Tuesday, September 29, 2009

on the page podcast

I am so behind in my blogging! Where to even start? Since I last wrote we went to the sublime primetime event at the WGA theater. I think I'm going to have to swear off these sort of panel discussions unless I know the moderator is going to do their job. It's always a bad sign when they have a very in-demand celebrity as moderator because they do that thing where they skate by on charm but don't really do substantial research about the guests so that it just sort of devolves into a funny Q&A but not much more.
Right, so enough kvetching there. We're catching up on chapters 3, 4 and 5 of Elephant Bucks and I have to say they're the most useful so far. Of course you have to wade through the spec of Frazier that he uses as a sample but nevertheless it's quite good. Particularly how he illustrates the seven plot elements to develop your sit-com story. Chapter 5's example of a DETAILED outline is exactly what you all should be doing. As he says it's a chance to pre-write the script.
Last week's visit from Lisa Kudrow and Don Roos was fun. I particularly liked what each of them had to say but Lisa's point about how writers and actors should collaborate on story made a lot of sense. I think that writers have a tendency to see actors at "the other" but they're crucial partners in the creation process. Don's ideas about writing sympathetic stories for flawed people is pretty fascinating. It's tough act to pull off, but when he does it's amazing. Christina Ricci in the Opposite of Sex is a perfect example of this concept.
I wanted to put in a plug for a podcast I've been listening to called "On The Page." It has a horrible theme song so just fast forward past that part. It's by a script consultant, Pilar Arrrlll.... (can't remember her last name and I'm lazy. Hey, I tagged the link so...) There's lots to listen to here but in particular, episode 106 "Writing Half-Hour TV" is a must. So, I'm assigning it for next week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

12 specs, piece of cake?

This week we read in Elephant Bucks how Sheldon Bull created a portfolio of 12 spec scripts in order to get his writing career started. I mentioned that when I was a fellow way back in ye-olde 2000, Mike Ellis said something that haunts me to this day, "There is always someone who is willing to work harder." What I'm getting at here is the serious amount of work required to do this... this writing thing... as a professional. As Mr. Bull points out it helps if you're a little obsessed. I do actually think it takes a lot of work to make it happen no matter if you're writing features or TV. One way you know you're in the right place is if the work doesn't feel like work. You may not spring out of bed excited to face the blank page, but you don't hate it. In fact, at times you even enjoy it. And maybe if you're really cooking you work extra because you're having fun. For TV it means knowing some shows. And seriously, you guys barely watch TV at all. I know how it is - I was like you, too at one point -- with an active social life and a meaningful pursuit of higher education. But soon, soon the call of Television will grow strong and you'll put down that copy of the latest Cormack McCarthy novel and do something good for your brain!
I've posted links to the pilot script of Arrested Development and How I Met Your Mother. The assignment this week is to write a 1 page character bio of the main character (Michael and Marshall respectively). You can speculate as much as you want so long as you can point to something in the script that supports that speculation. In fact - the deeper back into a character's life you can go, ie: page five hints at a childhood of isolation and rejection, the better.