I be a good righter.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Who Invented Final Draft?

Well, Kira tagged me with my own fucking meme. This was a twist I totally did not see coming. Damn her eyes.

Okay, here goes:

The short version:

I didn't know I *could* write for TV. Final Draft was invented. And 60 pages is a lot shorter than 120.

Long version:

I wrote my first spec when I was nine. But I didn't know I was writing a spec. And I didn't actually write it. I just figured out what my "fantasy" would be if FANTASY ISLAND was real. I wanted to meet my sister who died before I was born. And then, because she died at age four, and I had lived twice as long, I was going to offer to be dead in her place. But, because I knew Mr. Roarke was a good guy, I knew he'd let both of us live happily ever after.


I went to college in Minnesota to be an actress. I was in a few plays (even was recognized in a ladies' bathroom!). On one opening night, my boyfriend at the time gave me a dozen roses and a book on how to become a stage manager. Which, you know, made me cry.

The point is, that I was able to quit acting proves to me that it wasn't who I was. So, I decided I should be behind the camera (getting that book really stung). Director? Perhaps an editor? So, I switched to Filmmaking. In this program, we were required to write a script. This was pre-Final Draft. So, it was all about 120 pages full of strange margins and shit, and it just didn't feel organic to me. So, I swore I'd never be a screenwriter. Heh.

When I arrived in L.A. I fell into a PA position, and worked my way up to Line Producer of some small Indie films. I didn’t love it, though. So, I got a job as a Producer’s assistant, thinking I wanted to be a producer. That didn’t seem to be it either. Basically, I knew that I’d wanted to work in the industry, but I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.

A few years ago I was living in England and was starved for U.S. television. I was searching around the internet to see if I could find any information about what was happening in U.S. shows as England was about a year behind. In my search, I stumbled on a website frequented by the writers of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Apparently this day was some sort of anniversary of the site. And loads of folks were posting about how this board had changed their lives. I didn’t really understand how an online site could change lives until I read a serendipitous post written by Mere Smith.

She recounted how she got her start as a television writer. She wrote about something called a “spec script.” At that moment, everything changed. My heart was racing. I knew this was it. Even though I had no idea what she was talking about. So, I began researching how one went about writing a spec script, and within twelve hours I began outlining my first spec script.

A BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER script, of course.

I think the reality is: I started this meme because I don't know why it's TV for me, other than the glib "it's 60 pages" answer. I've tried features, I've written short stories, I've tried novels. This is just the only thing that makes me excited. I thought maybe if I read other folks' answers, I'd understand why I only respond to writing for TV?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Your Personal Essay Question

When I began my quest for this holy grail, people were still of the mind that it was an idiot box. That features were the only things worth doing. Now it seems like everyone wants to be a TV writer. It got me thinking: Why?

There are the really boring answers like: normal-ish hours, not a lot of traveling, great money, seems slightly more stable than features... I don't really care about that. I care about the moment when you realized it was TV. Maybe it's not a moment, maybe it's a whole thing. I want to hear about it! Think of it as your essay question with less pressure!

So, I'm going to ask these five folks to blog about it, and they're going to ask five folks and then we'll all become a Breck commercial.

What made you want to be a TV writer? Was there a defining moment? Was it an awakening? Did you always know? These are the questions I'm posing to:

1. Lisa Klink
2. Michael Sullivan
3. Kira Snyder
4. Emily Blake
5. Josh Roessler



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shoulda Stayed Hidden

Okay, I'm pretty up to date with all of my summer watching. BURN NOTICE - check! THE CLOSER - check! PSYCH - check! I've even added some shows, like, IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Is it just me or does everything have a sheen of suckage about it? Stories, this summer, seem half-assed. Dialogue reads like it could have been written by me. Various plots also could have been written by me. If it were just one show, I'd chock it up to that. Now I'm left wondering if it's blowback from the Strike? Or have people been mentally damaged to the point that they're incapacitated? I say "people" because it's not just the writing on these shows. It's the acting, the directing (and I NEVER notice directing on shows). There was even an episode of LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT where I found the set-design so distracting I had to rewind it three times to catch on to the story. And that was in a wood-paneled office. It's *that* bad, people. It's like everyone has lost their will to TV. It's almost making me lose my will to watch. Almost.


IN PLAIN SIGHT is a semi-fun new show created by David Maples and starring Mary McCormack as Mary Shannon, U.S. Marshall extraordinaire. Each episode has a little serial (Mary dealing with her boyfriend; Mary dealing with her sister who's come to stay; Mary dealing with her mother who's also moved in) and a little stand-alone (the Witness put into Witness Protection).

I tend to like the stand-alone portions the best. They're usually pretty unique and they seem to be the best witnesses to go into witness protection on a show about such things (read: the worst possible people for Mary to have to look out for (read: great conflict)). The family/boyfriend stuff is pretty eh! to me. So take my comments with a grain of salt.

I pretty much enjoyed IPS. And even, on occasion, looked forward to it being in the TiVo. I just... I don't think I can watch it next season. They've just... ruined it. The finale took what little bit of enjoyment I had completely out of it. The entire time I was watching the episode (I'm not sure why I didn't just turn it off) I kept repeating, agog, "this is crap!" "This is so bad!" "Someone wrote this?"

When I was young I went to see CRIMES OF THE HEART with my friend Rose and her grandfather who was from Poland or China or some place that wasn't Washington D.C. Maybe Texas. We get out of the film and both Rose and I ask her grandfather what he thought of it. His description was:

GRANDPA (thick Polish/Chinese/Texan accent): It was two hours watching three women scream and cry. I could stay home for this.

Now, I don't want to exaggerate and say that that's what the IPS finale was like. Because, for one, it was only 46 minutes or so. But, other than that, it's exactly like what Rose's Grandpa's description was. The IPS finale was 46 minutes of watching three women scream and cry. Er, I was actually home. But, yeah. It didn't need to be that. It didn't need to be horrible. And now I want to pour bleach on my brain to try to forget that episode...

Let's pretend I have and move on:

During IPS there have been a lot of commercials for THE STARTER WIFE, which I'd never seen. So, I checked it out on hulu.

SIDEBAR: Hulu fucking sucks. Look, I download a shitload of shows off of iTunes. Everyday I wake up to a new receipt from them. And, I'm totally cool with that. When I can't find it on iTunes, I head over to hulu. What I'm trying to say here is that I take every precaution before turning to bit torrent. So, I found TSW on hulu, and I watch. I'm fine with the commercials. Even when it's the same fucking one over and over and over and over. Because it's free to me, I'm fine with this. But, because it's free to me, don't insult me by giving me crap audio and crap visuals AND commercials (which strangely have perfect audio and perfect visuals). Because, seriously, I'd rather bit torrent than deal with all three.


So, I watch THE STARTER WIFE, it's not awful, it's not great. I'm sort of apathetic towards it. I probably would have liked it a lot more if the writers hadn't written the main character, Molly Kagan, played by Debra Messing (whom I normally hate, but did not hate here) as a kind of lap dog. Yes, I know she gets all loud and in your face at the end. But it was a little too late, and didn't really make total sense in the context of things. But the one moment that really really really irked me?

The premise of the show, if you can't tell by the title, is Molly's hubby dumps her. Molly's hubby is a very successful producer in the Bidness. And as soon as she's dumped, she's shunned by acquaintances, her gym, random dogs on the streets...

Here's where I get pissed:

She's even shunned by her own best friend, who she talks to on the phone at least 10 times a day. And the best friend, Cricket, shuns her because... her husband has a movie with Molly's husband and he's afraid the movie's not going to go if Molly's hubby thinks they're still friends with Molly.

I don't know about you all, but I'd be pretty pissed if I were Molly. But... Molly wasn't. And when Cricket finds out her husband cheated on her? She goes running to Molly. WHO WELCOMES HER WITH OPEN ARMS!

I guess it kind of felt like the writers wrote themselves into a corner with the Cricket story line and didn't know how to gracefully get out of it. And that's what they chose to do. And, as soon as Molly started mentioning that she'd forgiven Cricket? That's when I stopped believing her character. That's when I started noticing other little things that weren't totally believable -- things that I'd normally overlook whilst in the moment of watching.

Speaking of unbelievable characters -- I've procrastinated all I can today. Feel free to help me find more ways to procrastinate by bitching about your most hated recent moments in TV.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Be a Buoy Scout, Y'all!

Guys. Always be prepared. FOR SERIOUS. Because this is what happens when you're not:

I've got a pilot that I bitched about a while back. I loved the concept and the characters so I did a page one rewrite so I could also love the mystery behind it. Now I love the mystery but I don't really love the characters. It's been sitting on my computer as I suffered through my DEXTER of extreme badness -- I'm pretty sure that guy will never see the light of day. And while I've rewritten my HEROES to be more relevant and linear. And while I've started on another pilot... so, you know, I've been busy.

Anyhoo, I wrote that pilot that I hated a while ago in a class. And there was a girl in the class who was frickin' awesome who's become a good friend. She doesn't understand why I'm not staffed. And every year she pokes and prods me to get off my ass and do something -- ANYTHING -- to get on staff. And for a while I'm usually inspired by her enthusiasm.

Thing is, between moving to Dublin (and not writing) and the strike (and not writing) I don't have a hell of a lot to show. Which is why I was surprised when my friend decided to take matters into her own hands and call up her manager to call me up. Which she did. I didn't have a ton of things to send over to her so I sent the Disney winning script and a short story.

I met the manager for coffee last week (which I paid for -- am I a diva to think that's odd?) and it just isn't a good fit. She wants to take me on as a client. But she also wants me to jump through all of these hoops (related to the people I know, as it happens). So, I haven't gotten back to her. Even though she's gotten my friend some amazing jobs. Perhaps I'm being an idiot.

Anyhoo, my wonderful friend also apparently had a meeting last week with a friend-cquaintance of hers. I get an email after that meeting that's all:

Boom, this is Jay, Jay this is Boom. Y'all know what to do.

Except for I didn't. So I "replied all" with a non-committal witticism. And Jay "replied all" with a "send me over some of your work!" I don't know who this joker is so I go to Minnesota.

Okay, I was already going to Minnesota. But, I make the executive decision that I'm going and not responding until I get back, because I'd really like to know what the hell is going on. At the same time I don't want to be looking a gift mouth in the horse. You know? So, I send back a polite, "Hey, Jay, you know what's up, friend knows what's up, I don't know what's up. Can we Joan Rivers?"

And we do. He's very nice. Turns out he's a development exec looking for scripts and friend talked the shit up about mine. The one I wrote in class. The one that's in literal pieces on my desk. Sigh.

Thankfully Jay's all, "take your time." My neurotic self reads "take the weekend" into that. I don't know. Do y'all think I have more time than that?

What the fuck is up with my new southern accent? I'm from MINNESOTA don'tcha know. Where's y'all coming from?

Okay, but seriously, how much times do I gots?

And are YOU prepared for your friends? Maybe you should check over your scripts one last time -- just in case!

And randomly, are you all (ha!) watching the Swimlympics? Seriously has swimming ever been this exciting? Is everyone at their local (or backyard) pool, like, all the time now? I totally want to swim laps ALL THE TIME. Especially instead of trying to piece my pilot back together!

Double ugh.

Always be prepared. Always be prepared. ALWAYS BE FUCKING PREPARED!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Know It All

I know everyone. I mean, like, everyone. People are agog at my knowing people. Like, I'm on this committee. We have these events. And every time we meet to discuss who to invite to these events, I know everyone on every show. And everyone knows that I know everyone and no one understands why I haven't gotten a job from knowing folks.

Lemme back up a second here: It's been a while since the last acknowledgment of my writing (Austin 2007). See, every year I like to give myself a year to get some sort of acknowledgment for my writing. And, I tell myself that after the year is over, I'll reassess my situation and see if writing is for me. After all, there's nothing worse than being that no-talent hack who spends their life trying to make it. THANKFULLY, I get a little sign every year. Sometimes it's a big sign. But I'm happy with the little signs telling me, at the very least, that I'm a semi-talented hack...

Anyway... it's not been a year yet. And I forgot to enter Austin this year. So, pretty much I've got WB and CBS. That's it. I don't want to hang my hat on waiting for those, so I'm looking for an assistant position. Because the one thing I'm hearing a lot of in regards to my writing is: she can write, but she needs room experience.

Which can lead to a whole catch twenty fuck situation that makes you want to pull out your hair.

Or it can lead to people who know that I know everyone beating my head in because I'm not asking anyone I know for help. Which, you know, is easy to say. Not so easy to do. Or, maybe it is for you. But, I'm trying. I really am. I just...

It's just so much easier to email or call folks to come to these events than it is to ask for them to believe in me enough to give me a job.

But, now, I've applied for a job. On a show where I know someone. And I need to call that person. And pimp myself.

But I don't know how to!