I be a good righter.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Am Shameless Or: How I Dated Frank Gallagher For One Night

The other night I was at a local dive bar. Not unlike any other night, really. On this night, however, it was totally dead. It was me, a friend, the bartender, and a couple of extremely drunk girls who were in town visiting from... out of town, presumably.

My friend and I got around to talking about "Shameless" in between various Britney Spears/Lady Gaga/Journey tunes (jukebox choices from the drunken, (now) drunkenly dancing girls). I mentioned that I'd been thinking about speccing the show, but couldn't seem to come up with an episode idea that fit within the world of the show. I don't have a million brothers and sisters, I've never had to scrape that hard for money, I've never been very good at coming up with schemes for getting money. Probably because I've never had to scrape that hard for money...

In this blog, I've talked about how I fancy myself a method writer. I used to be a method actor. Or that's what I was taught when I was in college, as theater is what I originally studied. Turns out, I was a horrible actor. I had had my suspicions that I sucked, but the point was really hammered home one opening night when, after my non-stellar performance, my boyfriend at the time met me in the dressing room with a dozen roses and a book on how to become a stage manager... we're no longer together, obvs.


Because I was taught method acting, that's somehow seeped into my writing. I like to immerse myself in the worlds of the shows I'm speccing. Or, if I'm writing a pilot, immerse myself in worlds that are similar to the pilot I'm writing. So, it's probably fitting that I was at a bar that's reminiscent of The Alibi Room on Shameless. And it's fitting that I'm friends with the Kevin-like bartender. And that I happened to be there with another writer.

I started talking about the aspects of the show that I like. How Frank does this, how Fiona reacts that way... and slowly a story idea started emerging. We ordered more drinks, and I started writing notes. Would Lip really do something like this? Where's Deb?

I watched the drunken girls at the end of the bar as though I was Frank. What would he see watching them? Would he notice their watches? Where they placed their purses? If they paid in cash or by card? What did he need and what could he get out of them?

I ordered my friend and me some more drinks and went out to smoke. One of the drunken girls had just come in, she'd left her purse out there. What would Frank do? We know what Fiona would do, as there was an entire episode revolving around her finding a purse on the El. So, what would Ian do? Or Karen?

What I did was return the purse immediately, and then returned outside to smoke and think and plot. The drunken girl followed me out and bummed a smoke. She asked me what I was doing. I had my notebook in my hand. I told her I was thinking about Frank. She surmised that Frank was my boyfriend. I guess, in her world, people think about their boyfriends outside bars and write about them in their notebooks when they're out for a smoke...


For the time being, I suppose Frank is my boyfriend. So I went with it. I told her about how I worry about how much he drinks. I worry about our future together, as I'm old-fashioned and would like to think that he'd be able to take care of me financially. And how I'm not sure that he can.

She asked if I love him. I suppose that I do, I told her, I can see the good in him. He loves his mother. He seems to love his kids, in a really fucked up way. She asked me a bit about that. And asked if I wanted to have kids with him. I told her that I felt like his six kids was enough for us to handle. She nodded, she understood.

As we stubbed out our smokes, she told me she was rooting for me and Frank. She hoped that it would lead to something important and real. Because I'd told her that, at times, it felt like he wasn't real and was just a character on a TV show -- she totally got that. She's been there, she said.

In the end, she helped me see parts of Frank that I probably wouldn't have seen. I felt it was probably the most interesting way I've ever looked at a character. And I ended up with a very interesting beat sheet by the end of the evening.

And a not-so-interesting hangover the next morning...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Being Kyle Killen

So, listen. I want to crawl around in Kyle Killen's mind for a minute. See what goes on in there. He seems to be fascinated by the same subject that takes up a lot of my brain space.

For me, it started with "Sliding Doors." A movie I've mentioned in this blog a number of times. In some ways, it's the Butterfly Effect (not the movie) or Chaos Theory. The idea that a small moment begets chaos. And that chaos, in this movie, splits Gwyneth Paltrow's life in two. Essentially, she's living two parallel lives. And in this, her two paths lead her to the same ending in vastly different ways (oh hey, John Hannah!).

Years later, Liz Tigelaar wrote a fantastic pilot called, "Split Decision." It was, essentially, the same idea. On her first day of a new high school, in the lunch line, a girl's life splits in two. In one life, she becomes the popular girl. In the other, she's the nerd. Presumably for the series, we would watch her navigate her parallel lives. Not only did I want to watch this, I desperately wanted to write for it. Alas, it was not to be, as the network gods chose not to pick it up. I wonder what their parallel lives would be if they'd chosen to pick it up? I bet it would've been a smash hit! I mean, come on... I have great taste in all things but men.

Fast forward to Kyle Killen's pilot, "Lone Star." This was not necessarily about a man who led parallel lives, but it kinda was. I mean, it wasn't some magical reason. The dood chose to live these parallel lives. He was a con-man. Married in one city, dating a woman in another. He was going in for the long con, while dealing with some serious internal and external struggles. I believe the show got yanked after two episodes. A real shame, because it was amazing.

ASIDE: I understand TV is a business, that money needs to be made. I also understand that some shows need time. To grow, to flourish, to build an audience. It's heart-breaking to see network shows that have so much potential get tossed out with the bath water. I'm wracking my brains to think of any cable show that got yanked before its time. "Party Down" comes to mind. I love me some Rob Thomas, and that show was hilarious, but, perhaps, too insular. It still got two seasons. It still got a chance.


So last year, I read this pilot by Killen. It was called "R.E.M." I had no idea what it was going to be about, and I'll admit, I thought it might be about Michael Stipe. It wasn't. It was about a guy living parallel lives. A man who was in a horrific car accident with his wife and teenaged son. In one of his lives, his wife is still alive. In the other, his son. In both lives, he sees psychologists, but both psychologists are vastly different in their approach. One psychologist believes that this is the man's coping mechanism, that the other life is just an intricate way for his brain to deal with losing his son. Grief can wreak havoc on one's psyche. In the other life, the psychologist believes the guy is leading two lives. Also? The man's a detective. And in both lives, he's working a case. But two separate cases, that actually inform the other.

This pilot, as you may have guessed is, "Awake." It will air in March on NBC. A much better title, in my opinion. I recently watched the pilot, as NBC has put it up on their site and iTunes is offering it for free. I liked it a lot, but didn't love it. And I can't put my finger on it. It was beautifully shot. Pretty well acted. Pretty great direction. But something was just... off. And I worry that it will get yanked before it can find its footing.

After some thought, I'm beginning to wonder if it's NBC. The fact that it's a network show. I can't escape the feeling that Kyle Killen's incredible scripts deserve the care and nurturing that a cable network could provide. I mean, clearly the man is a brilliant writer. But I think the pilot is too glossy, too produced. It needs an indie feel. The room to really get deep inside this man's psyche. To get dirty and scary. There was one moment, where he doesn't know which life he's in. And he can't find either his wife or his son. And he flips the fuck out. But the moment is short-lived. And it's got a series of quick cuts and jump cuts to help us feel as disoriented as he does. But... it's pretty. And slick. And very network-y. And I feel like on Showtime or f/x, it wouldn't be like this. It would be gritty and dark. Like a show about a man who's lost his wife or son should be. Or a man investigating a little girl's disappearance should be.

Or like the script was.

Basically, I would kill to write for one of Killen's shows. Even if it meant I'd only be employed for a few months. But I would like to encourage Killen to develop relationships with the execs over at some of the cable networks, because frankly? I'd like to see him have a long-running series.

Maybe in his parallel life he does.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm Not Back.

Seriously. There's nothing to talk about in television or my life.


"Shameless" is not happening on Showtime. It's not, like, the best show ever. I'm definitely not speccing it. But I am totally enjoying the second season because the characters are all completely likeable and never, you know, kill anyone. (In reality, I'm glad Steve's somewhat back, because Steve/Fiona keeps the show grounded, so Frank can go fuck up whatever it is he's going to fuck up this week).

"Game of Thrones" is not about to begin its second season. And this show definitely doesn't have the distinction of illustrating how perfectly one can write a boring talking-heads scene and make it insanely not boring. Or have the distinction of showing how horribly wrong a talking-heads scene can go.

Lemme back up a second. I took a class a long time ago where the instructor was adamant that in any talking heads scenes, one or both people involved should be doing something interesting. Cooking dinner, fighting a demon, what have you. It, according to him, makes the scene more compelling. I've tried to do this in a number of my scripts, and have found that he was completely right.

In GoT, there were two separate episodes that did exactly this. In one episode Tywin and Jaime are discussing the future. During the entire conversation, Tywin guts a stag. Entrails spilling everywhere. It is potentially the most gruesome, compelling conversation I've ever seen on screen.


In another episode, two women are having some amazing sex in the background while a dood takes us down exposition alley. I've watched this scene three times now and still have trouble concentrating on what he's saying, because, um, THERE ARE TWO WOMEN FUCKING IN THE BACKGROUND.

So, I guess the lesson learned is have your characters be doing something interesting, but not too interesting...

So glad that I could talk to you guys about something that happened a year ago. Sorry that I don't write or call. See,

As well as writing, I've also taken up roller derby. It's kinda fucking awesome. It's also a huge time suck. So, like, I don't have a lot of time to be writing blog posts... though, I do have tons of time to surf the interwebz. Priorities, yo.

Basically, I'm not back. I don't plan to be back. But maybz I'll see y'all in a couple of days when I post again.