

Catherine Sakai: Ambassador! While I was out there, I saw something. What was it?
G'Kar: [points to a flower with a bug crawling on it] What is this?
Catherine Sakai: An ant.
G'Kar: Ant.
Catherine Sakai: So much gets shipped up from Earth on commercial transports it's hard to keep them out.
G'Kar: Yeah, I have just picked it up on the tip of my glove. If I put it down again, and it asks another ant, "what was that?", how would it explain? There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They're vast, timeless, and if they're aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants, and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know, we've tried, and we've learned that we can either stay out from underfoot or be stepped on.
Catherine Sakai: That's it? That's all you know?
G'Kar: Yes, they are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe, that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Miss Sakai, they walk Sigma 957, and they must walk there alone.

How great is that? And how is it possible that a scene like that can coexist in the same show with this one:

Andrei Ivanov: [On his death bed] Is that you susan?
Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova: Yes.
Andrei Ivanov: Oh dear god, I never thought I'd see your face again, it makes this easier. Susan, I know I haven't been the best of fathers to you. But when your mother passed on and your brother was killed in the war I was too wrapped up in my own grief to pay attention to your needs. And when you joined Earthforce against my wishes.
Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova: You don't have to say this father.
Andrei Ivanov: Yes, Yes I must. There's no more time, I want you to know how proud I am of you Susan, I always have been. But a father should gve his daughter love as well as respect, and in that I failed you, I'm sorry, I'm ashamed. Forgive me.
Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova: [nods head slightly]
Andrei Ivanov: Thank you, 'Dushenka moya'
Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova: 'Little soul' You haven't called me that for... Papa!

Yes, he dies while she watches. Sorry if that's a spoiler, but trust me, it's really not.

Of course, I'm picking on the wrong thing here. The one thing the show really has going for it is the writing/plotting of JMS. It's clear that he has a plan in mind and season 1 has just enough going for it to make me confident that he will pull the show off in a way that I'll find satisfying. So far I don't find him as adept a writer of dialogue, but many of the lines that come off as bad are not entirely his fault. Much like Whedon's much-lamented "lightning" line in X-Men, great actors might have made the above deathbed scene work pretty well. Unfortunately (with a few exceptions) this isn't a show that was exactly bursting with great actors.

All in all, though, I'm still along for the ride and expecting better things to come over the next four seasons. Just promise me the show doesn't pull a Heroes for its second season...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I may love it when a plan comes together, but I hate it when a saved post disappears

(That's me screaming in frustration at my work computer. actually me.)

This has actually happened quite a few times over the last few weeks (the deleted posts, not the screaming) and I'm not inclined to recreate everything, so here's a general rundown:

1. Watch In Treatment. It's really interesting and entertaining on a lot of levels and so far I think it's the best new show of 2008.

2. Read Amanda. Even Jane says so (scroll down to last Thursday's entry), and she knows what she's talking about.

3. BSG season 4, episode 1 was really interesting and made me feel oddly well as both good and bad that Jul and I never completed our BSG spec.

And because I'm such a nice guy, I'm gonna let you see why we never completed our spec for yourselves by posting the half-finished and full-of-holes outline:

Leap of Faith


· Midst of a fight with the Cylons.

· FTL jump. Comments: Cylons are becoming more and more aggressive.

· Emergency medical situation. Is it an injury? Multiple pregnancy - sextuplets. Mother dies in childbirth, but babies all live.

· Religious fervor. It is a miracle.

· 2 more multiple pregnancies arrive. Cottle: Something isn't right here.

Act One

· Religious fervor escalates.

· Cottle approaches Roslin. "Not a miracle." "I know but, there is nothing I can do."

· Baltar, uncertain about his future – half the people hassle him in the hallways, the other half revere him.

· A major religious group announces: We are leaving the fleet.

Act Two

Note: Show more of the religious fervor build? Also, every time Apollo is mentioned, it could be Starbuck instead.

· Roslin asks Cottle to investigate the matter. Adama assigns Apollo as his pilot.

· Roslin tries in vain to use her political power to get the religious group to change their minds, but they have decided that the multiple pregnancies are a sign from the Gods which tells them to stay behind and not follow the fleet.

· Apollo and Cottle arrive on other ships to investigate.

· Baltar is accosted and blood is drawn.

· Apollo and Cottle investigate all the medical facilities on the ships to no avail.

· Baltar receives a mysterious note, perhaps sealed with a lipstick kiss?

· Apollo and Cottle report to Roslin. She reminds them of what is at stake. Three more ships have signed on to stay behind with the religious group.

Act Three

· Apollo and Cottle are discouraged; they get a beer together and overhear a woman discussing a baby cult. Women are trying to get pregnant to rebuild the human race. Men who join are encouraged to have sex with all of the women. "Sounds like it’s for perverts" Cut to:

· Baltar is brought to a cult meeting - surrounded by attractive women.

· Baltar considers: I should do this for the good of the human race. Six heckles him, says he's selfish and only doing it for himself.

· A Cylon search party finds the fleet. The humans kill them, but more will quickly follow.

· Cottle finds the cult, learns they are using experimental drugs to cause the women to have multiple babies at once. He's discovered and held hostage by the cult – needs to get out.

· The religious group announces their resolve to stay behind, even with the Cylons likely to return soon. The Gods will lead us to safety. The Gods will lead us to Earth.

Act Four

· Cottle escapes and arrives with the information just as the big Cylon group arrives.

· Baltar is brought to a room where he thinks the women will join him – instead he is presented with literature and a cup. Apparently those sex rumors were exaggerated.

· "I can't do this." Baltar repeats some of the things that Six heckled him about earlier.

· As the Vipers work to hold off the Cylons, Roslin makes an announcement amidst the battle about the cult and the drugs - it's not a sign from the Gods, just people trying to play god.

· The fleet spools up and jumps with fingers crossed. Will the ships cross over with them? Hearts pounding: they arrive...and the ships of the religious group follow shortly after.

· Roslin announces that the pregnancy drugs are now being confiscated. She cannot ban the use of the drugs, but from now on, they can be administered by a physician only, and only after people are educated on the risks involved.

· Kara: What those women were doing is crazy. Risking their lives to have more kids? Callie: What they did is not so different from what you do.

Monday, April 7, 2008

More than just deadlines and guidance

(Note: the above image is supposed to represent six degrees of separation...uh, how exactly?)

A few days ago, Amanda wrote a post to answer the question of whether or not it's worth it to go to school for television writing. I don't want to spend a lot of time on that subject in general, but I did want to highlight something she said for all of you aspiring writers in high school.

If you're thinking of going to a school for film or television, look very hard for what connections they have to the entertainment industry. Don't want to go to school in LA or New York? Okay, but you should definitely pick a school that has an intern program with LA-based companies. Or, barring that, research the faculty to see what kind of professional credits they have in the industry. Trust me, if you come into this town with any connections whatsoever, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. One that can literally save you years of pain and frustration once you're here. I cannot stress this enough and wish that I'd had the foresight to do it before I chose a school. (Ah, to be back in those heady days of "I'm going to write novels," all the while struggling to squeeze out more than one good short story a year.)

Anyway, in her post Amanda referenced the Extension classes Jul and I have been taking. She described them as paying for "deadlines and guidance."

She is not wrong.

However, she neglected to include several things...very possibly because I never mentioned them to her:

1. Courses are taught by professional Hollywood writers. While actual credits vary, most have worked on several TV shows and/or sold numerous specs. Some have even been Showrunners. What this means to me is that--at the least--the person has a pretty good idea of what he or she is doing in terms of crafting a script that works; and at the best, if you get a person who still has decent connections and likes you, that's never a bad place to be.

2. Your classmates are trying to break in just like you and doing the same things you are. In my class of under 20 people, we had an actual staff writer on a daytime soap, a writer's assistant on a primetime drama, a professional comedian and several people who had various connections to agencies and prodcos. It's like being in a really big writer's group.

3. This is LA, land of unexpected connections. A few weeks ago Jul got invited to a mixer for writers, actors, agents and the like. We went with the intention of meeting the writer who invited her, but before that even happened ran into an Extension writer/instructor who we'd taken a one-day course from (which, by the way, was free with our paid longer course). He actually recognized us and called us over before we even saw him, introduced us to people and offered to take a look at some of our work.

The Extension classes are obviously not an end-all be-all, but I've come to slowly accept the fact that the path to success in the entertainment industry relies heavily on the snowball effect: the more people you know, the higher your chances are of "making it" sooner. Everyone says this ad infinitum, but I think it's something each person has to learn for his or herself. I know I did. That's the easy part. The hard part is making yourself go out there and meet people, and for Jul and I, having a structured environment like a classroom to do it in is well worth the price of admission.

That and my company will pay for my classes...hopefully.