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



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Monday, November 30, 2009



I will probably see this movie even if it is bad.

Via Kung Fu Monkey.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

I've seen practically no movies this year. Partly it's being a parent, partly it's watching TV in the evenings, partly it's cocooning. What have I missed? What are the best movies you've seen in the past year (or 18 months) that might be out on DVD by now?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who decided it would improve my FRINGE watching experience if someone put a Twitter feed on top of it?

How can I get rid of it?

This is why I'm not so fond of the "Convergent Media" concept. I like my story telling unadulterated. There are some shows that can benefit from Internet add-ons (the BSG web series, for example), but when they get in the way of the show itself, you're not dealing with synergy, you've got an infestation.

And, no surprise, what people have to say when they're "Live-Tweeting" makes them sound like inane twits.

At least give me a "close this box" option.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

I just watched a slew of FRINGE eps. I'm at the point where, having issued a Big Revelation with Earthshattering Consequences, the series goes back to being almost entirely episodic: weird cases with small consequences. Procedural stuff. A monster attacking people. A Bad Scientist.

I'm trying to thread this needle with a show I'm developing, but it's difficult, because once you introduce the Earthshattering Consequences, what are the heros doing fooling around with these minor cases? It was a problem we faced on Charlie Jade: once we establish that the stakes are the destruction of our entire universe, how can Charlie do anything that isn't directly related to stopping that from happening?

In the third of several episodic episodes (DREAM LOGIC, EARTHLING, OF HUMAN ACTION), there was a last minute tie-in to the uberplot, but it seemed fairly vague.

Is this some sort of fight between the network wanting an episodic weird-science-of-the-week show, and writers wanting a Big Season Arc? I don't know, but I know which show I'd rather watch.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There is currently a pretty big disconnect, as far as I can tell, between the kind of tv shows that writers love to watch, and the kinds of tv shows that networks want to be pitched.

Ask anyone, the networks want episodic shows. They want shows you can tune in for episodes 5 and 8 and 11 and not feel you missed anything.

The kinds of shows I like are, oh, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and DEXTER and MAD MEN. Sure, each episode tells some kind of story that completes by the end of the hour. But you really can't appreciate what you're seeing if you haven't seen a few recent episodes.

For sure, serial shows are harder to write. We painted ourselves into one or two pretty tight corners on CHARLIE JADE. Expectations are higher. No one would have minded the mess at the end of BSG if it hadn't been the culmination of years of story arcs.

But serial shows are more satisfying to write. You get to take the characters places. We got the BUFFY boxed set and we're watching Willow change from Hacker Girl to Cute Teenage Witch to Power in Her Own Right to Big Bad. And that's on a show that strives to give you an hour's complete entertainment.

Network execs will tell you that even viewers who say they watch a show tend to watch only about 1 out of 4 episodes. (That's hard to fathom because when my friends watch a show, they watch every episode or stop watching it. They buy the DVD or TiVo the whole thing. But I've heard this from several people who ought to know these things.) The danger with a serial show is that every time you lose a viewer, they don't come back; while it's very hard to get new viewers in mid-season. Who's going to start watching 24 in the middle?

When I'm pitching, I'm continually trying to thread the needle. So are many of the writers I know. We talk about X-FILES and how there was always an episodic story but it often contributed a clue to the überplot; or VERONICA MARS. We try to stay away from mentioning LOST; apparently it doesn't count because no one knows why it's working in spite of its ridiculously complex story arcs. (Maybe because of the ridiculously complex story arcs? But you can't say that.) And we try very hard to make sure there is a strong episodic story motor in the template of the show.

It's frustrating, because you can point to any number of successful shows that are blatantly serial. Soaps, even. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. GRAY'S ANATOMY. GOSSIP GIRL. Anything on HBO or AMC.

I dunno, maybe there's a list of showrunners who are approved to write serials. Obviously, serials get made. Maybe it's like movies and hooks: it's not that movies don't get made without hooks, it's just that you can't get a movie made without a hook.

But the moral of the story is: the TV you love may not be the TV network executives want more of. Serial shows are a pain in the ass. You lose audience when you preempt them. You lose audience when you move them. And then if you cancel then, people mail you boxes of nuts. Safer to license CSI: WASILLA.

Or you can just go ahead and pitch what you love, and hope it comes out all right in the end.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I haven't been blogging lately because I am plumb out of new things to say. So here's someone's else's words of wisdom...
"Write about what you know hurts," [Paul Castro, writer of AUGUST RUSH] told students Monday in the Career and Technology Center's TV and multimedia production program. "If you explore that pain, if you get to the belly of the beast that is that pain, you'll have the keys to the castle as an artist. ... They don't buy screenplays in Hollywood, they buy emotion."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


That was Douglas Campbell's fitting toast. (Mine is "Outrageous happiness.") I met Douglas only at the end of his long and rich life; he and Moira graciously lent their townhouse to us for the FALLEN writing room. But you only had to meet him to know immediately that this was a grand old Shakespearean.

Douglas was a truth-teller, as one friend after another told us, always willing to bust a bad production, but always willing to explain exactly what was wrong. (I got a bit of his truth when I tried to get him to come to a Justin Trudeau fundraiser once.) I wondered whether he got in a lot of trouble for that. I have the same ailment -- I find it extremely hard to say something is good if it's not, and I've pissed off any number of people for it. I suspect Douglas got away with it better, as a theatrical man can.

The memorial reminded me of the memorial for Robin Spry, who was another grand old man, always helping other people get their careers started, always trying to get something going, whether it was a theatre in North Hatley or a film company. I think Douglas was someone who brought you up to his own level, by criticizing, by advising, and by simple demanding it. I hope if my life and career last as long as Douglas's, people will remember me for helping them break in, or get to the next step.

It was a memorial more joyous than sad. Douglas was never about the past, we heard. He was always about what was next. So we drank a spot of whiskey and sang Auld Lang Syne with all the words, and walked out into the warm night determined to do something great tomorrow.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Jim Henshaw points out that the Stimulus Package passed by the US Congress prevents US companies that get stimulus money from buying Canadian, and proposes that Canada retaliate.

I'm down with that.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Pilot School is a terrific collection of pilot scripts. Lisa says the pilot script for MAD MEN is laugh out loud funny -- quite a change from the dry way it came out, eh?

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