Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I don't care if it's pc or not, Merry Christmas to everyone out there in Grinderland.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In need of cool names, go to Montana

Okay, I know this is a weird segue, but I am just awful at coming up with new names. They always end up at Madison for a girl and Jimmy for a guy. It's idiotic. But, I found a fix in the weirdest place.

This year, I had several cross country flights. First, I went to visit a client in San Diego in February. Then, I flew into La to apartment scout in June. Finally, in June, we relocated to LA. During cross country flights, I like to view the map most airlines provide that tracks where the plane is over the country. And, during one of the trips, not sure which one, I realized that Montana, Nebraska, Idaho, and most of that area of the country have the most interesting names for towns. As many of those towns were named for the person who founded the town taking a map, or let's be serious mapquest, can provide you names you've never thought of. I used the system for all of my recent scripts.

Consider it my Holiday gift to you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I'm not hating on Heroes

*** warning, season 3 Heroes spoilers ahead***

It seems to be the fad of the week, or the past two seasons to hate on Heroes. I, myself, have been driving that bus more than once. However, the thing that turned me around was watching season 1 on DVD.

See, if you actually sit down and watch it from the beginning, all of the idiosyncrasies that have ballooned up in the past two volumes were quite present from the beginning. The confusing shifts in time, the storylines that lead nowhere, the episodes where nothing happens, the people who are in one episode only to die in the next, the character who are inexplicably forced together. ALL of those things happened starting in episode 2 of the first season. What is the difference? In the first season, there was a purpose. A clear-cut purpose for all of the heroes to galvanize around. And that made all of the other idiocies...yes, idiot + idiosyncrasies, forgivable. I bet you don't remember that they saved the cheerleader in episode 8...that's right the biggest crux of season 1 happens 8 episodes in. Also, there are 2+ episodes where Hiro is lost in time. I mean, I've been through some of this, but if you bought it in the first season, it's hard to argue with it now.

I think that the episodes from the Eclipse on might be the great reboot of Heroes. Since that episode, the storylines have been strong, and the heroes have been fighting a common foe. Nathan has taken a strong stance, and Peter has taken the other stance. Yes, there have been some weak story-lines, but does anyone remember Nikki and Jessica the first season? Talk about groan. Everyone knew that Peter HAD to get powers back, he was the impedus for the entire show. And, on the flip side, Hiro had to LOSE his power because he was too powerful. Anything bad that happened, Hiro could just stop with his mind. It made everything else in the world unbelieveable.

I say, just enjoy the Heroes ride, even though the characters were...well, completely out of character, Matt Parkman helping Ted Sprague hold Claire's family hostage was pretty out of character...Then, having HRG team up with Ted and Matt immediately afterwards is even more out of character...oh, and all that was in the first season.

Next season looks like it's going to be filled with all of the heroes fighting for a common goal, which is what made season 1 so awesome. Just give me cool powers, semi-decent story telling, and a thinly veiled plot and I'm sold. And if you as the audience would watch the first season, I think your eyes would be open as well. The first season wasn't great, it was average, but it was also AWESOME!

Friday, December 12, 2008

100th post woohoo/NBC installing Leno at 10pm

First, this is my 100th post, so woohoo! Get the party poppers, hats, and cake and do a little dance.

Okay, now that's out of the way, I want to discuss NBC cutting original scripted programming at 10pm and replacing it with 5 days of JAY LENO! This has caused an uproar within the creative community because it means 5 less hours of programming for writers, directors, and producers. Instead, the less expensive tonight show will take it's place, much like the news on the CW and FOX.

I for one, agree with Steven Bochco's assessment of the situation. He believes that network drama is awful for the most part. As my mother would say, if you can't play nice, you don't deserve the toys. What I mean is, if showrunners can't put good shows on television, why should a network put on their half-assed dramas? They have a perfectly marketable commodity in Jay Leno, who is being pushed out of his slot, and would likely find a home at a rival network. So, instead of giving a golden goose to the competition, they keep it in house, cut down their programming, and bring in a rather inexpensive show to take it's place. After all, NBC is used to pull an 8 share, is down to a 3 share this season and needs to make drastic changes. 10 hours of programming is still a lot of hours to fill. Just ask CW and FOX.

I really do prefer the cable model. Most networks only program original programming 1-3 days a week, showing re-runs the rest of the week. The shows are good, fresh, and draw 5 shares, higher than gossip girl, for a new show like Leverage. While it's not as high as an NBC show, everyone needs to realize how television now works, and adapt to it. I would never consciously produce a show for networks. I would be more than happy to land on the Sundance channel with a quirky Slings and Arrows type show.

Now, as a wannabe tv producer, it kind of screws me over, but that is what adaptation is all about. We as producers now need to look towards foreign markets, online, direct to video distribution, and other outlets. Does it suck for jobs? Yes. Is it at an awful time in our economy? Yes. As Bochco said, good shows will always find an audience. Of course, Cupid, Arrested Development, Pushing Daisies, Freaks and Geeks, and so on down the line, would take exception to that. And yes, some of this is on the networks for putting on Cashmere Mafia, Lipstick Jungle, Valentine, and Easy Money, but if you are an aspiring producer, you should blame the executive producers who are putting on such awful shows in the first place. If they don't find an audience, what do you expect a network to do? Jay is a proven commodity...Hell, I'll gladly watch. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. Survival of the fittest, what are you willing to do to survive?

I hate research

Unfortunately, I'm good at it. That doesn't make me like it any more. But, since I have some expected time off, and I'm sans scripts to write, it's been two weeks of research: btwn NATPE, a new script research (right now I'm leaning to a shakespeare every other human on earth), and English language market research (Australia, Britain, Canada...sorry, Belize) it's been busy couple weeks. And I wanted to give you a few tidbits about what I've gleaned. I should mention, my research was only so complete because finding information about shows in other countries is rough, and watching those shows on youtube is sometimes impossible. So, if you live in these countries and want to add to the research, I'd be happy to update the findings.

Other English language countries aren't big fans of legal shows.

Outside of Billable Hours in Canada, I didn't find many successful legal shows anywhere in the English speaking world. And, since the name of our game is ability to source shows to multiple countries, developing a legal show is not advisable in the current climate.

Everyone loves crime/police shows.

For as much as I had trouble finding legal shows, crime shows were EVERYWHERE. However, unlike America which has "dramedy" cop shows like Monk and Psych, almost all, if not all, of foreign police dramas are straight drama, no comedy. It's a bummer, and there may be a niche to fill, but the good news is that crime dramas are alive and well anywhere. Of course, we all know Hustle IS a dramedy show about a group of con-men...however, not a police station, CoW show, and definitely not a show that I have seen in either Canada or Australia.

The "dialect" barrier is not as pronounced as one would assume.

Outside of a few british shows that utilized some cockney expressions, every show I researched used the same general dialect as we do in the states. Now, that doesn't mean you should make a show about a surfer dude, that just won't translate. But, if you are planning on marketing a show to multiple countries, and you use standard english, not slang, you should be able to market your show to a wide range of english speaking countries.

Though it goes against common sense, almost every sitcom is single camera.

One would assume that since multi-camera sitcoms are the most inexpensive shows to produce, a researcher would see them in places like Australia and Canada. However, the opposite is true. In fact, through my research I only saw a handful of multi-camera comedies, most of which were re-runs on BBC. This particular fact was the biggest surprise to me.

British shows is crazy!

If I'm going to create a show straight for a specific country, it's going to be Britain. Not only do they have a crazy show that's shot solely from the character's POV, but they also have a sitcom about a group of housewives who are in two rival gangs. Of all the countries I found, the most zany, fun, and overall creative shows were on British TV.

The next post, I'll put together some of my favorite specific shows from each country. Now, back to the grind!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Leverage Karma

So, after berating Leverage, calling it a poor man's hustle, guess who has an interview with the production company who produces the show today. That's right, THIS GUY. a bitch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Correction : HUSTLE

Try as I might, I missed that hustle IS coming back for a fifth season. Thanks Spec Odyssey for the note. See the press release here. Get your DVRs ready.

In my defense, I read from several sources that the series was cancelled.

From Wiki, the all-knowing source of all things*

Following much media speculation, including reports of the programme being cancelled and a motion picture spin-off,[6] the BBC announced on 12 June 2008 that Hustle had been recommissioned for a fifth series. Adrian Lester will return, alongside Robert Glenister and Robert Vaughn,[7] although Marc Warren and Jaime Murray will not appear.[4]

The fifth series has been referred to as a "relaunch" by lead director James Strong[8] and will feature Matt Di Angelo,[9] Bill Bailey and Patrick Bergin[10] as guest stars.

Even futoncritic is confused, calling the show canceled.

Okay, enough defending. That's the most recent scoop.


John Rogers


I love you, and Kung Fu monkey is one of my favorites, AND leverage is a quality show shot on the Red, which I respect. I qualify those statements to say this.

Leverage is a poor man's Hustle. Hustle is a British show that aired on AMC for four seasons dealing with a group of "scrupulous" thieves who steal from degenerate human beings. Except instead of giving it back, they keep it to fund their operations. It's one of my favorite shows of all time, canceled before it's time. (*correction: Hustle will air a fifth season on AMC starting in January)

Here is my major concern. There's no real conflict except for the A story. If you look at shows that work about do-gooders, they always have a crux. In A Team, the team was always being chased, fearing for their lives...not that BA feared anything. In Hustle, the fear was not having enough money to continue. In Burn Notice, the fear is not being able to solve the case of who burned him.

However, there is not that conflict in Leverage. In the first episode, the "team" gets a windfall of money, enough to retire on. However, in the end, they decide helping the good guys was too much to fun to pass up on. They all want Nathan, Timothy Hutton, to lead them into helping the good guys.

They no longer have to worry about being caught, or needing money, or any of those things that drive other shows. Their initial conflict about who set them up in the pilot was resolved by the end of the pilot.

While it is easy to say the A story is compelling enough to watch, which it is, there is no urgency in the group for a bigger purpose. And, for me, that makes it a watered down Hustle. On a side note, Jaime Murray, we hardly knew ye on Valentine. I wanted to watch it just for you, but I couldn't do it.

As for John Rogers, I read the blog, I know what you've done, and I respect the hell out of it. As far as a show goes, I'll keep watching.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Slumdog, Repost

In another article from Living the Romantic Comedy, they analyze the structure of Slumdog Millionaire. After watching the movie, I commented to my buddy about how beautifully the story was structured, and this blog encapsulates why it works so well. See it in it's original form here.

Structure, Structure, Structure

If movies are story, and they are, then screenplays are structure. -- William Goldman

You may have heard by now that this year's indie sleeper Slumdog Millionaire is being considered a dark horse Oscar contender for Best Picture. You might think such buzz is due to the exotic factor (Bollywood-color drama and romance in the slums of India!), that it's a Danny Boyle movie (Trainspotting, 28 Days), or that it's got that ridiculously gorgeous woman in it (Freida Pinto). All of these elements do contribute to what makes the movie such a wild and satisfying ride, but -- please don't throw things at the story analyst -- I think the movie works on account of its structure.

Structure9 Structure is the biggest old bugaboo in screenwriting circles. Reams have been written about this aspect of the craft, which is as misunderstood and misused as it's slavishly adhered to. I'm presently teaching a screenwriting class where the students are busily banging their heads against the specter of structure, as they work out the big beats of their plot en route to a viable outline of their movie. And they'd be the first to tell you that this is the opposite of fun.

Often the cry of the newbie screenwriter, knee-deep in such a painful process, is why?! Why is it so infernally important that one have the structure of a story locked in, before one starts to write actual scenes in earnest? Why not just... y'know, have fun with the thing? Write and make discoveries, figuring out what works and doesn't work on the fly?

Structure4 I'm all for all of that. But Slumdog answers that"why" in a way that no amount of theorizing could. It's a vivid demonstration of why sooner than later, deciding on a structure and committing to it is the best thing a screenwriter can do.

Here's what you learn in the opening of the movie (what follows is no spoiler, since far more of the plot has already been spilled in Slumdog's glowing reviews):

Eighteen-year-old Dev Patel has reached the last stage of India's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? TV show. He's on the verge of hearing and answering the final question in front of millions of viewers. But Dev is merely a go-fer at a Mumbai telemarketing center, an uneducated "slumdog" who couldn't -- shouldn't -- be educated enough to have gotten this far. And so, suspected of cheating, he's imprisoned and interrogated, even tortured, by the local police. What Dev eventually explains is that each correct answer he's given on the show came from some fairly grim experience he had, growing up the hard way on the streets of Mumbai. Such as... And we're into our first flashback.

Structure_Flowchart How brilliant a construct? Let's see. As my writer-director friend Bob Dolman (Far and Away, How to Eat Fried Worms) puts it, any story is only as good as the predicament its protagonist is in. It's only when your character is between a powerful rock and an equally compelling hard place that an audience sits up and takes notice.

So: I'd like to tell you the story of what it's like to grow up dirt-poor in Mumbai. Here's where I was born, and here are my parents, and here's the kids I used to play with, and...


How about instead, I put you in the epicenter of perhaps the most important moment of my life -- when I'm poised on the brink of becoming a millionaire... or after coming all this way, losing the huge sum I've already won, and leaving as poor as I've always been?

Now you've got our attention.

And how about we add in the threat of my being strung up and having electrical wires attached to some sensitive body parts... and perhaps being locked in prison for the rest of my days, if I can't prove my innocence?

We're listening.

Now, wouldn't you like to know what I went through as a kid, to learn the answer to the first question I got right on this show? It was pretty awful.

Go on.

And how about, with each story-about-how-I-learned-an-answer, I tell you about my best friend and the girl I fell in love with, and how she came between us... and I spin that decades-spanning tale (it's got guns, betrayal and even the Taj Mahal in it) right up to the present moment, where friend and girl and I all hang in the balance of: what happens next?

Dude! Just tell us where's it playing and what time it goes on.

Since I'm not familiar with the source material, a novel called Q & A written by Vikas Swarup, I can't tell you how much of this concept is Swarup and how much is director Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaudroy (who also wrote an involving little pic called The Full Monty). But I would wager that Swarup didn't start out, first and foremost, with a burning desire to tell a story about a quiz show.

Structure_img01 No, he probably had a passionate investment in a story about two best friends growing up on the streets of Mumbai. In fact, judging by some on-screen evidence, he might've been interested in telling a modern-day version of The Three Musketeers (with a little Oliver Twist thrown in). But my point is, how did that story end up riveting millions of butts in their seats?


It helps that Boyle is a director of ceaseless energy and visual invention. But this time his considerable talents are brought to bear on a story that just -- keeps -- coming. Each flashback is a story in itself, with its own rising arc and tensions. And each time we come back to a present that's increasingly more meaningful and suspenseful.

Structure2005_e800 Plus you get an all-singing, all-dancing kickass Bollywood musical number.

As to the consummate why? of structure, here's my final answer: structure is the skeleton you hang your story on, and if you build it right, just about any image -- say, from a kid literally covered in outhouse manure to a haunted beauty caught alone in the monsoon rain -- will compel our attention.

Slumdog Millionaire even has a neat thematic subtext to play out, about how disparate, seemingly random events that felt like pure chaos when you lived them can actually sum up The Story of You. But it wouldn't have been such an indelibly memorable movie-to-see, if it wasn't told in such a canny, crafty manner.

Structure, structure, structure.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

I hate movies. I usually see about 10 movies a year, and of those maybe one is acceptable and another 1 is transcendent. The other 8 are garbage and make me want to gouge my own eyes out. Last night, I saw Slumdog Millionaire, and I loved it, except the last 10 minutes are kinda cheesy. As I was walking out of the theater, I realized why. It's because I didn't recognize ANYONE in the movie, and it was refreshing.

Why was it refreshing? Because the movie was about...the movie! It wasn't about the star, or the director, or some producer even. It was about the script. The words on the page carried the story, and the directing worked to complement that. The opposite of Slumdog is Valkyrie, which is Tom Cruise...not even attempting an accent, which really toads my wet sproket. It's self-serving, and instead of worrying about making a good movie, it became about marketing to the most people. News Flash: TOM CRUISE SHOULD NEVER BE IN A GERMAN WORLD WAR II MOVIE! And that is my diatribe about Hollywood movies. In my opinion, Hollywood movies are about actors and marketing, while the movies I like have either people you've never heard of, or Ellen Page pre-Juno.

About the movie, it was really excellent. There was action, adventure, love lost, excitement, feelings, thrills, and generally it functioned much like a hollywood film, not the "typical" independent movie. There were absolutely amazing effects, chase scenes that would have felt perfectly at home in a much larger film, and a generally enjoyable story arch, which is more than I can say for Get Smart, X Files, etc. It would make Blake Snyder and James Cameron proud. Most importantly, even though it took to December, it renewed my faith in making movies. If you haven't seen it yet, go!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thomas Kinkade should leave filmmaking to the pros.

Poached directly from this Vanity Fair article, who obtained the exclusive on it. This is a memo circulate to the entire crew of The Christmas Cottage. For S and G, here it the trailer. I should caveat, I've never produced anything shot on 35mm with a dvd distribution by Lionsgate that starred multiple academy award nominated actors, but still...come on.

Thomas Kinkade's

The Christmas Cottage

The sixteen guidelines for creating the "The Thomas Kinkade Look".

1) Dodge corners or create darkening towards edge of image for "cozy" look. This may only apply to still imagery, but is useful where applicable.

2) Color key each scene to create mood, and color variation. When possible, utilize cooler tones to suggest somber moods, and warmer, more vibrant tones to suggest festive atmosphere. In general, create a color scheme for each scene that can be accentuated through filtering, DI treatments, or through lighting. Most of my paintings feature an overall cool color envelope, into which warm accents are applied.

3) Create classic compositions. Paintings generally utilize a theme and variation compositional motif. Heavy weighting of the image towards one side, with accented areas of interest balancing it on the other side. Allow the eye to wander into the scene through some entry point. Be aware of where the viewer is standing at all times. Utilize traditional eye levels for setting the shot -- that is, no high vantage points, off-kilter vantage points, or "worms eye view" vantage points. Generally focus on a standing adults viewpoint of the scene at hand.

4) Awareness of edges. Create an overall sense of soft edges, strive for a "Barry Lyndon" look. Star filters used sparingly, but an overall "gauzy" look preferable to hard edge realism.

5) Overall concept of light. Each scene should feature dramatic sources of soft light. Dappled light patches are always a positive, glowing windows, lightposts, and other romantic lighting touches will accentuate the overall effect of the theme of light.

6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.

7) Overall sense of stillness. Emphasize gentle camera moves, slow dissolves, and still camera shots. A sense of gradual pacing. Even quick cut-away shots can slightly dissolve.

8) Atmospheric effects. Whenever possible utilize sunset, sunrise, rainy days, mistiness -- any transitory effect of nature that bespeaks luminous coloration or a sense of softness.

9) A sense of space. My paintings feature both intimate spaces and dramatic deep space effects. We should strive for intimate scenes to be balanced by deeper establishing shots. (I know this particular one is self-evident, but I am reminded of it as I see the pacing of the depth of field in Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon".)

10) Short focal length. In general, I love a focal plane that favors the center of interest, and allows mid-distance and distant areas to remain blurry. Recommend "stopping down" to shorten focal lengths.

11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.

12) Surprise details. Suggest a few "inside references" that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings -- for example, a "teddy bear mascot" for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I'm aware of normally have hidden "inside references". In the realm of fine art we refer to this as "second reading, third reading, etc." A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.

13) Mood is supreme. Every decision made as to the visual look of each shot should include the concept of mood. Music can accentuate this, use of edges can accentuate this, atmospheric effects accentuate this, etc.

14) The concept of beauty. I get rid of the "ugly parts" in my paintings. It would be nice to utilize this concept as much as possible. Favor shots that feature older buildings, ramshackle, careworn structures and vehicles, and a general sense of homespun simplicity and reliance on beautiful settings.

15) Nostalgia. My paintings routinely blend timeframes. This is not only okay, but tends to create a more timeless look. Vintage cars (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc) can be featured along with 70's era cars. Older buildings are favorable. Avoid anything that looks contemporary -- shopping centers, contemporary storefronts, etc. Also, I prefer to avoid anything that is shiny. Our vintage vehicles, though often times are cherished by their owners and kept spic-n-span should be "dirtied up" a bit for the shoot. Placerville was and is a somewhat shabby place, and most vehicles, people, etc bear traces of dust, sawdust, and the remnants of country living. There are many dirt roads, muddy lanes, etc., and in general the place has a tumbled down, well-worn look.

16) Most important concept of all -- THE CONCEPT OF LOVE. Perhaps we could make large posters that simply say "Love this movie" and post them about. I pour a lot of love into each painting, and sense that our crew has a genuine affection for this project. This starts with Michael Campus as a Director who feels great love towards this project, and should filter down through the ranks. Remember: "Every scene is the best scene."

The list above is not all-inclusive, but is a good starting point for internal dialogue. These guidelines are not listed in order of importance, but are dictated off the top of my head. After painting for nearly 40 years, I still wake up every morning daydreaming about new ways to make paintings. Creating a movie is a natural extension of the picture making process, and hopefully my catalog of visual paintings, along with my visual guidelines in this memo will provoke dialogue, experimentation, and a sense of over-arching visual purpose.

SAG Strike

My time at UPC is coming to an end next week, and joy of joys, SAG is going to send out strike authorization to it's members in December. This has been the big drama in LA since June, right after the WGA strike settled, and the town settled down with DGA and AFTRA making deals. Outside of it being impossible to get a job in this town, at least on a show, in Dec/Jan, the SAG strike could shut a lot of productions down past that point.

It looks as though the the SAG strike is imminent, and will destroy yet another year of both television and film. With the absolute stubbornness of SAG, it could last into early 2015.

And, while I respect unions and their right to strike for better working conditions, I have yet to hear a valid argument to WHY they deserve a better deal that the other unions. It's clear that all of the unions took a slight in road into new media for a better deal in the future. And let's be honest, this isn't going to be a moneymaker for a few years yet.

Usually, in the past, as Teamsters go, so goes the rest of the town. Teamsters are NOT on board with a SAG strike. WGA is only on board because SAG was on board with their strike. AFTRA is not on board, DGA is silent. It seems as though, from the people that I've spoken to, that these other unions don't understand why SAG deserves better conditions that the rest of the town. And, I have absolutely no idea why either.

So, my question to you, my SAG friends, is WHY do YOU deserve a better deal than writers, directors, and other actors...besides that you are the strongest union in this town?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers. For everyone else, have a frank and productive Thursday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heroes "Idiosyncracies"

I use the term lightly. More accurately, I am oft quoted as saying "Tim Kring does not watch his own show". I say this, having watched almost every torturous episode of the show, listened to every ridiculous plot hole, and listened as the ran the show into the ground. I hope, god i hope, that this new "reset" is a new beginning for the show.

Being home this week due to Turkey day with no scripts to work on forced me to watched the huge stack of shows I own. and, after going through 2 seasons of bones, and exhausting 30 Rock and Arrested Development, I decided to unseal the first season of Heroes, which has not been opened in over a year. And, having watched this week's episode AND just finishing the pilot, here are some things I've noticed.

1. The abilities did NOT start during the eclipse. Even though the first episode ends with the eclipse, Issac (remember him, the painter) was painting the future weeks before the eclipse, and it would stand to reason that Angela and Arthur Petrelli had powers for years. Also, Claire Bennett had eight death attempts BEFORE the eclipse. In addition, since Sylar killed Mohinder's father, and Mohinder knew of the death before the eclipse, Sylar had power before the eclipse. And, if we think of a few episodes back, we know that Elle met Sylar prior to the eclipse, when she had her power. AND in addition, everyone Sylar killed with powers, had powers before the eclipse. So, their claim that the Eclipse started their powers is ridiculous.

2. In the second episode, Angela tells Peter that her father was found in the bathroom, but several episodes ago, we saw Angela "kill" Arthur by poisoning his soup.

3. Something that's been bugging me. In the first episode, when Nathan flies, he is truly surprised that he flew. However, in the flashback episode, Nathan flies out of the car before his wife and the car are thrown into the guardrail. So, yeah, he's got that going for him. And, how does NO ONE see that he is flying?

4. In the pilot, Mohinder comes to look for his father's formula and finish what his father started, whether it's finding the special people, or creating a formula to make everyone special. We, the audience, then learn that Arthur and PineHurst not only have a formula already, but they used it on Nathan, Peter, and several other people to give them abilities. Not really a glitch, just a rouse played on the audience which I'm angry about.

5. If Peter's ability is to absorb other abilities, and Angela has a power, and hospice care patient had an ability. Why doesn't he absorb those abilities once he gets his abilities? It's clear in the second episode he has absorbed Nathan's ability. It's clear that he absorbed Issac's ability. So, why doesn't he absorb the abilities of the others?

6. 9th Wonders. It was written by Issac because of his gift. The only other people who have the gift are Arthur, Peter, and Sylar. Peter didn't write the comic after Issac dies, neither does Sylar, and Arthur was largely in a coma. So, WHO writes this comic?

7. Nikki has sex with Nathan. Jessica tries to kill Nathan. How does the 3rd triplet end up with Nathan as well? I initially thought that this WAS Nikki, but since it isn't, how would Nathan let such a person in his life after what the others have done to him?

8. Not a linear gaff, but in episode 4, the Haitian and HRG are chasing Nathan. As we all know, the Haitian prevents people from using powers. They corner Nathan, and Nathan, well, flies! how does something like that happen around a person who's ability is STOPPING ABILITIES?

Okay, that's enough for now. I desperately want this show to be good. But every week, I come to the conclusion that "Tim Kring does NOT watch his own show". I know you need to suspend disbelief, and it's impossible to keep everything consistent in the show, but COME ON!

The Shield

t=I love TV. I'm not afraid to say it. I LOOOOVE TV. I don't really watch movies, go to theater, or buy cds, but I LOOOOVE tv. So, I wanted to talk about a great show, that I hope with RIP.

If you follow tv, you know one of the greatest shows in tv history ended last night. Not only was it excellent, It was also historically relevant. It was really responsible for the landscape of cable television as it is today. Without it, another show would have broken through, but cable would be very different today. I'm talking, of course, about The SHIELD.


The Shield-

I'm on the fence about this season finale. I always loved Ronnie, the most underrated player on the Strike Team. I felt that the only satisfying ending would be that Ronnie shoots Vic, Shane kills himself, and Ronnie gets away. However, the more I read reviews about the last episode, the more I've come to accept that it was a great way to end the season. I mean, nobody liked desk jobs, and to force Vic into the life of a desk jockey is brilliant. Shane, he had to die. There was no other way to end that storyline. However, the fact that he took his son and wife with him was sick.

The only thing that irritates me is that Ronnie was arrested. It would have taken no time at all for Vic to call Ronnie before he takes his deal and tell Ronnie to get out of town. Even though Ronnie would be pissed, I think he would have understood. And, since Vic was getting full immunity, and telling Ronnie to run would have been covered in his immunity.

I'm still on the fence about it for several reasons. First, I hate Shane and I hate Mara more. She's the reason that everything bad happened to the strike team. She used the Armenian money, she told Corinne what was going on. Basically, she fucked the strike team up. Also, I HATED the scenes between Shane and Mara in the final episodes. I realized that's probably why I stopped watching the show. After Lem died, and certainly after Vic found out, it became too much about Mara and Shane, and I found them boring.

Second, I didn't understand why ICE didn't arrest Ronnie right after the bust. They just let him stew for hours after the bust, until Vic was forced to watch his friend get arrested, and his other friend kill himself.

Third, there was absolutely no pay-off for Tina celebrating her one year anniversary on the force. He's a clue, that USUALLY means, in film, that chick is going to be killed. Why? Because without a pay-off, why even set the storyline up? There's NO reason. It pays off in no way. Far be it for me to criticize Shawn Ryan.

Fourth, there was NO pay-off to the Lloyd-Rita storyline. I know that AV Club said there was, but I don't think they were watching the same episode as me. Yes, Dutch and Claudette said it's only a matter of time, but there was no confession, there was no end.

However, there are some things that I loved as well.

First, Vic ending up in a suit and tie, typing reports, was such sweet, sweet justice. Watching this raw, powerful animal, caged. It must be how a tiger feels in captivity. He's stuck, with no one. And he's trapped.

Second, Corinne going into witness protection, leaving Vic, and ending up in a new town. Leaving Vic without the one thing he loved, his family.

Third, the final conversation between Vic and Shane. That was some powerful TV, when Shane asks for a favor, and Vic says no. Shane cries, and makes his final decision to end his family's life. That is sick shit, but it was great tv.

Fourth, Olivia is a badass. She was fucked over, and stuck with this beast, but she basically castrated him effectively and took away everything that he loved.

Overall, while all the storylines were not super well concluded, the acting in the show, from the leads to the lowest supporting actors have always been amazing. It's a show I'm going to miss, but a show that I bow to as well. We should all be so lucky to be a small part of a show that wonderful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

When a script just doesn't work...

As you know if you've read my blog, I like to get right into a script, barreling through if I like an idea until it's done, a nice, neat garbage draft.

However, every once and a while, during a re-write, I find that the idea doesn't work, like at all. I'll give you the logline of a spec I'm working on:

"After her father commits suicide, a young girl decides to kill herself, and sets off along a journey to do all of the things she wants to do before she dies".

Now, here's the issue. I love the main character, I love to B story, and I love to scenes. However, I can't wrap my brain about how anyone would find the story palatable, or identify with the main character. And, after so many weeks of thinking about it, I've decided it's time to kill my entire baby. While it kills me in a way, it has to be done. And, I just wanted to send it out into the ether that if you've had to do the same, I feel your pain. So, how did I come up with that conclusion? I want take a moment to discuss some things that may or may not be necessary to think about when killing an idea/script.

1-Does the STRUCTURE make sense?

Many times, character, even dialog, are great in a script, but the actual structure that drives the story doesn't work at ALL. For instance, you have a suicidal girl who is cracking jokes as she attempts different ways to kill himself, but she is not truly searching for anything. Or your B story is about a guy who's parents are dug up and sent home with him, but he doesn't actively seek out anything, your structure is wack and needs to be re-examined.

ANSWER: No. not at all, it is impossible to identify with the main protagonist, and equally impossible to identify with any of the other characters.

2- is it worth taking the script and doing a page 1 rewrite?

When you think of your story, and you decide you need to restructure the story from the beginning, is it worth it? Mainly, is your script marketable in the first place? Have you sunk enough time in to make it necessary to start again from the beginning? Do you have another idea that is better or equally good that you could adapt your current script?

ANSWER: No. the script must be gutted to the point that it is unrecognizable, and a new skeleton must be added to make the story work.

3- How badly do you want to write this movie?

Luckily for myself, I write a lot of scripts, and this was my "labor of love". So, while I loved the script, I don't NEED to make it. It was my kooky script, just for fun. If this is your masterwork, I would suggest you work on it more.

ANSWER: While I like it, I don't love it, and I don't need to have more of it.

So, my short answer is, as my business partner mentioned, to shelve it, and see if maybe in the next few years I can make something of it. Now, I need a new project to work on, any ideas?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sending out bad scripts...

Once you are read by a company, for the most part, they will give your script on two different criteria. First, let me tell you that if you don't know what coverage is, go to and you will be able to see basically the format of what coverage looks like. Disregard the synopsis and the development comments, and look at second grid at the pop of the page. Each script and reader is given a pass, consider, or recommend.

1- Script

They will give a pass, consider, recommend to the script. A script getting passed at a company means very little, except that that specific company doesn't think that script would be a good fit for their company. Possibly you sent a good quality romantic comedy script to a horror company or a slasher flick to an arthouse producer. Many times even if a script is amazing, a producer can't use it, even if they enjoy it. The real important grade they give you is-


The reader will also give a pass, consider, recommend to you, the writer. This is incredibly important because if you get a PASS, they will NOT read you again. Basically, the bad script burns a future bridge.

So, if you send out a great script to 50 companies and it doesn't sell, but all the companies thought it was well-written, you can submit other material to the company. But, if you send out a terrible script, you will be shooting yourself in the foot. Which is why it's incredibly important to VET your scripts with friends, writer's groups, mentors, proteges, and everyone who can give you accurate opinions on your scripts, before you send it out to people. Because whether someone buys your script of not, if they think you're a good writer, the door becomes a little easier to kick in the next time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The other crap

Because I'm not just a writer, or director, or director of development, but also run my company, I am often called upon to do OTHER CRAP besides being a creative. I hate the other crap, but it allows me to be more marketable to my business partners and the outside world.

And it got me to thinking about all the junk that needs to be done OUTSIDE of being creative and writing a script/directing a project in order to be successful. So I decided to run down a few for you, since I've once again neglected you for so long.

This is all of the materials that are required to get your script ready to be shown to people. It includes summaries, treatments, and loglines. I can't tell you how many writers I run in to that have a script and don't have the pitch material to get it read. Most of the time, there is a structure to getting a story read.

1-A producer wants to hear a logline. If the logline is compelling, go to step 2, if it's not, the story dies here. This is currently happening with a story i wrote at the beginning of the year. Because it's not "high concept", can't be pitched in 1 sentence, people don't want to read it. In the meantime, my high concept work gets read all the time.

2-Then they want to see a summary/treatment. This is a 1 page document in the case of a summary, or a 3-5 page document for a treatment, that gives the details on structure, plot twists, and how the story plays out. If the story is compelling and up the producer's alley, they will read your script. Doesn't mean they'll like it. In fact, most of the time the execution is terrible, but they are reading it. Scripts on the shelf don't get sold!

Pitch Material
In this ever expanding world of converging media, it's often required, or recommended, to get together other pitch material. This can be a comic book, concept art, or other information that will show the visual style of the show/movie. Why? Because producers are dumb...j/k...but they are very busy, and read tons of scripts a week, and if they can't visualize your noir story, it's never gonna get made.

The Business/Legal Stuff
Thank god for my business partner being a lawyer. Otherwise I would pull my hair out every day. THIS is the stuff I really hate, and the thing that is most important. No investor will give you dime one without this material, even if the script is great. This is the business plan, budget, schedule, cast list, LOIs, PPMs, distributor information, etc. All of the materials that make the package exciting for investors. For a creative, this is a nightmare because it's breaking down all of your scenes and putting a numeric value on them.

However, as a creative, it's also a very important skill to have, because most movies are made either below 20 million, or over 80 million. There are movies in the gooey middle, but the most successful movies fall in those ranges. And, as a baby writer, you'll be writing, or should be writing for the former. And if you know the costs of that 120 call pile-up, you will be able to justify whether it is necessary.

The bottom line is, you are a creative, but you are ALSO a business. You are selling yourself, and these are the materials, outside of the business stuff if you're not a producer as well, that will sell you to a producer, and get your script bought, if not made.

So, before you go wide with a script, make sure that you have all the material to back it up, and when someone asks you about it, you can pitch like the wind and get people interested.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rewriting, ganked from bang2write

Because all of the Grinders out there have been engrossed in a rewrite debate all week, and because I happened to come across this blog posting from one of my favorite bloggers, Lucy Vee, I decided to repost it for all your enjoyment. Read it here.

Approaching Rewrites
from Write Here, Write Now by Lucy
For the lovely H who asked last week for my thoughts on rewrites. If you have a query for the blog, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll get to it as soon as I can.
The thing to remember with your spec scripts is: it's a work in progress. It's never finished. You may do three billion drafts of a spec before it gets an option, but chances are you'll end up doing a billion more AFTER the option. I have never heard of a writer optioning a script and a producer or director making it the way it is (if it isn't a collaboration, that is).

Even if your spec ends up languishing on your desktop, chances are you will go back to it at some point in your lifetime. I had a spec I thought completely, hopelessly dead; I hadn't so much as thought about it in years (except in "Aaah, that was so crap, how sweet" kind of way) until someone phoned me up and said "I need a pitch for something to do with space pirates." I said (somewhat foolishly I might add), "Oh, I have one of those." Then freaked out when I remembered how crap my original draft was. Luckily they only wanted a one page pitch, not an actual draft, so I was able to think about how I might approach the crap execution I did all those years ago now I'm a little more experienced. So I redid the premise. And lo and behold, it works. As a pitch, anyway!

But how do you approach a redraft once you've got that all-important, actual first-first, words-on-paper draft?

Well, as in all things scriptwriting-related, it's entirely personal. I know writers who write a first draft and then workshop it with actors before attempting a second draft. Others print out said first-first draft, put in a drawer, then come back and hack at it with a red pen. Some stare at their drafts on a PC screen like madmen and ring people up to complain about how shit their work is and how they're going to give up screenwriting. I know writers who send their first-first drafts to readers and friends in the first instance; some only allow their agents to look at their stuff when it's in a bit of a state (as all first-first drafts are). Others do a combo of all of this.

If I was giving general advice on approaching a redraft, the first thing I would look at in a second draft is structure and plot. I've said before that dialogue is the last thing I look at, but even character comes after structure and plot for me. Why? Because characters can always be re-aligned around plot in my eyes, but a good plot can't be drawn OUT of a character. I read too many scripts that have interesting characters that don't do anything much to think plotting is subordinate.

It's easy to get sidetracked by the likes of character and dialogue when you really should be looking at how your story works as a whole; otherwise it's like you're moving around the tiles in one of those annoying puzzles where you have to make a picture, yet one tile is always out of sync. By investing in plot and structure in the second draft, you can really work on your characters' arcs and make us care about them in the third. However a plotless or badly structured script can mean messing around with the incidental scenes and moments, hitting your head against a brick wall in my experience.

Way I see it, the first-first draft is a throwaway draft. You might feel a sense of achievement for getting the thing finished, but don't let that euphoria fool you and make you believe for one second this draft is anywhere near finished. It isn't. Yes there will be some good stuff in there - stuff that might even make it into the final version of the first draft you send out. But nine times out of ten, you can do better. Scrub that: you MUST do better. There will be incoherent chunks, woolly characterisation, on-the-nose dialogue. There will plot opportunities wasted; there will be moments that can be realigned, leaner, cooler.

In short: even if your first-first draft is good, it's not as good as it CAN be. And writers that come through Bang2write generally get this. What they don't appear to always get is that drafts AFTER the first-first draft won't be perfect either. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard something along the lines of:

"Thanks for your notes, I agree with your points... It's a shame I still haven't written a shootable draft".

A shootable draft?? There's no such thing. Even when your drafts ARE shot, there's a good chance you will see things you *should have* written, even if people tell you they love your work. What's more, with filmmaking being a collaborative effort, you may not agree with a director's choices or a producer's demands in a rewrite - yet you will have to do it. It's the way that is, hence the back-handed compliment I've heard writers sometimes give each other: "Hey, congratulations on getting a prodco to fuck up your script!"

So if you're striving for perfection in your rewrite second time around (or even four, five, six times around and more!), you're setting yourself up for disappointment. You won't get perfection. Your reader won't come back to you and say, "Hey, this is fine now, send it out", they'll hopefully say something along the lines of: "You've worked out [these issues], now you need to concentrate on [these issues]." This is a GOOD thing, it's a sign you're making progress, not a failure - because your second first draft will be what it is: a slightly better first-first draft.

But there is one other thing when considering rewrites: don't be afraid of returning to page one. It's not a sign of failure or even weakness and you can still use your original draft(s) as a foundation for the new script. When I wrote Thy Will Be Done, I wrote nine drafts of my first draft and three of them (a third!) went back to page one. Each time it was needed and each time it got stronger as a result. Now I have a script in my portfolio that I am confident with and that I know is good - even when people have told me they didn't like it. I know it's story preference, rather than craft. And that counts for so much.

How do you approach rewriting?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another word about deadlines

As we at the Grind, by which I mean me at the Grind, often do, I'd like to clarify the previous blog entry, as I have been getting a couple of questions about it.

While I think that imposing a deadline can be a very good thing for a first draft, I do NOT recommend imposing deadlines for final drafts, unless you've found that it works for you.

I like to work in a world where I will do 1-2 drafts in a day for x number of days until the project is done. Then, I will vet that script with a select group of people whose opinions I trust. Then, I will do the same thing, over and over. For every x number of drafts I do, I will ask for an opinion, sometimes from the same person, sometimes from another person. For me, I know that usually by the 10th draft, a script is solid enough to stand on it's own and after 20 drafts I've cleared out all the bugs down to the smallest typos. But, that doesn't work for everyone, or possibly anyone else.

It's not always a good idea to give a time limit for a final draft because yes, it does, or could, lower what you would consider your best work. Only after mulling things over, stewing on them, and kicking them around in your brain will you be able to see if there is a clear reason for what you are doing. On the other hand, professional writers work on deadlines constantly, and if might be good to get in the habit of learning a skill like that, if it works for you.

An exercise I like to do is AFTER writing a first draft of a script, step away from it for a month and start a new project, then, come back to in 2 weeks-1 month later. After that amount of time, you'll be able to have a new perspective on your script. Then, take your time molding and crafting your story, your characters, and your dialogue. Whenever I do one of my "cycles", I try to step away from the script for a couple of days until I get notes so I can see the script with a clear head. I recommend this to everyone, because having good friend to tell you what sucks or what doesn't in your script is invaluable. Not your mother, either. They love everything you do, even the horse manure.

The only deadline that should be imposed is if an outside force (i.e. contest, fellowship, or, god willing, client) put an outside deadline on you. But then again, that's how my mind work. It's all about what works for you to create the best product in the end. And even after it's a finished product, who knows in a year you might think of a brilliant piece you want to add, and I encourage that too, if it works for you.

P.S.-Part of the joy of writing comes in finding what methodology works for you. If you're a chronic procrastinator, or work really well on a deadline, consider setting a deadline up...who knows, it might work for you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Imposing deadlines...

I read an interesting post today at Raving Dave's blog about the pitfalls of using deadlines.

While I agree with the issues, I disagree that it is necessarily a bad thing as mentioned here:

I’ve seen it happen so often: A looming deadline encourages you to move the goal posts, lower the bar, relax your standards. The closer the deadline approaches, the more crap you’re willing to see through your fingers, despite your intuition quietly telling you not to.

IMHO, there is absolutely nothing wrong with lowering your standards on a first draft. A FIRST DRAFT, and nothing else. I'm under the impression that Dave is talking about a deadline to finish a script in a final form, in which case I would completely agree, but it would totally ruin my post. So, I'm going to speak to using deadlines as first draft.

Imposing a deadline for a first draft is not only a good idea, but sometimes a necessary evil to put words on the page. I'm a huge fan of garbage drafts, and think that if you're thinking too much about your first draft, you're going to lose momentum. If I didn't have specific deadlines for first drafts, I would NEVER get ANY writing done.

If a writer is too self-conscious about a first draft, it's going to cause them to sit on their laurels and try to construct the perfect story. And that's not a good thing, especially for a new writer. As a new writer, you should be WRITING, because that's the only way you're going to become a better WRITER. I've never known a writer who has written a good first script, or third, or fifth. However, the things they learned from those scripts helped them become a better writer, and eventually a great writer.

I just talked to a good friend of mine on facebook this morning. The conversation follows, the names have been changed to protect the newbile.

Teach me the art of writing a screen play

start by reading about 1000 screenplays and analyzing them.

hahah ANAL-yzing

then, buy final draft, then read about 10 screenwriting books.
then buy the hollywood standard so you can learn all the formating.
then write 10 screenplays.


the more i think about it - michael bay should be directing my movie idea

seriously though, it's a lot about formatting, understanding structure, dialogue, and how to make a movie look good on the page.

The issue is that this specific writer thinks that he will be a great writer the first time out, that michael bay will be interested in his movie, and that he will immediately be a success, and that's just not true.

Different experts have different opinions, everywhere from "You'll sell a script when you've written 1 million words" to "Once you can stack you're work 18 inches, you'll sell a script" to "Writing ten scripts" and everything in between. But the key is that, PEOPLE DON'T SELL THEIR FIRST SCRIPT, OR THEIR SECOND, OR THEIR THIRD (caveat, I'm sure it's happened, but it's rare).

So, instead of trying to craft the perfect script the first time out, just get it out there on the page, look at it, and analyze your own work just like you analyze other scripts. Then do it again, and again, and again. And one day it will click, and with each script it will get better, but it's silly NOT to set a deadline, FOR A FIRST DRAFT, because you're trying to craft the perfect story. The most important thing to being a good writer is to WRITE. And if this doesn't work for you, figure out the best way to WRITE. After the draft is on the page, then you can re-write til your heart's desire.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Questions Answered

Another Question came through the comments section, and I'm all too happy to answer.

Blogger Rob said...

One thing I don't get about this advice, and it may be obvious to you, is that you stick to the same genre. Don't you want to demonstrate to someone that you are flexible enough to do different things?

As loyal Grinders know, we did go over this several posts ago, but since I'm SOOO bad at labeling posts, I'm more than willing to do a quick refresher.

The simple answer is because an agent/manager is going to want to package you as a "type" of writer. Eli Roth is the Horror guy, Kevin Smith is the filthy guy, and David Lynch is the weird guy, and so on down the line. So, when an agent looks in your direction, they're going to want to know what they're selling and why they should be selling you. If you only have one script, or your like buckshot all over the place, agents have a hard time packaging you to producers.

The other answer is because a writer wants to get on the list; to be THE go-to guy for a specific genre; or at least on the short list for that genre. That way, when producers (okay, producer's assistants) make their lists of who they want to interview for an assignment in your genre, they immediately think of you. If you're not on the list, you don't get called for the assignment, and you don't get paid.

So what kind of writer are you?

The Base Level of Bullshit

Living in LA, one thing you quickly learn is how to tell if someone is legit or not. It's at every function, every networking event, every time you go out with friends. It's usually goes one of two ways:

The way you don't want it to go:

Person 1: What do you do?
Person 2: I'm an actor.
Person 1: What have you been in?
Person 2: Just a couple background.
Person 1: Any speaking roles?
Person 2: No.
Person 1: It was so nice to meet you, I'm going to see who else is around.

The way you DO want it to go:

Person 3: What do you do?
Person 4: I do a bunch of stuff. Mainly I'm an actor, but while that is picking up I got a screenplay optioned and I directed a couple of shorts. I'm helping a client of mine develop a script.
Person 3: Really? What genre?
Person 4: I write mostly [genre].
Person 3: And have you short films been anywhere?
Person 4: Well, mostly still in post-production. You know what a nightmare that is.
Both Laugh.
Person 3: Do you have a card so we can keep in touch.

Bang. So you see, it can come that quick. In fact a lot of times I can tell if someone is legit in 10 words or less, and that's going to determine how interested I am in talking with them...AT A BUSINESS FUNCTION. And the thing that everyone is looking for at this type of function is...MORE WORK. So, if you can't do anything, or you aren't taking your career in your own hands, people are going to take you less seriously, or god forbid think you are not legit.

So, how do you become "legit".

A. Read the Hollywood Reporter and Variety everyday. Why? Because it's your trade and you need to know what's going on. However, there is a much more important reason...because EVERYONE ELSE is and they will discuss it or at least know what's going on in the back of their mind. It may sound phony, but just do it because you should.

B. Have multiple irons in the fire, but not enough to be bogged down. Being a background actor in one short film does not make you an actor, writing one feature doesn't make you a writer, directing one short or commercial doesn't make you a director. The only thing that MAKES you these things is a consistent string of churning thing out. If you're not continuing to pursue these avenues, like working on a NEW project, then you aren't an actor and shouldn't introduce yourself as such. However, if you have multiple projects going on, or are trying to produce a screenplay you wrote, then you have a VIABLE skill that people will look for and want to hear about.

C. Learn the verbiage. Know what a CE, DOD, and producer do. Learn the difference between DEVELOPING a project and PRODUCING A PROJECT. KNOW what COVERAGE IS and how to give good coverage.

D. Know what makes a screenplay or a project suck or succeed. In order to do this, you'll have to read a lot of scripts and watch a lot of movies and TV ANALYTICALLY. That's not just the ability to say I like it or I hate it, but the ability to say why in detail. At an event, this is very important because outside of giving funding to a project, the next best thing people are looking for are notes on how to make a project better, and if you happen to be great at it, maybe they'll want you involved in their project.

E. Finally, NEVER STOP HUSTLING. This is not a game. It's as much a hustle as anything and the people who succeed understand the hustle, understand business, and understand what THEY have to do in order to get and stay on top. The people who know how to hustle and have talent are the ones I sign development deals with, because I know they'll get their project to the next level, as long as they have ME to help them.

And, that is the base level of bullshit everyone in LA talks about at any event. In order to be good at these events, it helps to have produced a lot of stuff and be seen as a professional in the eyes of your peers.

But here is a dirty little secret: If you AREN'T a professional, make no bones that you are. People are flattered to be asked questions, and be offered to be taken out to drinks or lunch to have their brain picked. But please, if you've never had a speaking role in a movie, don't claim you're an actor. Take that to the bank.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to get an Agent or Manager

One of my absolute favorite blogs, The Rouge Wave, Reposted a blog of mine, and I'm ever so happy to be able to return the favor.
So, Here it is:

"Everybody is eager to query and get repped. It will change your life, right? Money will be flowing to you in golden buckets and fame will be quick on its heels.

Not exactly. Getting representation hangs in the frustrating zen space between utter simplicity and very, very hard work. How do you know when you're ready? Only time will tell, grasshopper. Wax on, wax off.

The steps to get representation are quite simple:

1) write a great script
2) then write another one
3) stick with the same genre
4) have a dossier of several great ideas in the form of loglines
5) write a brief, powerful, polite, effective query letter
6) get hold of a Hollywood Creative Directory
7) focus on 10 to 15 agents or managers that seem like a good fit*
8) query
9) wait
10) wait more
11) follow up with an email or phone call if you haven't heard back in six weeks

Pretty simple, right? It actually is. But here is what writers often do - they jump the gun. They query when they only have ONE good script. They don't get feedback on what they think is a good script and so really have no idea where they stand. They query managers or agents all over town, indiscriminately, without doing any research. They send poorly worded queries with dull loglines and wonder what's up with the silence.

If a manager or agent likes your query, you should hear back pretty quickly. If they like the read, you'll hear back quite quickly. They'll ask you what else you have. They'll ask you about you - your writing experience, where you live, what competitions you may have placed in.

Patience, grasshopper. Get an arsenal together before you start to query. Get feedback from someone, somehow whether it is professional or a friend. Proof your material before you send it out. Spend a lot of time crafting an excellent logline.

Getting an agent or manager isn't complicated - but you need to slow down and approach the process with care. Make sure you dot every "i" and cross every "t" before you begin. I don't recommend E-blast queries - they are impersonal and scatter shot. Spending money on an HCD is the best money you'll ever spend. Take a deep breath and make sure you're actually ready to query. Keep writing and developing ideas while you wait to hear back about your queries. Do not put your life on hold. Be ready for rejection. Rejection in Hollywood usually comes in the form of dead silence. Know that obtaining representation will not change your life but it will advance you to the next level of the game.

I know writers very well and I know that most of you skimmed this and are ready to put an HCD on your credit card but really don't know if your script is that great and don't have enough material ready. But you will query anyway because you think you are special and you won't need more than one script at the ready. You think you are different and that you will get repped quickly and easily. You think this blog post is for the suckers. You can't wait to get going with all of this, you can't wait to get repped and be in the game.

When the Wave-inatrix was but a mini-W, my mother spent a lot of time sewing. And I remember vividly being so excited to just put the pretty fabric under the sewing machine needle and press that foot pedal and SEW like a maniac and turn straw into gold. No, my mother said - you have to first wash the fabric. And dry it. And iron it flat. And clear a large space on the table and get out the pattern and measure carefully. Oh - how dreary! How dull! How painstaking! And I wondered, time and again, why my completed project was lopsided and ugly. Now, when I sew, I slow down and I enjoy the entire process. I know that the quality of my project is utterly dependent on the care I put into each step along the way. Unwashed fabric will shrink and warp upon it first washing. Sloppy measurements and dull scissors will doom the fit. A chaotic sewing kit makes finding the right thread and right needle an exercise in anger management. My mother, in all her wisdom, knew exactly how to sew something properly but I would not listen. I knew how to do it! I was special! My fabric was special and my pattern was genius! Ah....youth.

You want an agent or manager? Of course you do. But s-l-o-w down. You may not be ready. Hollywood isn't going anywhere any time soon. If you don't have at least two great scripts in your arsenal, you are not ready. If you have not gotten feedback from a pro or an experienced colleague, you are not ready. There is no quick fix, there is no magic answer. You must do the work. And you are not special - the fabric of Hollywood is what it is and it yields to no man.

*Only query agents or managers (I recommend a manager if you are very new at this) that have offices in LA or New York only. Avoid those who charge ANY kind of fee. "

Think of it as Film School...

...when you're starting your career. The beauty of film school is that it's an incubator for people to have terrible projects. And trust me, everyone's first project is a disaster. so is their second, third, and fourth.

It doesn't matter if you are an actor, a director, a cinematographer, or a writer, you will invariably SUCK when you start your career. If you are beginning in a career in entertainment, look in the mirror and tell yourself, "I SUCK".

Don't worry, there is an upside, because you are SUPPOSED to suck. The only way you become GOOD at something is to do it A LOT! and I mean A LOT A LOT. For example, every actor in LA is in some sort of acting workshop, even working actors go to classes to improve their craft. Because they know that it's a constant process to improve and that in every class they get just a little bit better.

When I first started working, I was on hundreds of projects feeling my way, and getting to a point where I thought it was time to direct. And my first three shorts were a disaster. This was a professional cinematographer, who had been on hundreds of shoots, and when I edited everything together, it was tragic. Luckily, I moved past it, and eventually became comfortable enough in my own skin to direct a feature and a couple TV shows.

So, why do I bring it up...because you should let yourself suck. Don't expect your first script to be perfect, or your first directing experience to be flawless. It's too lofty to think you should be great from the outset. Allow yourself to suck for a while. Now, if you've written ten scripts, or directed ten movies, and you're still terrible, that's another issue.

Since moving to LA, I've found that just as many people SAY they are something as actually are doing something. It's very easy to call yourself a writer because you've done a script, or a director for having directed one short film. However, the truth is that Actors act, ALL THE TIME. Writers write ALL THE TIME, directors direct ALL THE TIME, and producers produce ALL THE TIME. And THAT is how they get better.

Just remember this, STEVEN SPIELBERG'S first movie sucked. If you could get your hands on it, he would be embarrassed. There may be flashes of genius, but he worked, and worked, and worked at it before he even got a small break. I heard a statement a couple months ago that a new writer will gladly give their first script to anyone, while a professional writer will never show their first script to ANYONE. Once again, because even professional writers SUCK when they start out.

At UPC, I read a lot of scripts, and its pretty easy to see who the professional writers are and who are the people that don't have it yet. The professional writers have all the tricks to make their script pop, because they sucked for a while until they learned how to do things. It's not that the other writers aren't good, but there is an intangibility to the writing that stands out with a professional writer.

And that is what film school provides, the ability to suck without fear of reprisal, the be atrocious without fear of repercussions. To be given a grade, and a way to grow into a career, to develop your eye and your voice. So, when thinking of your career, think of it as film school. Let's say a writer writes five full features in film school. Well, you should give yourself at least five scripts to develop yourself as a writer, instead of sending out your first script as gold.

Remember, it's okay to SUCK. It's okay to need more work, because everyone does. But, it's important to know your inadequacies, and be working towards changing it. And as I said in a previous post, it could take between 5 and 10 years to be discovered in this business, and some people are never discovered. Everyone in this city has one thing in common, they used to SUCK, and now they are at some level of not SUCKING quite as much.

Remember, YOU SUCK, and that's okay.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reality Check

My friend at UPC sent this to me as a sobering reminder of the reality of making it in Hollywood. It is a direct post and response from

Question: **Redacted**

im thinking of taking a year off and heading to hollywood to make it as a screen writer/actor. i’m just curiouse about your oppinion on this matter. i love writing and acting and if i dont do that i’m most likely going to end up teaching highschool english.

Response: **Redacted**

Not to burst your bubble, but Hollywood is harsh. It chews up and spits out wannabe actors, writers, directors, etc. by the busload. Unless you are HUNGRY and are COMPELLED to “make it in Hollywood,” I’d recommend polishing your teacher’s credentials. I understand the lure and “magic” of the Hollywood mystique, but it is brutal. Unless you win the Hollywood equivalent of the Mega Lotto, it is likely to take you five to ten years to be “discovered.” Even then, you must fight to get work and moonlight as a waiter or other low-paying, flexible schedule job to supplement a sporadic, inconsistent, and often thankless “career” in showbiz. That is the reality of “Hollywood.” You know the fantasy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tailoring your pitch... a network is perfectly demonstrated by two television shows currently on TV. These shows are amazing examples of how two networks can develop the same premise in two very different ways.

The shows:

USA's Psych and CBS's The Mentalist.

What is the premise: An man with a gift for noticing every detail of the world pretends to be a psychic and works with the police department to solve crimes.

However, that is where the similarities end. The development of the shows couldn't be more different. First, let's examine the shows' summaries directly from their website.

The Mentalist:

THE MENTALIST stars Golden Globe Award nominee Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, an independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation. Within the Bureau, Jane is notorious for his blatant lack of protocol and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium, whose paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned. Jane's role in cracking a series of tough high-profile cases is greatly valued by his fellow agents. However, no-nonsense Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon openly resists having Jane in her unit and alternates between reluctantly acknowledging Jane's usefulness and blasting him for his theatrics, narcissism and dangerous lack of boundaries. Lisbon's team includes agents Kimball Cho, Wayne Rigsby and rookie member Grace Van Pelt, who all think Jane's a loose cannon but admire his charm and knack for clearing cases.


Raised in Santa Barbara by a family of cops, Shawn possesses uncanny powers of observation honed by his police officer father, Henry, who drilled young Shawn to note even the smallest of details from his surroundings as a way of grooming him for his inevitable career in the family business. Unfortunately, when a rift develops between father and son, Shawn finds himself taking a series of random jobs instead of becoming the detective he was groomed to be.

However, for the fun of it, Shawn makes a habit of calling in tips to the police about cases he reads about or sees on television, and when one of his tips appears too close to the truth, the police are convinced that Shawn is an accomplice and arrest him.

Using his charm and well-tuned talent, Shawn convinces the cops that he's actually a psychic, and although highly skeptical of his explanation, they hire him to help solve tough cases. With the reluctant assistance of his best friend Gus, Shawn uses his skills of observation and charismatic personality to become the detective he was trained to be, opening his own PI agency – Psych – and solving cases for an ever-suspicious, but grudgingly impressed, police force.

As you can see, there are incredibly similarities in just the summaries of the show. However, while The Mentalist is a serious drama, Psych is a lighthearted comedy. In Psych the general lighting is bright and colorful, in The Mentalist it's dark and brooding. In the Mentalist, the main character's family is murdered, in Psych the worst that happens to Shawn's family is they get annoyed at his antics. Even the commercials show The Mentalist as a dark, brooding, and haunted man while the Psych commercials have Shawn and Guy goofing around with each other. Except for the premise, the SHOW couldn't look, feel, or sound more different.

So, what does this tell us about Television in general? Well it's something that we should all be aware, a show that works for one network may not work at another network. If you have a light hearted show, it would work better on USA than CBS. However, it also tells us something more. And that is how different channels will develop the exact same show. USA is known as the home for quirky, lighthearted characters (MONK, BURN NOTICE, IN PLAIN SIGHT) while CBS is known for serious drama (CSI, NCIS, THE UNIT).

As this also demonstrates, a show CAN be pitched to different networks with success. However, it must be massaged and geared towards the network. Any good production company with a pitch meeting at a network will do their homework to know how to pitch their show to NBC, FOX, HBO, or Comedy Central. Each of those networks could love the idea for a show, but the show will end up VERY different depending on where it lands.

It's not about changing the focus of the story, but it is about tone, structure, and pacing.

P.S.- This same theory works for movies at different studios. Different studios produce different projects, and if you're pitching a movie, make sure you know where you're pitching and what they're interested in.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


and why to put it on your IMDB page/acting resume.

It's not to stereotype or to typecast you.

It's because is every company in Hollywood, assistants are making lists daily. Whether its writer's list, director's list, actors list, or editor's list, the city runs on these lists, like an old fashioned locomotive. In order to make lists, assistant rely on STUDIO SYSTEM and IMDB. If it's not on either of those, you don't exist.

When looking to make an actor list, there are several things that are put into it. Name, agent, agency, credits, age, and ETHNICITY. If an assistant is looking for YOUR name, and they can't find the ethnicity, they have one of only a few options. They can search for 10 minutes to try to find it, they can LIE/make a guess, or they can take you off the list. Of those option, only the first one is really acceptable. But, what assistant has 10 minutes to try to find your ethnicity.

Why do people make lists? Because their bosses want to sort the lists to find out who is right for their next project. They want to be able to autosort by any of the categories and yes, they may need a Black, Hispanic, Indian, or Eskimo for a specific.

I've heard the other side, that actresses don't want to be typecast, that they should be judged for their talent, not their race or ethnicity, etc. I would counter by saying, if they are making a list of actresses in LA, don't you want to be on that list?

So... put your ethnicity on the list, so assistants can find you easily. While your at it PUT YOUR AGE DOWN. You're not fooling anyone, there is a picture RIGHT THERE. Because it's not about getting typecast, it's about landing the role.

While most people....

were getting one rejection to Warner Bros. I was getting two. I got rejected to both the Comedy and Drama program. Which is pretty awesome for a person who deal with telling other writers how to write.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin... beautiful satirized in this College Humor "trailer".

Pass it on.

I knew this election was a movie! Regardless of your political affiliation, everyone can appreciate good satire.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Story Spot...

...has graciously posted me as their featured blog today, so I feel as though I need to get a new blog up for all the story spotters out there.

Usually, I give advice but today I'm just going to tell you my plan for the next couple of months, and you can take it or leave it. Hopefully you'll comment on it.

I'm currently in an epic battle to get EVERY GOOD IDEA I've had percolating in my brain down on paper. And It's been a pretty decent experience so far. I've done 60 pages on 3 scripts, including one I hope to finish today, and the other two I hope to finish by the end of the week. That's right, almost 120 pages of script in one week. I may not accomplish it, but I'm gonna give it my best effort.

Afterwards, I'm planning on writing two more feature scripts, including my latest commissioned. I've been sitting on it for a long time, and it's due pretty soon, yikes. I've told my brain to have no more good ideas until these are all on paper. Finally, I'm going to finish it up with a tv script and a "comic book" pilot script.

Okay, I lied, a little advice.

It's easy for a writer to become bogged down with too many good ideas. You become paralyzed by the inability to pick which idea to start. All the characters start talking to themselves and making you even more confused. When that happens, sometimes the best thing to do is just start writing anything, or everything, to get it on paper and get the voices out of your head (the ones that aren't supposed to be in there at least).

It's also really easy for a writer to have a lot of great ideas, but not be actually writing anything. I'm sure you know writers, producer, directors, composers, etc. who have not been working on ANYTHING for the last few days, weeks, months, or more. It's easy to make excuses, it's hard to DO SOMETHING.

Okay, back to me for the kicker.

If everything works out, I will have written at least first drafts of 5 tv specs, 4 original tv pilots, 5 feature scripts, and a "comic book" pilot this year.

That's a lot of writing, how productive have you been this year?

Now, I'm going to write "I WILL NOT ABANDON MY READERS" 100 times in Final Draft before trudging along with my goal of 30 pages today.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm not ignoring you...

...well I kinda am, but I have a good reason. If I get through this project soon, I'll tell you stories about it. It might go down in screenwriting lore.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Sad Commentary

I'm not a wonk, and I try to keep my political leanings to myself. But THIS, is disgusting:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

10 scripts...

To add on to my previous post, the old adage is that it will take 10 years or 10 scripts to get a sale. Which means, theoretically, you have 8 scripts which will be terrible. Now, hopefully one of those terrible scripts will be in your genre, but if not, it still gives you 2 scripts to get the sale.

My timetable is roughly as follows:

1-3 scripts - shite. Don't show them to people unless you are really secure with yourself.

4-6 scripts - average. Now, you've taken the good things you do and integrated structure into it.

7-8 scripts - good. You're coming into your own as a writer. You have a genre and a voice, and you know what you want to do.

9-10 scripts - sellable. Hopefully, you've mastered the little things, like action cues and formatting that kept your script from being sold before.

Congratulations, now you're a writer. get ready for a life of rejection and under-appreciation.

So, you see. there's plenty of time to write a whole lot of junk, to see if you like writing for that genre, and abandon it when you decide you don't like it, if you decide you don't like it. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.


I'm going to make this quick, probably.

I read a post on the Rouge Wave today and one of the tips she gives is for writers to specialize in a genre. This is something that is so important to a writer, because you want to be "typecast" as the go-to guy in a specific genre. This goes for writers, directors, producers, etc.

For instance, if Eli Roth's next movie was a period piece romcom, you would be very confused. The same if Martin Scorsese came out with American Pie. It's because you know them to be in a certain genre. An audience can say, Scorsese did that movie, and I like his movies, so I'll like this one as well. In fact, audiences become rather angry if they go to a movie that isn't what they expected, because they feel doped.

But, I want to make a word of warning. Make sure you are relatively certain that:

a- You can write scripts that are sellable. (If your movies are esoteric David Lynch movies, the audience is smaller than Ben Stiller movies).


b- Make sure you will be happy writing for this genre for a long time, your career actually.

I will leave with one final idea. Just because you write one script in one genre, doesn't mean that you HAVE to write another script in that genre. When you are a baby writer, it's fun to explore ALL the possibilities. So, if you don't know what "fits" yet, write a horror, write a comedy, write a drama, or a period piece, or a kid's movie. I actually learned after writing a kid's pilot that I really love to write kid's sleuthy detective movies/tv.

It's sort of like college, some people go in knowing exactly what they want to do, others are gen ed for a while. Once they find something that suits them, then they declare. However, you should always feel free to abandon these projects after a garbage or first draft. Who knows, it's possible in 5-10 years you'll pull that draft out because someone is looking for a Polish immigrant script set in post WWII Denmark.

Personally, write(get it) now, I'm working on a broad spectrum of scripts from a crime drama, to a romcom, to a snarky independent, just because I want to see what fits FOR ME. I'm writing a TV pilot, a comic book, and five movies. I'm doing this because my main genre, independent, quirky movies doesn't pay very well and I am looking to see if there is a sub-genre or other genre that fits me better.

Once you find that genre, stick with it. Keep doing specs in that genre. I have a friend who writes really sick, twisted stuff. But she has 5 scripts right now and they're making the rounds and are being well received. When an agent looks your way, they will want to see 2-3 samples of work in a specific genre to make you sellable as a writer. It's much harder to sell a jack-of-all-trades writer than one that specializes in something.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stand alone vs. serial episodes

Clients always inspire the best blog posts.

So, I have a new client, paperwork pending, that is creating a web serial after years of film and plays. the idea is solid, but I'm teaching her how to write for TV from the ground up...she's never even watched 30 Rock for goodness sakes.

Anyway, yesterday I went to view her read-though and we got to talking about the difference between TV series. Basically, there are two types of television series-- Stand alone and Serial. The difference is based on how each EPISODE operates, not whether the series is continual or a one-off.

(Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Simpsons, Family Guy, etc)

In these series, every episode is contained into itself. You could watch any episode of the Simpsons and not need to know anything about the shows previous. The characters never change, even to the point of being the same age perpetually. However, it's not just animation. In a show like Seinfeld, the character always end up at the same place they started at the beginning of the episode. Yes, they may get new jobs, or have a new boyfriend, but the characters do not develop and evolve from episode to episode emotionally.

These shows work because a conflict is introduced that cause the characters to react, grow, and change throughout each episode, but that change is not carried over into the arch of the series. Watch an episode from season 2 and season 9 of Seinfeld. It's the same people with the same issues, who have not grown in the slightest in the past seasons.

(Brothers and Sisters, West Wing, any SOAP EVER)

This works in the opposite manner of a stand alone episode. Each episode builds on the previous one. The characters change, develop, and interact with the world in a different way over the course of the season, and the arch of the show. For example, The women in Desperate Housewives look at the world much differently now that she did in episode one. When the character develops , the show changes into something new. The story comes from that change as much as the conflicts in each episode.

Now, I should mention that standalones are not necessarily comedies and serials are not necessarily dramas. For example, Scrubs is a Serial comedy and Law and Order is a Stand-alone drama.

The important thing to take away from this is that in serials the character's development is carried over from episode to episode, and in stand alone the characters start and end as the same person, even if they have emotional epiphanies in the episode.

(My classic example is the Seinfeld episode where Jerry learns to have feelings. He starts off like the classic Jerry jerk. Then, he is taught how to feel by his then girlfriend, proposes to Elaine, makes George tell him all the darkest parts of himself, and finally in the end George "scares" him straight. He winds up exactly where he was before.)

So you see, while there may be personal or professional growth for characters, there is never any emotional growth.

When dealing with your show, you MUST know whether it is a standalone or a serial.