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



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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Q. Your website no longer has available the Word style sheet you mentioned in your book. Is it no longer available?
It's been superseded. There are free screenplay formatting programs around, like MindStar's Script Editor and Celtx and Scripped and Zhura. Check'em out.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

When you're writing a spec, you try to nail the template. You try to get the character voices right, and the pace of the show, and the sets they use. You try to internalize the do's and don't's of the series you're speccing.

What about when you know the show better than the reader? Won't that get you into trouble? Say, for example, you're doing a SPONGEBOB spec, as Lisa recently did. If you know your SPONGEBOB, you know that the adorable-yet-slightly-irritating young sponge frequently gets worked up over the crabby patties he serves, and often calls them "Patty."

If your reader has only seen a few SPONGEBOBs, that may seem weird. Or to take another example that came up in these pages, lately there have been a lot of new assistants on BONES; they don't last long. It's generally considered bad form in a spec to introduce new characters, other than the episodic characters every procedural has (the victims, the perps). But in the case of BONES, you have to.

If you're doing something that is correct for the show, but which a casual viewer of the show may not realize is correct, my advice would be to hang a lantern on it. In the case of BONES, have a character say, "Oh God, not another new assistant. What is that, three this week? One more and we've got a dining room set." (Or, the good version of that.)

In the case of SPONGEBOB, you could have a character say something on the order of, "You sure do get worked up about Patty."

Obviously don't do a lot of this, or it will get annoying. But if there's something important that you feel a casual viewer may not realize actually is the show, feel free to make sure we know how clever you are.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

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I'm pretty much a jeans guy, but yesterday I got duded up in a blazer and overcoat to go to the Canada Media Fund consultation session, along with about forty other writers, producers and documentary hyphenates. Valerie Creighton has been winging her way across Canada to ask industry stakeholders what the CMF should do and be.

The CMF is an arranged marriage between the Canadian Television Fund and the equivalent new media fund. The idea is to fund Canadian audio-visual content. But how? Everyone wants more pie.

WGC members Anne-Marie Perrotta, Gerry Lewis, Doug Taylor, Dan Williams and Lienne Sawatsky, Laurie Finstad, Rodney Gibbons and I were there to bring up creators' concerns. We want Canadian taxpayer money to go to Canadians telling Canadian stories. We want any "return on investment" formula to consider "creating culture" as the major return on investment: when Canadians see Canadian stories, it binds us together as a nation, and when foreigners see Canadian stories, they get a sense of us as a people. The point of the CMF isn't to get money back, it's to create popular culture.

I didn't say, but I should have, that the "return on investment" from documentaries is that people learn stuff, and the ROI from children's programming is kids learn stuff. Jesse saw a picture of the Eiffel Tower the other day and busted out "The Eiffel Tower is in France!" She must have picked that up from children's programming. She also seems to know what a glockenspiel is. I had to look it up.

The CMF is going to be split into "convergent" and "experimental" streams. "Convergent" means that when you bring in a TV show, they want you to tell them how there's going to be synergy with other audiovisual media, e.g. a videogame or a web application. That sounds clever and forward thinking, but as I said at the panel, would FLASHPOINT really be more popular or better if it had an Alternate Reality Game? Would it really make sense to have a FLASHPOINT videogame, where you try not to shoot people?

The experimental stream is sort of "everything except TV," and naturally video game producers are trying to up the percentage of the Experimental stream to 25% of the CMF; current spending would put it about 15%. Of course we were there to say that if the CMF is funding a digital or internet production, it should satisfy the same Cancon creator requirements as a TV production.

As Martin Brouard points out, "experimental" might not be the right word, since videogames are not exactly "experimental." I propose re-dubbing the stream "Emerging." Then you could have "Converging" and "Emerging" streams.

There was some arguing back and forth whether "Lifestyle/Reality" should be a supported genre. My take on that is that Lifestyle/Reality seems to do just fine without help, whereas documentaries and drama are not going to get made without CMF funding.

I do differ with the official WGC position on "setting" being part of the essential requirements for Cancon. If a Canadian director and writer want to shoot a movie with Canadian actors that happens to be set in, say, Ouagadougou, I think it should be eligible. What's important is that it's a story being told by Canadians. I can see the arguments on the other side, though, so feel free to opine in the comments.

I have to say I appreciate the outreach involved in this session, and the 17 other sessions taking place across the country. In the States, the government does no such thing. If you want to talk to the policy makers, you have to hire lobbyists, or contribute major bucks to their campaigns. We got a free lunch and an open ear.

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Q. What should be my subject line when I am sending query emails?
You want the victim recipient to open the email, right? Put the hook in the subject line. At least, as much of it as you need in order to get them to open it.

SUBJECT: A man discovers he has been replaced by his clone...

Or, if you have a great title, put that:

SUBJECT: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist...

Or, the theme:

SUBJECT: Can men and women ever really be best friends?

Actually, that last one reads like spam. And so would this:

SUBJECT: I know what you did last summer...

So you need to clarify that:

SUBJECT: Can men and women ever really be best friends? WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... a comedy script.
SUBJECT: I Know What You Did Last Summer... a horror script.

I guess the real answer to the question "what should my subject line be?" is whatever gets someone to read your email!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Q. Your book talks about how to use CUT TO:
I've been after Henry Holt to let me do a second edition of CRAFTY SCREENWRITING for just this sort of thing. No one uses CUT TO: any more. The occasional WIPE TO: for comic effect, or a FLASHBACK TO: and then a BACK TO:, because you really need those to stand out. SPLIT SCREEN is crucial if you're using that device. But plain old CUT TO is old hat and wastes real estate.

Sorry 'bout that!

Q. In a recent spec, I didn't include any of these kind of directions, except for a couple of 'close up on XXX' and 'ANGLES'. Is this ok or too minimalistic?
Try to avoid "We are CLOSE ON:" and "ANGLE ON". These are shooting script directions. They don't really belong in a spec or a selling draft. They don't really belong in a shooting draft, either, unless you're the showrunner and you really don't trust your director to shoot the scene the right way, in which case why the heck did you hire him?

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Q. I just subscribed to the online HCD, but I do not find any email's of any known production houses there, like Warner Bros, Dreamworks, Sony Pictures etc. Please help as I don't know whom to send my query letter to.
Those aren't production houses, those are studios. There's no point in querying a studio directly.

You wouldn't query studios, you'd query production companies. The Hollywood Creative Directory (printed or online) lists production companies, their personnel and email addresses. You would want to query the development people.

Many production companies have deal at studios; they're "on the lot." They'll have first-look deals with whichever studio whose gates they drive through in the morning.

I can't speak to how well querying producers works. I think it's very hard to get your script read if you don't have an agent. If any reader has got their script read by querying producers, please let us know.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

According to Robert Brauneis's extensively researched "Copyright and the World's Most Popular Song," "Happy Birthday to You" is not under copyright after all.

This will come as a shock to most of you, to whom it had never occurred that "Happy Birthday to You" was ever under copyright.

However, if you've ever wondered why people were singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" at a birthday party in a low-budget movie, the specific reason has been that Warner Chappell claims it owns the song, which brings in a staggering $2,000,000 a year in royalties. That, in spite of the music dating back to 1893.

The general reason is that Disney, in its efforts to keep a certain mouse under copyright, has convinced Congress to extend copyright to a ridiculous 95 years, thus slowing the spread of culture.

Brauneis's paper is a step in the right direction. But I doubt any Errors and Omissions lawyer will be willing to take a chance on not paying royalties to Warner Chappell; at least until someone actually gets a judgment that HB2U is public domain.

So we'll probably continue to hear "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in student films and D2DVD movies. Though, arguably, you could have people hum it...

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Saturday, October 24, 2009




Want.

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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is one of my favorite books. Always has been. And I love to read it to Jesse, when she's in the mood for it, which isn't always.

But I've had absolutely no desire to see the movie. I just realized why: I don't know what the story is.

A story is about a compelling hero, with an opportunity, problem or goal, who faces obstacles or an antagonist, who has something to win and something to lose.

This trailer gives me none of those. I don't know why Max is compelling. He seems to have two expressions: happy, and blank. I don't know what his problem is or what he wants to do. I don't know who's against him or what's preventing him from doing what he needs to do. I don't know what he stands to gain or lose.

If I look carefully, I can see that he's running away a lot. Things go boom at one point. There's a net that drops at one point. But why? And how does he feel about it?

This feels a good deal like the fake trailer for THE SHINING, redone as an uplifting coming of age story:



Reading a few reviews ("too dark for kids") I wonder if this is secretly such a dark and scary movie that the marketeers decided to take out every hint that it's dark and scary so people will take their kids anyway.

Has anyone seen this baby? What's up? Does it have a story, or is just big puppets?

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Q. I sent my script to a dev exec for suggestions to improve it. She suggested a few changes.

The problem is I feel I stink at rewrites.

I fear I might create plot holes during the process of making the changes that she suggested to make my script better. How do I battle my fears and how I see that I don’t create plot holes in the process of rewrite?
Sometimes the best way to do a rewrite is to take the script back down to index cards, and then rebuild it.

Read through the script and write down each beat as succinctly as you can. Actually, it's even better if you don't go through the script, just write down each beat on an index card, from memory. I usually type my beats, print them out, and paste them onto cards.

Spread your index cards out on a table, and read the story through from the index cards. This is the stage at which you should be taking the notes you've been given. Any plot holes will be obvious: you won't see how the story gets from one index card to another.

This is also where, if you were brave and wrote your index cards down from memory, any beats that you forgot to write down will show up again: you'll remember oh, that scene where they argue about the pants goes there. If you don't remember a beat when you write down the cards, and you don't realize it at the card stage, then you have successfully cut an unnecessary story beat.

Now you write your cards back into the computer. You now have a revised beat sheet for your rewrite.

Then dump the beat sheet back into your script program (Final Draft or Screenwriter or Celtx or what have you).

Then start rewriting. If you have a scene that doesn't need to change, you can cut and paste it from your script. Most scenes will change a little. I usually rewrite them in the script, and then cut and paste them. Some scenes you'll have to write from scratch. Some scenes you'll just erase from the script because you don't need them any more.

When you're finished, voilà, you have a new script. And there won't be any plot holes, because you took an afternoon to rework the bones of the story on index cards.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Q. I'm working on a spec BONES, and I've introduced a new lab assistant. I know, I know, never introduce new characters in a spec script (besides the ones that are necessary for a procedural plot, etc.) But Hart Hanson, Bones' creator and showrunner, has said that he'll be introducing new assistants this year. (Quick catch-up: The series regular who played the research assistant left the show two seasons ago. Since then, a revolving door of approx. 5 research assistants have filled the role. They are interns working under the main character and not permanent hires in the world of the show.)

In my spec, the new lab assistant provides an entertaining B story -- and he leaves at the end of the episode, as many of the previous assistants have. But if I keep this plotline, will it be seen by potential readers as automatically violating the cardinal rule of No New Characters in a Spec and immediately brand me as an amateur? Or will I get any credit for closely following the intentions of the showrunner and keeping current?
That's a tricky question. You can't count on execs and producers and showrunners to have been following BONES closely, though the ones that do may give you bennies for it.

I would put it this way: make sure the new lab assistant is there to provoke interesting drama with the core cast. In other words, it shouldn't be her B story, it should be a core character's B story, provoked by the new lab assistant.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do high schools still have printed newspapers? If not, what do they have? If they have online papers, are those called by the old name (e.g. The Daltonian), or do they have new, snazzy web-enabled names?

Thanks, Hive Mind!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm thrilled to see that local NBC affiliates are unhappy about Leno's 10 pm show. Now that the original buzz has worn off,
Leno's new show averaged about 5.6 million viewers through the first four days of last week, less than half the audience it attracted when it premiered and more than a third less than the audience that NBC drew last season with its longtime schedule of drama shows. The network says the declines are in line with expectations and cautions patience as viewers discover the new time slot for the talk show king.
Yes, because viewership going down is typically consistent with viewers having to find the show. Not with their having found the show ... lacking.

This is what happens when you cheap out on scripted programming. Yeah, you save a few bucks on the programming. But you lose bucks on the ads. And,
NBC's controversial decision to shift the late-night talk show host to 10 p.m. has been ... playing havoc with many of NBC's more than 200 affiliates, where Leno's weaker "lead-in" is undermining audiences of 11 p.m. newscasts. News programs are crucial for local stations, which draw upon them for a third of their revenue.
That's cheery news for the, I dunno, 25-50 or so writers of the five hours of scripted shows that are currently not on the air? Maybe Leno can go back to late night and NBC can put on some new ten o'clock shows?

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As you read on DMc's blog, Rob Wells (Ricky of TRAILER PARK BOYS) has a well-thought out (and distinctly un-Ricky-like) op ed in the Gazette about the current battle between broadcasters and cable companies.

To sum up:
Our TV regulator, the CRTC, recently ordered cable companies to pay 1.5 per cent of their gross revenues to help support the broadcasters in producing local programming. This is good. Unfortunately cable companies have chosen to pass that buck on to you. That is bad. Now they are threatening to do the same thing again. They're fighting the broadcasters' calls for fee-for-carriage. And promising that if they're forced to pay, you will pay. That is really bad.
But there's a crucial issue missing:
The broadcasters want you to think the only thing at stake is local programming - namely news. That's because they don't want to talk about the crisis in Canadian drama and comedy and the fact that Canadians can't see our own scripted series on our conventional TV networks.

Why is that? Canadian English-language drama and comedy has been a rarity on prime time since 1999 - the year that the CRTC relaxed the rules for private broadcasters. Since then, private broadcasters have been filling Canada's prime-time schedules with U.S. shows. Last year they spent $740 million on U.S. and foreign programming and just $54 million on Canadian English-language dramas and comedies.
With those numbers, it's very hard to get a Canadian show on the air unless you have a US buyer for it. So Canadian shows, particularly dramas, are driven by what the US market wants -- beefy procedurals like FLASHPOINT and COPPER and THE LISTENER, SF like STARGATE and SANCTUARY, soaps like BEING ERICA. CORNER GAS got on WGN, and my old show, NAKED JOSH, aired on Oxygen.

That's not entirely bad. There's nobody better at making TV than Hollywood, overall, and having to satisfy CBS or even SyFy brings up the standard of Canadian-made shows. And anglo Canada is a small media market; of course a lot of shows have to be co-productions.

But should Canadians only have the choice between watching American shows and Canadian shows that Americans want to watch? What about TRAILER PARK BOYS, which is enormously successful here and probably incomprehensible south of the border? What about the superb SLINGS AND ARROWS, which barely got a US sale on the tiny Sundance Channel long after it was made?

Canadian broadcasters and cable channels are given a protected market by the Canadian taxpayer. NBC is not allowed to air its shows directly into Canada. It has to sell its shows to CTV or Global. When you see an NBC show in Canada, it's CTV or Global airing the commercials, no matter what network bugs show up on the screen.

In return for the Canadian government protecting Canadian broadcasters from being wiped off the face of the planet by direct American competition, the Canadian taxpayer is supposed to get two things.

One, support for an industry that supports 600,000 Canadians.

Two, shows by Canadians that tell Canadian stories.

How are Canadian stories different on a purely Canadian funded show? I could talk about the nuances of Canadian life, or the two solitudes. I could talk about how on NAKED JOSH, we weren't allowed to use the word "Montreal," which was where the show was set.

But let's just look at THE BORDER, which DMc worked on. On THE BORDER, the Americans, especially Special Agent Bianca LeGarda, are assholes. Arrogant, reckless, rich and often wrong. Sure, they sometimes get the job done while the Canadians are dithering. But as the show makes plain, dithering is our right, and we don't want Americans ordering us to go charging off without thinking.

I would venture to say that quite a few Canadians consider the Americans to have a tendency to go off half-cocked. And they get mad when Canada won't go off half-cocked too. And I would venture to say that THE BORDER will never have a significant US network sale, at least until Michael Moore gets his own network.

Canadian broadcasters like to forget that they have a deal with the Canadian people. They consider having to air Canadian content to be a great burden on them, and they are constantly trying to shrug off that burden. They're forgetting that they only exist because the Canadian government protects them. Without protection, they would disappear within a year.

Yeah, local TV matters. Canadian TV matters. Canadian broadcasters shouldn't catch a break from the CRTC until they quit skimping on Canadian content.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009


Just saw Alexander Franchi's new movie THE WILD HUNT, based on a script by Alex and Mark Krupa. It's a wild story about a group of medieval re-enactors off for a weekend that starts full of zest and fun -- the movie has a lot of fun with the cross between high fictional style and the LARPers' reality -- and heads into madness and violence.

Tiio Horn is a revelation as the girl everyone's fighting over in real life and in the fantasy. Watch her become a star over the next five years.

It's a love story, and it's about how we need myth to elevate our lives, and it's about how our drive for love and our drive for meaning smash into our mundane lives And you don't know where it's heading, or what the rules are, and yet it's satisfying and inevitable by the end. No wonder the film won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF.

And it's beautifully shot and cast and all that.

Nice work, Mr. Franchi!

Ah, if only real medieval re-enactments were this much fun.

(Full disclosure: I was a story consultant on the film. But it has way surpassed the script I gave notes on two years ago.)

UPDATE: THE WILD HUNT just won the Audience Award at Slamdance!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ron Moore confirms that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION staff writers did not even bother to write in the technobabble. They just wrote lines like, "Captain, the tech is overteching the tech" and trained monkeys science consultants filled in the tech.

(What it confirms to some is that Ron Moore needs to go back to Science Skool to understand what "mitochondrial Eve" was, but that's another story.)

I find the same is true of HOUSE episodes. The medical arguments are completely opaque to me. To me, you have two doctors saying, "We can't tech him, with the tech he has, it'll kill him." "But if he actually has tech, then if we don't tech him, he'll go into tech!"

So what is the audience really following? In ST: TNG, of course, it was the characters and the moral argument. In HOUSE, it's mostly watching HOUSE be a jerk and then be right. And the human drama of whatever patient they're nearly killing this week.

That's one things that's always bugged me about the idea of doing a HOUSE spec: you have to research and research the medicine, and it's all tech. I wonder if anyone would notice if you just made it all up?

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

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Some time ago I perpetrated a novel about the childhood of Morgan le Fay called THE CIRCLE CAST: THE LOST YEARS OF MORGAN LE FAY. It's coming out next year from Tradewinds Press. O Hive Mind, how can I best promote this book efficiently?

The book is about Morgan's life between her flight into exile after her father's murder by Uther Penndragon, to her return to Britain as a powerful sorceress. How did a girl with nothing but talent and anger become the greatest sorceress of her age?

The book is nominally YA, so my publisher will, I imagine, market it to girls and libraries and school. I imagine Wiccans, medieval re-enactors and King Arthur fans would dig it, too.

Ye who know something about novel-publishing: what are the most efficient ways an author can promote his own novel? What's not worth the effort?

I've thought of doing a virtual author's tour, contacting blogs and websites for (a) young adult readers (b) Wiccans (c) medieval fans (d) King Arthur fans. What are the blogs and websites I shouldn't miss?

Also, my publisher is willing to fund an author tour. (Actually he'll get grant money for it.) If I hit four or five major cities, how can I get the maximum buzz out of being physically there? It's probably not worth traveling to Calgary to sell ten books, unless I can leverage that somehow into radio interviews or ... what?

I'm staring a blog about the book, magic, myth, and Morgan le Fay, of course. What sort of content might be the most interesting to readers?

Thank you, gentle readers!

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Friday, October 09, 2009

The first Writers Watching TV Podcast is up! Check out showrunners/creators Jeff Biederman and Jeffrey Alan Schechter talking about their tween comedy OVERRULED!

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Considering all the computers, and video game programmers, and technology and (presumably) money that Japan has -- is [THE ANCIENT DOGOO GIRL] the best [the Japanese] can do with special effects? Or do I just see clips of shows that have really bad special effects?
When you work with a special effects guy, never ask him, "can we do this?" The answer is always "yes." The question is, "can we do this on our schedule and budget."

THE ANCIENT DOGOO GIRL looks like the budget equivalent of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, which, as you may recall, had less than impressive impressive f/x. F/X are getting better all the time, so I won't bitch too much about the BUFFY demon that looked distinctly like a sock puppet. But it's always a question of time and money.

It's also a question of tone. LORD OF THE RINGS has a serious tone, and ambition, and a balrog. Oh, and legions of devoted fans. If you made a balrog that looked anything short of demonic, they would hunt you down and kill you. Whereas if you are making a borderline campy show like XENA, or a comedy, then you can do a lot with smoke and fuller's earth and trivial optical effects.

It's also a question of story. Is your story really about the magic and effects, e.g. HARRY POTTER? Then they'd better be impressive. If your story is really about the characters' reactions to magic and effects, you can do a lot offscreen. Or get away with a bit of cheese in your effects.

Note that I'm mixing up movies and TV. Movies have vastly bigger budgets than TV. If you needed to do LORD OF THE RINGS on TV as a series, you'd see the Battle of Minas Tirith mostly from indoors, with lots of sound effects, and people looking out windows and saying "they're coming." And the Nazgûl would be a smoke effect, not a fabric effect. And nowhere would there be wargs or mumaks, because you just can't fake riding a wolf on a TV budget.

So to answer your question: no, that's not the best the Japanese can do. It's probably a low budget SF genre show on the equivalent of SyFy.

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From The Daily Dish:

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I was brained to death on Absolute Write Water Cooler (community of writers) that it was stupid to include in my query that my script made Quarter Finals in a screenwriting competition, that the soft sell makes me look desperate.. I was told by one of your recommended colleague who does evaluations that it's a good idea to include QF in my query.
Personally, I wouldn't be much impressed by a script making it to the Quarter Finals of a competition. There are a lot of Quarter Finalists.

In general, I'm highly suspicious of most screenwriting competitions. I suspect they exist largely as a source of revenue to whoever's running them. I think most of them are essentially scams, whether they're intended so or not.

I also don't believe that screenwriting competitions select the scripts most likely to result in a movie, or even a good movie. I think a producer judges a script differently from a competition judge.

I know that some agents claim they're more likely to look at a query if someone's won a competition. And if you're at an agency, or a production company, please chip in: would some kind of credential from a competition help get you to read a script?

Or is it all about the hook?

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Kate Harding nails it in Salon:
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her, before we start discussing whether the victim looked older than her 13 years, or that she now says she'd rather not see him prosecuted because she can't stand the media attention. Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.

Drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are

Can we do that? Can we take a moment to think about all that, and about the fact that Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, before we start talking about what a victim he is?
Personally, I'm mystified how many liberals, who normally disapprove of men raping women, seem okay with a famous director raping a girl. I'm shocked that someone like Whoopi Goldberg has signed onto the outrageous "Roman Polanski has suffered enough" meme. This is not an issue where the facts are much in question. But all sorts of Beautiful People are saying "can't we all just move on," and it appals me.

No, we can't move on. Polanski has not, in fact, been punished at all. He escaped punishment pretty much entirely. He did not spend a single night in jail. (The 42 days he spent were in "psychiatric evaluation.") He raped a child, then fled to France. He is a pedophile child molester, by his own confession, and he's never been punished for it.

Society does not hold together when you can get away with raping girls if you're rich and famous enough. Justice has to be seen to be done, or the whole social compact falls apart.

That is, incidentally, why it's irrelevant if the victim wants the whole thing to go away. If I were her, I'd want it to go away, too.

Is that so hard to understand?

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Q. I'm currently writing a television pilot in the veign of Lost, Flashforward, etc. I was able to get a hold of the Flashforward pilot and noticed a lot of f-bombs in the dialogue. Obviously this won't get past the script stage. So my question is; why would the writers use language they know can't be used on network, or even cable TV, for that matter? Is it to just try and impress the reader, or because they knew knew they had a pilot order?
That's a good question. It's naughty, but I've done it myself.

I think it's because cable has accustomed us to hearing people on TV drop f-bombs, just like in real life. So you hate to censor your characters, especially when the line calls out for foul language. "Fine, then, let's just screw" isn't funny as, well, you know. You figure it'll read better now, and then you can replace the word later.

It is naughty, though. I wouldn't do it unless you're sure you can get away with it. If you're an emerging writer, you run the risk of looking like you don't know you're writing for network.

(Incidentally, Canadian broadcast TV has slightly looser rules. You can say a lot of, er, stuff after 9 pm.)

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Here in Canada, there's a tendency to block shoot to save money. That's when you shoot several episodes at once. Often, as well, producers shoot the entire season in advance of airing.

If TV creators were artistes, this would make sense. When you shoot in advance, you have a little leeway if you run over schedule. You can pick shots up here and there along the way. And often, you write a whole slew of scripts, or even all the scripts, in advance. That way you can keep the whole show in your head and not be distracted by production. Right?

What if you get something wrong? As you can see from the TV, EH? forum, some LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE fans aren't loving a new character introduced this season. They think he's an unpleasant jerk and not funny.

American shows, and many Canadian shows, don't get too far ahead of themselves in production. That allows them to react semi-nimbly to audience reaction, whether they're getting it from reading blogs (which as DMc points out is risky), or if they can afford proper focus groups and market research.

Next week's show is probably completely finished. But maybe there's time to trim some moments or try to carry the humor with musical "stings." As you move down the season, you can re-edit episodes to de-emphasize the character's story line, or if he's crucial to the A-story, spend less time with him on screen and cut to more reaction shots. When you get to shows you're shooting, you can tell him to play the role differently. Lighten up, eh? Then you get to scripts in the pipeline. You can have him run over by a bus. You can write him differently, or write him out entirely.

TV production schedules are a balance between getting too far ahead and cutting it too close. If you cut it too close, there's not enough time for post. You start running up overtime with the editors, and people start making bad editing decisions because there's no time to think about what you're doing. If you really run over schedule you can miss an air date. The network has to slot in a rerun, and you're fired.

But if you get too far ahead, you can't react to the reactions.

(Oh, and while we're at it -- someone really ought to underwrite TV, EH? The only blog about watching Canadian TV shouldn't be a volunteer effort. How about it, Tim Horton?)

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