Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog



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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

ENOUGH CRAFT?

But do I know enough stuff to write a book about Crafty TV Writing?

I've been starting to poke about at writing up a few web pages about the subject, a la my original Crafty Screenwriting website that grew into a book. Thing is I find myself not having so much to say.

Not to say I haven't read books about TV writing that have even less to say. The density of actual information in screenwriting books seems none too high.

I s'pose I could pick at this blog a bit and put stuff together. Or at the voluminous correspondence I filed away during the show under "Show Diary," to be boiled down into actual publishable (as opposed to actionable) information.

It's funny -- it takes a long time to learn how to write TV, but it isn't clear that there is actually that much you can put into words. What would a book on being a Roman Centurion have about fighting? Most of it would be about how to keep your boots dry, I guess.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

DEPARTMENT OF USELESS TRIVIA

I read in "Boswell's England" that Manchester and Birmingham were both not medieval towns, but belonged to their lordly manor, and therefore had none of the guilds and corporations that medieval towns had. I wonder if that lack of restraint on trade had anything to do with those two towns growing to the second and third cities of England during the Industrial Revolution?

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND

A strange movie, from the strange head of Charlie Kaufman. A quirky performance by Sam Rockwell. Another lovely appearance by Drew Barrymore, which makes you want to be her friend. I'm not sure what to make of the thing as a whole. But then that is, perhaps, the point of many a Charlie Kaufman picture; and there are not many of them.

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WHOOPS

No sooner was I moaning about having a little too much time to myself than I came down with a ferocious flu, or cold, or something. Nothing more than a sore throat and intense desire to sleep the day away, such that I actually slept under my desk for about three hours rather than brave the ten minute drive home.

Lisa's theory is that this is the "stress-comes-off" effect: your body senses you can now take a rest, stops firing out gobs of antibodies, and down you go. Unfortunately for this theory I also had the "too much stress" weekend-o'sleep a month ago, same symptoms. So stress, no stress, it's all the same.

Ah, well, two more weeks in country.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

A MOMENT TO BREATHE

I've been running full out for so long I hardly knew what to do with myself today. It's Sunday. And I finished the pages I needed to do this weekend a little early. But I felt a vague unease all day. As if I was loafing by not finding some work to do.

Of course, both my story editors are working full out this weekend. But there have been many weekends where they had some time off and I worked through. So my more-Calvinist-than-thou work ethic is not strictly logical.

I guess part of it is that someone else is rewriting my script for the finale. That's always hard, when you're taken off a script. But I've taken writers off scripts before, of course; sometimes you get locked into doing it one way, and a new writer won't be so tied to the same approach. So having offered to "help," I'm probably well advised to steer clear of the script so no one thinks I have a need to meddle. To be a team player as a tv writer -- to be a tv staff writer -- is to keep your ego out of it as much as possible. The script is not your baby, never was. It belongs to the showrunner. Even when you're the showrunner, it's still not your baby. It belongs to the show.

That's one way tv is different from original features (and slightly similar to features that are sequels): a feature builds its own unique audience. The audience for The Piano is whoever went to see it and liked it and recommended it. A tv show builds an audience over the course of its run. The longer you go, the more they develop expectations of what you're going to deliver. Fail those expectations and they will desert the show.

I rented some Friends Season 9 episodes; and oddly I found the shows hard to watch. I went through a phase where I was watching Friends every other night, sometimes twice a night, taping it when possible. Sure, I was writing a half hour comic drama, and now I'm writing an hour drama. But tonight it just seemed shrill and too highly keyed.

Maybe I'm just not in the mood.

I wish it were late enough to go to sleep.

My first wife said that whenever I was done with a writing project I felt depressed and listless. Maybe that's what this is. I'm not quite done with this show, but we're finishing the last two episodes. One story editor is careening through the third draft of the finale, and the other is rampaging through a rewrite of the last episode we'll shoot. I have no immediate writing to do. And I don't want to shift my concentration over to some new project just for a day -- that way lies madness.

I think I need a little vacation. It's been forever since I took an official vacation.

We are shooting out of order, by the way, because we are going to shoot the last episode entirely off the standing sets, so we can strike them and save the rental of the studio. We can't do that with the finale -- we need some of our standing sets. So we're shooting the finale as the second to last ep to go to camera, and the third to last episode will go to camera last. Isn't producing fun?

Actually, it's not. A producer is on the hook for the show personally. All a writer can lose is his time. Having worked a bit in the producer racket, I have tremendous respect for producers for their willingness to live in a maelstrom of risk. I'm so glad I'm a writer!

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

CHASING AROUND AFTER IT

Network people will often tell you that the show has to be episodic because you can't rely on it to be shown in order once it's in syndication. A corrolary of that is that you can't rely on the audience to be able to catch it in order, even if it is shown in order, because its programming slot may change.

My folks have been chasing around the weekly schedule, trying to find the show I co-created last year. It was showing on Friday nights. Now it seems to be on Wednesday nights. It also missed a few weeks in there. This probably betokeneth less than rabid support of the show, and like all creatives I then wonder how the show is supposed to gain support if no one can find it, but that is an old battle. The lesson to take away is: if your show must be watched in order, well, it better be a god damn bonafide hit.

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