Monday, March 21, 2005

Update: ACF/LA Press Club Panel

Cathy's World has an article up on the panel with links to other blogs with reports on it - some with actual quotes (I wish I had remembered to bring pen/paper). Really great stuff.

This was a fantastic event. Can't wait for another. (Hopefully I won't feel as sick as I did on Saturday next time)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Mass Market, Smart Writers

I attended the American Cinema Foundation and L.A. Press Club Mass Market, Smart Content Panel held at AFI (that's a lot of sponsors). The worst part of the story was I felt pretty nauseous about halfway through the panel. I actually had to duck out and get some fresh air, just so I could keep going. No idea why I felt so sick. It was pretty warm and stuffy in the theater...could have been a catalyst. Anyway, enough of my personal issues...on to the panel itself.

Cathy Seipp moderated a panel of grade A TV writers: Tim Minear (exec. producer for "Angel", "Firefly", "Wonderfalls" and the new series "The Inside", to air on Fox), Paul Feig (producer of "Freaks and Geeks", director for "Arrested Development"), Rob Long (exec. producer of "Cheers", "George & Leo", and other short-lived sitcoms), and Scott Kaufer (exec. producer of "Boston Legal", "Gilmore Girls" and writer for "Arli$$" and "The Chris Isaak Show").

These are smart guys.

They all talked about cancellation. Rob has had five sitcoms cancelled and told a sad tale of how he got cancelled on the way to a meeting to discuss what the next 12 episodes were supposed to be. Paul mentioned the sadness of knowing there are 7 million viewers for your show, but you still get cancelled (Freaks and Geeks had a very loyal following and the DVD sales have been phenomenal). Tim has had his share of cancellations too, but all of them agreed that the sadness and anger doesn't come from being cancelled, it comes from HOW they are cancelled or when. Network execs are always looking for the insta-hit and if a show doesn't perform or take off within a matter of two or three weeks, it could be well on its way to oblivion.

How do they deal with censors? Smoking appears to be the big TV no-no these days. Tim had a character on "Wonderfalls" last year who smoked, but this year they nixed a character smoking in his new show. They all agreed that the Janet Jackson debacle has made the networks very nervous. Everyone wishes they could work for HBO (of course), but when it comes to the networks the censors are ever vigilant. Tim's new show deals with serial killers. Ironically, the censors are ultra concerned about sex, but Tim can get away with all sorts of violent scenes including blood and gore. Paul mentioned that he did feel a responsibility to portray his characters positively. When "Freaks and Geeks" was developed and written, most of the characters smoked. When it came time to actually shoot the actors, Paul and others realized that these are real kids who are "cool" without smoking. If they smoked, it would send a signal to teens that it was cool. He noted that TV is a powerful medium and sometimes what looks good on the page just doesn't translate, especially when it comes time to instruct actors -- kid actors who are really just kids.

Demographics: How do they address the issue of desired demographics for shows and the seeming gap of characters who are outside the 18-49 demo? All of the panelists acknowledged that there is pressure to attract the 18-49 demo and also to fulfill diversity recommendations. Scott shrugged about this, since "Boston Legal" has few lead characters in this age range (Shatner is in his 70's, Candice Bergen is almost 60, and James Spader is 45). Somehow his show is still successful. For him, it comes down to the smart writing, the appeal of the show and the strong lead-in ("Desperate Housewives", a double edged sword he noted). As for the others, Rob Long said if you are building a family for a sitcom, all of the ages are going to be covered. He did have one network request that he ethnically mix a family once. He declined, as that was not the point of the show. Tim had an African-American female on his show in a lead role and the network fired her and she was replaced with a white actress. The network requested he put a new African-American character on the show, which he did. Overall, they do not write to diversity and they try not to write to stereotypes (like making the only black character on the show the villain).

Product placement: The last two years have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of product placement in TV shows. Are the writers impacted by this change? Scott pointed out that "Boston Legal" has run into this, with ABC scrubbing the mention of Fox News in an episode and that they cannot reference "Viagra" directly but rather "little blue pills" as apparently this kind of product placement can upset other sponsors like Cialis. Apparently some shows are more impacted than others, but it is an issue they face as they either try to include references to brands (even candy bars can raise ire) or brands are pushed on them from the network (Alias and 24 always feature Ford vehicles as Ford is major sponsor for both shows).

Residuals: With the boom in DVD sales and the use of Tivo the marketplace is changing. Certainly they all wish the WGA would get a new agreement in place to increase the amount of money writers make from DVD sales (currently it is about 2 to 4 cents per DVD sold). No one could predict three years ago that shows which had a short life span like "Firefly", "Freaks and Geeks" and "Wonderfalls" would sell well on DVD, but each of theses shows has done very well in this format. The future is unknown on where the new technology will lead for how content is treated, but the old standard of syndication may not be new standard in this day. "Arrested Development" has critical praise but a very small audience. Under the old model it probably wouldn't make it to syndication. It does however make it to DVD where it sells. All the writers agree that how a network chooses to launch a show can make the difference between life and death, but if they launch is good and there still is no audience, they have no one to blame but themselves (I take it this doesn't really happen THAT much as it appears that in the case of most of the shows these writers have developed or written the networks mangled the launching, scheduling or promotion).

Overall the panel was funny and entertaining. Cathy did a great job moderating and most of the audience questions were intelligent and relevant. I wish I hadn't felt so horrible that I missed a few minutes here and there throughout.

Television is tough to break into, but features are even more of a crapshoot. At least with TV there are lots of shows that are developed every year, a few that make it to the air, and most of those get cancelled and the cycle starts again. Cathy started the panel by noting that a lot of films these days are garbage, but there is a lot of great smart entertainment on TV.

I think she is absolutely right.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Interesting writer's panel Sat 3/19

Found it at the American Cinema Foundation website (Hat tip: The Corner) Here's the description:

7:00 pm, Reception follows

How some successful television writers manage to keep their distinct viewpoints.

Moderator: Cathy Seipp, Independent Women's Forum, National Review Online

Tim Minear (executive producer: "The Inside", "Wonderfalls", "Angel", "Firefly")

Paul Feig (creator and executive producer: "Freaks & Geeks"; director: "Arrested Development"; director and writer, the feature film "I Am David"; author of the essay collection "Kick Me: Adventures In Adolescence")

Rob Long (co-creator and co-executive producer: "Men, Women & Dogs", "Love & Money", "George & Leo". Co-executive producer: "Cheers". Author: "Conversations With My Agent". Columnist: National Review. Radio commentator: KCRW)

Scott Kaufer (co-executive producer: "Boston Legal". writer: "Gilmore Girls", "Chris Isaak Show", "Beggars & Choosers". Editor-in-chief: California magazine)

Admission to both events is free but seating is limited. Please RSVP to or (310) 286.9420.

I'm really excited to listen to Paul Feig and Tim Minear speak. Actually, all of these guys are great writers (and Cathy Seipp is awesome. I've read her blog for awhile, so it will be cool to see her in person).

Anyway, call or e-mail if you are interested in the event (and it is only a few blocks from my condo!)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Film Friday for 3/11

It's Film Friday here at 'Shouting'. I'm late on this by over a week, but hey, you ain't payin' for this roundup anyway. Time to look at the latest batch of deals done in H'wood, particularly if it is a sequel, a TV show being made into a film or a remake of a previous film. Remember our motto: No good film goes with out a remake, and no bad film goes without a sequel. On to the deals for February...

I'm going to have to add a category for Adaptations of books/graphic novels. Problem is, so many of the current deals are for these properties, that's going to be a long post. For the time being, we'll stick with our usual highlights of films to be remade, TV shows to be made into films and sequels/prequels.

First, on the obscure front, will be a remake of a 1987 Norwegian film, Pathfinder. Here's an odd point: Ken Watanabe is set to star (He is the Japanese co-star to Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai), but the film is apparently about Native Americans and Vikings!?!

Next comes a remake based on a documentary (so I guess they are using it as a basis for a biopic), Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story about boxing.

Casino Royale is being batted around again as the next Bond film. This was of course made in the 60s with Peter Sellars, Woody Allen and others.

The Family Jewels - Remake of the 1965 Jerry Lewis film.

One Missed Call - Remake of a Japanese film. Japanese horror/suspense is still hot!

Peter and the Starcatchers - Technically a book first, it is a prequel to "Peter Pan" written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Looks like it will be CGI.

Puss in Boots - Spinoff from "Shrek 2" of the 'adored' character.

Star Trek IX - No idea who will be in it, but gosh darnit it is time for another Star Trek movie!

If you are looking for the hottest new script purchased or the latest novel/graphic novel optioned, you should always go to Done Deals for the latest.

Life butts in

This has generally been an awesome week for my writing pursuits. I made some new contacts, added great websites to my blogroll, made some significant progress on the current project, and signed up for a new class next month. Things seem to be going well, but...

Stuff at work has been weighing on me this week. I'm still dealing with HOA issues. And the plumbers had a problem which soaked and probably destroyed most of the better suits in my closet. I currently have several fans and a couple of dehumidifiers running non-stop to try to clean up the mess.

Just reminds me that there is a yin and yang. Somehow, I'm still smiling. Weary, but smiling.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Jar Jar moment

Hey! Meesa Jar Jar Binks. Nice lady lessme tALKa to all meesa new friends on dis wongabanga thinga. Jar Jar no spakelike nicey lady buta meesa try banga hard. Yousa read nice lady postings, okeyday? Moiee-moiee! Meesa goooooo now. Nicey lady! Acka! Pleeeesa stopa dis chokey JaJa! Whyse? Whyse yous choka da Binkss?

Ack. Ack.


I'd like to apologize for that outburst. We new return you to rare posting and normal writer behaviour...whatever that is.

Keeping writer's hours

I'm just getting started. Granted, I won't be working too long because my eyes are already so strained from staring at my computer all day during my paid gig. Still, must get to page 60 tonight. I've still got 10 pages to go to hit this week's goal (I'm on page 58). Then I had the discussion with my sister regarding the rewrite. I want to try to get it in shape to enter in a couple of contests that have May and June deadlines. That requires finishing the script in the next three weeks, getting people to read it and rip it apart, then spend a month rewriting, getting another read with more notes, polish and submit.

It's going to be tight. I'm psyched.

As to the TV spec, if anyone knows anyone at Fox TV that has access to a script for House, MD drop me a line. I have an idea for that show, but I don't have their show format and it is such a new show it cannot be found online yet, not even at Drew's Script-orama.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Attack of the secondary characters

So, I'm on page 58. Things are breezing along, which is really rare for me. I hit a scene I was loving to death, so much so it went on a page too long and I had to immediately go cut it back. But then I discovered, to my horror, that one of my secondary characters is trying to TAKE OVER MY STORY!! I don't know how that happened but that little s.o.b. Manny is trying to steal Dennis's story right out from underneath him. I'm not sure how to beat him back and bring Dennis to more prominance. This always happen to me. I get a kick out of one of my secondary characters and before you know it, that person is far more interesting than the main character.

Maybe I should put my main character in the background on purpose. If I did that, maybe I'd get the balance correct for a change!!

Now must go shave 'angry Manny' scene. Progress halted.

UPDATE: I wish I could claim to be the first to 'live blog' a screenplay (thanks for the link, Rick, I've missed you!), but alas, that honor probably goes to this guy. Still, I don't mind expanding my horizons and who knows, maybe I'm number two. I can live with that.

I still haven't solved my Manny dilemma. Old coot. He's getting in my way. If he's not careful, I might just kill him off. No, can't do that...really screws up the story. *sigh*

Monday, March 07, 2005

How to Succeed in Screenwriting without Quitting Your Day Job

I hope someday to be able to write a book with that title. Of coure, it will actually require me to be successful at screenwriting...and keeping said job.

Right, now I can only discern one major success point. Actually writing. I have spent countless hours reading about writing, thinking about writing, and maybe even writing about writing, but the act of firing up Final Draft and pounding out pages is the only way I know to get any closer to the success end of the scale. Does my writing suck? Heck yes it does!! But I know that if I keep writing and rewriting eventually it won't suck as much, and someone might actually think it doesn't suck except just a tiny bit. It will be a momentous day if someone tells me I don't suck. That would be cool.

Right now, I'll deal with the suckage and just try to get through it. Page 56. This week's goal: Page 68. Twelve pages. Nothin' but net. And I got some sweet sweet 'angry Manny' scenes to write...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Welcome to halfway

Page 55 and feeling groovy. Yeah, I might actually finish this thing. Of course, it is horrible and needs about 3 rewrites, but hey, it's the first draft that is the hardest, right?


Then, on to the TV spec. Outline is coming together nicely...