Saturday, May 3, 2008

questions answered

Carlo asks: Do you know or have heard of writers who lived in Canada and moved to L.A?

I like to think of myself as an honorary Canadian since I grew up 25 minutes from the border. I spent many a car ride listening to a staticky 102.1 The Edge and many a drunken night stumbling across Clifton Hill with other 19 and 20 year-old Americans. But for your question, I will refer you to my friend Jane, a Canadian-turned-Angeleno who just got a Visa.

Lilia asks: I was hoping, for a future blog entry, you might talk about your own writing process. How has it progressed now that you're in the know? Are there any HUGE mistakes you used to make that just tickle/embarrass you now? Any rec's on what show you should spec or is a pilot the best way to go?

I think a major thing that has progressed is how my scripts LOOK. Simply from reading professional scripts, I have a sense of what they look like - not just in terms of format, but also in how much description is appropriate, how long dialogue chunks and scenes should be, etc. This is all second nature to me now. For example, I know not to spend paragraphs describing what a room looks like or write action lines between each line of dialogue. I think specs should be even leaner since readers already know what the characters and settings look like. The more professional scripts you read, the more the standards will be ingrained in your mind.

Overall, I think my writing has become more efficient and focused on conflict and moving the story forward. Though it is still a natural habit for me to think of characters, themes and dialogue first, I wouldn't dream of starting a script before fitting it within a standard act structure of plot, conflict, etc.

As for spec vs. pilot - from what I can tell, they both work. The best attitude to have is that great writing is great writing. If you write a fantastic spec, it will open doors for you - and ditto for a fantastic pilot. Do what you're passionate about and what you can write the best. Also, don't discount plays or short stories. My friend works for two development execs at a tv studio and she says that her bosses often welcome the chance to read something besides a pilot or spec since they read those so often. In terms of your scripts, she says to avoid cable shows that not everyone has seen (Battlestar and Rescue Me were examples, I'm afraid) and shows that have been over-specced (I think The Office may fall into this category now). Some people get bogged down into making sure their plot is up-to-date, but that isn't as important as you may think; agents and execs often just watch enough to get a sense of what the show is about and haven't seen the most recent eps. Also, I don't think just one script will be enough to launch your career - so why not write a spec AND a pilot?

Another development assistant friend says her boss will find any reason she can not to read a script (not encouraging, I know, but it happens), including the script lacking a title page. She'll throw it out. So spend the 45 seconds it takes to make one.


Dan Williams said...

Great blog! The link to Jane from Canada is really helpful. Have you read the screenplay for "Lost In Translation"? It's one of my favorite movies and Sofia won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. I'm curious how you'd rate it, and if you've heard praise and/or criticism of it at your Agency.

Oh, hope you have a great L.A. day! (Canadians always wish everyone, including them, could have an L.A. day.)

l_fabry said...

Thanks for the shout back!

Very helpful as always.


Trevor Finn said...

I was under the impression that you needed two specs and one original (pilot or feature) before going to look for agents, ect.

I already have a spec and a pilot and I am working on my second spec. Can I start shopping them around now or should I wait?