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



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Friday, May 28, 2010

SyFy has three new series. One is a cooking show.

Hvart ero that svic ein, er ec sia thicciomz,
eþa ragna roc, rítha menn dauthir?

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

I asked a friend of the blog who works in the game biz for some info on the structure of the game industry. If you're in the game biz, this is old news to you, but if you're not, it might be interesting.


There are publishers and developers. The publishers are akin to the studios; developers are akin to production companies.

For example, Activision is a game publisher.  Generally, they don't create content.  They distribute it.  EA and Blizzard are also a video game publishers. (Blizzard and Activision operate completely separately from one another though they're under the same corporate banner).

Developers actually make games, like production companies actually make shows. In the Activision umbrella is Neversoft (Guitar Hero), Infinity Ward (Call of Duty), High Moon, Treyarch, and a 1/2 dozen other developers.  They also just recently established a deal with Bungie (Halo). Activision is more or less a name that ensures sales and a distribution route, like Fox or NBC, etc.

If you want to do anything creative, you want to be involved with the developers.

Most developers are smaller boutique type companies. Video game publishers are focused more on the business side of video games and are not very focused on innovation. They quite frequently will buy out developer companies that are innovative to stay competitive in the marketplace. They are also the reason you see Guitar Hero 9 and Tony Hawk 27.

However, some companies produce and distribute. Rockstar games both published and developed Red Dead Redemption.  Most developers start out wearing both hats.  Then get bought out by a bigger publisher.  Red Octane was the original publisher of Guitar Hero.  It is still involved with Guitar Hero, but now Activision is the publisher.

Writers don't always get the writing gigs on games. It seems people who are good at creating a smooth work flow, or have a background in programming, or have a grip of money, often get them. Companies don't typically have a department, like say a staff writing team, like television does.
Sounds like the early days of the movies. Hopefully as games mature this will change!
As for breaking in -- the bottom line is video games don't need a story.  Unlike film and TV, games don't need writers.

Take Guitar Hero.  It's a huge franchise that rakes in cash hand over fist.  It really has no need for writers.  The game could simply be colorful gems on a digital highway with a guitar controller (which it basically is).

A good story is frosting in the video game world.  Gameplay heavily outweighs story.

Also, the need for people who can manage a projects work flow and/or program the game are higher up the totem pole than writers, for mainly practical reasons.  Without them, there is no game.  Without writers, you can still have a game.

Video games aren't known for their dialogue.  In fact, they are known for their horrible Engrish translations: "All your base are belong to us."  I think the bar is much lower in what is acceptable, to the point that an employee who can do something else (3d level design, program, etc). gets these jobs.

PORTAL is a great exception.  Getting sarcasm across in a video game is awesome.

I think it's much easier to break into video games as a writer as a known entity.  Like Tom Clancy and his SPLINTER CELL stuff.  For an unknown, it is almost impossible (unless you have another skillset more suited to video games, which many people do. (3D modeling, animating, etc.)  If you have that it's probably easier.  I just meant on a one to one comparison of people who are strictly writers with no other skillset, it's tougher.

I actually think people involved with new methodology of advertising would be able to make an easier transition into video games.  The work flow documents for many of these "viral" and ARG based advertisers (www.whysoserious.com) are very similar to the documents used to create and map out video games.

I guess, in short, it's less about writing an emotionally involving story, and more about creating an interesting puzzle.  Not saying they are mutually exclusive.  Just saying, video games reliance on story isn't as high as it is in film / telelvision.
Yeah, there are plenty of games which don't rely on story at all. I haven't played GUITAR HERO (I'm trying to learn actual guitar), but I can't imagine why I'd want a story -- you're there to "play" rock'n'roll.

But I do think that games are getting more into story and dialog. Obviously the makers of ASSASSIN'S CREED 2, BIOSHOCK 1 and 2, and RED DEAD REDEMPTION all put a lot of loving care into their dialogue and story, to name just a couple I've played lately.

In general, games are getting more sophisticated. The rendering on RED DEAD REDEMPTION is spectacular. Good writing may just be icing on the cake in some games. But who wants bare cake?

(Yes, yes, I know. The cake is a lie. Whatevs.)

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm going to Banff in a few weeks, to attend the Banff Worldwide Television Festival, where I hope to interview Vince Gilligan (BREAKING BAD), Ian Brennan (GLEE), Ricky Gervais (THE OFFICE, EXTRAS), James Manos (DEXTER) and William Shatner (famous horseman).

I've got some questions in mind, but what questions would you most like me to ask these famous creative folk?

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I wouldn't recommend trying to write like them, particularly, but certainly worth a read.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

After watching THE EXORCIST, Hunter and I (but not Lisa) watched A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS again. Now there is a thoroughly fine movie. Streamlined story. Simple motivations. Not a lot of talk. ("Mister, why are you doing this for us?" "Because I knew someone like you once, and there was no one to help.")

But what makes it a classic? Especially in spite of the Italians playing Mexicans, and the bad dubbing?

The music. The music is fantastic. Ennio Morricone's score elevates what would otherwise be an exploitation picture into a classic of cinema.

Spielberg once said, "I can make people cry. John Williams can make them weep."

There's a tendency to shortchange postproduction in low budget movies. Soundtracks get shorted in particular. The money just runs out. But ironically, sound is more important than picture. Proof? Try watching TV with a bit of snow in the picture. So long as the sound is okay, you can watch. The moment the sound gets scratchy, it's painful to watch.

Picture tells the story. Sound goes straight to the heart. (To grossly oversimplify.)

Make sure they don't short your soundtrack budget. The soundtrack makes the dramatic scenes score, and makes the jokes funnier. It makes or breaks the movie. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS cost $200,000, which wasn't a lot for a movie even in 1964. But a decent chunk of that must have gone to the score.

Just ask Sergio Leone. He knew.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lisa, Hunter and I watched THE EXORCIST. I know this movie made a big splash when it came out in 1973, but I was shocked how bad the storytelling was. It feels like a great example of why you should not make a "faithful" adaptation of a novel. (And especially, not let the novelist adapt his own book.) The movie starts off with a fifteen-minute sequence in Northern Iraq where Max von Sydow (44, but already playing ancient) is digging stuff up... that never really relates to anything that happens later. At least not if you haven't read the novel. In fact it's 25 minutes in (I was looking at the counter) before there is anything to exorcize. It's not until almost the third act before anyone calls in "the exorcist," whom we haven't seen since minute 15 or so. And there's a whole subplot involving a police lieutenant that never goes anywhere at all, but winds up in the epilog.

Now there are good horror movies that start quietly and slowly. But they are building something. THE SHINING is creepy from the get-go. Nothing terrible happens for a while, but Jack Nicholson and the kid are both quietly creepy long before serious badness starts.

THE EXORCIST just has scene after scene that doesn't relate to the story. Why do we need to see Ellen Burstyn acting in a movie? Her problem is her kid is going to be possessed. Does it mean anything that she's in a movie about campus unrest?

I had a strong urge to stop watching up till about minute 60. And yet the movie made a ton of money. $440,000,000 worldwide, in fact. And won Best Adapted Screenplay, and has been called "the scariest movie of all time," which it certainly is not, so go figure. (It is less scary than your average episode of HOUSE.)

My takeaway from this is that it's all very well and good to write a "good" movie. But if the climax of your movie is stunning enough, the audience may forgive the bad parts. What got people in the door was Linda Blair turning into a cursing demonic nightmare with Mercedes McCambridge's voice. Linda Blair's head going around and around. Language so foul and blasphemous that the movie was original rated X. This was alarming stuff no one had ever seen before, and that's what people came to see. By the time they walked out of the theater, they'd forgotten all about the dull irrelevant bits because of the smasho ending.

People go see movies to be entertained, and part of that is the pure spectacle of seeing something they've never seen before. If you're the first person to put really convincing CGI dinosaurs in your movie, you don't actually have to make a great movie. Everyone will go see your movie whether it's great or not.

What is so urgent about your movie that people will rush out and see it?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Here's the very interesting story about what happened to Ethan Rieff and Cy Voris's fascinating script about the Sheriff of Nottingham -- sort of an early Sherlock Holmes story, with the sheriff tracking a terrorist named Robin using period forensics -- on its way to becoming the awful new ROBIN HOOD movie.

I remember negotiating to option Ethan and Cy's stuff long, long ago when I was a development guy. (I think it was a horror movie about the goddess Tanit.) Good to see they've become such good writers; sorry to hear they're getting badly rewritten.

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Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes pitch "The Rikers of Space," a sitcom based on Star Trek: TNG. What I love about this is that it's sort of a joke, sort of not. I mean, they would do it if someone bit. It goes on way too long, but this is how we work up series. And pitch them. Starts with a possibly ridiculous idea. Then you start working it out, figuring out what it is and what it isn't... Anyway, fun.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hey, if you work in the videogame biz in Montreal, especially for the above companies (or the new studio the WB is opening), would you drop me a line? I have some questions for you. Thanks!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I finished playing BIOSHOCK over the weekend, 2K's hit 2007 first person shooter set in an underwater Ayn Randian retro-futuristic dystopia.

(See now this is why I'd like to do more writing for videogames. When was the last time you saw an underwater Ayn Randian retro-futuristic dystopian TV series?)

I'm coming to the realization that I don't really prefer sandbox games. For a while there it was kind of an axiom with me that movies should tell stories but games should let you play in a sandbox and not necessarily have to follow the story. Partly that was a reaction to watching Hunter play ultra-linear games like Final Fantasy X (I think it was X) where you just go down the path and kill everything in your way; that seemed rather dull. And I have spent many happy hours playing totally open-ended megalomaniac games like the Civilization series and SimCity, where there is no story at all and the world is your sandbox.

But then along comes ASSASSIN'S CREED 2, and while you can run all around the cities of Renaissance Italy, and do a few side missions, really the game is about a sequence of assassination missions and the unfolding story. And you can run around the levels of BIOSHOCK, and theoretically even go back to levels you already cleared, the game is about a series of levels where you discover, through audio diaries that you find, exactly what happened to the city of Rapture and how you fit into its destiny.

I'm beginning to think that maybe I like having a game tell me a single story. (Or having the game let me discover a story.) I'm not sure I need a slew of side missions. I did a few side missions in MASS EFFECT 2, but I quickly began to feel that I was wasting time -- the Illusive Man needed me to get my crew up to speed and take them through the Omega IV relay! And did anyone miss not having side missions in HEAVY RAIN?

Hmmm. Maybe I don't really prefer sandbox games.

I just started RED DEAD REDEMPTION, which I understand is fairly sandboxy (and with an emergent, persistent world to boot). I guess I'll see how I feel about that.

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I'm setting up my pitch meetings at Banff. There's a section in your profile for "How to pitch me," which almost no one has filled in. Thom Sherman of the CW has, though, and his advice is good enough for anybody:
Be concise, please. What's the show about on a cultural/zeitgeist/human condition level? What is the hook for the series, ie. how can I market it? What is the story engine every week? How will episodes be closed-ended? Unique and fleshed-out characters, please.
That about sums it up, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Warner Bros Writers Workshop fellowships are now open for applications. Deadline June 1.
Writers may submit as many scripts as they choose. Writing samples will not be returned. To qualify for the program, you cannot have been staffed on a primetime cable or network show.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

According to BOING BOING, you can download William Goldman's script for New Line's Captain Marvel project at MyPDFScripts.com, "which also features a ton of other unproduced screenplay, including Oliver Stone's take on Alfred Bester's THE DEMOLISHED MAN and Nick Cave's GLADIATOR 2". Check it out.

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Q. Can I "re-pitch" an agent? About a year ago, I sent out a script to a few agents, got a couple of no's and a handful of no-responses-at-all. (No problem, it happens.)

Now, I've written a couple of new scripts, and re-worked the first one I sent. I still believe that the first script is my "best" one - and that the revisions I've made have made it even better. (And it isn't actually my "first" script, because that one's in a drawer.)

If I were to approach these agents again, can/should I re-pitch the same script? (Worry here: they'll think I'm a one-trick pony... if they even remember the first submission at all), or should I pitch something else, and bring up the first script later if I'm lucky enough to get a meeting?

And further to that, *should* I remind them that I've submitted it before, or forget the past and live in the now? On one hand, I want to remind them of any previous connection that we might have had if it will help open the doors, but I kind of don't want to remind them that they weren't actually interested in me.
Your instincts are correct. Agents don't like repitches. No one wants to have to read a script they didn't like again.

It's tough to re-pitch a script. You can really only do it several years later -- one year is too close -- and then only if you've done such a massive overhaul that it is truly another script -- as if another writer had taken on the same subject. For example, it's in a different genre -- you realized it was a thriller and not a drama -- with perhaps a different main character, and a completely new first act. If you re-title the script, and don't mention it's a resubmission, it may then feel like it's a script in the same territory as another script they read long ago.

That's why you don't send your scripts out until they are as good as you can make them. Which may mean putting them aside for a month before you send them out, so you can get a little perspective.

I think you have to just submit your new scripts and bring up your old script later if someone wants to rep you.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Lisa, Doug T and I went to see Jacob Tierney's hilarious student-revolution movie, THE TROTSKY, starring Jay Baruchel. This is a funny, funny movie, taking an improbable character down a very convincing and satisfying path.

It's such a joy to see Québec's and Canada's best actors given such meaty roles to chew on: from Colm Feore as the martinet school principal and Saul Rubinek as the long-suffering father, down to the always striking Tiio Horn as a rabble-rousing follower and Genevieve Bujold as a former radical turned bureaucrat. Oh, and Michael Murphy as a retired radical, and Jesse Rath as the spiteful student union prez, and David Julian Hirsh as the disdainful brother, and Al Goulem as the easy-going police chief, and the utterly effervescent Jessica Paré all perfectly cast, with sharply honed dialog, and directing that catches all their best moments. Tierney is a child actor, and that makes him an actor's director. I haven't seen a movie as strikingly well cast as this in a while. (Kudos to Rosina Bucci of Elite Casting there too.)

Normally when a Canadian director does a move this entertaining, I worry that we're going to lose them to the Big Nipple, as Bertolucci called LA. But this movie is firmly set in West Montreal. There are Actual French People in the movie, and bilingual families. "Montreal feeds you," Tierney's told me.

The movie is a bit of a vindication of the envelope system. If I remember correctly, it did not get all the funding it needed from the usual funding agency. But Tierney's producer, his father Kevin Tierney, had a guaranteed chunk of money to spend as a result of the box office smash he produced, BON COP / BAD COP, which broke the Canadian box office record for a Canadian movie. There's something to be said for rewarding success.

There was a pretty good crowd at the Forum at 7:35 pm, including a lot of (I'm guessing) high school and college kids, so I'm hoping this movie will have legs that will take it wide down south. Good luck, Jacob!

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Q. Can a writer have more than one agent? For instance, one agent that specializes in children's programming and another who does comedy? Or an agent for a writing team and another who represents one of the writers solo?
No. Agents rep all your writing endeavors. It would be too confusing to rep you for kids and not comedy. Where's the dividing line? What if they work hard to get you a kids job and you turn it down for a comedy?

Bigger distinctions are possible. I have lit agents, but I also have a nonfiction book agent. For a bit there I had a fiction book agent. A dear friend of mine has an acting agent, a standup comedy agent, and a literary agent.

Geographical divisions can work. Sometimes you can get a US agent to rep you in the US and a Canadian agent to rep you in Canada. I have agents in Montreal and Toronto. Québec is its own market. Most of the producers here are French Canadian, and only a Québec agent can speak the language, in both the literal and metaphorical sense. On the other hand a Québec agent can't completely cover you in Québec because English language TV shows tend to staff out of Toronto regardless where they shoot. And a Québec agent really can't cover you outside Québec. So I need both.

Likewise US agents will always claim that they can cover you in Canada, but this is rarely true. Alpern Agency manages this but they have people in both countries. I have a friend who ditched her US agent because she missed out on jobs he didn't know about.

As in the US where some people have an agent and a manager, having multiple reps costs more. You usually wind up having to pay more commission so everyone gets paid. But if your second agent gets you even one job, they've paid for themselves. So if the situation warrants it, it's worth it.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

And he uses the same example I've been using since I saw AVATAR:
When you look at a 2-D movie, it's already in 3-D as far as your mind is concerned. When you see Lawrence of Arabia growing from a speck as he rides toward you across the desert, are you thinking, "Look how slowly he grows against the horizon" or "I wish this were 3D?"
I dislike 3D because it adds nothing to my experience. I've been seeing movies in 3D since I started watching movies. That's because parallax vision is only one of the tools our brains use to judge distances. Size, obviously. If the people are really small, they're far away. If they're big, they're close. Also, haze. Hazier equals farther away. Also, focus. If the camera is focused on something that is obviously six feet away, then things that are out of focus are either farther away or closer.

When Rick walked off into the fog with Louis, I had no trouble telling that they were walking away from me.

When every other movie ends with a pull away to a crane shot, I know the camera is moving up and back.

3D is a pain to watch. I have to put glasses over my glasses. I can't tilt my head. I can't look sideways. And if I'm not in the middle of the theater, the whole experience is out of calibration.

AVATAR was gorgeous, but I doubt it would have been any less gorgeous in 2D.

Theaters are installing 3D to give people a reason not to just rent the Blu-Ray and watch it on their 50-inch plasma screen TV, which probably shows as much detail and takes up as much of their visual cortex as a movie screen.

3D is one of those bad ideas that keeps coming back. Like Videophones. Adding image to sound has been possible since the 1950s, and now it is available free through the Internet. I use Skype to show Jesse off to her grandparents, but I don't use Skype for personal calls. It is annoying to have to look at the person I'm talking to, and I can't clean the living room while I'm on it. (If you call me at home and we talk for more than 5 minutes, odds are I am picking crayons off the floor. If you have kids, you'll understand.)

Choose your own adventure: another idea that has much less to offer than you might think. Oh, and flying cars.

I hope this new fad for 3D dies down again soon. It's just another reason to wait for the DVD.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I've been shooting a six minute teen vampire sex comedy short called YOU ARE SO UNDEAD.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Q. I'm a fellow Montreal based screenwriter. I was wondering if you have any advice on how to jumpstart my career in English out here?

Until recently, I thought the best way to get a job was to come up with original series and pitch them as a way to market myself. Even though I've recently got one series optioned and another one in development, it didn't land me any jobs on existing series, and the option money is certainly not enough to live on. So I wrote a spec, it scored me an agent from a reputable local agency but still no work. I'm not too sure where to send my spec to, I'm under the impression the people I do send it to don't read it.

Is there any resource on screenwriting jobs I'm not aware of, a black market or some sort of secret group I need to join? Do I have no choice but to move to Toronto, New York or LA?
Welcome to my world. Last year we optioned four TV series and put one into development with a network. Some of it was the best writing we'd ever done. But staffing? Not so much. (Fortunately I optioned some features and got hired to rewrite them, so it wasn't a bad year.)

Montreal is a very tough market. There are very few TV series shooting here, and at least one major show not only didn't hire any Montreal writers -- as far as I can tell, they didn't even read any Montreal writers. More than half the work I do is out-of-province, and that's true of many of my friends who are top writers.

Getting work outside of Montreal is even harder, because you cost more. Even if everyone in Toronto knows and loves you, a Toronto show will generally hire only Ontario writers, in order to receive the tax credits for their Ontario labour spend. A Winnipeg show, say, will often be an Ontario-Manitoba co-production, so they'll hire MB and ON writers, but no QC (or BC) writers.

So you're doing exactly what you ought to do, creating original material and writing spec scripts and getting an agent. But it could be a while before an opportunity comes up.

Meanwhile, Toronto has the best parties. And Toronto producers are always looking for new ideas, while I sometimes feel that Montreal producers are primarily interested in their own ideas. It's certainly easier to get Toronto producers to read. Of the shows we optioned last year, three were to Toronto producers and one was to a Calgary producer. (En revanche, all the features were Montreal.) Toronto has a robust creative community in English, something we're working to develop here in Montreal.

Much as I think there isn't a better city to live in than Montreal, I think you do have to move to Toronto. (Or LA, if you can work the immigration issue.) I consider the move myself every time I get on the train to Toronto, which is almost every month. But I love Montreal, and we're close to New York where my stepson's dad lives, and my daughter is in one of the best schools for autistic kids in North America. So long as I can make Montreal work, I'll stay here.

DMc has blogged about how Canada encourages regional productions at the expense of concentration of talent. But the creative is based firmly in Toronto, and whenever you're not there, you might as well be in Uganda.

Ideally, start by going to the CFC. Toronto is very good at absorbing the latest scions of the CFC. The CFC opens the door very wide.

But whether or not you are accepted at the CFC, do make the move. You'll probably want to do this in December. That way you can work in Quebec in the current year, and then file taxes in Ontario so you're an Ontario writer for the upcoming year.

Good luck.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

There's been a lot of hot air spilled lately about whether Times Square smoke-bomber Faisal Shahzad should have been read his Miranda rights, with former anti-torture campaigner John McCain complaining that he was read his rights, and Glenn Beck, of all people, reminding us that Shahzad is a US citizen and that "we do not shred the Constitution just because it's popular."

Funny thing about Miranda rights: they generally do not stop the suspect from talking. Most Americans over the age of six can probably recite them: you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney etc. etc. etc. And there is absolutely no legal benefit to talking to the cops without an immunity agreement -- not even if you're innocent -- yet, as cops will tell you, very few suspects shut up.

This is amazing to me, like the 37 hours of TV the average American watches per week. But most suspects keep talking after they've been read their rights. And they generally incriminate themselves. Often because they want to make excuses.

That's why cops generally don't mind having to give the Miranda warnings, and only demogogues consider it an undue burden.

Everybody wants to tell their story. Especially villains.

Why? When you're a villain, who can you talk to? Unless you're in a terrorist cell, no one. You can't tell your family. They'd be worried. You can't tell your friends. They will report you.

But you think you're a hero, right? You're doing all this for Islam / freedom / Ireland / Chechnya / Dennis Kucinic. But you can't tell anyone. What's the point of being a hero if no one knows about it?

So after months or years of planning your crazy, homicidal heroic act of hate-filled wickedness resistance, the cops pick you up.

Finally, someone you can tell your story to! And the cops are all ears. Hey, talking to them will get you convicted. But honestly, like you were going to get acquitted?

Supervillains gotta monologue.

That's why, in the event, Shahzad talked to the FBI interrogators before being given his rights (like, c'mon, he didn't already know them from a million cop shows?). And then he waived his rights, and kept talking.

Stories are not a luxury good, as I keep telling the politicians. They are a basic human need. They are how we make sense of our lives.

Even -- especially -- bad guys.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jill is the new president of the Writer's Guild of Canada.

Jill is a friend, a dear heart, a mensch, a fine writer, and has made big personal sacrifices to help organize writers. As National Forum delegate for Québec, I'm delighted I'll be working with Jill for the next couple of years (though Jill will be doing most of the working).

Congratulations Jill!

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Monday, May 03, 2010


I'm reading Mark Burnett's autobiography JUMP IN. It's fairly self-congratulatory, but I suppose the guy who owns SURVIVOR and THE APPRENTICE is entitled to congratulate himself.

One of Burnett's many pearls of wisdom is this: never pitch over the phone. Insist on a meeting. You want to see the body language as you pitch. Are they leaning in, or leaning back? If they're leaning in, you're getting their attention. If they're leaning back, you're losing them.

In show business, you often have the opportunity to send a pitch in. Absolutely try to avoid doing this. No matter how well you write your pitches, a cold read requires your reader to put energy into your material. They can take energy out of your live pitch.

I know some writer-producers don't leave material behind; they want to be judged only on their pitch, not what they wrote down. I've never tried this approach. I know whoever I pitch to is going to have to take the idea to their boss, and it will help if they have something to refer to. I don't want my idea mis-pitched; I don't want the gatekeeper to have to say, "Aw, you hadda be there." But "leave no material behind" works for some people.

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Neil Baker has helpfully broken down the act outs from BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 3.

Note that B:TVS is four acts; most one hour drama has moved to five acts. But this is exactly the sort of analysis you should be doing when you spec a series, so you get a sense of the bones of the show.

I suggested to Neil:
Check out FIREFLY, too. The act outs often turn the entire episode on its head.

Also, consider doing a five act show, and characterizing the acts outs. In general in 4 act structure, the act 1 out is "it's not that simple" and act 3 out is the "all is lost" act out. But what about 5 acts? Which is the "all is lost" act out in 5 acts? Often the act 3 or act 4 out is a "soft" (emotional) act out. In FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the act 4 out is usually the plot finale, and act 5 is all emotional aftermath. But is that true of other shows? Those are the questions I'd try to answer if I were you.
Let's see if he takes the bait.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010


‘I don't understand it,’ Myers said. ‘In the past, every time I’ve wanted to find someone, I show up and he’s there among the crowd of whooping. cheering men and drop-dead gorgeous strippers. Either that or the prettiest one in the place puts her foot on my knee in PVC boots, leans over me in a low-cut top and says something suggestively ambiguous about where to find my perp.’
From Newsbiscuit

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A few times in the past few years I've had projects that interested people who could make them happen, who saw them differently than I did.

As a writer, you always have the option of blowing these guys off. It's your project, and if you really hate the thought of someone else reshaping your material, you can always say no.

Of course, then, it may not go. It is quite risky to walk away from the enthusiasm of someone who can make your project happen. Enthusiasm is rare. People who can actually make it happen are much rarer. But still, even when you meet someone with both, if that person wants to change the material, every creator's natural impulse is going to be to try to persuade them that the material is perfect the way it is.

It's normal. But it's not necessarily wise.

Here's how I try to think about it: if this weren't my material, and I was asked to make the changes, would I be thrilled to be hired on board?

Say you have a fabulous science fiction idea set on a spaceship, and it turns out no one wants spaceship shows. You really think the material would work best on a spaceship. But the question you have to ask yourself isn't, "Would I rather write this on a spaceship?" but "If I were asked to write this in a contemporary city, would I be thrilled to do it?"

One common human error in all walks of life is to consider the sunk costs. You've spent $10,000 fixing up your car and it just threw a rod. If your car simply threw a rod, you'd probably junk it -- the engine is ruined. But having spent $10,000 already, you don't want to face the loss. So you have a new engine put in the car, to "save" your $10,000.

Say you've spent ten years writing a novel or script, it's a flawed idea, it still doesn't work, and it's not selling. It would take three months to make it presentable. Last night, you had a great idea, you see the whole thing, and you could write it up in three months. If you had the bad and the good idea just yesterday, you'd never bother with the bad idea, you'd just bang out the good idea. But you've spent ten years on the flawed idea, so you keep working on it instead of the good one.

All human beings have the impulse to throw good money after bad, or good efforts after bad.

But it's wise to ignore how much energy or resources you put into something, and simply consider where you are now.

Don't ask yourself, "Is this the future I wanted for my project?" Ask, "If I were asked to come on board this project now, how would I feel?"

Often, the answer is, "I would be overjoyed."

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