I interviewed Ellen Sandler, author of The TV Writer's Workbook: A Creative Approach To Television Scripts, writer/producer on sitcom hits such as EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, and (now I find out) script consultant.
When I called Ellen she was just wrapping up a consultation over the phone with a young screenwriter. She says she likes to consult at the story level, rather than wait to read the script. "It's like dealing with an unruly teenager. It's still possible to make a difference."
So I guess that answers the question one reader had, of "how do you deal with the agony of waiting?" Claro: you consult on other people's scripts.
CS: Ellen, if you're writing a spec, at what point would you consider abandoning it? I know it's good to finish things. But when it's not working, or when the show is canceled, or what?
ES: I'm going to quote Stephen J. Cannell, a master of TV writing. He says you never abandon a script, because you learn nothing from quitting. You finish, and then if you have to, you can tell yourself "I'm not going to use this." Because if you abandon a script, you've wasted all your time. You learn nothing from the experience. But if you finish it and don't use it, you've learned what not to do on the next one. Otherwise you haven't been through the whole process. No script ever gets written if you don't get into it.
CS: I find that everything sucks at around 40% done. Everything. All my scripts. Because before that, you're just getting into it, and after about 50%, you can tell yourself it's all downhill from here.
ES: Well, I find that the suck element comes sooner rather than later. Somewhere in the development process, when I'm creating the story lines. I'm wondering, "Why did I pick this story?" By the time I'm writing dialog, it's usually better.
CS: Now when you say you have to finish a script, what do you mean, "finish"? Just getting to FADE OUT, or a couple of passes later when you've done all you can?
ES: Well hopefully by the time you've finished the rough draft you know what's wrong with it.
CS: So should we say, if you know why it sucks, you can move on. You can't move on till you know why it sucks.
ES: You said it, I didn't. But that sounds like a good idea!To be continued...
Labels: books, Crafty TV Writing, interviews, reading, spec scripts