I be a good righter.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Breasts, Bitches and Bumblebees (oh my!)

God. Can it get any more depressing out here? Between John Roger's post and Kay Reindl's post, I'm about ready to slit me wrists. Don't worry, I'd do it fashionably, probably slicing squiggles or something. But still...

Someone some where talked about (I think it was Kay again) how you never know who's going to help you, and usually the person you think it's going to be -- it isn't. And the last person you'd expect would help you is the one who does. I haven't experienced the latter. I have experienced the former. A little too much for my own comfort, if you ask me.

So, it's times like these that I get to thinking about Disneygate. I'm happy to see that *some* of my fellow Fellows have found jobs. Finally -- it seems, in our group, that no one really got work out of the Fellowship -- which made me sad.

But, then, you hear stories of chicks who cannot write (I know, I was in a class with her, she couldn't write) getting jobs because the showrunner took a shine to untalented chick's breasts. She didn't last long on that show (I heard rumors she really was awful in the room). Then, she got another job, because of her first job's caché. Just because it was on her resume, and the showrunner, who still loved chick's breasts, well... recommended her. Because of her breasts.

Then there's this guy who has a high-ranking executive aunt. He's been fired off of the best shows on the air. And, yet, he keeps getting work, because Auntie Dearest keeps on making phone calls.

On the other hand, you hear about deserving people not getting these jobs. Like a friend of mine who, by all accounts, should be a HUGE writer at this point, after all, his wife has a number of shows on the air. Yet... cannot get arrested. So, I guess I shouldn't complain.


I am.

I've helped people with their shows, helped them flesh out their characters, etc, prior to the pilots getting picked up. One in particular really pisses me off. Very successful show. They always take my agent's calls. They never hire me. At first, it was because this person didn't have enough clout (they were just the creator, not the showrunner). Now that they've got the clout, they're hiring from within. I'd totally take an assistant gig. But that's never been offered. And, I suspect, I know why. But, if I talked about the situation here, it'd probably be pretty obvious what I was talking about and, you know, hope springs eternal.

Then there was this other guy who I'd helped out majorly a year ago. He's been all over the trades recently. I'll tell you what show I won't be getting on this year: his.

Then there's another guy, whose daughter was kind of screwing up a lot, and my dad, who's friend's with this guy, helped his daughter out. Got her straightened out. Or, at least helped her with her hobby. Both my dad and I were surprised when this act was not reciprocated.

And then...

I've got a dozen stories like this and I'm sure you all do, too. And now, apparently the writers' rooms have been put in the dryer because they're shrinking at rapid rates. And, we're all breaking our fucking toes trying to get our feet in the door. And, I guess... well. I've turned into that jaded, entitled person that I abhor.

I don't deserve a job. No one deserves them. Some people get them, more people don't. So, I'm going to spend a little time trying to get back that feeling I used to feel. That attitude that's more: "it'll happen when it happens."

To me, it's like the bumblebee -- have I talked about this before? Apologies if I have. Scientists once believed that because of their wingspan and the size of their bodies, it was physically impossible for the bumblebee to fly. It was believed that bumblebees, purely because they didn't know any different, flew. That if, one day, someone were able to communicate to the bumblebee the impossibility of it all, that the bumblebee wouldn't be able to fly. That it was simply the lack of knowledge.

In this same vein, I'm going to stop reading (or at least stop taking to heart) these bleak posts. I'm going to be the bumblebee of writers. And if it's impossible for me to get on staff, well, I won't know it -- ergo I will get on staff.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The deep end of the talent pool.

So, I've got this talent. It's not one of many. It's one of one. And that talent is... reading other people's scripts and finding what works and what doesn't. I have, after all, been reading scripts a lot longer than I've been writing them. This talent fails me in one major arena. My own work.

Somehow I am able to gloss over glaring inconsistencies, poor dialogue, and major plot holes. I'm able to pass right over the fact that I've got eight scenes dedicated to revealing the exact same point of information.

This failure of mine to objectively read my own work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, teacher brought it up last week. Damn his eyes.

Unfortunately for the Hubby, I've figured out how to best become objective when reading my own work. This revelation came Monday. See, work was due on Sunday evening, and as is my way, I wasn't ready on Sunday. Especially given that Wed-Fri I'd been banging my head against the wall in the hopes that I'd either, A) put self out of misery or, B) jostle a story into my brain. A never happened. B came late, ergo work was handed in late.

When I hit send, I was proud of the work I'd done. Impressed that I'd managed to pull two acts out of my ass and have them make some semblance of sense. I felt a sense of completion; a job well done. Until...

I got the Hubby to read the acts. Now, whenever he reads something of mine, I annoyingly (to him) always read over his shoulder. This day was no different. Except, when doing that, I'm apparently once removed from the work, and have now found that this is the secret to my reading my own work with an objective eye. My other tried and true way of looking at work objectively has been to put the script in a drawer for a few weeks and to pull it out once I've distanced myself from it.

Sadly, the acts were not great. They weren't even good. I thought about sending an email to teacher and my little subgroup in the class to apologize profusely. Something kept me from doing that. I guess I didn't want to hang a lantern on the fact that, uh, it sucked. I didn't even want to admit it.

Monday night found me out to drinks and dinner with some friends. One of the friends had brought a couple of his friends along. People I'd allegedly met on many an occasion. Chances are... I was drunk on those occasions.


These new (or old) friends asked me what I write. Still raw from having seen that my emperor was, in fact, stark staring naked, I replied: "Really bad scripts." Oh, this was met with much laughter. I even chuckled a bit. Ha ha. If y'all only knew the truth I spake.

So... imagine my surprise when I got to class to find that the teacher thought I was brilliant. My pages were brilliant. I am unashamed to say: I think teacher has finally gone off the deep end.

No, I'm not being unnecessarily harsh on self. In fact, I think in recent years, the untapped talent pool in Los Angeles has gotten increasingly, well, more talented. Read John Roger's very scary post where he doesn't believe that he'd get on his own show, given the swell of incredibly great scripts out there. I think this has a lot to do with there being a lot less open slots in the writers' room available, and people have actually had to push themselves. And, it appears, a lot of folks have risen to the challenge.

Since reading his post, I've been questioning my own talent. I used to be secure in the knowledge that there were a handful of GREAT writers out there, a bunch of GOOD writers out there, and the rest... well, they'd never get work. This security was based on the numerous scripts I'd read for various production companies. Also adding to this security was taking writing classes. In a group of twelve, it seemed, there were like, three talented folks. This is also true in my current class. Less true in a class that I take every Summer, where, to my eye, there's only one untalented person in the group of twelve. That person, I feel certain, will never make it. This is incredibly bitchy of me. To soften that: good on her for continually trying. I wonder, some times, what would happen if someone were to tell her: hey, you know, maybe this writing thing isn't for you... I wonder what I'd do if someone were to tell me the same thing? Probably tell them to go fuck themselves. Which is always an appropriate response. To many statements. Try it!

"Have you seen ATONEMENT?"

"Go fuck yourself."

See? It's satisfying.

But this one chick notwithstanding, I'm pretty impressed by the level of talent out there. I'm daunted, too. But, being competitive by nature, I'll just have to write BRILLIANCE. So, learning that the quickest way (instead of drawering the script for a few weeks) to get back my objective eye is to have the Hubby read it, and to read over his shoulder. This means that the poor guy's gonna have to read a lot more. Unless he tells me to go fuck myself. I'd probably suggest something a little different, but that's not something we need to discuss here.

Off to find brilliance...

Monday, March 17, 2008

New TV

I can't really speak to many of the mid-season replacements. Have yet to watch CASHMERE MAFIA, have yet to get past more than five minutes of LIPSTICK JUNGLE.

What I have watched is:


Genius. I want to hire hookers in sweat pants for Josh Friedman. Not sure how his wife would like that, so I'd like to hire some male hookers for her. And loads of donuts and cake and chocolatey goodness for both. And to babysit their kid every weekend for them, so they can get some alone time, forever and ever. And more. There's nothing I wouldn't do for them. And they don't even know me. So, before I get arrested for stalker-dom, I'll move on to the only other show I've watched:


What a true disappointment this is. The premise is, if you haven't seen it, around 400 years ago, in the middle of battle, AMSTERDAM saves a woman from being killed, "We don't kill women." Ever-so-grateful, this woman and her clan of chicks nurse and curse Amsterdam back to health. The Curse is: He won't die until he meets his true love. Which, apparently, is today. 2008.

I kind of dig the premise. I kind of dug the pilot, which according to the rumor mill had lots of tinkering, cast changes, and writer changes. All of that appeared to work as the pilot's fairly strong. It sets up interesting characters, like the bartender who knows Amsterdam's secret and uninteresting characters, like the chick who's now Amsterdam's partner. A chick who doesn't want to be in Homicide, she'd prefer to be in Vice -- which is kind of weird, right?


Though the pilot was strong, the ensuing two eps were not. Even with the amazing revelation that the 65-year-old bartender who knows Amsterdam's secret is actually Amsterdam's son. That, in itself, brings up the creep-factor. How many kids has Amsterdam sired? Since he seems to have been in the same area for all 400 years, on the small Island of New York, how many of its occupants are a direct line to Amsterdam -- and even worse? How many have hooked up with their second cousin without realizing it? Is it just me who's thought about this? Sorry, sick mind.

Here's what disturbs me the most about the third episode, which I watched last night, and has been bugging me ever since. I'm a new-ish writer. Oh, I've been doing it for a few years, but presumably not as long as a bunch of the writers (my lord, how top heavy is their writers' room?) on the show. Take, for instance, John Mankiewicz (sp?). A brilliant writer; I first encountered his genius in seasons one and two of HOUSE. He had some seriously sick episodes. Pardon the pun. But, they were the kinds of episodes where I had to go back and find out who wrote them; they were just that good. Not to mention, Mr. Mankiewicz (sp?) comes from a seriously pedigreed line of writers. So, he's on staff. Presumably helped break the third episode, perhaps not as it was written by Eric Overmeyer -- so I assumed we were in good hands. I made an ass out of me.

Here's my biggest issue, through no fault of Overmeyer's, with the third episode: A few weeks ago, I was working on this dastardly pilot of mine. As previously mentioned, the mystery wasn't great. I had the conlusion be revealed with information that was in a book which the victim had authored. The book had been missing for a while, but miraculously turns up in the final act! Nevermind that LAW & ORDER (all iterations of it) have done this plot a million times. Nevermind that this plotline showed up in EVERY 80's mystery show. I had to have this plot line.

Until I realized that L&O and 80's mysteries and... that it'd been done to death. It was a tired plot line. It was a tired way of getting to the truth. Actually, it was a lazy way of getting to the truth. So, a few weeks ago I changed it. Not necessarily to something better, because, as I've mentioned, my mystery bit the big one. But, the last thing I wanted to do was a tired storyline (ironically, I ended up doing one -- that's changed now).

It's not just L&O and 80's mysteries now. Now, added to the club, is the third ep of NEW AMSTERDAM. They had the missing book, they had the final act revelation, they had the appropriate chapters dedicated to the do-er. And, with this book, they got their man.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not better than the writers on NEW AMSTERDAM. A) I'm not on a network show and B) Refer to A. So, you know, what do I know? Nothing. Except, I know to not do the whole book mystery thing.

Let me compare this to my favorite show of 2007/2008 season: LIFE.

They did the now-tired storyline of a guy who has two wives. SHARK's done it, LAW & ORDER's done it (all iterations of the show), CSI's done it. It's done. So, when I realized LIFE was doing this storyline, I groaned. Except... they did it brilliantly in "Farthingale." They took that tired story, hung a latern on the boringness of it all, of their character, and turned it into something really special.

With NEW AMSTERDAM's writing staff, I would have hoped for something a little better. They didn't deliver. And I watched my tie-breaking episode (I always watch three episodes of a show, for this I loved the pilot, hated the second episode, so if the third had delivered, I'd watch again). So, sorry talented writer-guy whose name I can't spell, I'll be taking the season pass for NEW AMSTERDAM out of my TiVo posthaste.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dead Lines

I'm working on this pilot. I've mentioned it before. I'm rewriting it in a, well, "rewrite" class. But, it's not as simple a rewrite as I'd thought it would be. When I signed up for the course, I figured, at the most, I'd have to change the mystery. All the other elements, in my mind, were cemented.

I was wrong.

This is a complete reimagining of the script. Of the idea. Of everything I'd worked hard to create. I know, without a doubt, when I finish that it'll be loads better than it previously was. But right now, I'm completely spent.

I receive incredible notes from my teacher. And they make so much sense when I'm sitting there listening to them. But something happens from that time to when I get home and face Final Draft. I've lost the plot, both literally and figuratively. The worst has been this week when teacher astutely noted that my mystery was mundane and that it read as though I wasn't having any fun writing it.

You think?

So, my task this week was to create a new mystery. A mystery that read like I was having shitloads of fun writing it. A lie, basically. I decided to get some help from an extremely talented writer I know who'd read the first iteration of this pilot. Unfortunately she wasn't able to help me because I had no idea what I was doing. I sincerely hope she doesn't find fault in herself for my failure. The fault lies solely at my doorstep.

Thursday and Friday I spent banging my head against the wall. Wondering if it's easier once one is on staff and one can sit in a room with writers more talented than, um, one. If it's easier when a group breaks the story rather than an individual desperately searching the cracks in her ceiling for the answer to the script.

It was Saturday when I had a breakthrough. I'm not sure what did it. I think it was when I talked the teaser through with the Hubby. And as I was talking, visions formed. Which turned into scenes. Which turned into thinking about it from the villain's point of view. It seems, when I'm under the gun like this, when the deadline is looming, that I do my best work. And I lament that, because the work I turn in could be so much better if I could just have that breakthrough a day or two earlier...

But, apparently, I can't. Perhaps some can. But, I guess I'm learning that this is my process.

I ended up writing 24 pages yesterday (or as I'm calling it, Breakthrough Saturday). I wish I felt elation that I've gotten to the other side. Perhaps I will when this draft is finished. I doubt it. I think, instead, I'll be hard on myself, as is my way. Berating my brain for failing to function when not worried about deadlines.

Does anyone else experience this head-exploding blanking of the brain? Does anyone else find inspiration in looming deadlines? Please, for the love of Pete, let me know I'm not alone here.

Back to staring at the ceiling for inspiration...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

That self-indulgent post that I hate...

... is the one I'm about to write.

How amusing it is to me that my last post was all about procrastinating. That day, yes, I went to play poker -- did quite well, too. After that it's been a mad dash of work and vacay.

We went to Minnesota for a looooong weekend (brrrr!). I started the trip off with a bang, wrote the entire way there. Made HUGE progress on the pilot I've been rewriting. Completely mapped out the procedural aspect, got more in depth with the relationships, basically was really proud of self. Got off plane and began dervish of revisiting old haunts. And creating new ones. Our Saturday night reminded me of how to write a great script:

We went to the only place near my sister's that hosted Karaoke (so we wouldn't have to brave the icy streets driving drunk, natch), strangely the VFW. Now, I don't know if any of you have ever been to a VFW, but I've been to one particular one many times. My grandparents have all of their events in a VFW in a small town in MN. So, I'm well-aware of what a VFW holds in store. Our group decided to try this VFW out, and if it was lame, move on out. Of course it was going to be lame (no offense to our Veterans, you do a great job defending our country!) it was the VFW.


We expected it to suck, and it did. At first. Kind of a lot of dregs showed up. So, it was your typical script. But, the beer was cheap, and we were getting our drink on, so it was an amusing read. However, the big reveal happened at 9 PM, when karaoke was due to start, The Beautiful People arrived. Apparently, this VFW is the best kept secret in MPLS. We left the bar when it closed down, drunk off our asses, a fantabulous time had by all. This was the kind of script that gets you hired, imo.

The looong weekend ended, and we flew back to LA. Dreaming wistfully of the easier life that Minnesota holds (read: buying a gorgeous five bedroom home for WAY under a million, ice skating on Lake of the Isles, sledding down King's Hill, cheap beer, good cheap food, easily navigated traffic -- all things we experienced during the weekend, except the purchase of a home...). I didn't write on the plane back, because it was too fucking early (6 ayem flight), and I slept.

Tuesday brought me back to reality. I had the pilot outline due next Tuesday and I was in bad shape with it. See, I received this awesome email from my instructor where he'd been thinking about my premise and thinking about the episode I'd written for said premise, and he felt as though the two didn't match. When I started this rewrite, I knew the story was the worst part of it, and the premise the best part of it. So, I'd changed the story, going in a more NBC at 10 PM slot, rather than the USA at 8 PM slot I'd originally written. The problem is, the premise is a USA-type premise. Not entirely, I can darken it up some, make it more NBC at 9 PM. But, I really can't do what I've been trying to do. Nevertheless, despite instructor's deep reservations (my lord it was an awesome email, and it nearly made me change my mind), I decided to continue on the path I'd started.

Before I could get to that, however, my producer buddy who wants me to write all of these treatments for web series, also emailed me when I was in MN. Wanting to know where the fuck the 8 million treatments were. Oooopsie. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to play poker...

And there's the DEXTER outline which group very helpfully trashed. Using their great comments, I was most eager to begin writing this one. So, ignoring instructor's brilliant email, ignoring producer friend's email, I embarked on the DEXTER outline. Determined to get it finished by Tuesday evening. I eventually did, after 15 straight hours of writing on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I wake up and remember that I've also promised old job that I'll do coverage on a book for them.


But the guilt of that day swayed me toward the treatments. I got a shitload done, and got the most important one off to producer. By the end of that day, after rewriting the DEXTER outline for about seven more hours, I got an email from producer friend: "I love everything, don't change a word... but I've got some notes: Change everything."


Thursday, rewrite the treatment, but it's not right, and I can't seem to fix it. So I close down the document. Instead, I open up the pilot, can't face it. So, I rewrite DEXTER some more, after all it's due to the group on Friday. Then, I pick up the book, it's 500 pages. So, I set it on my desk for later...


Friday, I rewrite the treatment, it's way too long, but you know what? I love it. I love all the notes producer buddy sent, it turned this into something I hadn't seen in this premise, and it's awesome. So, I send it off despite it being reallllllly looooooong. I rewrite the DEXTER one last time, and am about to send it to the group when I realize that if I just change the Deb story, it's WAY more cohesive. So, I chop the shit out of it, and change that storyline, and I love it. So, I send it to the group. Only to find out that no one can meet this week, we'll meet the following week instead. This one chapped my hide the most, because I really did bust my balls on it. Had I known I'd have an extra week... I'd probably have gone to play poker, so maybe it's best that things happened the way they did. I completely ignore the book again.

Today, I only had one project to concentrate on. The pilot rewrite. I'm still convinced that I can write it how I've been wanting to write it, despite the storyline not tracking with the premise. And I do. I spend HOURS on it. Until this vision pops into my head. It's this weird vision of a bride. And I'm thinking about it, and I'm like, that'd be an awesome second episode. Then I realize that it's actually my pilot episode. It's brilliant. It's genius. And it sucks. It means that I've got to start from scratch again. But, this is it. I can feel it. It's NBC at 9PM. It works with the premise. It's not the same depressing ending I'd had, it addresses every concern that instructor had in his incredible email. I'll probably completely ignore the book again tonights.

So, I'm about halfway through that outline, and I had to take a break from creating story, because seriously, my head's going to implode. But I've had so many Eureka! moments this week, I wanted to document them. I figure, hey, if you hate these kind of self-indulgent posts like I do, then at least you were forewarned going in!