In the life of every script, key decisions must be confronted and made. Is this the right beat for an act out? Should I use flashbacks? What do I do about this gaping plot hole?
Sometimes the hardest decisions involve homicide -- specifically, excising a character. I am currently struggling with this decision in regard to my pilot.
My pilot spec has no less than 20 (!) speaking characters. Keeping them straight is a chore for the reader, and I am sympathetic to this. In fact, I dislike having so many dang people cluttering up my world. The problem is, I NEED most of these characters.
First, there's the lead. He can't go away, no way, no how. Then there's his 'entourage' or 'team' -- those three are necessary too. The boss stays, as does the best friend. So does the heavy. As for the second tier characters, most of those serve a purpose too. I've already taken 3 characters and rolled them into one. Still, the world is too populated. Someone must go.
I've chosen Coulter for this honor.
Dan Coulter is a man's man. He's also an arrogant SOB. He was in the story to be a thorn in the side of my lead and provide some meaty conflict. Trouble is, he isn't really that necessary anymore. When I created him, he was unique, serving a singular purpose. Now I have two or three other characters who duplicate that role. So, Coulter is headed to the dustbin.
Here's the problem, it's not that simple. He is woven into some scenes that feed important information. He was a structure point too -- serving as a justification for our lead to make a critical decision. If he is gone, the decision doesn't make sense. So just cutting him out of the story leads to a number of rewrite issues. Now, I'm not afraid of rewriting, far from it. At first glance, however, the task is daunting. Once I figure out how to patch over the gaps left by this character, I'll be good to go. Right now I'm just trying to find enough dirt for filler.
In the end, I'll have 19 (!?!) speaking roles in the pilot. It may not seem like a significant reduction, but I think it will still help. After all, Lost in any given week seems to have 25, and Lord knows how many there are for 24 (actually, I counted last night -- I counted 21 name characters at least...got a little fuzzy in the detention center, but that's still a hefty number.)
On to the rewrite.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
In the life of every script, key decisions must be confronted and made. Is this the right beat for an act out? Should I use flashbacks? What do I do about this gaping plot hole?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
There's been some debate this week about the viability of specs, thanks to a blog post from Jane Espenson unofficially declaring the spec episode of an existing show dead.
Fortunately for us, BooM started asking questions. Her answers are a bit of a relief.
Let's hope the spec episode isn't completely dead. Either way, start writing some pilots people.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
(panel attendees TBA)
3/1 American Idol
3/2 The Office
3/3 An Evening with George Lucas
3/5 Brothers & Sisters
3/6 The Closer
3/9 Prison Break
3/12 Ugly Betty
3/15 The Simpsons
More information at Museum of Television and Radio
Sunday, January 21, 2007
(From Fox press release, as found at Futon Critic:
FOX SPRING PREMIERES RECAP (All Times ET/PT)
Sunday, March 4:
THE WAR AT HOME Time Period Premiere (7:30-8:00 PM)
THE WINNER Series Premiere (8:30-9:00 PM)
THE WINNER Series Premiere (9:30-10:00 PM)
Wednesday, March 7:
THE WEDDING BELLS Preview (9:00-10:00 PM)
Friday, March 9:
THE WEDDING BELLS Series Premiere (9:00-10:00 PM)
Wednesday, March 14:
TIL DEATH Time Period Premiere (9:30-10:00 PM)
Friday, March 30:
STANDOFF Time Period Premiere (8:00-9:00 PM)
Sunday, April 15:
DRIVE Series Premiere (8:00-10:00 PM)
Monday, April 16:
DRIVE Time Period Premiere (8:00-9:00 PM)
FOX SPRING SCHEDULE
(Effective Sunday, March 4; All Times ET/PT)
8:00-9:00 PM PRISON BREAK/DRIVE (Premieres 4/16)
9:00-10:00 PM 24
8:00-9:00 PM AMERICAN IDOL
9:00-10:00 PM HOUSE
8:00-9:00 PM BONES
9:00-9:30 PM AMERICAN IDOL
9:30-10:00 PM TIL DEATH
8:00-9:00 PM TBA
9:00-10:00 PM TBA
8:00-9:00 PM STANDOFF (Premieres 3/30)
9:00-10:00 PM THE WEDDING BELLS
8:00-8:30 PM COPS
8:30-9:00 PM COPS
9:00-10:00 PM AMERICAS MOST WANTED: AMERICA FIGHTS BACK
11:00 PM-Midnight MADtv
Midnight-12:30 AM TALKSHOW WITH SPIKE FERESTEN
7:00-7:30 PM COMEDY REPEATS
7:30-8:00 PM THE WAR AT HOME
8:00-8:30 PM THE SIMPSONS
8:30-9:00 PM THE WINNER/KING OF THE HILL (Returns 3/25)
9:00-9:30 PM FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM THE WINNER/AMERICAN DAD (Returns 3/25)
Friday, January 19, 2007
No, not savings bonds or Barry Bonds, but the kind of bonds you make with people in the trenches, as a writer.
Bonds. Now the word looks funny. Ahem.
Some writers find it difficult to forge relationships with other writers. A lot of writers tend toward the reclusive side. If this is you, I recommend you use the tool in front of you to break out of that.
Bonds can be formed online now, you know.
The best relationships are obviously the ones where you see and talk to the person and they are within 2 feet of you, and no, not on your computer screen. However, if you've been on message boards or chat rooms or blogs and found a kindred spirit, take advantage. Writer colleagues are good for motivation, support and assistance.
This is a love letter of sorts to my best writer friends.
I can't thank you all enough for your insightful notes, your suggestions (yes, I love notes and suggestions, I know some writers don't want someone telling them how to fix their problems, but I like solutions, even if it isn't the right one. Sometimes it leads to the right one). Hopefully I am just as helpful as you are to me.
To my L.A. writer friends, I appreciate being able to meet with you, blow off steam, laugh and cry and share our work so that we may become stronger writers. To my non-L.A. writer friends, I appreicate you too. We may not be able to meet in person all the time, if ever, but you have diverse viewpoints which are appreciated. Sometimes it helps to hear from those of you outside of the Hollywood bubble to see if my idea 'plays' to a larger audience. That is invaluable insight.
Forging bonds is important in life. While you may feel writing is a solitary occupation, I can't stress enough the importance of fellow aspirants to keep you motivated.
Go make some friends.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
While not all of this season's crop of shows has had their fates decided, it's getting easier to read the tea leaves. I'm also hearing buzz about certain show specs from friends and industry contacts:
New 'hot' one-hour specs: (in order of perceived hotness)
Brothers & Sisters
*This does not mean other shows cannot be specced. I'll be posting the revised hot specs list within a few weeks.
New 'hot' half-hour specs: (in order of perceived hotness)
The New Adventures of Old Christine
My Name is Earl
How I Met Your Mother
Two and a Half Men
Everybody Hates Chris (this has really fallen off since last year)
Raines, starring Jeff Goldblum will premiere in ER's time slot on March 15 and 22, and then air on Fridays at 9 beginning March 30. Earlier NBC had reduced the order for the series from 13 to 7.
Unless it pulls incredible numbers, Raines isn't long for this world.
Link: the futon critic
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
NBC has announced the renewal of 'My Name is Earl', 'The Office', 'Heroes', and 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' for the 2007-08 season. This makes 'Heroes' the first freshman show to get picked up for next season.
Watch List updated.
Link: Futon Critic
Fox has announced some premiere dates and schedule changes coming in March and April (editorials are all mine):
- Drive - 2 hour premiere on Sunday April 15. It will then begin airing on Monday nights (starting April 16) replacing Prison Break, which will have its season finale on April 2nd. A repeat of 'House' will air in the slot on April 9.
- Til Death will move to Wednesdays following the 90 minute AI on March 14. This will likely prolong the life of the show...at least short term.
- Hell's Kitchen will return in March on Thursdays once The O.C. wraps. Remember 'The Loop'? (it was never actually cancelled last season) Looks like it could return and air the same night alongside ailing 'The War at Home'.
- Standoff comes back in March and is sent to the gallows of Friday night. I weep. But at least it won't die alone. David Kelley's new show 'The Wedding Bells' will air along with it on Fridays.
- Seth MacFarlane/Rick Blitt produced show 'The Winner' will launch on Sunday March 4 with two episodes, one after The Simpsons and one after Family Guy. American Dad, which normally airs in those slots, will return in April.
I'll update the Watch List with this info today.
Link: Futon Critic
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
- Dancing with the Stars returns on March 19, airing Mondays and Tuesdays. Yes, that means it avoids the American Idol carnage.
- Stargate will live on with a couple of direct-to-DVD films, 'Stargate: The Ark of Truth', and 'Stargate: Continuum'.
- Lost may air with no repeats next season, but to do so, it may not premiere until January 2008.
- Golden Globes: YAWN. Hugh Laurie will always win because he's British. Same with Helen Mirren. And Jeremy Irons. And Bill Nighy. And Sacha Baron Cohen. AND Emily Blunt. Alec Baldwin is British by default, since he vowed to leave the country after Bush was reelected. Recounts are pending for how Peter O'Toole, Toni Collete (okay, she's from Australia, close enough), Cate Blanchett, and Stephen Frears lost. I'm sure heads will roll for letting some Americans win those categories.
- ABC has suffered a lot of serialized show fatigue, with only a couple of small successes in that realm this year and lots of failures (Six Degrees, The Nine, Daybreak). They are focusing on procedurals this year. Of course, ABCs recent track record with procedurals has been dismal (In Justice, The Evidence, Dragnet).
- So, uh, 24. Yeah. In their world I'd be dead several times over. I know the show is set in L.A. but do we always have to be hit with big horrible weapons? At least they spread it around the country a little bit this season...
Not a lot of TV news to report. I scoff at the Globes handing the best tv show award to Grey's, but you know my bias there anyway...
Link:the futon critic
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Want to know when your favorite show starts showing new episodes again? Check below. Organized by date. (Reality, news programs, and specials excluded...unless noted). UPDATED on 1/16, fixed some premiere dates
American Idol Sixth season premiere
One Tree Hill
Monk Fifth season (winter) premiere
Psych First season (winter) premiere
The Dresden Files Series premiere
Battlestar Galactica Third season (winter) premiere
Everybody Hates Chris
Heroes (up against 24, program your DVRs accordingly)
What About Brian
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
FYI: STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
The George Lopez Show Sixth season premiere
King of the Hill Tenth season premiere
Top Design Series premiere on BRAVO
Rules of Engagement Series premiere on CBS
LOST ** time period change! 10:00 PM Eastern/Pacific
Monday, January 08, 2007
I suppose the short and sweet answer is to WATCH THEM.
I suppose you want more than that. Fine. Become a Nielsen family. THEN WATCH THEM IN REAL TIME.
Still no good? Have any friends who are Nielsen metered homes? Go over to their place, make them watch your show in real time. Repeat this about 1,000 times.
Networks care about their ratings. Ratings dictate how much they can charge for ads. If a show gets terrible ratings, in most cases it equals not getting enough people to pay ad rates for that show. The network then tries to salvage what they can by putting something else on the air which companies will buy ads during.
But wait, what about me? The viewer! Don't I get a say?
If you pay for a channel, like HBO, you have a say. They cancel your show, you cancel your HBO. Pretty easy. Network and basic cable are a different ballgame.
It's all about the ad dollars.
Look, I've been where you are, I'm there now. You fall in love with a show. It's funny, dramatic, interesting, quirky, different...all the things you want in a TV show. But it only pulls a 3 share (a share point represents about 1.2 million households). Even with close to 7 million people watching, it just isn't enough. Advertisers can get more eyeballs on the competing show. Your favorite show loses advertisers. If it loses ad dollars, it loses the game.
So, the best solution is to know how to cope with a show you love not going the distance. Some people form cult like support groups (Firefly fans come to mind). Others just find something else to watch. Some form letter writing campaigns.
Campaigns targeted at a network are pointless. Target the advertisers. Tell them how much you love their commercials and products and are happy they support your favorite show on TV. Tell them you will happily buy more of their products if they keep supporting your show. I have no idea if this works, but believe me, it's more on target than bitching at ABC for cancelling Daybreak. If the advertisers left and it didn't get good reviews- the only saving grace for some shows is award cred. Win some awards, and a network will save a low rated show because awards are like free advertising that your show is good. More people may start watching it. More people equals higher ratings equals more $$ for advertising.
You getting the drift?
Sunday, January 07, 2007
(NOTE TO PARENTS: I am fine. Yes, I am spewing forth in a public forum about my ups and downs this year. At this present time, I consider myself in good mental health. Now, don't call me all worried. Yes, I really do have to post these kinds of disclaimers or I'll be on the phone for an hour with my mother. I love you mom, but truly, I'm fine.)
So, I talked about my writing journey this year. In the grand scheme, it was a good year for that. Sometimes it feels like the wheels of progress just don't move fast enough. I want to have an agent NOW. I want to be on staff NOW. The wheels, however, only move as fast as you can turn them.
I have a day job. It isn't a glamorous job, and in fact, right now I find myself wondering what it is I do most days. Still, it keeps me fed, clothed and sheltered, and helped me buy my swank TV. It also allows me to even consider writing in my spare time.
One thing I relearned this year -- I need goals and deadlines. It may seem like a waste of time and money to some to keep taking UCLA Extension classes each semester, but let me tell you -- I'm not sure I could have reached my goals without them. Knowing I have pages to submit to classmates, knowing I have deadlines, it's a motivator. I've tried to impose my own deadlines, and it is nearly impossible. I slow down without this motivation. I will definitely be back in the classroom come spring.
A friend of mine showed me a video called The Secret. Basically, it posits that we attract good and bad occurences to ourselves by our thoughts. I tend to be skeptical of this kind of baseless stuff, but I do believe in the power of positive thinking.
Some of you may know about my pilgrimage to Birmingham this year. Most people I told about it looked at me like I had sprouted another set of arms out of the top of my head. Rewind.
May 2006. Taylor Hicks wins American Idol. I cannot explain to you what it was that posessed me to follow this guy on the show and after. It was like I fell under some mass hypnosis, but for three months, other than some writing because I had a class, I thought of NOTHING but Taylor Hicks. I met a lot of interesting, good people online suffering the same obsession. Word came that the American Idol tour was stopping in Birmingham, and that Taylor's band was performing a show the night before. Rumors flew that Taylor would appear onstage with his old band. A wave of giddy excitement overtook the mostly middle aged housewives who wanted nothing more than to converge on Birmingham and see him in concert with the rest of their new online friends. I got caught up in the tidal wave, and before I knew it, I had bought my tickets to the show and booked a flight to Birmingham.
The next three months were happy prosperous months. I lost ten pounds. I had a regular gym schedule. I was writing, and I had this new network of funny, strange friends. I had only one goal in mind for those three months. MEET TAYLOR HICKS.
I don't know why the desire, the need to meet him was so overwhelming. It wasn't like I thought the man would drop everything and, like in bad romance novels, sweep me into his arms and declare his undying love for me. In fact, that wasn't even what I wanted. It's hard to explain, but... Music. Music was this force in my life when I was young. My mother sang in a band when I was a wee tot, and through some osmosis I developed this need to sing. Over the years, music wasn't the glorious creative fountain it had been when I was young. And then Taylor comes along. And I'm suddenly listening, really listening to music once again. And not just him -- I'm buying CDs of blues, jazz, r&b, rock, soul music. I'm dipping back into my own collection. I'm discovering new artists, and seeking out new music. It was like being reborn. I think I needed to meet him to validate all that was good in my life, that it wasn't some dream. And I wanted to thank him for bringing music back to me.
But how do you thank somebody who doesn't know you? I'm sure pro-screenwriters get it all the time from us wannabes -- the 'thank you for being brilliant' kind of thank yous...what do you do with that? And Taylor had given me so much. Music is a gift that is beyond measure, like being given the sun or air to breathe. Still, I felt a need to give something to him.
As I said, those were happy months filled with happy thoughts. The happiness radiated around me. I was more positive about my future than I had ever been. It was like this giant snowball effect. The positive feeling in one area of my life, cascaded and reverberated all around me. It was scary. I had never felt so free or happy.
Of course, there were the naysayers. The friends who shook their heads and laughed at my folly. My sister griped that I was online chatting with my new friends too much and all I could think about was Taylor. She called it obsession. I called it focus.
So I wanted to give him something. I figured, he's on the road...if I were on the road, visiting new places, I'd want a good journal around to scribble thoughts, maybe a poem or two, story ideas...so I bought a masculine looking journal. Leather with a wrap around tie. But I wanted to inspire him the way he had inspired me.
I sought out a notebook of mine which contained quotations I keep for my own inspiration. If I am inspired by the wisdom (and humor) of others, perhaps he would be too? Every night for a month I copied by hand my favorite inspiration quotations onto post-it notes, which I stuck on random pages in the journal. When I ran out of my own quotations, I went online and looked for more. Quotes about music, the road, the soul, goals, passion, creativity...I had copied almost 100 quotations. And in a cheeky and bold moment, I stuck my phone number on the back page. Hey, a girl can dream right? We are both artists, I reasoned, if he liked his gift, perhaps he'd want to chat about artistic expression...or ask me on a date.
You're laughing. That's okay, I'm laughing too. I know how crazy it all was. But I went to Birmingham. I met Taylor Hicks. I gave him my gift. The next night I was singing karaoke in a bar with 30 of my new crazy friends. And I cried. I was overwhelmed with joy. I hadn't felt pure joy like this in...well, the last time I can recall this kind of joy was when I was in high school and we had finished performing the musical 'L'il Abner'. I was a senior, and performing on stage is a heady experience. I remember standing on the stage after the performance, trying to soak up those last few moments of utter bliss. This joy I felt in Birmingham was more powerful than that old half-forgotten memory.
I had another event to keep my going for the two months following that trip -- Austin Film Festival. I was going to meet some of my online writer friends in person for the first time and be in a total environment of writing creativity and appreciation.
After Austin, I started to drift. I was still writing, but I felt myself slipping. There was nothing big on the horizon for me now. What would I work toward?
Then, I got the call. ABC Fellowship. Semi-finalist. It was as if someone had flipped the light switch back on in my soul. This was PERFECT. It was exactly what I wanted and needed, and if I got it, the timing would be sublime. And then I didn't get to the Finalist round. I didn't get to make my case in an interview. Of course, I did my best to stay strong, think positive, look at the bright side. But inside, I crumbled. I fell into a spiral of self-doubt and negativity. I started gaining more weight. I had been at near ideal weight in August, but by the end of the year, I had put on 25 pounds. I became apathetic about everything, including my writing.
I'm just now coming out of it. Funny thing about depression. Most of the time you don't know you are depressed until you aren't. You have to look backward on it to see what it is. Now I know what I experienced for about six weeks was soul sucking.
And I went on vacation. I'm writing again. It's slow going, but I'm making progress every day.
Keeping this blog has been a struggle the last month or so, as I had no desire to write anything. Somehow, I got through it. I have some good friends. Most of them don't know how depressed I was, but the nature of good friends is that it doesn't matter. They were there, supporting me, encouraging me. You know who you are. I thank you with all my heart for keeping me going during my troubled times.
And now, I really am thinking positive, looking on the bright side. I'm setting new goals. And yes, I'm going back to Birmingham in a few months, to see my friends and share good music. I've got some weight to lose. Good incentive.
This is my year. I know this because I believe in the power of positive thinking. If I feel it in my bones, that this is the year I will get my wheels of progress turning faster, it will happen. No negative thoughts. No doubts. Make it happen.
Don't carry on too much baggage. Don't weigh your progress down with doubt. Let the wheels fly.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
2006. I had a plan. For the most part, it succeeded. For the most part.
The year started out pretty uneventfully. I was writing my Cold Case spec. My House spec first draft was finished. I had set a goal to complete at least one more TV spec by end of year and finish my pilot.
Having set out a writing plan and having stuck to it, I can honestly say I will be doing this every year. I might not make it every year, but the plan at least gives you a roadmap. And let's say you get an opportunity -- a contest win, an agent or A JOB. Obviously the plan changes. But let's say these things don't happen, the plan keeps you on track. The goals keep you focused. They keep you writing.
This year my plan consists of rewrites and polishes, one new spec starting in April, and one new feature. That's right, this year I'm finally circling back to where I started.
And I want 2007 to be the year I finally get my foot wedged into the door. I doubt I'll end the year with a job, but I plan to end the year with an agent. This is it, I have decided, and it WILL happen.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Starting on January 10th, BET will start airing episodes of 'The Wire'. You probably hear everyone who loves TV lavishing praise on this show. Find out what all the fuss is about. The episodes will air in 90 minute blocks, so program your TiVOs appropriately.
Link: The Futon Critic
I'm often asked what websites I visit to accumulate my vast knowledge of all things TV. Well, dear friends, I will share with you my list of daily visits so that you can abandon me and find your info in the same places I do.
Or maybe you just like getting your news second hand. Your call.
- The Futon Critic - The great grand daddy of all TV news. If you aren't reading this every day, you just aren't paying attention.
- Mediaweek - Sometimes Mediaweek gets press releases out before Futon Critic. Rare, but it happens. I also visit to read Berman's Programming Insider and his offshoot forum PI Feedback. That forum is where you can find the overnights by 9 AM every day. You want Nielsens, they got 'em. You'll also get some good discussion with other tv junkies in the forums.
- TV Week - Hey, get a free subscription and understand the dynamics of the industry! Visit the website daily to see who is hired, who is fired, and what is happening around the tv industry. The site is less focused on the programs, and more on the business, but I think a very strong argument can be made that understanding the business can be very helpful to a writer. (Did I mention you can get a free subscription to the weekly mag?)
- The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The industry rags. Check the Reporter in the evening if you want to read tomorrow's headlines early.
- Google Alerts. Want to know when articles about certain topics are published? Sign up for google alerts. I have one for tv upfronts, which becomes invaluable when I want to know what is being announced, what is anticipated, etc from the wide world of print media and blogs. I also have a Google Alert for news on Nathan Fillion, but that's a topic for another day.
I also visit a variety of other sites less frequently (like TV.com for episode guides for every show on the air), but these are the daily visits. Now go forth and gobble up TV news
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Yippee, it's 2007! Start practicing for your check writing people!
Wow, this internet thing -- I've been away for like 20,000 years (2 weeks) and man, you can get anything on the internets.
What did I miss? People died (R.I.P. Peter Boyle, James Brown, Gerald Ford. Rot in Hell Sadaam). UFOs were spotted in Chicago! And I went on vacation.
That's right, I went on VACATION, those things were you go rest and get away from internets. My days -- lay on beach, eat, sleep. Repeat. Good times.
Yeah, the 'review of my writing journey' post is coming. Cram it, I was busy doing as little as humanly possible. And playing Guitar Hero.
Is it just me or does 'Dirt' look like the worst new show of the year? I know the year is young, but I'm willing to bet this thing is a DOG. We get enough celebutard gossip and grime in real life. I seriously doubt anything this show can do will shock us within an inch of our lives and will probably just be tacky and vile instead. Blech. Plus I don't like how good Courtney looks on the billboard. You suck, Mrs. Cox-Arquette.
Saw 'Apocalypto' (was majorly inspired after visiting Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza on Christmas Day). Wow, incredible movie. Get your life in order Mel so I can respect you fully once more.
There's a really long and interesting article you should all read in The New Yorker here. After you read it, come back and we'll discuss.
I'll update the Watch List by tomorrow at the latest. Until then, you'll just have to ponder the future of all things on your own.