Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rainy Christmas.

Greetings from the East Coast, where it is rainy and gross.

This is my favorite article about the effects of the strike: Strike-Stalled Agents Flip for Facebook: Hey, let's "poke" Nick Counter! I haven't really noticed this at all where I work; it seems that everybody is continuing to keep up the image that we all still have work to do. But since that image includes a Christmas bonus check, I'm cool with it.

I should use this holiday break to write a lot and read some scripts. So far it's not working all that well - and I was too lazy to print out more than two scripts. It's so much easier to eat a lot of foods that make you feel guilty and tell stories of your C-list celebrity sightings to people who are actually impressed by them. For instance, Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper on The OC...and I think he's on Damages now) was on my jetblue flight from Burbank to New York. He's aging, but was still attractive in his preppy-yet-casual jeans, collared shirt and grey sweater. I also was filling in at reception on Thursday when I asked Xzibit what his name was. Oops.

I recently caught up with a friend who's still in school and he said, "Oh, you're so LA. You're so industry." And so I've begun to compile a mental list:

YOU KNOW YOU'RE SO HOLLYWOOD WHEN:

1. You abbreviate "represent" to "rep," "reps," or "repped."
2. You've seen people do coke, and you no longer think it is odd.
3. You use the phrase "I have to go to a party."
4. You make yourself go out when you're tired because you never know when a good networking opportunity might present itself.
5. You have seriously considered plastic surgery.
6. You read the trades and DeadlineHollywoodDaily so often that when you go to the website or pick up the hard copy, there is nothing new for you to read.
6B. You have no idea what is going on with the war in Iraq, the presidential campaign or other "real" news.
7. You don't read books, you read scripts - and there are scripts in your car and on your coffee table.
8. (for assistants) You begin to answer your cell phone "________'s Office."
9. You have already decided what kind of car you will drive and where you will buy a giant house when you are rich.
10. You gossip about people around the office, knowing you can say whatever you want if you preface your opinion with "He's a nice guy, but..." or "I love the guy, but..."
11. In addition to having favorite movies and TV shows, you have favorite production companies, networks and studios.
11B. You would be more excited to run into JJ Abrams, Josh Schwartz or another producer than a famous actor or actress.
12. You no longer try to justify why you're drinking.
13. You have explained your job to a friend or relative by using characters on Entourage.

I'll post more when I think of them. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You need to see Juno!

Somehow I forgot to mention how much I loved JUNO. It's hilarious but has a lot of heart. The acting, directing, soundtrack...all great. I'm also really excited that a female-driven comedy is being so well received. You'll hear a lot of industry people talk about how female-driven comedies are dead, that romcoms use a formula that's been overdone, that people only want crude-yet-clever Apatowian stuff. I enjoyed Superbad and Knocked Up as much as the next girl, but I don't want to accept this idea as fact. I hope Ellen Page stars in ten more movies in 2008. Another great thing about Juno was its complex characters and complete avoidance of stereotype amidst many possibilites for stereotypes (the midwest, high school, etc). There's more about this - and the family values of the film - in this great article from Slate, the Washington Post's online mag.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tis the season...

For rich executives to send other rich executives presents they don't want or need. And it is my job to lug around these giant gift baskets of beer, wine, cheese, cookies, candy, pies, etc. The one upside is that people often share them...and anything addressed to "staff" or people who no longer work here is fair game for all. I think I've gained 12 pounds this week.

For anyone who's into the Twilight Zone, my school is hosting the THE ROD SERLING CONFERENCE and SHORT FEATURE SCRIPTWRITING COMPETITION. The deadline is January 23, 2008 and top prize is $200. I doubt I'll be entering since I'm going to start work on a Weeds spec (I decided to put off Ugly Betty, for now at least), but if you're into "science fiction with social themes" you might want to enter.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hooray

Yesterday my new writers group had its first meeting. It's all people I met online, but since LA is actually tiny, one member is also a member of WriteGirl (the mentorship program I volunteer with) and another member is a friend of a girl I work with at the agency. Anyway, I'm excited. After I finished my pilot I've been lax about writing so this will be a good way to get back into writing regularly. Plus, it's fun to talk to people who are as passionate about TV as I am.

Friday Night Lights finally resolved the murder plot! Yay. I thought its ending was really anticlimactic, and I'm annoyed at how Tyra totally faded into the background in the past few episodes. But now we can move on, and I think everyone's relieved. Meanwhile, it turns out the the move to Fridays as well as the strike might be great news for FNL.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Writing your pilot

During my downtime at work, I am going through and reading all the pilots that are in development (or were before the strike started, at least). So far, what I've read has disappointed me. I mean, I can tell why networks and prodcos liked them enough to develop them...the description is efficient and full of imagery. The dialogue is snappy. The plots move quickly and the acts end on cool surprises. The characters are complex. So what's missing?

ORIGINALITY.

Cop shows, lawyer shows, doctor shows, action shows...whatever it may be, I've seen it before. I've only read one pilot so far that made me think, wow, that's really interesting. I've never seen anything like that. Everything else seemed really tired and formulaic, and I didn't really care about what was happening. So as you write your pilot, I urge to think of something NEW and DIFFERENT. Start your brainstorming with WHAT IF. Be daring. Think about what would turn the world - or the world of your character - upside down. Once you've got your premise, think of how to push the envelope so that it doesn't sound like all the shows already on TV. Discover a situation that has high stakes that isn't a crime scene or a hospital.

Here are some other rules I'd love for you to follow:

1. Don't use voiceover. JUST DON'T. I have read pilots that used voiceover to hit me over the head with their theme, tell me what their character is thinking, or explain what's going on. It annoyed me every time. If you're a good writer, you should be able to accomplish all these things through dialogue, action and (brief) description.

2. Don't simply describe your leading man or woman as beautiful, handsome, gorgeous, etc. If your pilot gets shot, it is going to be cast with ACTORS. Unless they're over 60 or a very specific kind of character actor, they're going to be crazy good looking. So be more specific. What makes them different from their fellow beautiful, handsome and gorgeous SAG members? Is it their confident strut? Sly smile?

3. Don't introduce 17 characters, especially ones all around the same age. In one pilot I read, there were like 8 men in their late 30s who all worked together. I could not tell them apart, so I gave up after a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Endings

[First, an update on the alcoholic environment of my job: we're having our holiday party on Thursday at the office (strike = no extra money to go someplace fancy). We got more details today: "Cocktails and heavy hors d'ouvres. Taxi vouchers will be provided for those who require car service home." Niiice. If only I wouldn't have to pay $40+ for a cab ride to get to work again Friday morning.]

I finally caught up with season three of Weeds. Overall the season was a bit disappointing, but the finale was fantastic...and strangely final. My friend Lee, Entertainment Weekly and I all agree that it would have been a perfect series finale. It's funny, because usually series finales disappoint and annoy me. One of the things I love about television is that shows can live on for years while features tend to fade away three weeks after they open. Characters on TV have the chance to grow and evolve in ways we never anticipated - while watching the Friends pilot, did you ever think Monica and Chandler would get married? Nope...but it makes perfect sense later on. However, this all makes ending a series - especially a long-running one - a difficult task. While screenwriters generally envision their ending before even writing Fade In, TV writers can't think this way because of so many outside forces (networks, actors, etc etc). But back to why I hate most finales - it's because the shows try to do way too much. They'll unnaturally fast forward twenty years in the future (ahem, OC, Will & Grace) even though each season spanned a few months at most. They'll try to wrap everything up in a neat little forced package.

But WEEDS. (SPOILER ALERT!) My goodness. It was characteristically hilarious and tragic - and relevant - as wildfires ripped through the neighborhood, threatening to torch Nancy's house, Celia's house, the grow house, the marijuana plants, the places that simultaneously constituted every character's livelihood and every character's unhappiness. It was all so fucking poetic. And it all came back to the beginning, the very reason why Nancy started this dangerous life in the first place: Judah's death. "I tried," Nancy tells him breathlessly, spilling gasoline all over the kitchen floor, hoping she can move on from this three-season detour from her normal life. No neat little package. No unnatural passage of time. Just the characters as they always have been, living their equally comic and tragic lives, realizing how they've come so far just to be right back where they started: grieving, struggling, making mistakes.
Don't get me wrong, I'll be thrilled to watch season four...but I doubt any finale will be more perfect than that episode.