Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writers on film

Rotten Tomatoes has a fun feature about writers portrayed in cinema - check it out!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

What happens next?

Did you guys see the FLASHFORWARD pilot? I wasn't in love with it, but I'm intrigued enough to keep watching. I think it's a good example of the fact that pilots don't need to provide a lot of answers; they just need to provide some interesting questions that you'd like to find the answers to.

Why did everyone black out? Will the visions of the future come true? Who is behind all of this? And who is that dude in the stadium in Detroit?

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The future of your spec pilot

Cody writes: I've got a question for you regarding a spec pilot I'm working on. I have an idea of where the first few seasons are going, but how much do I really need to know? I know the chances of a spec pilot getting picked up are incredibly slim, but should I know everything just in case?

Nah. If you have an idea about the first few seasons, I think you're in good shape. Few shows get that far. Just be aware that a lot of agents, producers, execs, etc. read spec pilots and complain that they can't envision what future episodes would be like. They want to know that you have created a machine for cranking out conflicts and episodes over and over, and not just a fun 60 (or 30) minutes of content.

And if you become so lucky as to get your show made, the future of the series won't be completely up to you, anyway. You'll be working with executives, producers and other writers to lay out the arc of the show.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ahhhh so much TV to watch

Is anyone else stressed out by the fall season?? Luckily I'm sure some of the shows will suck and I can take them off my DVR list. :) Anyone catch The Good Wife last night? I liked it, Julianna Marguiles was great, there are some attractive men...but it's still a law show. And it's a little more serious than I generally like my television. Anyway, I reviewed it for Twirlit if you care to check that out.

Tonight marks ABC's attempt to get back into the half-hour comedy game with Modern Family and Cougar Town. Everyone loves the first pilot (I've seen it and concur), while I've heard mostly bad reviews of the second. But Courteney Cox-Arquette is so great that I think we should give it a couple episodes, no?

Here are some clips:

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Less "glamorous" industry jobs?

Woody writes: What is your take on the job market for the less "glamorous" jobs like production coordination or management, office manager, etc? I am a writer at heart, but have been working for a large corporation in a really well paying management position for the last 10 years. I have a few great scripts I have not shopped around yet and I am wondering if I should just continue to hold off and seek an office type job in the industry first. I wonder if those jobs require any less networking?

All jobs in Hollywood require some kind of networking, since most people hire workers who have been recommended to them, even for the most lowly of production assistant jobs. It's not 100% impossible to find a job via websites like or Craigslist or something, but be aware that it rarely happens this way - even for jobs that seem less "glamorous" to you. As for production coordinator - that is not an entry level position. All production coordinators start off as production assistants, I would think. And if you've never worked in Hollywood, then you pretty much need to start off at entry level positions.

Whether you want to give up your well-paying job and try to get a job in the industry is up to you. It's not a requirement for becoming a writer, but it will certainly teach you about the business (especially if you can find a job that involves interacting with writers). Also, if you have no way to get your script inside the walls of Hollywood, you're going to have to figure out some way, whether it's making contacts via a job or another way. I quit my industry job a month ago, but I felt comfortable that I would still be connected to Hollywood through all the people I've met. I still have people emailing me job opportunities, reading my scripts, etc.

If you do decide to look for an industry job, try to get as close to the people who do what you want to do as possible. (Another common piece of advice is to work for the most powerful person you can find.) Although it may sound "easier" to you to find work as an office manager of a commercial production company or something, I'm not sure that will help your writing career whatsoever. Before you make the jump into poorly paid Hollywood drone, make sure the experience is going to be worth it.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Fan Friday: Skins

Dude, if you think Gossip Girl or Greek ever get racy, you're gonna flip for the British show Skins, which airs Thursdays @ 9 on BBC America. First off, many of the actors are the same age as the roles they play, which makes all the sex and drugs that much more provocative. And without our Puritan censorship, the Brits are able to get away with a whole lot more.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spec pilots - premise pilots vs. "typical" episodes

This question comes from The Bitter Script Reader, via Twitter: For spec pilots, should you write the first ep, or write ep 2 instead so you can present a "typical" ep?

That's tough - because I think the answer is: both. I don't mean you should physically write two scripts; I think you should write a pilot, which is the first episode of a show, but that it should also be a kind of typical episode that gives us a sense of what future episdoes will be like. It's a really difficult task, especially if you're writing a serial drama. In a sitcom it shouldn't be that hard.

But let's say you are writing a drama about a guy who enters a new world for the first time. It's a premise pilot - a show based on something big that happens in the beginning. And obviously, you need to show us that big thing. But if you write something like this, you may get notes like, "what's the series?" or "what's episode 10?" or "what's the arc of this show?" So even if you do opt to go a very premise-y route, you should have these answers in your head, and try as hard as you can to infuse your pilot with the seeds of the rest of the show. Part of this, I think, is setting up series conflicts.

I think another strategy is to make sure you have an episodic pilot story in addition to any sort of big premise world-setting-up kinda stuff. A great example is MAD MEN, which is probably the most succcessful spec pilot ever (although, yes, it took years to get made). In the pilot we get to know all these people and the world and stuff, but we still have the episodic plot of Sterling Cooper putting together a cigarette ad campaign. This lets us know exactly how ad campaigns will be handled as episodic plots in future episodes. (It also was a nice self-reflective comment on all the smoking you'll see in the show.) Genius, eh?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BORED TO DEATH premieres Sunday

I feel like nobody's talking about this...but HBO's new comedy BORED TO DEATH (starring Jason Schwartzman, Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis) premieres this Sunday at 9:30. You can actually watch the pilot ahead of time on HBO on Demand or by downloading it on iTunes.

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Frank Bruni & Max Mutchnick at ICM Screening Room tonight

Frank Bruni & Max Mutchnick will speak at the ICM Screening Room (10250 Constellation Blvd, Century City) tonight at 7:30. Tickets are $20.

From LA Weekly:

Who once wrote, "And it might be more fun if the flesh on those tapered limbs were better. But chicken was dry. Two kinds of steak met one kind of fate: flavorlessness. Tuna joined them in that ignoble, insipid land." If you answered "Frank Bruni" — wow, you really know your food critics. The now-retired New York Times writer has new book, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater. Bruni appears with Max Mutchnick, which sounds like the name of a gooey dessert but is really the guy who co-created Will & Grace. Part of Writers Bloc series, so if you ask a question, try to sound intelligent.

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Kanye/Taylor/Beyonce - and Leno

Normally I like to be Swiss in such celeb feuds, but this is just too funny (thanks Sam):

Another possibly inappopriate snippet: heard Kayne West called Patrick Swayze's widow to tell her that Michael Jackson's death was the most important death of the year.

And did anybody read Kanye's blog apology? I'm baffled...because his lyrics are actually pretty eloquent, and yet that post sounds like it was written by a 12 year-old. At least he apologized on Leno? Who knew that Kayne's douchebagery would be the best thing to happen to the new king of 10 pm... By the way, his premiere brought in a ridiculous 17.7 million viewers. Bad news for hour drama writers, I guess. Time to put together that late night packet, huh?

Maybe at some point I'll get back to doing worthwhile things with my time. No promises.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

More on Assistant Jobs

Joe writes: I just came across your post on how to be a Writer's Assistant and you mentioned about being other assistants first. So, I know that to be a PA you should contact the UPM, but is that also the case if you want to be an Office PA? Or what about just work at a production company or studio? Human Resources?

It really depends on the job, show, etc. - because different people will be in charge of hiring. Sometimes it's the showrunner's assistant, sometimes it's an HR person, sometimes it's a UPM, production coordinator, etc. If you're going to go the cold-calling route for shows you probably want to track down the production office and ask whomever answers the phone. At production companies and studios it's usually a combination of HR and the assistants who are replacing themselves. But in my experience there is a wide variety of people who are in charge of hiring assistants, PAs, etc., and no one plan or route will work for everything.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Premiering this week

DVR FAIL! Why did my DVR not record the new Melrose Place last night? Arg. I will have to catch it some other time. What did you guys think? Better than the 90210 remake? Better than the original? I've actually never seen the original because I was playing with legos or something, though I remember my parents forbidding my older sister to watch it. I particularly enjoyed the New York Times review of the new MP, with its classic NYT avoidance of taking a stand on whether the show is good or bad.

Hey, what if we made Twilight into a show? If you're into teen vampires, Vampire Diaries premieres Thursday @ 8 on the CW. I'm not into vamps, but I do like Nina Dobrev, my Degrassi fave who had to deal with the discrimination that comes with being a teen mother who also wants to be a cheerleader and a model. The show already has a spinoff of sorts, a web series called A Darker Truth.

Fox is also getting a head start on the new fall season with its Glee premiere tonight @ 9. Most of us have already seen it, since they showed it back in May to (successfully) create buzz. Not sure if the show has staying power, but I'm excited since it's something different and fun. I'm also amazed by the fact that the show's cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" became a bigger hit than the original one ever was. That's kind of a big deal, no?

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Emmy Nominated Writers Panel This Thursday

SUBLIME PRIMETIME - Emmy Nominees Panel

Thursday, September 10 - 7:30pm
WGA Theater - 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills

Celebrating excellence in writing for television, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation present a selection of the year's best television writers for a lively discussion of their craft, their nominated projects, and the business of writing for television.

Jack Burditt – 30 Rock
Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton and Matthew Weiner – Mad Men
Billy Kimball & Ian Maxtone-Graham – The Simpsons
Rob Kutner – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse – Lost
Michael Sucsy – Grey Gardens

MODERATOR: Rainn Wilson - The Office

Online Prices: $20 General; $15 WGA members; $10 Students with ID - plus booking fees
Door Prices: $25 General; $20 WGA members; $15 Students with ID

For tickets & more info, click here.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

(Ironic) Fan Friday: The Indoor Fountain

This post is a one part Fan Friday, one part Thrifty Thursday. It's hard to decorate on a budget, you know? But we all want our apartments to be nice and trendy even though we can't even afford the "cheap" nice trendy things at Ikea (why are the good colors of Ektorp $200 more? Hate you, Ektorp) and CB2 (hello, ridiculous $99 plastic chair). Sometimes you've just gotta use what you've got. Luckily, my apartment came with this lovely indoor fountain:

Just sit on your secondhand Craigslist couch and listen to the majestic gurgling as the water cascades down into your Gladware...

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Putting a Logo on Your Title Page?

Daria writes: Do you know how to get a show's logo on the title page in Final Draft? It's obviously possibly as I've seen it on show scripts, but I can't figure out how to do it, because Final Draft doesn't seem to accept a pasted image.

I actually don't know if you can put an image on an Final Draft page - my suggestion would be to make a title page in Word, and then insert it into the final PDF after you've converted your script from FDR to PDF (generally you shouldn't be sending around FDR files anyway unless they're to a writing partner or something, as not everyone has Final Draft and PDFs are just more universal).

But that being said, if it's a spec or original pilot you're working on, you probably shouldn't be putting a logo in there at all. You want to keep your presentation simple.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Insert Obligatory Green Day Lyric About September Here

September 1st. Crazy, right? Almost time for "fall," except that Los Angeles is burning like a fiery inferno. It's so strange, seeing all the images of the fires (thanks to Jane for this great photo essay from the LA Times). It was really shocking to me when I first moved here, since extreme weather to me always meant ice storms or six-foot snowbanks...but now it seems like parts of this city are always on fire.

Awkward segue....I'm enjoying my post-agency life. Blogging for Twirlit, spreading my love of grammar to students taking the SATs, adding more pages to my unintentionally epic romantic comedy. I spent this past weeked in Huntington Beach with my sister, enjoying the spoils of her Fancy Corporate Job, including browning myself at the beach resort and cruising in her rented red Mustang convertible. We drove down the PCH to Newport and Laguna, where I soaked in Josh Schwartz's inspiration for my beloved O.C. It's suprisingly quaint and cute, though I certainly realize how many millions of dollars you need to live somewhere so "quaint."

I also caught up on my favorite summer series, Royal Pains. If you missed it, you can watch the last few eps on USA's website. In addition to being way funnier and more interesting than the average medical show, the music is great, and Paulo Costanzo is adorable and hilarious.

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