Saturday, September 25, 2010

Officially on the Verge


Referring to two things here.


One is Lonestar's status as a show on the verge of not only likely getting canceled, but as one that might not even have the second episode aired. I'm a little late to the game here as Amanda and others have already called on people to watch the show, but consider this a reminder before it *hopefully* airs its second episode on Monday. It's not everyone's cup of tea, and frankly I think FOX set it up for failure by placing it in one of the toughest timeslots on television, but if you like smart, nuanced drama, with morally ambiguous (or stunted?) protagonists, it deserves your attention.

Two is our still somewhat shocking acceptance into NBC's writing fellowship program, where we'll be spending the next 12 weeks working with Jen Grisanti, Karen Horne, and the rest of our fellows -- most of whom we've yet to meet -- crafting a spec and an original pilot in the hopes of getting staffed on an NBCUniversal show at the end of it. But right now I can't even think about that; we just want to come up with a kickass spec idea to write. Methinks we'll be watching lots of TV over the next week and a half... wish us luck.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happenings are afoot (size 13)


I don't know what that title means either, but I do know that one-armed dude just kneed centaur guy in his chest-crotch. Take that!


Also, I believe that future generations will look back and remember this as the summer of stuff.

Stuff like PAing and sometimes assisting. Comic-Conning as "professionals." Missing part of Comic-Con to be an actual professional. Coming closer-than-ever-before-(in progress, don't jinx it, don't jinx it) to-fellowshipping. Whistling past the graveyard of looming unemployment. Again.

And freelancing.

Mostly freelancing. A whole boatload of freelancing.

Search our names (mostly Jul's) and you will find articles on every subject known to man and dog, but there's also been a shocking amount of paid commercial script gigs, writing for company websites, and ghostwriting. Of novels. Crazy, right?

So what does our future hold?

I don't know. Stuff, probably.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Huh. Guess We're Premiering in January




Thursday, July 22, 2010

Heart of Gold! I Find Josh Friedman's Life Disturbing...ly Awesome

And so does Nikki Finke.

If you haven't read this, do it now. If you have, read it again.

Countdown to Comic-Con or What I'll Miss Most About Missing Thursday and Friday


This year, despite finally getting a professional badge -- uh-huh, that's right -- I am unable to attend until Saturday. Maybe late Friday if I'm lucky, but I'm not counting on it.


Luckily (or not, since I'm totally jealous) Jul is headed to the Con this morning -- and in fact may already be there -- so at least she'll get to tell me about stuff and hopefully pick me up some sweet schwag. You can follow her Con-ny updates on twitter -- @julweiss.

But back to me, because, well, of course... How could I possibly miss the first two days? Not to mention Preview Night -- dear God, did I forget about Preview Night?!

No. I most certainly did not. But I think I can reconcile missing it to keep my job whichohbythewaydidImentionisinaone-hourwriter'sroom?

Yeah, I'll be okay.

But in the spirit of lamenting and complaining because that's lots of fun, here is my list of things that I'm saddest about missing from last night through Friday.

PREVIEW NIGHT

I'm basing most of this on IGN's coverage, since the official calendar just lists programs. Which, of course, it should. (But that means a distinct lack of pictures, so... please head over to IGN for a visual.)

1. The Walking Dead booth -- realistic blood-spattered zombies on a faux set that you can take pictures with. Yeah, I think it's fair to say I'm excited about the show coming to AMC... and that's without ever having read the comic.

2. Hoth/AT-AT playset -- just looking at it makes me feel 6-years-old again. Except it would then likely be He-Man and (it goes without saying) unintentionally homo-erotic.

3. Pose as a Star Wars action figure inside a life-size fake plastic toy case -- do you really need me to tell you how embarrassingly awesome that is?

4. Free stuff!!! -- This would have been my first Preview Night, and I always hear that that's where they give out the best freebies. True? Who knows? But I wants it!

5. Pilot previews -- what I'd really be doing. It's just Nikita, but it would mean I didn't need to attend it later :)

THURSDAY

10 am - Megamind -- Sue me, I like animated features and this one looks fun. Plus, I'm really curious about it since the description several people have told me doesn't seem to gibe with the most recent trailer I saw. And since trailers never, ever... ever... ever... ever... ever lie, I want to know what's up with that.

11:15 - TRON: Legacy -- You know, I couldn't give you more than a vague outline of the first movie and I don't even know with 100 percent surety that I ever saw it all the way through, but for some reason I'm stoked about this sequel/reboot/whatever.

3:30 - The Visionaries -- JJ and Joss. That is all.

6 - Universal's Scott Pilgrim -- Read the comics and liked them but didn't love them. Still, the trailers look amazing, and I lurve Michael Cera.

9:45 - Mastermind -- the short film, bitches! Yes, I'm excited to see what Sullivan and Susan Lee got up to.

FRIDAY

10:30 - Stargate Universe -- Much to my non-Stargate-watching surprise, I kind of like this show. Quite a bit.

11:30 - AMC's The Walking Dead -- Did I mention how excited I was for this?

12 - Neighbors From Hell -- sadness that I won't be able to support my old coworkers, but even if you don't watch the show, the panel will be amazing since it includes Molly Shannon (SNL), Patton Oswalt (My Weakness Is Strong, Ratatouille), Will Sasso (MADtv), Kurtwood Smith(That '70s Show), David Soren (DreamWorks animation veteran), Kyle McCulloch (Mr. Wong), and Tracey Fairaway (Chicago 8).

2:15 - The Cape -- creator Thomas Wheeler wrote one of my favorite pilot scripts of the past few years -- Captain Cook's Extraordinary Atlas -- and when I found out this got picked up and he was the writer behind it, I more or less wrote him a fan-ish love letter begging to work with him. I have my fingers crossed for this to succeed.

3 - Joss Whedon -- talking about being Joss. And yes, I realize that there's no way I'd be able to jump around to panels in different rooms like this were I actually there, but that's the beauty of not going -- I don't have to worry about that reality.

3:30 - MTV's Teen Wolf -- I'm curious, okay. Could it be the new Buffy? Well, no, but maybe the new Smallville...

3:30 - Writing for Television -- Is it just me, or are there a lot of writing panels this year?

4:30 - Falling Skies -- Spielberg's new one-hour show that isn't a ripoff of Land of the Lost. Not that that's a bad thing...

5:15 - True Blood -- The most fun show on television.

6 - Archer -- love this show.

6:30 - TV Guide 2010 Hotlist -- Morena Baccarin (V), Julie Benz (No Ordinary Family), Morris Chestnut (V), Keith David (The Cape), Summer Glau (The Cape, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse), Zachary Levi (Chuck), David Lyons (The Cape), Chi McBride(Human Target), Elizabeth Mitchell (V) and Kevin Williamson (Vampire Diaries). 'Nuff said.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

With Great Numbers of Attendees Comes Great Responsibility


Most of you attending The Great Geek Orgy (aka San Diego Comic-Con) likely already know both of these things, but...

Wednesday thru Saturday of the schedule is posted on their website, and they are offering a nifty new feature this year -- you can plan and share your schedule with friends on Facebook, twitter, and (strangely) LinkedIn.

How awesome is that?

Finally, an easy way to plan for the panels you want to attend and not accidentally double-book yourself or plan for two panels back-to-back that are on opposites sides of the convention center (I'm looking at you, Jul).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

News Alert! Jane Espenson Has a Twitter Account.

I have no idea how long this has been going on or why no one told me, but you can follow the talented TV writer at @JaneEspenson.

Apparently, she's been sharing writing advice and conversing with her thousands of fans for several months now.

We should start a Twitter campaign to get her writing a Glee episode. Who's in?

Want more Jane? Check out her blog for more writing advice or read my Pink Raygun interview with her in late 2007.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Interview with TV Writer Carla Robinson

Another in my series of "Breaking In" interviews. This one is from Carla Robinson, who wrote for the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica.

As usual, a highlight from the interview:


What advice would you give to female writers trying to break in today?
I would give the female writers the same advice I give the male writers. Always wear a protective cup. And keep your work current and polished. I can tell you from personal experience that I only got a job because I kept writing even when no one was reading me. I have writing samples for procedural and character-oriented shows, and plenty of original material in my arsenal. I realize I sound like a deranged automaton, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to write a variety of scripts. It will help you in so many ways as you traverse this tricky world.


Read the full article.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Interview with TV Writers Kelley and Courtney Turk

Kelley and Courtney Turk are identical twins who are also writing partners. I interviewed them about breaking into the business and their sci-fi pilot The Identicals for Pink Raygun.

A highlight from the Q&A:

Kelley Turk: "Our first agent left the business without telling us. He was in the middle of switching agencies, and one day we called to follow up on a meeting we just had and couldn’t get him on the phone. Eventually someone told us he had left the entertainment business."

Check out the full interview here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

This is why I love The Futon Critic

I just realized it today, but they've started their pilot First Looks for the upcoming season. What does that mean? Reviews of the actual filmed pilots we'll all be watching or ignoring this fall. Today's is the new Shawn Ryan show Ride-along. Links to previous days' reviews are on the right side of the page.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Sell Your Screenplay to a Gaffer & Why Bad Screenplays Sell

"I’ve been receiving this question a lot lately so I thought I’d write an article about it. The question is, “Really? This script sold?? This is what passes for worth half a million dollars these days?? Are you f’ing kidding me??” Loose translation: “Why do bad scripts sell?” I think it’s a fair question to ask. But I don’t think it’s the right way to ask it."


Read the rest of this insightful article on the blog Script Shadow. It's worth a read!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Interview with TV Writer Jacqueline McKinley

Check out my interview with a real live, breathing TV writer, Jacqueline McKinley. Together with her writing partner, Antonia March, Jacqueline has written for four sitcoms — Smart Guy, Just Jordan, Will and Jada Smith’s series All of Us, and the Emmy award-winning Bernie Mac Show. The short films Move and Oxtails, which they wrote, produced, and directed, have appeared on Showtime and BET. To top it all, she’s a fellow UF alum! Go Gators!

One highlight from the interview:

"Can you share any Hollywood horror stories or funny anecdotes about breaking in or moving up staff ranks?

I have tons of horror stories. Getting fired off of my first staffed position on Smart Guy was my most memorable. I told my agent, I think they hate us, and she said that she hasn’t heard that at all and that I’m being paranoid. (I don’t know a writer who isn’t paranoid.) Well, I did the math; if we were able to go out for Thanksgiving break, then our option would have gotten picked up. It was the last day before the break, and the showrunners wished the staff a nice vacation. I was so thrilled; I thought we made it through. Antonia and I started to walk out the room when the showrunners said, “Jackie and Toni can we have a word with you,” and my heart fell.

A lot of my horror stories come from when I was a writer’s assistant. On Cosby, I’d leave work seeing the hotdog carts making their way into the city for the morning set up, and then after two hours sleep people would call me wondering where I was. On Cosby, that was my first time seeing how a big network show works. There was a lot of stress and firings. I remember this one showrunner was fired, and he was just kind of wandering through the assistant’s area. I asked him if he would like to order lunch, and he says to me, you know I just got fired. I said I knew, but he still has to eat. As an assistant, I knew his days were numbered before he did.

On another show, a fistfight broke out on stage between a writer and a director. There was always drama on that set."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

From Nottingham to Robin Hood


If you've got a half hour to spare, check out this insightful and painful-to-read post about how an apparently brilliant little feature script called Nottingham (about the titular Sheriff using medieval forensics to catch a terrorist stealing from people under his jurisdiction) was ripped apart and rebuilt to become the -- and this is literal, folks -- 111th movie about Robin Hood.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Showrunners Seeking Script Coordinators and Writer's Assistants

Hi there.


I know this is a bit unorthodox, but I thought I had just about as good a chance to reach you this way as I've had emailing friends and acquaintances, "networking," and desperately tracking down and calling production offices.

Here's the deal. I'd really like to work for you. I have experience as a writer's assistant, script coordinator, and Showrunner's assistant. I'm good, dedicated, and thrilled to work hard and utilize the skills it's taken me years to learn to make your show that much more awesome. You will be glad you hired me and comfortable knowing that my responsibilities are one less thing you'll need to stress about.

Unfortunately, there's a problem. You won't hire me. And it's not because I'm not qualified. It's not because I'm not great at my job. It's not even because I weirded you out in the interview. I never even got that interview because you don't know me. Or know someone who met me at a gym/bar/park/party/sex club and recommended me. Believe me, I understand how important your time is and how frantic your schedule must be, but I've seen just as many regrets as successes come from the friend/family pipeline.

So here's my proposal: this season, see just one person from that pile of hundreds (or thousands) who faxes or emails in their resume despite having no discernible connection to you. Think of it as giving back. Worst case scenario, it wastes the same amount of time as the weird kid your old boss asked you to meet. But if it does work out, you'll have one very grateful employee who knows they have you to thank -- not their old boss/uncle/friend on staff who convinced you to talk to them in the first place.

Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Liz Tigelaar on her Writer's Room

The WGA has an interview up right now with Liz Tigelaar of Life Unexpected. She has some interesting things to say on writer's room dynamics and career advice.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Break It Down - The Good Wife pilot script


So, why am I breaking down a pilot script for a show that is almost finished with its first season? A few reasons.

1) It's been a long time since I've done a "Break It Down," and it seemed like it was time to get back to it.
2) The show is good.
3) Related to #2 -- we're about to jump into speccing it.
4) We don't have scripts from any other episodes to look at, so breaking this down is as close as we can get to deconstructing the show... at least from an actual script.

Without further ado:

Episode 101 - The Good Wife

Short Description

Starting with "one of those press conferences," The Good Wife tells the story of a politician's wife who becomes a lawyer to support her family after her Chicago D.A. husband resigns in a sex scandal.

Story Threads

A-story - Alicia's court case of the week
B-story - Alicia and Peter
C-story - Life at the law firm
D-story - Family stuff

If the way I label those stories sounds generic, it's mostly because, by and large, that seems to be the structure of every episode of this show -- though sometimes there is ONLY "Alicia and Peter" or "Family stuff," not both. However, despite the generic labels, the specifics of each of the stories is anything but.

Length and Breakdown

Teaser - 16 pages, 10 scenes
Act I - 13 pages, 10 scenes
Act II - 15 pages, 11 scenes
Act III - 10 pages, 6 scenes
Act IV - 10 pages, 7 scenes

44 scenes in 64 pages. Relatively typical structure, albeit with a LONG teaser... but in this case the teaser works much like a first act, starting with the inciting incident for Alicia -- her husband's betrayal -- and taking her through her first day at work, getting a trial, and the first stressful day of that trial. Way more packed than your typical teaser. The rest of the show is more in line with shows of this sort, with each act more or less getting shorter and scenes coming at a more rapid-fire pace. Or at least rapid fire for a court show.

The scenes are organized as follows:

A-story - Alicia's court case of the week (31 beats/scenes)
B-story - Alicia and Peter (8 beats/scenes)
C-story - Life at the law firm (11 beats/scenes)
D-story - Family stuff (6 beats/scenes)

Not surprisingly, the case of the week gets the lion's share of story time. B and C get interesting in this one, though. I stand by calling "Alicia and Peter" the B story here, because his scandal casts a giant cloud over everything and infects every part of her life. Those 8 beats could just as easily have been 15, but I tried to only pull out the moments that were unequivocally about Peter or about Peter and Alicia's relationship. The "Law firm" stuff, too, gets a bit tricky, bleeding into the case of the week and sometimes involving Peter and/or Alicia's family. Again, I tried to only count those beats that seemed to very clearly be about office life/politics. "Family stuff" is pretty straightforward.

Teaser - B, C/D, C/A, C, C, A, A, D/A, C/A
Act I - A/C, A, B, A, A, A, A, D/C, B, B/A
Act II - A, A, A, A, D, D, B, A, A, A, A
Act III - A, B, C/A, A, A, A
Act IV - A/C, B/A, A, B/A, A, A, D/C/B

(Note: where beats include a / mark, this means that the scene has elements of both stories. In the scene/beat count above, every appearance of A, B, C and so on is counted as one full beat rather than a half, even if there is a slash mark.)

56 story beats. In 44 scenes. The A-story is the one that gets to live on its own the most, and it more or less takes over the story from Act II through most of Act IV. The B-,C-, and D-stories mostly pop up as elements in the A-story or in a scene where they share the spotlight with each other, just like the final scene, which has beats for B, C, and D together. Basically, the message is that the case of the week is God, and if the others want to stick around they need to huddle together and tell their stories efficiently. Lucky for us the writers are good at doing just that, because those B, C, and D stories are the reason to watch this extremely well done show.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Circalit Screenwriting Competition


Because the contest organizers asked that I pass this on (and because I don't have anything to post today):

I thought readers of your blog might be interested in hearing about a free Circalit-hosted monthly screenwriting competition in connection with the BBC, Hollywood producer Julie Richardson, and a number of other industry professionals. Please see the details below. We've also prepared a short guide for writers to learn the best ways of protecting their screenplay from copyright infringement which you might be interested in having a look at here. Do let me know if you have any questions.

Kind regards,

Raoul

The BBC and Hollywood Producers to Judge Monthly Screenwriting Competition on Circalit.

Screenwriters across the globe are posting their scripts up at www.circalit.com where BBC and Hollywood producers are now reviewing winning scripts with a view to production. The competition takes place monthly and is divided into television scripts, feature length screenplays and shorts. The winning scripts are decided every month by public vote and are then sent to BBC and Hollywood producers to be reviewed and potentially produced. The BBC will be reviewing the winning television script each month, whilst Julie Richardson, managing member of Imaginarium Entertainment Group and best known as the producer of box office hit “Collateral” will be reviewing the winning short (any screenplay under 60 pages). Meanwhile, feature length screenplays are being judged by Hollywood scriptwriter, Tom Lazarus, and Europe’s premier script development organisation, The Script Factory, in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia and a host of other major production studios.

Tom Lazarus, screenwriter and director, author of nine produced features, Master Class instructor at UCLA Extension Writer's Program and International Film Consultant, commented, "Circalit is a welcome addition to screenwriting community and a good place for writers to network and make industry contacts."

Briony Hanson, Co-Director of The Script Factory, commented, "We're very excited by Circalit's project to offer writers the chance to find support for their screenplays. The site is clear, user-friendly and it seems like only a matter of time before Circalit becomes known as one of the essential places for the industry to look for new screenwriting talent and we're happy to be working with them to help screenwriters."

To enter your script visit www.circalit.com
Anyone know anything about Circalit? It's not one of the contests I'm really familiar with.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trailer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rewriting? Whoa, not so fast, let's re-outline first

Once we're "finished," Jul and I aren't great with the rewriting.


Let me explain what I mean a little bit.

The way our writing process works as partners, we break the story together -- literally sitting in the same room and writing things out on different colored Post-Its so that we can shuffle the pieces around and really, beat-by-beat, know exactly where our story is going and make sure (in theory) that it makes logical and thematic sense. And we're pretty thorough. We start with concept and characters; figure out what the beginning, middle, and end needs to be for our MC (tip: not Master of Ceremonies); then we break the storylines down (into A, B, C, etc.), beat them out, and weave them together into a cohesive whole. (Okay, obviously I'm describing the best case scenario of our process, but this really is what we attempt to do.)

Once we have that incredibly thorough outline as a guide, the actual writing of the scenes is kind of like a paint by number drawing... but a whole heck of a lot more fun, since of course the writing is where you can really make things come alive. The way we do the "actual" writing is by divvying up scenes, each writing one or two, then exchanging and revising each others' work as we go. Usually after some arguing and hurt feelings and reconciliation, but you can leave that out if you want.

Because of this "rewriting as we go" process, generally we end up having a "first draft" that's pretty polished and cohesive and, well, "finished."

Why do I bring this up? Because though our most recent pilot, Castrati, was very well liked by most everyone that read it, we knew it had one big problem that seemed to be holding it back: people read our very dramatic teaser that focuses solely on the main character and became extremely invested in his journey... then become confused when the first act throws him into a new set of circumstances with a bunch of new characters who each have their own B, C, and D stories. Stories which are much more lighthearted and romp-y.

Yes, it was a tale of two different pilots: the one that we wrote and the one that we set people up to read. In other words, a problem.

Unfortunately, everyone loves the teaser, so we kept trying to leave it intact(ish) while injecting a bit of humor to match the tone of the rest of the script... and find a way to introduce those other characters (those of the B, C, and D stories), so it's less of a shock that we later spend so much time with them. And nothing worked.

We learned rather quickly that trying to make the castration of a little boy humorous is not an easy task. And that showing snippets of four characters' lives in the teaser to get their stories going just felt weird and confusing. And that about a dozen other tricks we tried just didn't work either...

And so we brought it to our new writers group. Maybe they could give us an easy idea we just hadn't thought of. A magic bullet, if you will. Maybe we'd been killing ourselves trying to solve something that would only take a few seconds once we discovered the right words... or maybe not so much.

Instead, they made our heads spin a bit with an idea that just might work, but could drastically change the structure... and just maybe even the story. Which is scary, because we're talking about a script that just about everyone loved. That we were able to get people excited about just from telling them the idea. That a professional writer friend liked so much he recommended it to his agents and manager. Changing it too much...

But, like I said, it just might work, so we're going to go back to the drawing board (i.e. outlining) to see just what reverberations this change really will cause.

It's so hard to revise when there's new stuff to be written. Le sigh...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Depression

A really, really informative blog entry that will make you really, really depressed. Seriously. Read it.

Life of a Pseudo Writer

Friday, April 9, 2010

Starting from character? Pining for kraut? Jane is back!

This is old news for many of you, I'm sure, but the godmother of TV writing blogs is back posting on her site with all new advice and tales of eating.

That's right: Jane Espenson is posting again! Huzzah!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Neighbors

Here's a nicely put together promo reel for the show I'm working on. Premieres in June!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm a Transmedia Producer! Who knew?

According to Deadline Hollywood, the Producers Guild of America voted on and ratified "Transmedia Producer" as a new credit on Monday. The newly minted title acknowledges producers who develop cross-platform storylines in Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, and Mobile.

For example, Lost has a series of web videos that are separate but supporting the mainstream TV series. Supernatural also has a series of web videos that is a spin-off of sorts featuring the Ghostfacers, minor characters from the TV show . The producers involved in those series -- and many, many others -- now have a special term for their work.

And, since Josh and I are working on a series (headed by the talented Emmett Furey) which utilizes comics and short web videos to tell the story of Fury of Solace, we can now use the title "Transmedia Producer" to refer to the producer work we do for the series. However, since we aren't getting paid for the gig, we can't yet parlay that into Producers Guild of America.

One step at a time...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing Advice from David Mamet to the Staff of The Unit

I just came across this online and thought it was more than worth re-posting here. It's hilarious and also contains a lot of good advice for aspiring writers.


TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE: THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION: WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. YOU, THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE EVERY SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT WILL BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS YOUR JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE - THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. NOT TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO REALIZE THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES BUT YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND FIGURE IT OUT.

HOW DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? THAT IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO DO THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, YOU ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. MOST TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE RADIO. THE CAMERA CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. LET IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS DOING -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY SEEING.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED, OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM - TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO START.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO ASK THE RIGHT Questions OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I Hope Dr. Horrible Stays on the Internet

I know the idea of seeing our favorite musical supervillan and his hammer-headed nemesis on the big screen has many people squeeing with delight, but it has me cringing. When I first heard the rumors that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog might have a film sequel instead of a web one, I instantly began scouring the internet hoping that Neal Patrick Harris's quote was misunderstood or that Joss Whedon had denied it. Surely, someone was mistaken here.

The internet has always been the red-headed stepchild compared to its coiffed, platinum-blonde siblings in film and TV. Dramatic chipmunks and parkour just don't compare to the artistic merits of Transformers 2 and Cavemen the TV show. But the internet is home to more than just rejects from America's Funniest Home Videos. People are telling stories from their backyards and garages, from their apartments and offices. Instead of the financial backing of studios or investors, they are backed by the power of a story to tell, the love of the filmed media, and the help of family and friends.

By no means was Dr. Horrible the first piece of original storytelling content to get noticed on the internet. Felicia Day's web series about online role-playing game, The Guild, is now in its 3rd season and is distributed by Xbox Live and Microsoft and sponsored by Sprint. Dorm Life, a mockumentary web series about, you guessed it, dorm life, went on to be sponsored by Carl's Jr. in its second season. The creators of the strange web video diary Lonelygirl13 were signed by a major talent agency, and Lonelygirl herself went on to have a role on ABC Family's Greek. After the first episode of Red vs. Blue, a series using animation directly from the popular video game Halo, the producers were contacted by the video game's production company to arrange a deal so the series could continue to use game properties without license fees.


But how many people are really aware of any of these series? What made Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog unique was the amount of mainstream media attention it recieved, the sheer number of viewers that went to the site, and the respect it was given in the entertainment community.

In a time where the old models are struggling to survive -- network TV's ratings are flagging and box office draw isn't what it used to be -- the internet is primarily being treated as a marketing tool instead of a new method for distribution. Sure, the producers of film and television are posting content to the web, but they are doing so in hopes of enticing those eyeballs to move over to the TV screens and movie screens that matter to them. Yet, if the current trends continue, soon most television and movie viewing will be taking place on the web. One-third of teens and a quarter of tweens watch TV on the internet, according to a 2006 Mindshare survey. As these internet-savvy kids grow up and more full-length content becomes available online, web viewership can only increase. Eventually the internet will become the primary distribution method whether we want it to or not.

Read the rest of the article.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spoilers for the Next Episode of Glee from Paleyfest


The best thing about last night’s Glee panel is that they showed the 14th episode of Glee that won’t be airing until April. The worst? I have to wait until April to see the 15th episode. Argh!

So how was it? Well, I have to admit that the first 20 minutes or so of the episode had me a little bored. They reintroduced pretty much everything they did in the pilot. Shock of shocks, the Glee club is still “uncool,” and New Directions is again threatened by the principal and the unapologetically evil cheerleading coach Sue Sylverster played by Jane Lynch. The twist this time? They don’t just have to win sectionals, they have to win REGIONALS, or the program will be cut. Whoa, big diff!

But once we got past all the exposition and rehashing, it was a really good episode of Glee. Be prepared for some great one-liners (“Did you know that dolphins are really gay sharks?”) and some awesome performances. I’m going to go into further plot details below, so if that’s all you want to know about the episode, skip the next three paragraphs and go right to my write-up on the panel itself. If you want to be SPOILED!, read on.

Will asks the kids to find songs including the world ‘hello,’ resulting in renditions of the Doors’ “Hello I love You,” Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again,” and the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye.” Rachel — pissed at Finn after yet another rejection — chooses to focus on the first syllable with the All American Rejects’ song “Gives You Hell.”

Yes, Rachel and Finn are together when the episode starts, but that doesn’t last long with Sue’s interference. Instead, Rachel has a chance encounter with Jessie St. James, the lead singer for Vocal Adrenaline, the New Directions’ main rival. There’s a love connection made, but because of the team’s concerns about Jessie’s motives (is he just a spy?), Rachel and Jessie decide to date in secret. Meanwhile, Finn realizes that he wants Rachel back, leaving the leading lady feeling torn.

Will’s love life is also in shambles by the end of the episode. Things start off well between he and Emma (including one really sexy almost kiss,) but Emma isn’t quite ready to be intimate (in fact, she NEVER has been) and Will is still a bit of a wreck from his recent divorce. Instead, he ends up making out with the director of Vocal Adrenalin, and Emma has a nasty visit from Will’s ex that makes her question him. The two decide to put things on hold until they can figure out their issues.

In the panel that followed, the cast and crew spilled the beans on quite a few upcoming episodes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Makeover, Makeover!

September 27, 2009.


Wowsers, was that really my last post? And it was on FlashForward? The last THREE were on FlashForward?!

Ha.

Well, kids, lots of things have happened in the last almost-six months.

1) Jul and I now own a condo, have a roommate, and are trying to Craigslist our way into filling the other vacant bed... after living on our own in a two bedroom for a year. It's an adjustment.

2) I've been dubbed "scratch master" at my current job, frequently recording the temp audio for shows when we can't get the actors right away, and even had a paid day of recording work myself, though so far the "paid" part of that is pretty loose. You wouldn't believe how long it takes to get a check cut for voice work.

3) I've had two paid days as a "writer," by which I mean my old company called me in to watch some of the current stuff they're working on and give notes and suggestions. It's awesome work, but I'd call it more pitching than writing. Speaking of which...

4) Jul and I pitched an animated feature to the head of my old company, which is the reason I ended up getting the aforementioned writing work. They ultimately passed on the pitch, but were extremely positive about it and us.

5) The show I'm working on got an order for 5 more scripts! The writers are alternately excited and stressed since we're deep into production on the first 10 right now.

6) Jul got a job assisting the creator and head writer of a fantastic animated kids show!

That last reason, actually, is why I'm writing this, because starting today(ish) Boring Future Generations will no longer be a one man band, but a duo. Jul is going to start posting her thoughts on writing, television, and the entertainment industry in general, just like me!

What does this mean for you, the Reader? Well, the Reader, it means only 3 months between posts instead of 6! Potential public fights when we disagree on random shite! Posts from someone who doesn't have his head up his ass but HER head up HER ass! Singing! Dancing! Synchronized swimming! (those last three ONLY if you went to the Paleyfest panel for Glee) And possibly an annual event with fireworks, but NOT on the Fourth of July. Because let's face it, that's just played the eff out.

Honestly, we don't know what kind of changes there might be. We still want this to be a blog about writing and TV and, you know, us, so we'll just see where it takes us.

In the meantime, in honor of our impending makeover, enjoy this vid: