Q. Is the process for getting a staff writing gig significantly different in Canada?
Not really. Fewer people write spec scripts (though they should); more write spec pilots. You want to have an agent even though many agents don't really push their clients as much as they ought to. (Mine does.) The CFC (Canadian Film Centre) is even more crucial than going to UCLA or USC. There are fewer jobs as writer's assistants. But all in all, it's the same process. Write two kickass scripts. Get an agent. Have your agent get your scripts out there. Work every connection you've got.
Q. You had a comics proposal you were working on?
Yes, and I'm still working on it. In my copious leisure time. Seriously, whenever I run out of TV and feature stuff to write, I do another draft of it, and inflict it on Mr. Diggle
, who is kindly offering excellent notes.
Q. You advise, not infrequently, that the symptom of not caring much about the characters is often caused by the problem of the stakes not being high enough, which certainly makes sense. But raising the stakes too high can get wearing on the audience.
Yes, you don't want every episode to be about the destruction of the world. The best stakes on TV are usually personal, not global. Those can be "will his dad live?" or "will his dad show up for the soccer game?" So long as the main character cares deeply about the stakes, they're high enough. Note that in comedy, the stakes can be ridiculous so long as the main character cares deeply about them. The stakes can be that the hero really, really wants an ice cold beer. Wasn't the whole plot of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
about two stoners trying to obtain some burgers?
Q. How did Firefly turn four act structure on its head?
I haven't watched recently enough to be specific, but my impression was that in a number of episodes, just as you were sure where the plot was going, whoops! It changed course. Risky but rewarding writing, I felt.