Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Austin, assistants and ...my inability to give up on alliteration

Brian chimes in on the should-you-or-shouldn't-you contest debate: Having won a pair of fiction prizes, similarly geared toward identifying new talent, I was of the mindset that winning is the only thing that mattered (if not, you're just a bridesmaid who got drunk and regretfully slept with the groom's horrid frat brother). But I have to say, even though I didn't win – I was one of three finalists in the teleplay category – Austin was great. The panelists were splendid and accessible, everything was laid back, and, no, I did not have tons of managers/agents begging to read my work on the spot, but I know others who landed representation out of the conference/festival, and after my return I did get responded to off the dreaded query. Now, I was still living up north at the time, so I was not in a position to really push, but the point is: it's a crowded field, and short of being a competition whore, why not apply to Austin and others of reputable ilk?

I am also thrilled to share some advice from Adam, a staff writer on the new CBS series Swingtown: My first advice for you, become an assistant on a show...any show. Asst in the room, EP asst, Script Coordinator, and the Writer's PA (in that order). Every single (or at least most) freelance and staff writer bumps come from one of these four jobs. Beg, borrow, and steal from all of your agency contacts to get one of these jobs...and then wait. Sad but true, it still takes a while once you're in.

Those of you following my personal pilot writing saga will be happy to hear I've finished my new act two and three of my college radio pilot. The problem? I'm on page 49. After watching a few pilots this week (including Swingtown), I've come to realize you don't necessarily need the twistiest, craziest plot in your pilot. Yes, you need some. You need a couple surprises and developments, you need your characters to make decisions and act on them, and you need exposition to fall out naturally as your characters do their thing. (One of the crappier pilots I watched had the curse of being an hour of people standing around and talking about who they are and how they got there.) But with a town festival and a setup of person-entering-world (or re-entering world, as is in my pilot, Gossip Girl, and a few others) - you may have enough.

Next: People vs. Devices - and how you can't have nearly as much fun with devices... (I can see the comments already.)

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6 comments:

Hollie Nell said...

I know you've blogged before about writing groups and giving notes (at least I think you have) and I was wondering how you deal with notes...specifically people who give notes in a way that makes you feel like scratching their eyelids out.

I had a new member join my writing group, a friend of a friend. He was oh so cool and after reading my FNL spec said things like, "You could really stand to work on the dialogue. Actors have to actually read it."

And even better, "You CAN use commas." He also said that it might be more important to put more of my stamp on it instead of staying true to the show. Of course he's never seen the show or read any episodes but still...the dynamic of our group has always been so good and now I'm feeling like quitting. I get lots of notes and have gotten really honest ones in the past. But this just felt unnecessary and rude, especially from someone I've never met and doesn't seem to know the rules of spec writing. Any tips on how you deal with that?

James said...

alliteration is for consonants. when you repeat vowels it's assonance

Amanda said...

I didn't really want to start a competition in nerding-out, but wikipedia says alliteration can include vowels:

Alliteration can take the form of assonance, the repetition of a vowel, or consonance, the repetition of a consonant; however, unlike a strict definition of alliteration, both assonance and consonance can regularly occur within words as opposed to being limited to the word's initial sound. Some critics hold the opinion that the term "alliteration" applies just as accurately to phonetic repetitions that occur elsewhere than the first position (first letter), sometimes falling on later syllables, yet retaining alliterative properties due to the form of the example's meter, which, through affecting the syllables' stress may mimic the intensity of the initial. Further, the use of differing consonants of similar properties (labials, dentals, etc.) is sometimes considered to be alliteration.[1] Similarly, phrases such as "Apt alliteration's artful aid" still seems to retain the efficacy of alliteration despite the unique pronunciation of the "a" in each word. This has been attributed by the American writer Fred Newton Scott to the sharing of the attribute of a glottal stop (which he terms the "glottal catch") by virtually every vowel in the English language when it is found in the initial position.

Monsterbeard said...

That sure is a cacophony of nerding out.

49 pages? And you're shooting for 44, right? Or is it 42 now?

Amy said...

I totally missed out on this for this year... but it looks quite cool and the fellowships, etc, look reputable and useful.

http://www.banff2008.com

There's also this one:

http://www.nsi-canada.ca/totallytelevision/index.shtml

Although I'm not sure how successful it's been... last year had a pilot bought, but I didn't see many other success stories on the web site. The NSI is quite reputable here in Canada, though. I've been through some of their training and it's always top notch.

Dan Williams said...

Hollie, I hear you. To be able to take criticism about your writing is, like, about the hardest lesson we all have to learn. Thankfully, there are some guidelines.

First, every person is entitled to their own opinion and to express it as they see fit.

Second, if somebody is rude, then it is a reflection on them, not you, and it indicates that you are a more highly developed person. So just teach yourself not to feel bad and to just smile so that when somebody is rude it makes you feel good (and superior rather than inferior.)

Third, expect criticsm. Walk into every reading knowing that your stuff won't be liked by the majority, only a special few. You can't please everybody, but the ones you do please will make you successful.

Fourth, when somebody doesn't like something in your work, say to them, "That's interesting." And ask them polite questions to get more detail. If you react with respect and interest, people will pass along the truth to you about what they think and feel.

Fifth, there's a rule that I call the "Rule of Seven." It goes like this. "It takes seven explanations before the other person will understand what I'm saying." "It will take seven spec scripts before I get a writing job." "I will have to write a scene seven times before I get it right." "This guy will insult me seven times before he realizes I'm laughing at his rudeness." See? If you expect each thing to take seven trys then it doesn't bother you in the least if something happens once, twice, etc.

Anyway, I hope this helps. Generally, I just let go of feelings if they are disturbing me and start again, thinking I'm lucky if I achieve my goal in less than seven trys!