Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still Here

Sorry I've been quiet...not much to say. Everybody's starting to make their strike bets - nothing really has changed on that front. Looks like they're definitely striking...although we just got two new mailroom employees (wtf?), so I guess the agency isn't too concerned about the financial hit. Another TV Lit desk opened up, but I didn't go for it because 1. there were some company politics I didn't really want to get involved in and 2. I really do want to go through the floater/training process before jumping onto a desk. It kinda sucks because a bunch of TV Lit desks opened right as I got hired, and it's not that big of a department...but I'm sure more will. Just gotta be patient.

One thing I did today was help organize a binder for a TV Lit agent. Nothing really, just alphabetizing, but I did notice that there are a million writers with a million different scripts. So, in the vein of Alex Epstein's post about all the things you need to do before you give up, I feel the need to advise all aspiring writers to JUST WRITE. Write a pilot. And a spec. And another one. Because I assure you that all of your competitors are doing just that.

Tonight I also had a great dinner with an old internship supervisor. He's a CE, and very busy for work and life reasons, but luckily we were finally able to meet. He's from the midwest and very down-to-earth, which is nice to find in this town. We had always gotten along well and I made sure to send an email every now and then...something I definitely recommend. Plus, I got a nice dinner out of it. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I love me some internets

Nikki Finke's Blog: She's informative, irreverent, and seems to know everything before everyone else does. Lots of interesting strike perspectives.

Here's an LA Times article about the dwindling number of good female comedy roles. It's interesting that such a classic formula as the female-driven romantic comedy is becoming obsolete, but it is...and it's being replaced by hyper-sexual, male-driven not-so-rom coms. Women and comedy are a tough match...in part because it seems to be so much more important for women in Hollywood to be thin, attractive and youthful. On the TV side...even women who fit this description AND are talented comediennes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Christina Applegate come to mind) are held back by mediocre material. Both The New Adventures of Old Christine and Samantha Who are entertaining and accomplish what they set out to do, but they're nothing special or particularly memorable. There's nothing deeper going on between the dialogue or plot, and it's disappointing. Now, I do admire the characters - and actresses - on Ugly Betty, Weeds and Desperate Housewives - but these shows are all equally dramatic/tragic (and two follow more of a drama format), which I think is important to note.

Lastly, I thought you might want to know that Universal has posted the PDFs of a bunch of film scripts on their website for free download. Rumor has it they'll only be up there til February, so click soon!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The best $1.25 (and $5 for parking) you'll ever spend

Any two cookies. Any flavor ice cream. Smush 'em together and get the BEST ICE CREAM SANDWICH EVER FOR ONLY $1.25. Diddy Reese in Westwood, on Broxton. If I went to UCLA, this place would probably be the sole cause of my freshman fifteen. There is a sign in the window that says the price will be going up to $1.50, but I think I will be able to spare another quarter. (Next time, though, I'm definitely going to find free parking and walk a little farther).

In the TV world, Viva Laughlin just got cancelled after TWO episodes. Adaptations aren't always as safe as networks would like to think. Also, I learned in Variety that MySpace is airing its first exclusive scripted show, Roommates. I haven't watched it yet...but apparently users can affect the course of the plot, which is worth mentioning. Interactive TV. It'll be really cool or really dumb, I think. Another sign that TV is changing is that director Alan Taylor just received a development deal with CBS Paramount. He's one of a growing number of directors with development deals. It has long been thought that film was a director's medium, whereas TV was a writer's medium...but with shows that look as slick as Life, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Pushing Daisies, etc., directing in TV is something to get excited about.

I saw Rendition this weekend, which was a mess. The characters were underdeveloped, yet it attempted to be a character piece disguised as a political thriller. Like I said, a mess.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Strike

If you're an aspiring writer, especially one outside of LA, you've probably heard of the impending WGA strike but may be a little confused about what the hell is going on. To be honest, people out here don't know too much more - just that there is about the same chance of a strike as there is a chance of Lindsay or Britney going back to rehab. (I have to mention, though, that I saw LL in a cafe yesterday and she looked quite good, despite nearly being attacked by paparazzi - come on, let the girl have a frickin sandwich!) Most people seem to be taking a moderate stance...saying sure, the writers should get more, but a strike will just suck for everyone. I don't really feel like I've been in this business long enough to assert an opinion...so I'll just post some links in case you want to catch up. One thing I do know is that you need to be informed to be successful here.

If you're only going to read one, read this one: It's a Variety article about all the different things that could happen come Nov. 1.

WGA's rules regarding what writers are forbidden from doing in the event of a strike

Variety article about the AMPTP bashing the rules

NY Times article about producers withdrawing their proposal to change the residual process

Variety article about what studios, agents, etc. are doing in preparation

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thinking Small

Gossip Girl is no O.C., but it works. It works because each episode tackles a small event...a party, a photo shoot, a poker game. It doesn't attempt to throw in crazy, overly dramatic plots or expect its characters to go through giant changes over the course of an episode. It keeps it simple, and I think other shows could benefit from this approach. It doesn't mean the show has to be boring or inconsequential...if the show is truly about the characters, then their reactions to small situations can actually be very interesting and powerful.

Take Friday Night Lights, which everyone seems to be in agreement has changed this season. My roommate and I just watched "Homecoming" from the first season. Simple, normal things are happening...an alumnus returns in the hopes of getting a coaching job. Smash wants to impress a scout. Matt isn't sure if he should ask Julie out on a date. Tyra is planning a party. All these things happen every day, but they become powerful because of the characters, the subtleties, the subtext. We don't need murders, unrealistic living situations, etc. That's what I like so much about FNL...it's normal, everday people in normal, everyday situations. You don't need spies and cops, you don't need bombs or murders or constant life-and-death situations.

I worried that my pilot might be too superficial or simple, since it's just a bunch of kids trying to run a radio station. But it involves friendship, power, love, disappointment, control. You don't have to be saving lives or fighting crime; these issues can come up when you're doing laundry or having a meeting or going to a frisbee party.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Depressing Dillon


I guess I should talk about Friday Night Lights, which has gotten very dark and depressing. What Variety called a "highly dramatic" plot with Tyra and Landry turned out to be a murder...yep, Landry killed the guy who tried to rape Tyra last season when he returned, and then the two dumped his body in a river. Meanwhile, Julie is sick of Matt. Matt's grandma is loopier than ever and he's brought in a tough in-home nurse. Tami is crying nonstop and wondering why she wanted to live apart from Eric (hmm, ME TOO!). Eric is not really loving his new job at TMU. The new Panthers coach is pissing off Riggins and Street. Buddy is miserable about his divorce, and is making his wife and her new guy both miserable. Lyla is trying to fill the void in her life with Jesus, and I'm not sure she's even fooling herself. The only people not entirely depressed are Smash (and we've seen him for 2 or 3 scenes) and Riggins (and he is still pining after Lyla). There is no comic relief, via Landry or Buddy or whoever. And Waverly has disappeared. I mean, I guess we've set up a lot to fix over the season...but it's just so crazy. Would Tami and Eric really have chosen to live apart with a new baby? I thought for sure Eric was going to pick the Panthers and things would be back to normal. And the murder? Yeesh. I feel like Tyra and Landry's fledgling romance could have included enough drama.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

update

I don't really know why, but I watched Cavemen tonight. And guess what - it's a FOURTH show this season that depicts the poor, pathetic life of retail workers (this time, in an Ikea-type foreign furniture conglomerate). Weird.

So...the mailroom gig. I thought it was going to be really stressful, running around and getting yelled at and whatnot. Turns out it's pretty boring and slow. It's going to take me a while to memorize all the agents and their assistants and where they sit, but otherwise I already pretty much have the job under control. There is a lot of downtime but we are allowed to read some of the scripts so I plan to do plenty of that. I also get to leave at 6:30 which is sort of ridiculously early in this business. woo!

Did I mention I finished the rough draft of my pilot? I was on a roll on Saturday night (I have such an action social life...) and got the whole thing done. My main focus now is writing a new teaser, because the current one is a bit pointless and sets little up...but the I feel like the idea itself is a unique experience I want to include somewhere in the script...so I'm not really sure what to do about it yet. Maybe I'll have to go watch a few pilots of similar shows.

By the way...Brothers & Sisters has a lot of online behind-the-scenes stuff from writers and producers - check it out!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Good News, Bad News

October 5, 2007

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying to the Warner Bros. Television Writer's Workshop. After careful evaluation and consideration of the hundreds of scripts we received, we are unable to include your submission(s) in the final round.

We wish you well in all of your future writing endeavors and thank you again for your interest in the workshop.

---

After reading Jane Espenson's post about how the workshop was only accepting 7 drama writers this year, I can't say I'm surprised. But there was this little flicker of hope...

Ah well, rejection is part of the process, right? I'll try again next year.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Loving Life

First, the big announcement:


I AM EMPLOYED! Starting Monday, I'll be working in the mailroom at the midsize agency. Perhaps I am selling my soul (and any free time), but I am excited. I know how valuable agency experience can be, and I think this place is a good fit for me.


On the TV front...up there with Pushing Daisies is Life, which I finally caught up with. It's Law & Order's hip, visually exciting, more serial younger cousin. Maybe Law & Order meets Veronica Mars meets Burn Notice? Something like that. The protagonist, Crews, is an LAPD detective who got framed for a murder, spent 10 years in prison, got exonerated (and paid a multi-million dollar settlement), became a sort of celebrity and rejoined the force. He also listens to self-help tapes and eats a lot of fruit. The title is kinda lame, but it stands for the sentence he received, and "what he got back" when he was exonerated. The show is quirky and fun, but also takes on really dark episodic cases, and of course Crews' ongoing search for the people who framed him is gripping and serious. I love it. Wednesdays at 10 on NBC - or you can watch it at NBC.com.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's all coming up daisies


I'm sure you've already heard, but Pushing Daisies is fantastic. It's like Wes Anderson meets Tim Burton, with Sorkinian dialogue. Seriously. It had a nice classic pilot setup of someone/something upsetting the main character's normal world. In this case, the "normal" world is a whimsical one in which Ned can touch dead people and bring them back to life, but only for a minute until someone in close proximity dies. He keeps childhood sweetheart Chuck alive, and she wants in on the whole bringing-people-back-to-life business. I love that the show has such a strong sense of style and tone -both of which are very different from anything currently on TV.

Carpoolers was silly, but had some great jokes. My favorite was when the guys were fighting for a parking spot and yelled, "Oh no! Fancy carpool! With their sushi!" And sure enough, guys in a nearby expensive car were holding chopsticks out their tinted windows and stealing the available spot. There's nothing really new or provocative about it, but I would watch again.

Scratch my optimism about Private Practice. The second episode was ridiculously melodramatic. I think I have a better use of your time during this show: Drink every time they say the word "baby." You'll be wasted by act two, and I think the show will be much better as a result. Or just save the room on your DVR for every episode 30 Rock, cause that show is amazing. By the way, Tiny Fey answers questions in video format on the NBC website. Another one of my favorites premieres this week: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS! Bravo is running a marathon all day leading up to it, so you can catch up if you've been resisting the best show on TV.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Polishing the Solo Cups

Quick update. I'm PAing at the reality prod co Mon-Wed., so I've been kinda busy. I have a bunch of TV to catch up on, but I did catch The Big Bang Theory and Aliens in America. The former is a traditional sitcom that is pretty funny because the guys are quirky and have good comedic timing...but the female lead plays it so straight that she's kind of boring in comparison. Aliens is kind of like Malcolm in the Middle meets Everybody Hates Chris with a large dose of cultural/social commentary. If that makes sense. It's not hilarious but seems to have some heart, so we'll see where it goes.

I have been writing off and on, and I'm on act four of my pilot (I gave up on the idea of it being half an hour because my pagecount was already in the late 30s, but I think tonally it makes more sense as an hour anyway). I hit a roadblock when I came to the party scene and realized it was kind of boring and pointless, other than the fact that all shows about college have obligatory party scenes. Then I remembered something Alex Epstein said in his comments about Tell Me You Love Me, the graphically sexual show on HBO...it didn't really work for him because the sex wasn't ABOUT anything...it was just sex for the sake of sex, and it didn't move the plot or tell us anything we didn't already know. My party was the same way...people were standing around drinking and saying witty things, but not much else. I was also reminded of my high school theater teacher yelling at us to get off the stage if we had no point being in the scene (mostly because high schoolers forget to act if they're not saying lines, but it has a narrative purpose too). Anyway, I'm now refocusing the scene and thinking about WHY each character is there and, WHAT they're trying to accomplish and how other character's goals might get in the way. Sometimes it helps to bring it back to screenwriting 101 basics. Wants vs. needs, stakes, tactics, conflict. I'm also going to watch the OC pilot again, because it's a great party scene (and I never get sick of that pilot).

I've got a THIRD interview at the midsize agency on Thursday, for an open assistant desk in TV lit. I guess HR and the other agents liked me enough to pass my resume along...this would be a great opportunity, and allow me to pass over the mailroom/floater steps. Fingers crossed (again).